Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The End In Sight

“The End In Sight!” by artist Donald McGill. “Comique” Series No. 1806.
Inter-Art Co., Florence House, Barnes, London, S.W.
No postmark or postage stamp.

"It'll all be over by Christmas" and "The end in sight", words that were hastily spoken at the outset of the First World War. These words were far from the truth. Four long years of warfare followed and many lives from many nations were lost.

This postcard is an example of the profilic work of artist Donald McGill (1875-1962), a Londoner, and whose great talent it was that produced these wonderful and humourous depictions of people during the war.   He was very successful with his postcard artwork by way of covering so many different aspects of the war. A few notable military themes he covered were recruiting, training, patriotism, the home front, in the trenches, romance, spys and the navy. Of course many will know that Donald McGill's fame lay in the hundreds of saucy seaside postcards he would continue to produce right up to the latter years of his career.

Rifleman Frederick Baretta of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade purchased this McGill postcard to send to a fellow named Jack. He wrote;

"Dec 18th, 1917.

Dear Jack,
                 Just a few lines that we are in camp at a place called Brocton about two hours run by train from Liverpool. We came through Panama Canal and ports of call were Colon, Newport News, and Halifax and landed at Liverpool on Dec 7th.
It was midnight when we reached in to camp. Their was ten boats left Halifax altogether for Liverpool, some with troops, Canadian soldiers and others loaded with mules and horses and food supplys.
It is a hell of a cold place here at present. It was snowing like hell on Sunday so we had to drown our sorrows in the hut. We have a wet canteen here but the beer is not like the coast.
                                                                                                                Wishing you a merry xmas.
                                                                                                               Rflm F. Baretta."

Frederick, a West Coaster born at Hokitika, and of Italian parentage, was a hard working sawmill hand for the West Coast Timber Trading Company and Baxter Brother's Mill at Humphreys', Hokitika. In 1917 whilst jacking logs on to a sawmill trolley, one of the logs suddenly rolled back on to Frederick. The resultant injury was serious damage to his left knee and he was hospitalised for many weeks.

Despite this injury he managed a good recovery and enlisted with the Rifle Brigade, embarking with the 30th Reinforcements on the ship Corinthic bound for Liverpool, England in October 1917.

By 1918 Rifleman Baretta was in combat on the Western Front and with only a few months remaining before the war would come to an end, he received gunshot wounds to his neck, chin and cheek. He was transported back to England to the New Zealand General Hospital at Codford before being moved to Hornchurch on the 11th September 1918. When the war finally came to an end in November, Frederick returned to New Zealand where he died in 1980.

Tribute to my Great Uncle

Private George Douglas Fox, Wellington Infantry Regiment, NZEF
Photographic postcard taken at Lyceum Studios, 358, Strand W.C., London, England

If only the rugby fields could speak. The sportsmanship, banter among players, and shouts for the pass of the ball quickly and sadly disappeared from the playing fields throughout the country as young men embarked on their journey to fight a war on foreign soil. The fields fell quiet and their lives would change forever. 

Before the war years, George, a young man of 17 years played rugby for Waipukurau in the Central Hawke's Bay. By 1912 he had gained some success as a wing forward in the Seniors team when they went on to win the Hunter Shield and the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union Challenge Trophy that same year. 

When war was declared, George, his brothers and many of his rugby team mates enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to fight for King and Country.

George Fox's older brother Edward joined the Medical Corps and his younger brother Bob joined the Wellington Mounted Rifles. George and brother Tom both joined 1st Battalion Wellington Infantry Regiment.  

In the short space of about two years, the Fox family would endure much suffering. George was wounded in action with a gunshot wound to the chest in the Dardanelles on 8 August 1915. Trooper Bob Fox received gun shot wounds to both thighs and his right hand at the Dardanelles just 18 days later. After considerable time in hospital, Bob was sent home to New Zealand and discharged as unfit for any further war service. George on the other hand, made a good recovery and gave nothing away of his own suffering when writing to loved ones back home;

"Zeitoun Sept 11th 1915

Dear Aunt Jennie,

Just dropping a line to let you know how the Boys are all getting on. Bob is going on very well but of course he has suffered a lot of pain, he makes it very light always got a joke or a laugh ready. Bert Twiste is doing well, his will be a long job. I think the two of them will be invalided home when they are well enough to travel. I hope to go on Duty Monday and then I will get back to the Peninsula in 2 or 3 weeks time. Kind regards to Uncle & Ida. Very little news. Hope you are all well. Huray.

