We are now 101 years on from the first Anzac Day commemorations in 1916. These services were held on the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings of 1915.
Over the decades, Anzac Day has changed. Services have become more secular, and now involve many families and community groups along with former and serving members of the armed forces. The first Anzac Day services were held in churches and halls. As memorials were built throughout the 1920s, many services – particularly dawn services – moved outdoors.
More wars have happened (and are happening), and we now remember those who served and died in the Second World War, Malaya, Korea, Vietnam, and many others, along with UN peacekeeping missions. Over the years Anzac Day has been the focus of anti-war, anti-nuclear, and anti-violence protests. It has been commemorated by Australians and New Zealanders all over the world, including Gallipoli. New migrant New Zealanders commemorate their own histories of war and sacrifice.
Anzac Day can mean many things. For some, it is a time to remember a relative or friend who died. For others, it is a time to reflect on the futility of war. For others, it is a time to gather as a community and remember what people have fought and died for.
Whatever Anzac Day means to you, I encourage you to attend a service at least once. There are lots happening in and around Christchurch, Timaru, Ashburton, and Oamaru.
Ara libraries will be closed for Anzac Day on Tuesday, 25th April.
Tomorrow marks 98 years since the end of World War One. At 11.11am, on November 11, 1918, a ceasefire was called that ended over four years of fighting.
I recently visited Ypres (Ieper), in Belgium. Part of the town walls is the Menin Gate memorial.
Within this memorial are recorded the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found. New Zealand soldiers are not listed here – at the time, the decision was made to record New Zealanders in separate monuments in cemeteries closer to where they fell.
On the town walls of Ypres is a small Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, containing 198 graves. There are 14 New Zealand graves here, of members of the Māori Battalion and the Army Engineers.
Ypres itself was almost completely flattened during the fighting. After the war, there were some calls to make the town a memorial. The people of Ypres, however, wanted their town back, just the way it was. It was strange to walk around and see ‘old’ buildings, and then realize that the date over the door is 1927.
If you’d like to know more about World War One, and in particular the Pioneer (Māori) Battalion, try some of our library resources:
1918 was the final year of war, but it was also among the most costly.
Bruce Hickenbottom was remembered at the Technical College for his portrayal of Father Christmas in a fundraising entertainment. He died on April 23, 1918.
Nesslea Jarman was killed in action on August 25, 1918. His older brother, Frank, had been killed at Gallipoli in 1916.
Duncan Rutherford was a prominent member of the Students’ Association. With his friends Don Smith and Fred Twyford, he would perform comic musical numbers at entertainments. He was also a member of the Debating Society. Duncan was killed in action on August 22, 1918. His old friend, Don Smith, was able to attend his burial.
Gordon Seay, who was known as a keen and successful sportsman at College, worked as a clerk for the National Mortgage and Agency Company. On joining the army he was made a Paymaster-Sergeant, but on arriving in France he reverted to the ranks at his own request. He was killed in action on May 9, 1918.
Joseph Thomas was reported wounded and missing in October, 1918. His death was finally confirmed at a court of enquiry held in January, 1919. He left a widow, Elfrieda – they had been married for less than six months.
Frank Cummins, Charles Horwell, Cecil Kircher, Fred Lees, William Leighton, George Lewis, Charles Mackintosh, William Miller, William Otley, Percy Saville, and Leonard Tobeck were also killed in 1918.
The First World War ended, officially, at 11.11am, on the 11th of November, 1918. New Zealand had lost more than 18,000 men and women, and thousands more had returned broken in body and mind. Every April, we remember them, and those from other conflicts.
Next time you’re passing through the Rakaia Centre, take a moment to read the honours board there.
October 1917 saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war, at the height of the Battle of Passchendaele. New Zealand troops were heavily involved in this battle.
