A documentary on the First World War, which features musical excerpts, letters, poems, and recollections fifty years on. [Some excerpts are from other recordings held in the Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision collection.]
- Opens with the sound of marching
- Reading from a child's letter. From Teddy Reynolds, of The Oaks, Taita, Lower Hutt. He asks if he can go to the war with his father.
- Reading from a letter in reply, from Major-General Godley to Teddy Reynolds.
- Unidentified song.
- Actuality – an unidentified speaker explains how he enlisted in the Main Body, in Christchurch, although he was underage.
- Jim Henderson details the men, equipment and horses of the Main Body and their fates.
- The embarkation order is read.
- Actuality: Major General Andrew Russell speaking to veterans about embarkation:
"Their only fear, laughable as it seems today, that they might be too late for the fight. It may be honestly said that no body of men who left these shores had a higher morale, as it is called, than these volunteers. Good wishes to all old comrades who sailed with us in 1914."
- Song: 'Good-byee'
- The embarkation crisis.
- Actuality: F. M. B. Fisher, a New Zealand wartime Cabinet Minister:
"When we asked the Admiralty to supply our large flotilla of transports with a suitable naval escort, and were assured by the Admiralty in reply that there was actually no need for a convoy at all, as the German ships were not anywhere near New Zealand waters, we were inclined to take the view that the Admiralty was speaking with an authority which it was impossible for us to dispute. Late that night, I was working in my room. Just after midnight came a message: Mr Massey wishes to see you at once. I hurried down to the Cabinet Room. There I found Massey sitting at the table, his head on his hands and the perspiration falling in great drops from his bald head onto his blotting pad. Before I could say a word, Massey pointed to a paper lying on the table beside him and said "Read that". I picked it up. It was a telegram from Munro Ferguson, the Governor-General of Australia. This is what it said: "We have learned that the German ships are in your waters." What a shock. What a frightful shock. The ships must be recalled. Next day the ships were all back in port. Now had come the time to put some pressure upon the Admiralty. We were sick of delusion. We demanded an escort to be furnished immediately. Pending a favourable reply, Massey respectfully tendered the resignation of the whole Cabinet. This action, was of course, secret. The public knew nothing of these stirring events. Indeed, they knew nothing about it for 25 years afterwards."
- Reading of an excerpt from O. E. Burton's book, 'The Silent Division'.
- Jim Henderson details the Samoa expedition, which was New Zealand's first victory.
- Reading of an excerpt from C. A. L. Treadwell's book 'Recollections of an Amateur Soldier' about the brothels of Cairo and the Battle of the Wazir when New Zealanders and Australians rioted in the streets and threw brothel furniture into a bonfire.
- Jim Henderson explains some New Zealanders refused to be inoculated and were sent home.
- Actuality: Jack Mullins of Canterbury, recalling a rugby first: "I possibly captained one of the first two teams of New Zealanders ever to play in Egypt. This happened in February 1915 at Ismailia, where the New Zealanders went into action for the first time on the Suez Canal. At that time, we were on short rations, and the 3rd platoon played the 4th platoon for the day's ration of jam. We lost by three points to nothing, a try by Ernie Fitzsimmons, a well-known in the Sydenham ranks."
- The 5th February 1915 saw the first death in the NZEF. Private William Arthur Ham, 6/246 of the 12th Nelson Company, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, died of wounds when the Turks attacked the Suez Canal.
Actuality - his sister-in-law, Mrs Violet Ham of Dunedin: "And he was a daredevil type who looked upon it as an adventure, I think. His back was broken and he lay there all day and they couldn't help him in any way. He was killed so early in the war that there was no notification of the next of kin. When my husband went to work in the morning, somebody picked up the paper and said "Was that your brother who was killed?", and it had been his brother, killed at twenty-one. The shock of Willie's death upset his father so much, he died ten days later."
- Jim Henderson on the Gallipoli landings.
- Turkish music
- Actuality: speech in English by a Turkish army officer. Translation from an address given to Turkish military cadets in Ankara, on the anniversary of the battle of the Dardanelles.
