Monday, 25 March 2013

Debut Of The Tank

"All For Victory!". A french postcard published by Furia. 
It shows German soldiers fleeing from a British tank advancing over barbed wire obstacles. 
The front hatch of the tank reveals a photograph of a British soldier and his girlfriend. 
Underneath this Private Troon has handwritten 'Georgina'.

This postcard was sent to Georgina from Private James George Troon, 9/1994, New Zealand Medical Corps when he was based at the New Zealand Stationary Hospital in France in April 1918. He writes;

"Dear Georgina,
                         I was so pleased to receive your letter yesterday. My word you must be growing a big girl. I don't think I would know you now. What do you think of this picture? It is our big tank in action: see the Germans running away. They really did run when they saw our big monster the first time. Well I hope to be home soon and then I will come and see you and you can take me for a walk. 
I am your loving cousin, Jim."

Private Troon is likely referring to the New Zealand Division's first major battle on the Western Front. This was the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in France in September 1916. On the 15th of that month, tanks were used in battle for the very first time. Although very slow moving, a number of these early tanks successfully penetrated barbed wire and trench systems, offered protection from enemy rifle and machine gun fire and drove fear in to German soldiers confronting these metal monsters.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Taken From A German Soldier

A real photographic postcard of a group of German soldiers from Infantry Regiment 22. On the back of this card is the handwritten message;

"These are photos of Germans I got off a German I killed. The ones with the forage caps are officers".

It was not uncommon for soldiers from both sides to collect war trophies and personal souvenirs from the battle zone. Perhaps the most notorious of these souvenir collectors was Private John 'Barney' Hines, born in Liverpool England, and who served with the 45th battalion Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front. He was a fearless soldier and had a hunger for collecting souvenirs ranging from coins, watches and wedding rings to German medals, hats and weapons.

The German postcard entitled 'Der Siegeszug' (meaning 'The Triumphant') seen below was used by a New Zealand soldier writing from France on 26 August 1918 to his father back home;

"Dear Dad,
Here is a card that takes some puzzling out to 'compree'. I think that it has some thing to do with Peace myself but I don't know Fritz's language.
Among a number of souvenirs I found was a gold wristlet watch buried in a parapet with the strap sticking out which I pulled and got a surprise to find a watch on it. It is an English watch and might have been either a Jerrys or Tommies."

A Gift From A German Soldier

A real photographic postcard of a young German soldier holding a cigar, perhaps posing for this photograph outside the family home before setting off to war.

On the front of this postcard is a handwritten message made by a New Zealand soldier who came across this  helpless soul on the battlefield;

"This is the Hun I got most of these P.C.s  (post cards) from. He had a bad wound in the back & he gave me his P.C. for dressing him."

The names and fate of both soldiers is not known.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Postcard Souvenirs from Egypt

Three soldiers away from the firing line pose on camels with the spectacular backdrop of the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. 
This very popular site gave allied soldiers on leave the opportunity to have their photograph taken, published on to a postcard, and sent home to loved ones.
Note the Egyptian photographer behind the camera tripod to the left of this picture.

Real Photo Postcard. No postmark or postage stamp. Unknown printer / publisher. 
William Croson pictured on a camel with the same spectacular scenery and location as seen in the other postcard above. 

William wrote the following message on the back of this postcard;

“The mode of transit here is mostly Camels, Mules, & Donkeys. You will see we are looking round the pyramids on Camels.
Kia Ora, W. Croson”

William Croson, born in Leicester England in 1886, was a self employed engineer and qualified mechanic. In 1914 he hit financial hard times and left his business to enlist in the army in Auckland. William joined the Divisional Signal Company, New Zealand Engineers and embarked on the troopship Willochra destined for Suez Egypt in August 1915.

