Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Carry On at Christmas

British postcard published by B.B. (Birn Brothers) Ltd, London. 

This is one of a number of designs produced during the First World War to help bring hope and good wishes at Christmas. Whilst the verse on the card was written with all good intention the lines "Be sure to keep hope in your line of sight" and "...face the music with all your might" make very light work and seemingly undermine the seriousness of the effects of war. Nevertheless, festive postcards with verse were popular expressions of the era.
On the back of this postcard a New Zealand soldier has written a brief message to family;

"Dear Joe and Annie,
Just a line to let you know that I am still in good health and having a good time. Hoping this small card finds you both in the same way. The Christmas cards here are very poor, but I know you will think just as much of this as if it were an expensive one. Well Joe and Annie I told you all the news in my last letter and as I have a lot to send tonight I will have to conclude with best wishes. From your loving brother, A.E. Sutton."

What became of soldier A.E. Sutton is unknown. I hope he was able to 'carry on' and restore some normality to his life after the war.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Killed on Christmas Day 1915

The village of Mersa Matruh about 200 miles west of Alexandria was used as a British advanced base for operations against the Senussi. In December 1915 the threat of an increasing Senussi force just eight miles away from Mersa Matruh led to a call for reinforcements, and the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade arrived to strengthen the allied advanced base. On Christmas eve Operation Orders were given to various allied units revealing plans of their involvement to make an attack on the nearby Senussi forces on Christmas Day. The attack went ahead and was deemed successful with some 370 enemy soldiers killed and 82 taken prisoner. The cost to the New Zealanders were six men of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade killed, and fourteen wounded. The six to fall on Christmas day were;

Corporal Ernest Charles Beresford Wilkinson

"Killed in Action.
A Short Career.
Who amongst us will not be grieved to hear of the death in action of Mr E.C. Beresford Wilkinson, late of the Warden's Court, Paeroa? His parents, who reside in the South Island, received this sad news by cable, and Mr H.R. Bush received a telegram in Paeroa yesterday announcing the fact. 
Private Wilkinson left with a number of others in Earl Liverpool's Own, about six months ago, full of life and vigour, fearless and determined. He was the life of his regiment, and enemies he had none. From what we can gather from official sources his death took place in an engagement with the Arabs in Egypt, shortly after his arrival there. Seventeen New Zealanders made the attack on Christmas Day, in which the unfortunate young fellow fell at the hands of the enemy. 
Is this not another instance of how real and cruel this terrible battle is? He was one of the most cheerful recruits that have left Paeroa. We fancy we see him now waving his handkerchief and bidding farewell to his comrades at the railway station on the morning of his departure. Of the others who made the attack we have not heard whether any of them are from our district or not. We sincerely hope, however, the Arab fire ceased at the lamentable death of Private Wilkinson." 
Source: Ohinemuri Gazette, 7 January 1916, page 3.

Corporal Ernest Charles Beresford Wilkinson killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Weekly News 27 January 1916, page 47)

"Corporal E.C. Beresford Wilkinson.
Corporal Ernest Charles Beresford Wilkinson, N.Z. Rifle Brigade, one of those to sacrifice their lives in the action at Mutrah on Christmas Day, was a nephew of Mr Colin Ballantyne, of this city. His mother lives at Reefton, where the young soldier (he was 24 years of age) was born, and entered the Government service in the Post and Telegraph Department. He was moved to Wellington, and was later transferred to the Justice Department at Paeroa. Corporal Wilkinson had passed both junior and senior civil service, and was studying law. His mother is the proprietress of the "Inangahua Herald" and his grandfather was the late Mr Charles Mirafin, journalist, of Reefton. The deceased soldier was of magnificent physique, standing 6ft 3in in height."
Source: Auckland Star, 12 January 1916, page 6.

Real photographic postcard of Mrs Maud Beresford Wilkinson 
and son Gunner Arthur E. Beresford Wilkinson (Ernest's brother). 
February 1916, Reefton, New Zealand.

Company Sergeant Major Robert Charles Purkis

Company Sergeant Major Robert Charles Purkis killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Star 14 January 1916, page 5)

"Sergeant-Major Robert Charles Purkis who is reported to have been killed in action at Mutrah, Egypt, on Christmas Day, left Auckland as a corporal to join the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at Trentham. Whilst in training he was promoted to the rank of sergeant-major. He was a member of the old Victoria Rifles Volunteers in Auckland. He was the eldest of three sons of Colour-Sergeant George Purkis, late of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, who served 21 years with that regiment and who is at present employed with the Admiralty Office in England. Deceased leaves a widow, who resides in Nelson Street."
Source: New Zealand Herald, 10 January 1916, page 6.

Rifleman John Matthew Todd

Rifleman John Matthew Todd killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Weekly News 20 January 1916, page 47)

"Rifleman John Matthew Todd, who is reported to have been killed in action at Mutrah on Christmas Day, was serving in the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He was the husband of Mrs E. Todd, Newton, Auckland, and was a well-known contractor. Rifleman Todd was born at East Taieri, near Dunedin, and was one of the sons of the late Mr James Todd, one of the early Otago settlers. Rifleman Todd took two nephews with him on active service, sons of different brothers. He himself had no children."
Source: Colonist, 13 January 1916.