- A week after the ANZAC landing, the New Zealand government had to cable the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London to find out what was going on, as there had been many anxious enquiries for details. A partial list of New Zealand casualties in the Dardanelles is read.
- Actuality: four Gallipoli veterans:
Unidentified man A:"We were instructed to stay on the hill that particular night, and to dig in and to keep the Turks off. Well, it so happened that the Navy didn't know that and the Navy had instructions to shell anything they saw on the hill at night. We were therefore shelled by the Navy and our own men in no. 2 outpost on our right, imagined that we must be the enemy also, so they fired at us with their rifles from the outpost, and unfortunately at the same time the Turks decided to attack. so, we had quite a busy night. That was my first night on Gallipoli."
- Turkish Music
- Jim Meek: “A hot dusty and very rowdy atmosphere, Kiwi. A rough-house environment. No place for a nice person at all. All fully occupied but far from N.Z., far from the farm, far from a Speights and a plate of oysters, far from Mabel's kisses, too flaming far!"
Ernest Harston:"Of course it was like any other war. We tried to kill them and they tried to kill us."
Jim Meek: “After a night of ferocious firing and noise and rumpus, there might be just a little bit of a lull, as the dawn of a new day came up over the hills in front of us. Then the shrill crowing of a rooster would rise from our front line. The crowing came from a sapper, Freddie de Rose, who was a perfect natural with his imitations. As our cock crew, a relieving laugh would break out all along the line of over-strained diggers. Poor old Freddie, he died at Ismailia, after the evacuation."
- Actuality: Dr Agnes Bennett, one of the first New Zealand nurses [sic. She was a medical doctor] to go overseas:
"At Port Said where I had decided to land, we met lines of ambulances with casualties from the hospital ship Guildford Castle."
- Ten New Zealand nurses were to drown in the Mediterranean when their ship, the Marquette was torpedoes and sank at once.
- A recollection of the sinking by a surviving nurse is read.
- Of the 8,500 New Zealanders landed at Gallipoli, 7,500 became casualties.
- Actuality: Sir Ernest Harston: "We lived on bully and biscuit. And some wag or some genius in the War Office thought that yellow jam was less attractive to flies than purple jam, and he sent us enormous quantities of marmalade and apricot jam. So much so, that most of us have never really liked either of them, very much."
- Actuality: Corporal Jim Meek: "Ah, but there were lots things that were wished for on Gallipoli. Some of them were landed when it was too late to take advantage of them. I heard, you know after the business, that Yank correspondents reported that plenty of condensed milk salvaged from our only half-destroyed dumps after the evacuation, was being sold in the shops of the Turkish capital. We could have done with a few of those tins of milk in June and July."
- An advertisement calling for a Saturday half-holiday back in New Zealand is read.
- Song ‘I wore a tunic'
- Turkish music
- Actuality: Ernest Harston: "Our biggest show, for the New Zealanders, and particularly for the Wellington Battalion, to which I belonged, was Chunuk Bair."
- Corporal Colin Bassett [sic. i.e. Cyril Bassett] of Auckland, a signaller, was the first New Zealander to win a Victoria Cross in this war. Actuality - Cyril Bassett:
"I come across three breaks. I mended two of them that were pretty close together. I followed the wire on a bit further and mended that. I don't mind telling you that I was pretty windy while I was doing it, with the stuff that was coming across, but luckily there wasn't much shrapnel."
- Actuality: Ernest Harston: "But eventually the Turks, probably under Enver himself, came over the hill just before dawn. Nobody knew whether they were Turks or New Zealanders- from the beach they couldn't tell. And eventually it looked as though we were going to be completely surrounded and everything of that kind, they were coming down the hill with old Enver, they say it was Enver on the top, waving them forward with his sword, when suddenly our artillery opened up, and you never saw such slaughter in your life."
- Actuality: An excerpt of the Turkish Army officer's speech to military cadets.