Percy Clark was a prominent member of the Students’ Association, rising to be Vice President in 1913. He was a member of the debating society, but this may not have been his best skill: “Mr. P. Clark for the negative put himself at a disadvantage by reading his speech, and his remarks were occasionally beside the point.” (CTC Review, Nov. 1913). He became a manual training teacher in Invercargill, before joining the army.
He was mentioned in dispatches by Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the Allied Forces:
“For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the Boutillerie Sector on 10th December 1916. During a German raid he mounted his gun on the parapet and kept his gun in action under heavy shell fire, the Lewis Gun for this part of the line having been put out of action, and was chiefly instrumental in defeating the raid. This Non Commissioned Officer previously did excellent work on the Somme.” – London Gazette, 1 June 1917, p. 5430
Percy was killed in action on October 11, 1917.
William Esselborn studied plumbing in the Evening School. He was the subject of what seems to have been a lengthy military enquiry in July 1917, after he sprained his ankle in the trenches. It was eventually concluded that this was the result of an accident and not through any deliberate action on William’s part. He was killed in action on October 4, 1917
Murdock MacLeod “was one of the first, and perhaps the most able of the students we have had in the building department” (Review, 1917). He became an architect, and worked for Samuel Hurst Seager in Christchurch. Murdock died on October 13, 1917, from wounds received in action. He left a widow, Minnie.
Thomas Dixon was described in the Review as “one of the ablest wood-working boys we have had” – and as having the dubious honour of having been known to his classmates as ‘little Dickie’. He was killed in action on October 12, 1917.
Robert Allan studied Agriculture, travelling to the Technical College each day from Waikari in North Canterbury (probably by train). He worked on his family’s farm until he joined the army. Robert died on October 17, 1917, from wounds received the same day.
George Allard, Fred Brown, Harold Burnett, John Hanna and Ralph Restall also died during October, 1917.
1917 was a sombre year for families of New Zealand soldiers, and the Technical College was no exception.
George Craw studied in the Engineering department, before working as a cleaner for New Zealand Railways. He died on August 6, 1917, from wounds received in action. He received one of the most poignant memorials in the Review in November 1917:
“Quiet and kindly in disposition, it is difficult for us to picture him, as in the case of so many others, taking an active part in the events in which he was called to engage.”
Eric Cobeldick was a popular student at the Technical College, taking part in school sports and dramatic productions. He was killed in action on July 26, 1917, less than six weeks after arriving in France.
Thomas Ritchie, along with his sister Flossie, began at the Technical College in 1907, only its second year. He worked as a shepherd in Havelock North. He was killed in action on August 18, 1917.
Cecil Ardley, Francis Goodwin, John Horgan, Cecil Merrett, Arthur Postgate, George Scarr and Ashley Vincent also died in 1917.
By 1916, any thoughts of “over by Christmas” were gone. The Technical College lost many Old Boys in the fighting of this year.
Leonard Barter, Edward Beattie, and Hugh Bower were reported missing on September 15-16, 1916. Leonard Derungs joined his company in France on October 1, 1916, and was reported missing that same day.
An extensive enquiry was carried out in December, 1916, which confirmed the deaths in action of these and many other men.
Walter Dougall was a pupil in the Agricultural department, and an active sportsman – “An excellent forward, who knows the game well and plays with dash,” according to the Football notes in the1912 Technical College review. He was wounded four times, and promoted to Lieutenant, before dying on September 15, 1916, of wounds received the same day.
James McCullough was an early pupil in the cabinetmaking department, and worked as a shop fitter in Wellington. He died after being wounded in an accidental explosion on August 26, 1916.
Leonard Scott, Geoffrey Willey, and Albert Wills also died during 1916.
By many measures, 1916 was the worst year of the First World War. More soldiers were killed during 1916 than any other year of the war. Although the year would start with some small hope, by the end stalemate on land had truly set in. Gone was the belief that the war would be “over by Christmas”, and a new understanding of the price to be paid would start to emerge.