Sergeant Stanley Francis Weir

Sergeant Stanley Francis Weir killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Weekly News 20 January 1916, page 47)

"Sergeant Stanley Francis Weir, killed in action on Christmas Day while serving with the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, was a son of Mr Gavin Weir, Bonnie Glen, Upper Orewa. He was born in Taranaki, and educated at the Auckland Technical College, and followed up electrical engineering. He took an interest in football, and was a member of the Mount Albert team. At the age of 17 years he was Assistant Scoutmaster for the Grange Road Troop, and during his term was successful in winning competitions. From this he joined the volunteers for a short time, and then he had five years' training in the Territorials, with A Company 3rd (Auckland) Regiment. He was one of the representatives from Auckland at the Christchurch Carnival, in 1913, and since war broke out he was one who went to the Awanui wireless station on duty. Shortly after his term at Awanui he enlisted in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, which left for the front on October 9. It was at the battle of Mutrah, on December 25, that he fell."
Source: Auckland Star, 14 January 1916, page 6.

Corporal Archibald Woollatt

Corporal Archibald Woollatt killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Weekly News 20 January 1916, page 47)

"Corporal Archibald Woollatt, who fell on Christmas Day in the first fight of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at Mutrah, was popular among a large circle of acquaintances in Auckland. He was employed at Messrs Smith and Caughey's. Going into training with the 1st Battalion of the Earl of Liverpool's Own, he was early promoted corporal and he gave every promise of making an unusually efficient soldier. Corporal Woollatt was a native of Otago, but he received his education in England. After leaving school he went to Burmah where he resided for about six years. Then he entered business in Colombo, but finally returned to his native land. After living in Feilding for a few years, he came to this city. Corporal Woollatt was well known in athletic circles, and was especially fond of walking. He was also a billiard player and he was often seen in the recreative departments of the Y.M.C.A."
Source: New Zealand Herald, 20 January 1916, page 8.

Rifleman Thomas Flint York

Rifleman Thomas Flint York killed in action Christmas Day 1915.
(source Auckland Weekly News 20 January 1916, page 47)

"Rifleman Thomas Flint York, of the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade who was killed in action against the Senussi, on the Egyptian border, on Christmas Day, was a son of Mr Thomas York, of Woolston, Canterbury. He was 36 years old, and was educated at Christ's College. He had been engaged in farming in the Wairarapa, and latterly at Waimate. Rifleman York married a daughter of the late Mr D. H. Brown, of Fendalton. His wife and two children live at Waimate."
Source: Dominion, 11 January 1916, page 5

"Six members of the First Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade fell in action in the engagement with the Senussi Arabs near Mersa Matruh on Christmas Day. Their bodies were carried back to Matruh and on the following Sunday were buried on the side of the hill which overlooks the pretty harbour. The funeral was attended by most of the garrison then stationed at Matruh, and was most impressing in its simplicity. About two weeks later a stone was erected with the following inscription: Killed in action on Christmas day, 1915, Sergeant-Major Robert Charles Pudkisi, Sergeant Stanley Francis Weir, Corporal Ernest Charles Beresford Wilkinson, Corporal Archibald Woollat, Rifleman John Matthew Todd, Rifleman Thomas Flint York. Erected by their comrades of the N.Z.R.B." 
Source: Feilding Star, 15 June 1916, page 2.

Another New Zealand soldier who lost his life from the Christmas Day attack on the Senussi was Rifleman Edgar Norman Davis. He died from wounds on 28 December 1915 age 20 years.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas Pudding - Another Serving

From the early stages of the war it became apparent that the world trade markets would be affected by the widespread conflict. Here in New Zealand, food supply was just one example of  this;

"The Xmas Pudding.
It is only six weeks till Christmas, and many housewives have the idea that Xmas puddings should be made early, and allowed to improve with keeping. Here another small problem presents itself. The entrance of Turkey into the war means that the market for dried fruits, already bare, is going to be pretty well cleaned out. Sultanas, figs, and dates in particular are going to be in short supply, and prices are going up accordingly." (Auckland Star, 10 November 1914).

Auckland Weekly News 7 October 1915.

Despite these setbacks, Xmas pudding remained on the menu. In Wellington the Mayoress roused considerable support for the Christmas Pudding Fund. School children in particular, were keen fundraisers and contributors to the Fund. In July 1918 the Mayoress and her committee set to work on making a large number of the puddings. The Meat Export Company who operated out of Ngauranga Gorge kindly provided the committee with large enough premises to work in. The company also extended further support to the pudding makers by providing them a well earned lunch. The ingredients for the pudding were made possible by many supporters and donors; butter from D.J. Nathan & Co. and McEwen & Co.; bread from Messrs Kellow, Denhard, James, Raven, Lawrence, Flint and the Wellington Bread Co.; flour from Messrs J. Macintosh, Wright, Stephenson & Co.; eggs sourced from Carterton per the Mayoress, and Pahiatua per Mrs Thomson; suet from the Gear Company, E.Barber & Co., and the Wairarapa Farmers' Meat Company; and sugar from the Colonial Sugar Company in Auckland.
The preparation of these Christmas parcels also included thousands of signed postcards enabling the troops to easily post acknowledgement back to the school children who helped to make it all possible. Final send off of the parcels had to be made by about August to enable suitable guarantee of delivery of goods by christmastime to the war zone.