- Excerpt from the New Zealand casualty list is read.
- Quote from O. E. Burton's book, 'The Silent Division'.
- Jim Henderson reads statistics on New Zealand casualties on Gallipoli and beyond. Propaganda and jingoism were rife back home - headlines and newspaper excerpts are read.
- An excerpt from a file on "shirkers" is read.
- Reading of a letter to the Prime Minister Massey from a mother of eight sons, offering them all to the war effort.
- Actuality: Wanda Hall of Dunedin, daughter of Professor G.W. von Zedlitz, who taught at Victoria University College in Wellington. She describes the discrimination he suffered because of his German ancestry and thanks those who supported him.
"My father, with a German name but with no established nationality, has a different story than most. He received his wounds not at the front, but here in New Zealand, the only real home he'd ever known, and they were given by the very people he most wanted to serve. At the beginning he tried to join the Medical Corps but was not allowed. Then as public outcry against him increased, he wrote to a friend saying 'the great thing now is to try to prevent the government doing anything that will be discreditable to the country as a whole.' But, by act of parliament he was deprived of his means of livelihood. A big step to take against one man, but it needed something drastic to get around the loyalty of the Victoria College Council and of his students. They had had twelve years to get to know him as a man of integrity. A brilliant teacher and a humble one. Courteous, brave, gentle, a tireless worker, a good type to have around in the rawness of the old clay patch. The years that followed did not change him any more than did later adulation. They were years of poverty, of indignities, of battling against lies and slanders, of seeing his wife and even his children insulted, although as far as possible he and my mother shielded us and our nursery years were full of laughter. Even the men planted in his garden to prevent him signalling to the men interned on Somes Island were a joke. If he had wanted to indulge in so pointless an exercise, his message might have been "cheer up! The government is feeding you. they aren't doing the same for me." And we had our friends. Men and women of generosity and moral courage who gave help in every way open to them. If any of those are listening now, this is a fine and public place to say, without benefit of parades or wreaths, they are remembered with gratitude and affection."
- Reading of a recollection of the training camp at Featherston, by a digger from Cambridge.
- Song ‘ Pack up your troubles'.
- Marching over the Rimutaka Hill from Featherston camp to Trentham.
- A reading of an account by C.A.L. Treadwell of being cheered by Wairarapa locals as they marched past.
- France, The Somme.
- Actuality: Lindsay Inglis, a young officer: "When we went in on The Somme, trenches, British trenches were almost non-existant, right forward. They were just depressions through the whole field of shell-holes. Every foot of the ground had been churned up by shells and mixed in with the dirt of the holes and what-not, were bits of bodies and dead men, green flies that walked on everything. That was a shocking sort of, horrifying place."
- Actuality: Doctor T. Duncan Stout, a young surgeon: "There we worked in relays, continuously. There was never a let-up, week after week, month after month, the same process went on. Dreadful casualties. For us that looked on, from almost the back lines, as it were, the thing was a ghastly and senseless sort of combined murder."
- Description of the number of dead and the length of the Front
- Reading from letters by Hugh Butterworth, a teacher at Christchurch and Wanganui, who was killed in action in France. Describes conditions in a dug-out and the types of shells and their nicknames. He remembers Wanganui Collegiate and sends good wishes
- Song ‘Goodbyee'.
- The Royal Flying Corps and night fighting
- Actuality: Reg Kingsford, airman: "And on our second run in, we noticed as I turned to come away, I noticed, it was my first time I'd actually seen them at night, was a row of little, sort of glow-worms coming straight up at us. And then I realised it was tracer bullets. So we swang in the opposite direction, come round, and they were coming up that side as well. So I thought, this was a good place to be out of, we'll go. But they used tracer bullet quite a lot because as we sat on the petrol tank, one bullet in there and of course that was a good exit from this world for you."
- The New Zealand Mounted Rifles, horsemen and cameleers fighting in Palestine. A reading of a description of a mounted rifleman from A.B. Moore's book 'The Mounted Rifleman in Sinai and Palestine'
- The cost of the war and increasing taxation in New Zealand; the demand for more recruits.