The 6ths will be here next week. Had a letter from Nell. Dated July 11th.

From your loving Nephew
Geo. D. Fox, Kia Ora."

By April 1916, the Wellington Infantry Regiment moved to the battlefields of Belgium and France. Tom Fox was just one day shy of his 23rd birthday when he was killed in action in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 16 September 1916. This was devastating news for George and yet he continued to show courage and worked hard at keeping good spirit in his postcards and letters sent home;

Dec 3rd 1916

Dear Jack,
I received your very welcome post card a few days ago and I was very pleased to hear from you and that everybody was quite well. We came out of the trenches yesterday and are now in billets not very far from the Firing Line, everything is very quiet there just now.

I met Harry Green and I met Dave a couple of days ago, they were sending some Plum Duffs over to old Fritz. Buttery was down to see me today and wishes to be remembered to all at Home, he is quite well. I was very pleased to see him again. I also met Ian Mackie he is in the 2nd Brigade and is quite well. Alf Houseman is away in England on his leave. I will very likely get mine about Christmas or New Year time, won't it be Kosher? Jacko having a good old Christmas Dinner in England or Scotland. I am training Walter Ireland for a Boxing Contest, so I will very likely get a little trip with him if all goes well. Well Jack I am glad to hear that you go to school well and help with the cows, you must be the Manager now. It will soon be two years since I first went to Camp does not the time fly. 

Well Dear Jack there is not very much news to write about so you will have to excuse a short letter. I will now close hoping everybody is quite well. Love to all. 

From your loving brother
Kia Ora."

On 7 June 1917 the New Zealand Division took part in what was to become a decisive victory in West Flanders, Belgium. The Wyschaete-Messines ridge was strategic high ground that provided good views over the lower fields of Flanders. On the 7th June the New Zealanders advanced over no-mans land and attacked the German held village of Messines. They won this battle and occupied the remnants of the shell scarred village but the following day were targeted by heavy shellfire from the Germans. It was on this day that George was killed. Like many other New Zealanders who met their fate on this day at Messines, his body was never recovered. He is remembered on the Messines Memorial to the Missing and on the family headstone at Waipukurau Cemetery.
To George and Tom, my great uncles, rest well brave hearts.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Gargle Parade

“Gargle Parade.”
No postmark or postage stamp. Card not dated.

This group of New Zealand troops at their training camp are each holding a cup of diluted mouthwash disinfectant. This is their ‘Gargle Parade’which was considered great value in preventing the spread of some infectious diseases.The disinfectant was a means of keeping a healthy throat and preventing ulcers and sore throats.

The soldier kneeling in the centre of this photographic postcard is holding a copy of the New Zealand newspaper ‘The Dominion’. 

Handwritten on the reverse of the postcard is; “To Dear Elsie King. From Horace Turner. With best wishes & love.” 
This was written by Private Horace Victor Turner, 3/1204, most likely during his military training in New Zealand in 1915. He is the son of Reverend Nicholas Turner of the Methodist Manse in Gore. Horace enlisted for army service in Christchurch in 1915. He joined the 7th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Medical Corps which sailed from Wellington on 9 October 1915 destined for Suez in Egypt. He survived both wars and died in 1984.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Australia and New Zealand Together

A wonderful portrait of an Australian soldier side by side with a New Zealand soldier of the 12th Nelson Regiment. This photographic postcard was taken in a studio in Edinburgh where so many troops took well-deserved leave before returning to the front lines.