Sapper Croson joined his unit in Gallipoli on 26 October 1915 but just less than a month later he was sent to St Paul’s Military Hospital in Malta on the ship H.S. Gloucester Castle suffering from rheumatic fever. He was back in active service by February 1916. He returned to New Zealand on the troopship Ulimaroa on 17 March and discharged from military service in October that same year on the account of his illness.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Touch of Silk

Brightly coloured embroidered silk postcards that captured the patriotism and sentiments of the First World War were popular purchases by soldiers on foreign soil. These postcards were mainly produced in France and many embroidered by women in a cottage industry that provided an important income for themselves and their families during hard economic times.
It is estimated that New Zealand soldiers earned approximately 5 shillings a day. The affordable picture postcard could be purchased for a penny. However, the embroidered silk postcard was priced much higher at about sixpence each which made this an expensive purchase on a soldier's income.

This wonderfully coloured silk postcard seen above, was a popular design bought by New Zealand soldiers. This one was written by 'Will' to his cousin 'Lily' while stationed at Codford (Command Depot and No.3 New Zealand General Hospital) in Wiltshire;


Dear Lily,
Just a few lines to let you know how I am getting along well.  I suppose you will all be surprised to know that I am going back to France to fight old Fritz again. I have got sick and tired of being in this camp so I went and told the doctor that I was ready for France again so I will be leaving this camp for Sling camp. That’s where they draft us for France. So if you don’t get any letters from me for a long time you will know I am in the trenches. So goodbye.
I remain your affectionate cousin, Will.”

Assuming that Will completed his training at Sling camp, he faced the major battles of Messines and Passchendaele later that year where many New Zealand soldiers lost their lives.

It is not known whether Will survived the war and if Lily ever heard from her cousin again.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Sinking of the s.s. Rotorua.

The New Zealand Steamship Company's s.s. Rotorua. She was built and launched by William Denny & Bros, Dumbarton, Scotland on 9 July 1910. She made her first New Zealand voyage from London to Wellington on 27 October 1910.

An interesting comment was made by the Rotorua's storekeeper Harry T. Gray and reported in the Ashburton Guardian newspaper in 1918. He tells the story of when the Rotorua had stopped for coal at Newport News in Virginia en route from Wellington, New Zealand in February 1917. Someone had written in chalk in large letters on the side of the ship "This is the last voyage of the Rotorua". On 22 March 1917 this prophecy came true. The Rotorua was torpedoed and sunk by German UC17 under the command of Ralph Wenninger in the English Channel just 24 miles east of Start Point. Captain Sutcliffe and all the Rotorua crew were saved except for Assistant Steward Daniel Henry Williams, a Londoner age 39 who had signed on at Wellington. The Rotorua had been carrying a cargo of mutton, beef, cheese and butter valued at over £400,000 and all of this was lost.

Today the wreck of the Rotorua is of interest to recreational divers and she lies on her side at a depth of approximately 60 metres.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Anzacs in France - Daily Mail Post Cards

The envelope that holds a set of eight postcards belonging to series 20 entitled "Anzacs in France".

The first of the Daily Mail Official War Picture postcards were released for sale in September 1916. There were 80 cards made up of ten series of eight postcards. Many of the images were taken from the Somme battlefields. The full collection of these Daily Mail postcards made a total of 176 cards. Many of the buyers were soldiers' families eager to search through the numerous images of troops at war in the hope they might see their loved ones pictured on the cards.
In January 1917, new Daily Mail postcard series 19 (Australians) and 20 (New Zealanders) were released on to the market. Both series were entitled "Anzacs in France" and the popular "New Zealanders" set of eight postcards can be seen below.

The first postcard of series 20, numbered 153 and entitled "Off to the trenches".

153. ANZACs in France. Off to the trenches
"A battalion of New Zealanders in full kit, and with handcarts, going out to take their spell of duty in the trenches."

The second postcard of series 20, numbered 154 and entitled "New Zealanders loading ammunition".

154. ANZACs in France. New Zealanders loading ammunition.
"These New Zealand artillerymen are packing shells into their limbers from a large open-air dump for the firing line."