- Read hints for recruiting speakers: don't mention death.
- Reading of excerpts from a handbook for recruits called "England expects".
- Song 'The ragtime infantry: we are Fred Karno's army'.
- Read newspaper headlines and advertisements about the poor response to recruitment, conscription, and the wounded list.
- The 1 August 1916 Military Service Act is passed bringing in conscription
- Prime Minister Bill Massey and Finance Minister Joseph Ward were absent for 10 months at a conference in London.
- Read examples of anti-recruiting letters sent to men in New Plymouth;
- Read excerpt of anti-sedition laws from the New Zealand Gazette Dec 4 1916
- Newspaper report of Labour politician Robert Semple speaks in Auckland against conscription and is arrested on sedition charges
- Letter to the editor
- Song ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning'
- Description of The German Monster, an animated cartoon released by the Australian government for picture theatres
- Prisoners of war.
- Actuality: Bill Sketcher of Wanganui, captured by Germans: "My pal mate had dived out. I got tied up in the barbed wire, my shoulder was caught in barbed wire. I was very busy trying to get out and somebody yelled out "Halt! Come back!" I looked up and I was looking down the barrel of a Jerry's rifle about three yards away, so thought let's see how it does to go back. So I went back, but they got us in this shell hole and one of the Jerries, he was absolutely crazy and was doing all he could to get them to finish us off. Soon after that, their officer came out and stopped him. He told us afterwards, that he'd been taken prisoner by our regiment at Deauchapelle [?] and we'd treated him as a soldier. So he said "I'll return the compliment to you. While you're with me I'll see you're treated fairly well." And he said, incidentally, "That chap that wanted to have all you fellows shot, I've just learnt that his brother, who was in the same platoon as he was, was killed, so up to a point, you can understand his feelings."
“We could, but still, it didn't make us feel any better."
- Reading of an excerpt from A War Alphabet with K. L. Trent, 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade - "E stands for Enemy"
- Read recollection by Mrs Joyce Archibald about women knitting for the troops
- Read poem about knitting socks by Jessie Pope, which was sent to soldiers in France
- Read poem by N. L. Elder, a machine-gunner of Havelock North, written at Messines, 1917
- Actuality: Dr T Duncan Stout: "We just had time to get ready for the battle. We just had our X-ray, was just working, the very first morning the battle started, and we were, the first day we had one hundred severe head injury cases landed in the hospital. The division had 3,600 casualties at that time, despite the fact that it as a successful battle, so you can understand what conditions were at that time."
- Actuality: unidentified man B: "A batman from Hamilton was cooking up soup in a pot for his officer, when part of a shell hit the wall and knocked a great wad of soot into the soup. Nothing else for it, but to stir the soot well into the soup and serve it up to the old chap, who lapped it up. "What's the soup like, Sir?" the batman couldn't help asking. The officer looked up and beamed "Just like Mother used to make," he said."
- Description of elaborate decorated and embroidered greeting cards from the Western Front or Sling Camp, sent to New Zealand. July 1917, fourteen conscientious objectors were sent to the Front. One died of wounds serving with the Auckland Regiment. Another, a private from Otago, ended up in an English mental hospital.
- Actuality: Edward Dowsett, conscientious objector of Auckland: "I was required with others to accept my military kit. On declining that, I was put into the military jail at Trentham, awaiting court martial. I think that the court martial was conducted properly, but without any understanding, of course, of the nature of a conscientious objector's attitude. One can hardly expect a General in the Army to be sympathetic.
The sentence was two year's hard labour to be served in civilian prison. In Wellington, in the old Terrace Jail, life was a little difficult for anyone with an imagination. I spent my time wholly stoning a small area of passage, day by day, going over the same piece. The job was never finished and one never got any further. That was typical of the work that was undertaken in those days in Wellington. In Waikeria, life was to some extent much easier, in so far as the prisoners there, both civil and military, were mostly engaged in developing the land. I have never had any grudges against the Government or the community. In taking the stand that I did, which was the traditional stand of Quakers, I fully realised that by my own deliberate choice I had gone against the law of the land, and knowing that, I was quite prepared to take the consequences."