Men of these two nations fought together at Gallipoli, in Sinai and Palestine, at the Somme, Messines, and Passchendaele to name but a few. It is not known whether these two young men survived the First World War but one hopes they both returned to their homelands. It would be nice to think that they reunited in peace time knowing that it is only the Tasman Sea to separate them.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Overthrow of the German Occupation of Samoa

"Hoisting the Union Jack in Samoa, 30th Aug 1914." 

This photographic postcard was taken by Auckland photographer, Alfred James Tattersall (1866-1951) when working in Apia, Samoa in 1914.

Approximately 1,400 New Zealand troops formed the Samoan Advance Party of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. They embarked on troopships Monowai and Moeraki which departed King's Wharf, Wellington on 15 August 1914. The voyage took these troops to New Caledonia and Fiji before reaching there final destination and objective, Samoa. The New Zealanders landed at the beach at Matautu Point before promptly occupying Apia.

The ceremony seen above, is to mark the overthrow of the German occupation of Samoa in to British Empire control. It took place outside the courthouse in Apia at 8 a.m. on 30 August. The Union Jack flag was hoisted to a 21 gun salute with the first gun fired by HMS Psyche out in the harbour. In the foreground are the Samoan High Chiefs of  Malietoa, Tanu, and Tamasese. In the square opposite them are a number of commanders from the naval escort including Captain Herbert J.T. Marshall of H.M.S. Psyche (in white naval uniform). Directly facing the flag hoist is Scottish born Colonel Robert Logan, commander of the Samoan Advance Party of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, accompanied by his staff dressed in khaki uniform.

The capture of German Samoa was New Zealand's first military action in World War One. The German defences on the island were weak and the New Zealand occupation happened swiftly and without combat.

After the war, the League of Nations appointed New Zealand in 1920 to govern Western Samoa. These wonderful people and beautiful treasured islands of the Pacific gained political independence in 1962.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

First World War Beauty Queen

This beautiful lady is Miss Doris McCormack. She was elected by New Zealand soldiers at Trentham Military Camp to become their "Queen" in a bid to help raise funds for wounded soldiers and their dependents, and to compete for the crown and title of Wellington's Queen of the Carnival in 1915.

In June 1915 she joined a touring party that left Wellington on a tour of the Wairarapa to help rouse support and raise funds. Large crowds of support attended the processions, parades and concerts that were held as the touring party visited the towns of Masterton, Carterton, Greytown and Featherston.

The Dominion newspaper, 23 June 1915, page 4

The results of the voting for Queen of the Carnival was announced on 27 June 1915 and published the following day in The Press newspaper. Fifteen candidates were in the running for the crown and up until the day before the final results were known, Doris had been in the lead. In the final moments before all votes had to be in, Miss K. Doughty, the Commercial Travellers' candidate took the lead and won the crown.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tragedy at Bere Ferrers

"Keep The Home Fires Burning!" postcard by an unknown artist.

"Keep The Home Fires Burning", a phrase often found on postcards during the First World War, rich with sentiment and patriotism from loved ones at home, keeping spirits high and preserving a warm home until husbands and sons return from war.

This phrase also features in a song composed by Ivor Novello and words by Lena Ford in 1914. The song was initially published as 'Till the Boys Come Home' but in the following year a further edition was released as 'Keep the Home Fires Burning'. The chorus says it all;

"Keep the Home Fires Burning,  
While your hearts are yearning.  
Though your lads are far away  
They dream of home.  
There's a silver lining  
Through the dark clouds shining,  
Turn the dark cloud inside out  
Till the boys come home."
The addressee on the back of this postcard is an interesting one;

"No. 56920 Private N.J. Gatley 
New Zealand E.X. Force 
It was written by Private Gatley's cousin Vi and postmarked on 15 April 1918;