The third postcard of series 20, numbered 155 and entitled "New Zealanders cheer the King".

155. ANZACs in France. New Zealanders cheer the King.
"A happy incident during the King's visit. New Zealanders line up along the road-side to cheer King George as he passes." King George V and his entourage are seen here visiting New Zealand troops before they are about to entrain at Steenwerck. The white moustachioed General Herbert Plumer can be seen marching behind the King, General Godley holding his cane is on King George's right shoulder whilst General George Harper is on the King's left shoulder. The visit was photographed in August 1916.

The fourth postcard of series 20, numbered 156 and entitled "Bringing up a gun".

156. ANZACs in France. Bringing up a gun.
"A party of Anzac gunners taking a big gun along a chalk road from which they raise clouds of dust."
Ten strong hard working shire horses are being used to haul this heavy 5 inch gun to its firing position.

The fifth postcard of series 20, numbered 157 and entitled "Bread and Jam".

157. ANZACs in France. Bread and jam
"A party of New Zealanders who have been at work consolidating a trench and are now enjoying a rest with bread and jam". They are men of the 2nd Auckland Infantry Battalion in a trench near the town of Flers in France in 1916.

The sixth postcard of series 20, numbered 158 and entitled "A Brawny Maori Butcher".

158. ANZACs in France. A brawny Maori butcher.
"This Maori soldier of the King is allotted the duties of a butcher, and is seen separating joints of beef with a hatchet".

The seventh postcard of series 20, numbered 159 and entitled "New Zealand Premier's visit".

159. ANZACs in France. New Zealand Premier's visit.
"The Rt Hon. W. F. Massey and Sir Joseph Ward at the Front. They are seen beside a war-plane talking about its capabilities."

The eighth and final card of series 20, numbered 160 and entitled "A queue to the field canteen".

160. ANZACs in France. A queue to the field canteen.
"New Zealanders released from duty. Being all hungry, they adopt the queue plan to avoid a scramble at the canteen".

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Red Cross Military Convalescent Home, Montecillo

Red Cross Military Convalescent Home, Montecillo, Dunedin.
Real photographic postcard c1918.

This elegant thirteen-roomed house located on Eglinton road in Mornington, Dunedin was set on grounds of about 3½ acres. The house was opened as a Red Cross Military Convalescent Home on 27 June 1918. At the time of opening, the home had accommodation for approximately twenty-four and serviced the wounded and sick veterans from the Boer War and First World War. A new building with two rooms divided in to a works room and a recreation room with a billiards table opened in 1919. A massage room was administered by Miss Ensor. Displayed on the wall of the entrance hall hung a commemorative red pine tablet with a brass plate designed by artist Mr Robert Hawcridge. It recorded the names of those who donated £100 or more to the cot endowment fund which was a much needed source of money for the purchase of cots for the convalescent home.

Agnes Macmillan, of Milton, who worked at a Presbyterian Orphanage on Blighs Road in Papanui in 1912 and the Dunedin General Hospital, later saw service in military hospitals at Wimereux and Bolougne in France from 1915 to 1916. She was appointed Matron of the convalescent home at Montecillo in 1918. She was assisted by some voluntary nurses; Miss Ogston, Mrs Arthur Stronach, and Miss Brenda Bell, and in 1920, Sisters Thomson and Oppenheim.

The longest resident was Trooper Thomas Frederick McCarthy of the Otago Mounted Rifles who died in 1973. Another resident was Sergeant Newton Hanan, Otago Infantry Battalion, who took a gunshot wound to his back during the fighting in France in 1916. The wound resulted in paralysis and loss of use of both legs. He was invalided back to New Zealand and eventually became a resident of Montecillo until his death in 1922. Major Gordon Mitchell, Troopers Jardine, Sanders and Muir were also some of the WW1 veterans who were resident at the convalescent home.