British postcard published by A.W. Ford & Co. Ltd, Printers, Bristol. Postmarked December 1914.
Printed on the back is the following message "Extract from Officers Letter At The Front. 'What I should really like are several large Plum Puddings sent out at different times so as not to be too heavy; we absolutely crave for something sweet out here.' "

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmas Pudding

Postcards, letters, items of clothing such as socks, gloves and scarves, cake and the traditional Christmas pudding were all sent from friends and loved ones at home in New Zealand to their soldiers thousands of miles away. These simple pleasures of home brought to New Zealand soldiers at the frontline trenches meant the world to these men. Our men in khaki were spending their livelihood in and out of danger, focussed on survival and of course with a mind to win the war and see peace finally restored. Christmas was a particularly difficult time for many. The season was meant to be festive and joyous, bringing goodwill to all men, and a time for family coming together. War brought an end to that.
Christmas gifts from home gave the soldiers a momentary distraction from the war causing them for that brief moment to reminisce and make a special heartfelt connection with the sender.

This British postcard was used and sent by the "Daily News" in London to acknowledge and thank all those who financially contributed to a subscription which helped supply soldiers with Christmas Pudding in December 1916. On the back of this postcard, the subscriber receiving thanks is a Miss Edith Mont of Willaston School in Cheshire. The message indicates that she donated 1 shilling which provides Christmas pudding for 2 soldiers at the Front. Recorded in finer print on the card is the various financial subscriptions which are proportioned to quantities of Christmas pudding from a single soldier to many;

"6d. supplies one man; 2/6 five; £1 1/- fifty; 31/6 a platoon; £3 3/- a squadron or battery; £5 5/- a company; £9 9/- an artillery brigade; £12 12/- a cavalry regiment; £21 an infantry battalion." 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Postcards from Ted #4

"National Gallery, London." British postcard no.21299. 

Here is the last postcard and message I have in my collection from Ted...

"In the trenches, France, July 8th 1916.

Dear Vera,
I was very pleased indeed to receive your note, also the photo and glad to know you are doing so well. The roaring of these big guns gets on ones nerves but its all in the game. I visited this place while in London and while there I thoroughly enjoyed myself and everybody I met made me so welcome. I was beginning to think I was home for good. It was too good to be true, never mind, what does it matter as long as we win and I am sure of that someday. Live in hope. I am in splendid health and spirits and thats everything. I am always wondering how you are all doing. I had word from (home) and they are all splendid thank god. So bye bye, I remain your sincere friend, Ted, xxxxx"

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Postcards from Ted #3

"Leicester Square, London." British postcard no.21309.

"In the Trenches, France, June 29th 1916.

Dear Mrs Fanning,
I was  awfully pleased to receive your letter dated April 10th. Very sorry indeed to hear that you are suffering from the affects of your head and I sincerely hope you are much improved by the time this short epistle  reaches you. I am glad to state that I am in perfect health again. I am beginning to think that a soldier's life isn't the game its cracked up to be. One has to be on the alert the whole time and one misses all these good times and comforts but we are out to win and we are going to win. Our boys will show the Germans what the Anzacs are made of. I can't see an ending yet but sooner or later there will be something doing. I will now say bye bye for the present. Hoping to hear from you again soon. Yours sincerely Ted."

Monday, 25 November 2013

Postcards from Ted #2

"Law Courts & Fleet St., London." Postcard manufactured in Britain. No.21005.

"In the trenches, France, June 29th 1916.

Dear Hilda,
Once again I have the pleasure of writing to you, thanking you for your letter of April 10 and glad to know you are doing famous but sorry to hear that Vera had the misfortune to fall from the Tram but glad to know she's resting.Well I haven't seen Ern for quite a time. I think he must hide. I am always about when out of the trenches. Don't worry about him he is well back been in the Artillery. He will take every precaution. I hope to see you all in the near future. I will now say bye bye for the present. I remain your true friend, Ted.
Hoping to hear from you again soon. A fortnight ago I was in this place."

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Postcards from Ted #1

"Knightsbridge, London." A British postcard no.21403.

"In the Trenches, France. June 26th, 1916."

Dear Marion, 
I have much pleasure in writing you these few lines to let you know that I am doing famous and in good health. Hoping you are all the same. I have been home to London and 7 days leave and have been back a week now. I had a most enjoyable time and the people were so kind to me. I haven't heard from you for some time now but hope to shortly. I haven't seen Ern since we arrived at Marseilles. He is about here somewhere. It has been raining off and on for about a week and the mud is awful nevertheless we mustn't growl. We are here to beat those Huns and we will do it in time although I wish the whole concern was finished. I have just about had enough and my nerves are not the same as when I left N.Z. It makes me feel as though I have been a soldier for some...

"Ludgate Circus, London." A British postcard no.21002.

...considerable time when one hears of the 12 reinforcements arriving. If I were in N.Z. now I would certainly be ashamed to show myself. In London there are hundreds of young fellows in mufty who ought to be ashamed of themselves. I will write a letter next time. Sincerely hope you are all well. Give my kindest regards Doll at home and any inquiring friends. The Artillery duels are pretty severe at times but we have got the huns thinking our boys have been less successful against them twice now. You will no doubt see by the papers. I will now say bye bye for the present. Hoping to see you all some day. I remain yours sincerely, Ted xxxxxxxxx."

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Blue Cross Fund

"Soins aux chevaux blesses" (care for injured horses).
Reproduced as postcards, and used in the British newspaper "The Sphere".

"Good Bye, Old Man." by Italian-born artist Fortunino Matania.
Reproduced as postcards, and used in the British newspaper "The Sphere".