"Dear Nat,
Thanks awfully for your nice long letter. It is very sad concerning Mrs Stanaway. I will write a long letter. Trusting you are quite well mind.
Love from cousin Vi."
Private Nathaniel Johnston Gatley, born 21 April 1883 in Otautau, a horse trainer from Riverton enlisted in the Otago Infantry in 1917 and embarked with the 28th Reinforcements for England on 26 July 1917. The troopship he was travelling on arrived at Plymouth England in September and the next stage of the journey for the New Zealanders was a train bound for Salisbury Plain where they would have further military training at Sling Camp before moving to France. On this train journey, a tragic accident occurred at the small railway station at Bere Ferrers in Devon. The troop train had come to a temporary stop to allow the passing of an express train travelling in the opposite direction. A number of New Zealand soldiers believed it to be a refreshments stop and were unaware of the scheduled express train. They climbed down from their carriage on the wrong side and on to the railway tracks and were cut down by the oncoming express train. Ten men were killed and two injured;

Private John Stanley Jackson (killed)

Private Chudleigh Inwood Kirton (killed)
Private Baron Archibald Wilson McBryde (killed)
Private Richard Vincent McKenna (killed)
Private William Simon Gillanders (killed)
Private John Warden (killed)
Private William Frederick Greaves (killed)
Private Joseph Judge (killed)
Private William John Trussell (killed)
Private Sidney Ennis West (killed)
Private Nathaniel Johnston Gatley (injured)
Rifleman Robert James Barnes (injured)

Private Gatley's injury was a broken arm and he was sent to the Tavistock hospital and then on to Codford and Hornchurch. After recovering from this accident he was back at Codford after contracting a bout of bronchitis and it is during this time that he received the above postcard from his cousin.

In the Bere Ferrers Parish Church there is a memorial to those New Zealanders who died on 24 September 1917 in this tragic accident. A brass tablet affixed to the chancel wall behind the pulpit bears the names of those killed and states that "...This tablet is erected in their honor and memory by the people of Bere Ferrers parish and other admirers in appreciation of their loyalty and self sacrifice in coming from their far-off homes to fight for England in the great war for the freedom of the world." Another memorial also appears on the plinth of the Bere Ferrers village war memorial.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

From life's tree a leaf has fallen

The familiar face of Lord Kitchener seen here on a large calico banner hanging from the Bank of New Zealand on Lambton Quay and the bottom of Willis Street in Wellington.

This large recruiting sign has the quotation from one of Kitchener's speeches;
"Give me the men and munitions I want and I will guarantee my personal reputation that we hold the war in the hollow of our hands."

This real photographic postcard is dated to October 1915. With just a little over seven months later, Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener was killed when HMS Hampshire was sunk by a German mine a few kilometres off the coast of the Orkney Islands on 5 June 1916.

Monday, 11 February 2013

A lost boyfriend

Real photographic postcard of Sgt Eric Wanden, Maggie Macnabb and friend. 
Eric wears the collar badge of the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles and shoulder epaulettes with "10" and "NZMR"

Happier times. The New Zealand soldier pictured is Sergeant Eric Wanden, a Blenheim lad sharing a personal moment with two girl friends. 

On the reverse of this postcard is the handwriting from one of the girls pictured;

“Eric Wanden, Maggie Macnabb & self but they say I am too serious therefore not natural. This is a snap of a boy friend who has enlisted & leaves New Zealand this week. The other young lady is a cousin staying with us. I feel Eric’s going just as if a brother.”

Eric was just 21 years of age when he left New Zealand with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles as part of the Main Body sailing to Egypt. About ten months later, Eric was hit by a bullet that inflicted much damage to his lower jaw. He was invalided back to New Zealand on the troopship Willochra. He regained fitness and returned to the firing line in Egypt in 1917.

It was on the 25th September 1918 that tragedy struck. A witness report made by another Main Body man, Sergeant Charles Frederick Scrimgeour described how Eric met his fate;

“On the 25th Sept we were together at a redoubt just before Amman. When galloping into action I saw him hit in the heart by rifle bullet and was killed instantaneously. He was buried that afternoon near the spot where he fell. A cross was made for the grave but I did not see it in place.”

The Wanden family would suffer another cruel blow when Eric's older brother Corporal Herbert Winn Wanden  died of wounds on 27 March 1918 in France. He is buried at Auchonvillers Military Cemetery. Younger brother Mervyn survived the war.