Focus on Europe
Of note during the year were the final withdrawal from Gallipoli, the Battles of the Somme, Verdun and massive conflagrations on the Eastern Front. The battle for control of the Atlantic had started to heat up, with major sea battles at Jutland and Dogger Banks and the scourge of the U Boat developing.
On land, the focus of battle had shift from peripheral regions to the trenches of the Western Front. For good or for bad the war would be decided at sea and in Northern France and Belgium.
New Zealand’s role
New Zealand forces had finally shift our prime focus to Europe, before the end of the year the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) would be fully committed to the titanic battles taking place there.
Thankfully, we were not involved in the early stages of the disastrous Battle of the Somme ( 60 000 casualties on day one, 20 000 dead within 24 hours).
However, our forces would play a significant part in the later stages of the battle and start to build the enviable reputation for toughness and resourcefulness that characterised them later in the war.
Alan Barker was fondly remembered in the Technical College Review as a lively member of the Society. He died of Tuberculosis in hospital in London on July 7, 1917.
David Fincham died of Malaria in Cairo on November 7, 1918. His family received news of his death on November 11, 1918, the day the war ended. Frank Rudd also fell to Malaria in Cairo, on October 22, 1918.
Reginald Leeming arrived in England on January 20, 1917, and was admitted to hospital ten days later. He died on February 8, 1917, of meningitis.
William Colville, James Hooper, and Daniel Spence all died of Influenza, during the epidemic of 1918-9. James and Daniel were on board the troopship Tahiti, when an outbreak of Influenza struck. Overall, 90% of those on board were infected and 77 died.
William was in camp at Featherstone when he fell ill, and he died on November 21, 1918, ten days after the war had ended.
Crimean War, Eastern Europe, 1853-1856. British deaths from disease 55%, combat deaths 45%.
American Civil War, North America, 1861-1865. Deaths from disease 56%, combat deaths 44%.
First and Second Boer Wars, South Africa, 1880-1881, 1899-1902. British deaths from disease 66%, combat deaths 34%.
Russo-Japanese-War, Asia, 1904-1905. Japanese deaths from disease 35%, combat deaths 65%.
Apart from the Russo-Japanese war, it is obvious that more soldiers died from disease than from combat in the pre war period.
Of the 10 million military deaths during the First World War, 6-7 million died in combat and a staggering 3-4 million died from infectious diseases.
Improvements in ambulatory services, surgery and medical treatment meant that fewer died from infections & sickness. Regardless, a third of deaths during the war still resulted from disease.
Common vectors of illness
The types of illness across theatres is remarkably similar. Epidemics of typhus, malaria, typhoid (the infamous enteric fever), diarrhoea, yellow-fever, pneumonia and influenza, innumerable cases of venereal disease & scabies affected all nations.
Conditions in the trenches also caused specific diseases: trench fever, trench mouth and trench foot were all caused by the filthy conditions. Gangrene and tetenus were also problems.
The deadly 1918 Spanish Influenza was indirectly a result of the massive concentration of men in sub optimum conditions.
The New Zealand story
Of our 16 700 war dead, approximately 11% died of disease. This is 1600 women and men, including 275 from the 1918 Influenza pandemic alone.
Jared M. Diamond, (2005). Guns, germs and steel : a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years.HM626DIA
The First World War was the first to see the use of aeroplanes. These early planes were frail, experimental, and at times, dangerous.
A Handley Page bomber fitted with two 375HP Sunbeam-Coatalan aircraft engines in flight 1918
Frank Adams, after studying carpentry at the Technical College, moved to Australia. He joined the Australian Flying Corps, but was taken prisoner by the Turkish forces. He died in 1916 while in a prisoner of war camp and is buried in Baghdad.
Harold Dawson studied Engineering at the Technical College, and joined the army engineers. He later qualified as a pilot and transferred to the Flying Corps. He was killed in a flying accident in France on October 4, 1917.
For many, flying offered the opportunity to escape from the trenches, but war in the air was no safer than on the ground.