In 1897 the 'Our Dumb Friends League' was formed by a group of people impassioned to provide care and well-being for working horses on the streets of London. Then during the Balkan War of 1912 the League introduced the Blue Cross Fund as a means of helping animals in the war. Just a few years later came the First World War and never had the world seen the need for, and scale of, such vast numbers of people and animals in warfare. 
The president of the Blue Cross Fund during the war was Lady Smith-Dorrien, and the secretary was Arthur J. Coke. On foreign soil, the support of the French Government and the work of the Fund proved very special and invaluable during those terrible years. By late 1916 The Blue Cross Fund was given permission to open eight animal hospitals within reach of the battlefields. At these hospitals injured horses were afforded either expert treatment by fully trained veterinary staff or given a quick humane death if beyond saving. 
In that same year the Blue Cross Fund had commissioned the gifted Italian artist Fortunino Matania to paint a special scene of an animal affected by the war. This resulted in what would become one of the most poignant and memorable paintings of the First World War. The scene was subtitled "An incident on the road to a battery position in Southern Flanders". It depicts a panic stricken and dying horse supported in the hands of its soldier companion, while screaming shells strike the roadside and building drowning out the desperate shout from the soldier's colleague further up the road. The original painting is on display at the Blue Cross Fund's animal hospital in Victoria, London. Matania's exceptional piece was reproduced on to postcards (shown above) and entitled "Good Bye, Old Man."
Here in New Zealand in October 1916, Wellington resident Robert Darroch was moved by the wonderful and courageous work of the Blue Cross Fund. This inspired him to help organise local fund raising so that financial contributions could be made to the Blue Cross Fund. Children at Wellington's Roseneath School and musical recitals helped build proceeds which were then sent to the Fund overseas.
"The Wounded Chum. A Case For The Blue Cross." by British artist Stanley Wood.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Horses at War

Through the ages, the horse was ever present in and about the battlefield. Whether serving the artillery hauling guns, as a pack-horse carrying supplies, as a companion to the regular trooper, or as a charger and faithful friend to the officer, the horse was considered reliable and essential in war.

"Pals!" by British artist C.T. Howard. Postcard printed and published by J. Salmon, Sevenoaks, England.

Many distinguished generals of the past had a famous charger; Alexander the Great's 'Bucephalas', the Duke of Wellington's 'Copenhagen', Napoleon's white stallion 'Marengo', Lord Cardigan's 'Ronald', General Robert E. Lee's 'Traveller', Colonel Miles Keogh's 'Comanche', Lord Kitchener's 'Democrat', Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauval's 'Aristocrat', the German Crown Prince's 'Jiu-Jitsu' and the list goes on.

But the heroic deeds performed by the war horse were not limited to the charger. The artillery was reliant on the horse to transport guns and often in the firing line, and the army service corps to carry much needed supplies. 

New Zealand Artillery on the move transporting their guns. Date and location unknown.

Apart of New Zealand's military formation in the First World War was the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Their distinguished war service included action at Gallipoli, Sinai, Palestine and the Western Front. Of particular note, was the New Zealand involvement in the attack on Beersheba in 1917, and the Otago Mounted Rifles charge on Messines in June 1917.

Companions - A New Zealand soldier and his horse.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Red Triangle - wartime support from the YMCA

Postcard published by C.P.C., London, Series 592C.

During the First World War, the distinctive red triangle of the Y.M.C.A. (Young Men's Christian Association) symbolized comfort, recreation and religion to soldiers in the war zone and behind the lines. A Y.M.C.A. facility could be found in the major cities and military camps in New Zealand, training camps and hospitals in England, and even in huts, tents and dugouts near the firing line in France and Belgium.

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force officials realised they could not under estimate the strength, welfare and morale capabilities of the Y.M.C.A. during the war. The wide range of services provided by the Y.M.C.A. to New Zealand soldiers included coffee, tea, cocoa, cigarettes, chocolate, hot meals, books, writing material, concerts, cinema, sport, education, religious services and of course, accommodation as 'a home away from home.'

"The Quiet Room, Y.M.C.A." New Zealand soldiers dressed in 'hospital blue' uniform take time out to read and enjoy the peaceful surroundings offered by this Y.M.C.A. establishment somewhere in England.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

St Mary's Church, Walton on Thames

St Mary's Church, Walton on Thames, England.
Postcard published by Jno. Edwards, Walton-on-Thames c.1918. R.A. Series.

The ancient 12th century St Mary's Church at Walton-on-Thames in England has a New Zealand connection. Beside the west door of St Mary's hangs a brass plaque unveiled in about 1932 that bears the names of the New Zealanders who died at Walton on Thames. It reads;

"1914 - 1918
In Memory Of
New Zealanders Buried
At Walton-On-Thames.

Colonel C.M. Begg
Private M.A. Baker
Private F.R. Black
Rifleman R.G. Blinko
Private J.L. Boyd
Sergeant J.B. Dalton
Sapper J. Fleming
Private W. Fox
Driver A.H. Hall
Private K. Hamana
Corporal T.H. Hudson
Private W.O. McDiarmid
Corporal T.W. Phillips
Private J.L. Porter
Private W.H. Rishworth
Rifleman E. Rout
Driver W.H. Russell
Private Taura
Private R. Wairau
Captain C.K. Ward
Miss W.A. Bennett

The Isles Saw....They Drew Near
And Came....And Everyone Said
To His Brother, Be Of Good Cheer."

Some of the New Zealanders buried at the Walton-on-Thames cemetery. 
From left; Col C.M. Begg, Pte M.A. Baker, Rflmn R.G. Blinko, Corp J.B. Dalton, Corp T.W. Phillips, and Pte J.L. Porter.