- Song ‘Never Mind'
- Actuality: Nugent Welch, war artist. "There were bright moments when you got your rum issue at stand-down in the morning. I remember being left in charge with another fellow, with a Dixie, while the sergeant went on with another supply to supply the rest of the troops. He evidently thought we were honest. Well, you know what happened when his back was turned [laughs] we had a good swig, believe me. "
He is asked is you could find any beauty among it all?
"Yes, yes, funny thing about beauty, it comes in a strange way. One of the most vivid recollections I have, was about half a yard of steak on a bit of brown paper on top of a parapet, out in the sun to thaw before it was made into stew. That piece of steak reflecting the blue sky was a joy. Oh yes, I would always see beauty in the sky."
And the machine gun poet, N.L. Elder of Havelock North [ends abruptly]
- Poem by N. L. Elder.
- Actuality: unidentified man C: "J. B., now of Kerikeri, had a night out blowing up barbed wire with Bangalore torpedoes in no-man's land. The German resented this, put down a heavy barrage and J. B. spent two hours in a shell hole with a dead sergeant. Making his way back in the dawn to company headquarters near Vaux [?], a derelict area long abandoned by civilians, he came in sight of one of those life-sized life-like crucifixion figures, so popular with the French country people. His nerves were still a bit jumpy after a rough night, so when the figure on the cross raised its right hand in a perfect salute, he stopped dead in his tracks, frozen with fear. Then came loud guffaws, and a music hall imitation of a Tommy officer's voice; 'I say, old chap, don't you bally diggers ever return a salute?' Then three or four heads poked out of a well-camouflaged Australian gun position, laughing like kookaburras, and gave another demonstration. The arm was neatly and skilfully jointed and worked with small pulleys and almost invisible, black German field telephone wire. "Oh, but you're only a bloody sprat," said one of the Aussies. "We caught Birdwood, (a famous general) the other day."
- Actuality: unidentified man D: "Albert was a little wee village, right at the entrance to the Somme battlefield, and just alongside the main road leading through Albert, was a small church. Now, the amount of bombing and shelling and destruction there, was tremendous and most of the church had completely gone and was levelled, but there was a statue of Christ which was still standing and which was recognised by everybody who went backwards and forwards in that road, as one of the most important, sort-of little events in life of the war, that this statue of Christ should be standing when everything else was destroyed all around it."
- Actuality: unidentified speaker E: "I remember the night before we assembled, before the Passchendaele attack, the 12th of October attack, sinking in the mud on the way up, once we got off the duck-walk tracks, up to mid-thigh, dragging yourself through that."
- Actuality: unidentified speaker B [again]: "Now even the name of Passchendaele, this long period afterwards, gives me a feeling of depression."
- Actuality: Padre James Young of Riwaka describes the landscape at Passchendaele: " Desolate, evil, menacing." He recalls the story of a lone soldier and a shell at Passchendaele.
- Song ‘I want to go home'.
- In New Zealand six o'clock closing was brought in as a war efficiency measure.
- Read comments of editor Monty Holcroft on the ill-effects of the early closing.
- Read excerpt from YMCA booklet 'Our Little Bit' issued to New Zealand diggers.
- Song - "I don't want to join the Army'
- Brockenhurst Churchyard poem by N. L. Elder
- Actuality: unidentified reporter, describes the Last Post sounded at the Menin Gate.
- Credits announcement: Voices reading the quotes are Basil Clarke, Tim Elliott, Peter Ingerbratsen, Relda Familton, Peter Gwynne, Alan Jarvis, Roy Layward and Peter Reid. Songs and Last Post at the Menin Gate came from the BBC. Technical production by John McGregor. Edited, scripted and narrated by Jim Henderson.
[Transcription by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.]