A satin cloth memorial banner commemorating the names of these New Zealanders preceeded the brass plaque in the church. It was handmade by patients of No.2 New Zealand General Hospital, Walton on Thames. The banner was brought out to the New Zealand graves each year on April 25th to mark Anzac Day Services. In 1961 the banner returned to New Zealand.
These New Zealanders who passed through the nearby New Zealand hospital are now buried in the cemetery at Terrace road adjacent to St Mary's Church.

Monday, 16 September 2013

No.2 New Zealand General Hospital, Walton on Thames

The first New Zealand Military Hospital to be established in England during the First World War was a large villa at Mount Felix, Walton on Thames in Surrey. The villa and its service buildings were set on lush green fields with peaceful walkways among flower beds and cedar trees, and with easy access down to the banks of the River Thames.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the Mount Felix estate was used to accommodate British soldiers through until about June 1915. The estate was then refurbished in preparation for its use by the New Zealand Medical authorities and the hospital was officially opened by the New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Thomas MacKenzie in August 1915.
Source: Auckland Weekly News, 23 September 1915

The hospital's first patients came from the Gallipoli campaign and as the war continued on, an ever increasing number of casualties demanded more treatment and more hospital beds. In August 1916, No.1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst opened to help the swelling number of wounded New Zealand servicemen. The hospital at Walton on Thames then became known as No.2 New Zealand General Hospital. By October the latter hospital and huts on its grounds accounted for approximately 1,500 beds. This increased again when the New Zealand Medical Board obtained use of Oatlands Park, a large hotel located only a few kilometres away from the hospital.
 Real photographic postcard of the Square Tower at No.2 N.Z. General Hospital, Walton on Thames c.1917.

Private Leroy Henson of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment, and a farmer from Feilding New Zealand was a patient here in September 1917. He sent the above postcard to his sister Eileen and wrote;
"My Dear Eileen, 
Just a P.C. to let you know that I haven't forgotten you. It is of a part of the hospital where most of the Officers are. The post office is just inside the door. I have been in there a few times. My arm is getting on slowly. This morning the Dr injected some stuff into it and then cut the skin away from the flesh a bit and then put a few stitches in it to draw it together a bit. It was about an inch wide all fleshy so it will look better now when it is healed up. He put in about four stitches and I might tell you it was no caper at all. I have seen a good lot of Louis (Rifleman Louis Mathews) lately but he is going on a fortnight's leave today and then he expects to be going back to N.Z. I get up and go about a bit now. We have been going about together and enjoying ourselves. I must close now and send one to Dulcie (Leroy's younger sister) with much love to yourself and all at home.
Your loving Bro., Leroy xx."

Despite his wounds Leroy Henson survived the war and returned to New Zealand where he found happiness with Olga Irene Harris whom he married in July 1919.

When the war ended in November 1918, No.2 N.Z. General Hospital continued to provide medical care for its patients through until its closure in March 1920. The hospital and Oatlands Park had treated approximately 27,000 patients. 

Sadly the villa no longer remains. It suffered considerable damage from fire in 1966 and had to be demolished. The tower is one of only a few of the N.Z. Walton on Thames hospital structures still standing today.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Beauty and Verse

A huge number of postcards were readily available for purchase during the First World War. One well known large postcard publishing house was The Rotary Photographic Company Ltd located in London. Their name derived from the use of rotary presses used to produce its postcards. This postcard publisher earned its reputation for good quality cards particularly in its production of 'real  photographic' postcards. Beauty and Verse were certainly two popular themes used in the design on some of the postcard series sold and distributed during the war. Series 7627 was one such group of postcards, and all in this series included the New Zealand flag and a real photographic image complimented by the addition of some verse, floral arrangements and either the New Zealand Coat of Arms or a fern bearing the initials 'N.Z.'

This attractive series struck the right chord with the New Zealand public. They were appealing because the cards were laden with sentimental and patriotic feeling. The postcard below, is a perfect example of this. The New Zealand flag and poetic verse by Talbot Everton form one part of the design, while a beautiful portrait of the famous British model and actress Gladys Cooper set among ferns and flowers completes the postcard.

"To My Dear Soldier". 
Rotary Photographic Series postcard no. 7627 - G.

Rotary used other famous models and actresses on their postcards including Phyllis and Zena Dare, Gertie Millar, Hetty King and Marie Studholme.

Similar style and theming continued on to other postcard series produced by Rotary during the war. The postcard below bears the Canadian Coat of Arms and flag, with an image of Gladys Cooper and of course, includes the maple leaf. 

"Christmas Thoughts Of My Dear One Away On Duty."
Rotary Photographic Series postcard no. XP102 - A.

In 1921 seven companies merged to form the Amalgamated Photographic Manufacturers Ltd in London. One of these companies was Rotary Photographic Company Ltd and thus ended any further production of their picture postcards.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Home Beyond Their Reach

"...Whatever way I turn I find
The path is old unto me still.
The hills of home are in my mind,
And there I wander as I will."
From the poem 'In France' by Francis Edward Ledwidge, 1916

How quickly 'The Great Adventure' turned and instead became a longing to return home. Young men wrote to loved ones back home of how they wished and longed for their family, friends and homeland. Sadly, many never made it back to their own shores.The harsh winter and raging battles of October 1917 claimed many New Zealanders lives.

A short time in to active service in the trenches in Belgium, Private Norman Arthur Forde of the 1st Battalion Wellington Infantry was posted to a working party in July 1917 when he slipped and fell off duckboards in St Yves Avenue. He fell in to a shell hole but was safely pulled out by his mates only to find he had sprained his ankle. Norman was hospitalized for a short time but was soon back in the firing line. On the day before the launch on attack at the Battle of Broodseinde, Norman was killed in action. It was 3 October 1917 and he was just 21 years of age. Before his death, he had written to his sister Eileen on the postcard below;

"Dear Eileen,
                      Will be home in due course. Always think of your ducky darling brother.
                                                                                                                                         with love

Norman's older brother, Gunner Hugh Douglas Forde of the New Zealand Field Artillery was also on active service in Belgium. He survived the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 but a fortnight later Hugh died from gunshot wounds to his thigh and hand on 26 October. The Forde family had lost two sons in the same month.
About ten months before his death, Hugh sent this postcard message to his sister Irene;

Dear Irene,
                    Just a line to let you know that I am still safe and sound and haven't been killed by the Germans yet. I hope to be home in about 6 months time when peace is declared. 
Your loving brother, Hugh.
P.S. Many happy returns of your birthday which I think is tomorrow. I will send you a present as soon as I can get in to a shop. Hugh."

The obituary notice for Hugh and Norman Forde appeared in the New Zealand Herald newspaper on 10 November 1917;
"Lance Corporal Hugh Douglas Forde, who died of wounds on October 26, was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs F.H. Forde, of St Heliers Bay. He was 22 years old, and was educated at St John's College. After leaving college he joined the staff of the New Zealand Insurance Company, to which he was attached up to the time of his enlistment. He left with the thirteenth reinforcements, and after reaching England was for some months engaged in staff work at Sling Camp. He left for France early in January with a howitzer battery, in which he was serving when he received the wounds which proved fatal. A younger brother, Private Norman Arthur Forde, went with the twenty-second reinforcements, and was killed in action on October 4. He was educated at St John's College, and prior to enlisting was engaged as a motor mechanic in Auckland."

Hugh and Norman's cousin Roderick Crighton McFarland, also from St Heliers in Auckland, served in the New Zealand Field Artillery during the war. He died from wounds in Belgium just five days after his cousin Hugh Forde. Roderick's obituary appeared in the Hawera and Normanby Star newspaper on 11 December 1917;
"Gunner R.C. ("Roddy") McFarland, who was reported to have died of wounds in France on October 31st, was the eldest son of Mrs R.S. McFarland, Manukau road, Epsom and the late R.S. McFarland, who was formerly manager of the Bank of New South Wales in this town. Gunner McFarland was born in Hawera. Previous to his enlistment he was studying for his accountancy examination. He left with the 13th Reinforcements, and was trained as a specialist at Sling Camp, Salisbury. At the time of his death he was in the 15th Howitzer Battery. Three of his cousins were killed in the same battle and in the same month, viz., Corporal T. Nigel McFarland, Lance Corporal Hugh Douglas Forde, and Private Norman Forde, and two of his cousins in the Old Country, Flight Lieut. Curran, to whom the V.C. and Legion of Honor was awarded for bravery. Gunner McFarland had leave for ten days just a month before he was killed. He stayed with his cousin, Staff-Captain R. Corbett, at his place in Bournemouth, who was an old Auckland boy. Gunner McFarland was a nephew of Captain and Mrs J. Scott, of the Manor House, Epsom, and former residents of this town."

The New Zealand Division survived a long gruelling year in 1917 but not without loss of spirit and a loss of many many men. The Battle of Messines in June 1917 saw the loss of some 6,500 soldiers and the Battle of Passchendaele from 31 July to 10 November 1917 saw more than 7,500 others fall. Among them, were the Forde brothers and their McFarland cousins who sacrificed their lives on the Western Front which brought an end to any thought of ever returning home again.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Pelorus Jack: Puppy at Sea

A little brindle bulldog puppy was born on 16 June 1912 in Hampshire, England. He was named 'Pelorus Jack' after the famous Risso's dolphin who was well respected by seafarers as he helped navigate their ships through dangerous waters near French Pass in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds. Pelorus Jack the dolphin, was first reported to have helped the schooner 'Brindle' sail safely through French Pass in 1888. He spent many years as a companion to shipping in these waters until his final disappearance, most likely of old age, in April 1912.
Pelorus Jack, the bulldog puppy spent his early months at the White Horse Inn in Ampfield, Hampshire. Mr J. Pomeroy, a New Zealander living in England then gifted Pelorus Jack to the crew of the new battlecruiser HMS New Zealand in February 1913. Pelorus Jack, now a naval rating of 'Puppy' was just six months old and destined for a life at sea.
On the 5th February His Majesty King George V made a royal inspection of HMS New Zealand while in Portsmouth. The postcard below shows a Guard of Honour in the left of the picture, Pelorus Jack on a leash and sitting on the podium, and the King standing in front of the band facing the camera with 'Fear God: Honour the King" on the bulkhead behind him.

This postcard purchased from the Oscar Parkes Collection and his handwriting 'H.M.S. New Zealand 2.1913' can be seen on the face of the card in blue ink. This image also appeared in the Auckland Weekly News on 20 March 1913.

HMS New Zealand's maiden voyage in 1913 included a port of call at Johannesburg, South Africa. It was here that a special ceremony was held to present Pelorus Jack with a new collar. It was beautifully crafted with studs that were placed to spell the motto 'Onward'. The collar was also inscribed with "Pelorus Jack, HMS New Zealand, from New Zealanders in the Transvaal, March 1913." At Wellington, New Zealand, a local Boy Scout troop presented Pelorus Jack with a greenstone tiki which was proudly attached to his collar.

This picture appeared in the Grey River Argus newspaper on 29 September 1914 and read "Big Gun of HMS New Zealand. The Dog Watch - Pelorus Jack, the mascot of HMS New Zealand sitting on one of the big guns. It will be remembered that this ship took part in the recent naval battle off Heligoland."

Pelorus Jack completed the 40,000 mile maiden voyage on H.M.S. New Zealand in 1913 and in the following two years lived aboard this fighting ship which saw action at Heligoland in August 1914 and Dogger Bank in January 1915. Sadly, on the eve of the first Anzac Day commemorations in 1916 Pelorus Jack broke his neck and died from a fall down some funnel casing. He had been a much-loved, loyal and reliable pet mascot for the crew of H.M.S. New Zealand.
Perhaps it was due to keeping the ship's morale at time of war that necessitated a quick replacement, and to continue the good name of Pelorus Jack another bulldog in his name was welcomed onboard. The second Pelorus Jack wandered the decks of the battlecruiser during its combat at the Battle of Jutland in May and June 1916.
A thorough scan of this postcard showing H.M.S. New Zealand's 'P' Turret crew reveals Pelorus Jack held by one of the sailors;

P Turret crew of H.M.S. New Zealand c.1916. A brief handwritten message from Arthur to his mother is recorded on the back of this postcard. Arthur has placed a small 'x' to mark himself at the extreme left of this portrait.

A 'close-up' of Pelorus Jack taken from the postcard image above. These sailors can be seen just above and to the left of the 'P Turret' sign.

After the war ended, and in 1919 Captain O.E. Leggett presented Pelorus Jack to the Deputy Mayor of Auckland as a gift to the citizens of Auckland city. Before he was allowed to make a new home on the mainland, Pelorus Jack was sent to Motuihi Island to spend six months in quarantine. Sadly he never made it from quarantine and died from poor health on the island.
Having the attention of a pet dog mascot onboard ship provided these sailors with a warm relief from the monotony of life out at sea, and helped to build morale during the difficult war years.
Pelorus Jack I and II - Lest we forget.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Puff and Draw - The Cigarette War

My intention in this post is not to glorify nor promote cigarette smoking. Instead, I've chosen this subject matter in the realisation that cigarette smoking during the Great War was a reallly big deal for many who sought simple pleasures during hard and traumatic times despite the health risks. Simply put, tobacco was very popular and an accepted part of culture in the war years.
Tobacco was widely available, affordable and easily transportable to troops at the front lines. Along with letters and food parcels from loved ones were packets of cigarettes sent to soldiers in battle. Woodbines, Three Castles, Duke's Cameo, Player's Navy Cut and Kenilworth are just a small example of the many branded cigarettes in circulation, and what follows, are examples from newspapers and postcards that illustrate the soldiers' desire for a fag;

Postcard by B.B. (Birn Brothers) Ltd, Series No. "SB.1."
Handwritten message on reverse dates this postcard to 20 October 1917.

"Cigarettes or Chocolates?
Which does the soldier prefer?
An interesting discussion has recently been proceeding in the columns of a London paper, "The New Statesman," on the relative merits of cigarettes or chocolate as suitable gifts for our gallant soldiers at the front. Some one has called the present war "a cigarette war," and there is abundant testimony to the popularity of the cigarette with our soldiers, not only in the trenches, but when the men are undergoing the preliminaries to an operation. The soldier of our youth dearly loved his short and well-seasoned clay. To day, the British soldier takes most kindly to a cigarette. An enormous increase in the sale of tobacco has been chronicled in England as one result, at least, of the war. When announcing a jump of seven millions in the revenue, Mr Lloyd George attributed the increase to the "smoking in camps, and the great gifts of tobacco which have been distributed among the troops."
Taking this as a text, it is contended by some good people that it is better that gifts of tobacco should assume the form of chocolate rather than packets of cigarettes. One medical authority, quoting Sir Lauder Brunton's description of sugar as "the food of the body," maintains that the desire for sweets is not only a natural but a healthy taste. The chief value of chocolate, he adds, is provided by the sugar which it contains. And he proceeds to argue that, seeing an excess in smoking may injure both eyes and heart, it is safer and wiser to send presents, not of cigarettes, but chocolates, and sweets and honey, and jam and gingerbread, and all other manner of things that contain sugar.
This is all very well, but the main thing to ascertain is, to our mind, what the majority of the men prefer. Medical anathemas notwithstanding, we fancy the popular (soldier's) vote will be cast for the cigarette. And, now we come to think of it, how is it that the doctors, who so often condemn cigarettes are themselves, as a class, so tremendously addicted to the cigarette habit? The fact is that if there is no inhalation of the smoke, the cigarette is very far from being the deadly thing it is so often pictured as being. Let the boys have their chocolates if they like, but don't dock their supply of cigarettes. After all, it is not so much a question of which is "better" for the soldier, but which the soldier prefers. The choice between the two comforts should be left to the brave fellows who are fighting for us. Like the immortal Mr Jingle, outsiders should not "presume to dictate."
Source: Free Lance, 16 July 1915, page 6.

A Southern Cross Tobacco Fund postcard from a New Zealand soldier, Armament Quarter Master Sergeant W. Juriss, thanking the sender for the parcel containing cigarettes. He has written "Received Splendid Cigarettes" down the left side of the card.

"About Cigarettes.
The soldier's "fag" has become so well recognised a weakness that it takes a bold man to attack it on the ground that smoking is injurious to the health. Yet such a man has now arisen. Most people will be quite ready to believe that unlimited cigarette smoking is detrimental to the health of men in the trenches - where life is semi-sedentary - but particularly of hospital patients. One of the regular activities of the War Contingent Association is the distribution of smokes through its visitors to New Zealanders in British hospitals. The allowance is limited to 40 cigarettes a week."
Source: Feilding Star, 9 December 1916, page 2.

Postcard by British artist Archibald English.

"Messages from the Sea.
Soldiers want cigarettes.
Melbourne, January 4.
Six bottles containing appeals from soldiers for cigarettes have been found at Wilson's Promontory. They were thrown overboard from troopships in August, September, October, and November. Three of them are from New Zealand soldiers."
Feilding Star, 12 January 1916, page 4.

A popular postcard drawn by British artist Bert Thomas for the "Weekly Dispatch" Tobacco Fund, 
Carmelite House, London, E.C.. Postmarked 14 July 1915.

Source: New Zealand's Free Lance newspaper, 28 December 1917

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Tragic Loss Of The Aparima And Her Crew

The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand's ship Aparima left London for Barry in South Wales to take on a load of coal in November 1917. When in service as a troopship she was renowned for being a slow traveller managing a maximum speed of only 12 to 13 knots. As she sailed down through the English Channel, her skipper Captain James Gerald Stokely Doorly took her as close to the coast as he dared, and set the Aparima on a zig zag course, both measures taken to give the vessel the best opportunity to avoid an attack by a German U-boat.
As the Aparima sailed passed the Isle of Wight and held a course about 4 kilometres south west of Anvil Point, German U-boat 40 under the command of Oberleutnant Hans Howaldt fired a torpedo in to her port side. The sudden explosion happened at about 12.50 a.m. on 19 November 1917, and within 8 minutes the Aparima was sunk.
Of the 110 crew onboard, 56 were tragically lost. The Aparima's crew included men from Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand. Among those who lost their lives were seventeen cadets whose sleeping quarters had been close to where the torpedo had struck.
The New Zealanders who were killed on the Aparima;

Cadet Walter James Bannantyne
Cadet Geoffrey Robert Bargrove
First Officer Harry Archibald Daniel
Cadet Donovan O'Bryen Hoare
Cadet Ian Kenneth MacKenzie
Cadet Adam Houliston Marshall
Cadet Robert Joseph Marshall
Cadet Leon Joseph Massey
Cadet Colin Boyd McDonald
Wireless Robert Perrett Taipo Millington
Cadet John Frederick Proudfoot
Cadet Alexander McKinley Ramsay
Chief Engineer Thomas Rogerson
Cadet William Shaw
Cadet John Gordon Smith
Cadet William Harry Williams

"Officers of the ill-fated steamer Aparima, including some who were lost when the vessel was torpedoed in the English Channel." Source: Auckland Weekly News, 13 December 1917, page 42.
From left to right, standing: Mr G. McDonald, missing; Mr Thomas Rogerson, chief engineer, missing; Mr Harry Daniel, chief officer, missing; Mr James Mackie, chief steward, missing; and Mr N.S. Fleming, fifth engineer. 
Sitting front row: Mr G.S. Dalgliesh, who left the ship before its ill-fated voyage; Mr W.B. Hirst, second engineer; Mr A.F. Vipan, wireless operator; and Mr Maurice H. Mayo, seventh engineer.

Captain Doorly, born in Trinidad, survived the sinking of the Aparima. He jumped overboard in to the sea and was lucky enough to be picked up by one of the lifeboats. He had been under the employ of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand since 1905. He married Ina Muriel Whitson in Dunedin in 1908. During the First World War he was Master of troopships Navua (1915 and 1916) and Aparima (1917). After the war ended, his career continued on the seas and in the mid 1920's he joined the Port Phillip Sea Pilot's Service in Melbourne, Australia. Doorly also enjoyed some success as an author and musician. In 1951 he returned to New Zealand and five years later, died in Wellington.

Portrait of Captain James Gerald Stokely Doorly and memorial plaque at Karori Cemetery, Wellington.

Before the tragic loss of the Aparima during the war, she had enjoyed some success as a cargo steamship on the Union Steam Ship Company's India service having made over thirty voyages to Calcutta. When war broke out, the Aparima was requistioned as a troopship by the New Zealand Government. As HMNZT 19, 26, 32 and 46 she carried New Zealand soldiers to Egypt. By April 1916, many New Zealand soldiers were deployed to Western Europe and the Aparima as HMNZT 61 and 76 journeyed to England.

S.S. Aparima, H.M.N.Z.T. No.32. 
October 1915. Real photographic postcard by J. Dickie.

Written on the back of this postcard;
"Nov 5th.
217 Cuba St

Dear May, These are the 5 boats that left with 7th Reinforcements. Thought you would like to have all the boats. This one was the last to leave the wharf. It was there 10 past 6 and the sun was almost down. Writing to mother soon. Received letter today. Love to all, Annie."

Today, the wreck of the Aparima lies at a depth of 42 metres on the bottom of the English Channel, about 4 kilometres south west of Anvil Point, England. This 5,700 ton wreck is said to stand 8 metres high in places, is 430 feet long, and various items of the ship such as the 4.7inch gun, mooring cable and anchor are still visible and intact for divers to explore.