Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The War Dog of New Zealand

"1914. The War-Dog of New Zealand" by artist J.D. Perrett.

This powerful patriotic painting is all-absorbing with its symbolic strong stance of a British bulldog combined with Maori warrior adornments; the black tail feathers with white tips from the extinct Huia bird, tā moko facial marking and the ornamental pendant, hei-tiki made of pounamu (greenstone) all of which personify the wearer with status and high rank. Truly a force to be feared by any enemy!

War was declared in August 1914, and at that time, Auckland-based artist John Douglas Perrett was likely inspired to paint this wonderful piece as New Zealanders rallied to join the British Empire and fight for King and Country. The New Zealand Herald printing works made a copy and the painting thus reproduced in to postcard format seen above.

John Perrett, a Glaswegian born in about 1859, was a student at the Glasgow School of Art. When he was about 27 years old he emigrated to New Zealand and this young Scot unsurprisingly settled in Dunedin. It was not long before he had established himself as an artist of some repute in this city. His specialty was scenic landscapes and he exhibited such works as "A Sunny Glade", "A Mountain Stream", "Harrison's Cove, Milford Sound" and "The Cleddan River" in the early 1890's. 

John and his young family moved to Devonport Auckland sometime in 1895 and he took up a studio in Victoria Arcade in the heart of Auckland city. He and his wife Helen had four sons William Hay, John Douglas, Harold Seaton, Hugh Gordon, and one daughter Barbara Stewart. Three sons saw active service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War. John (Jack) served in the Auckland Infantry and sailed with the Main Body to Egypt in October 1914. He survived the war and died in Auckland in 1961, age 69 years. Harold was a Gunner in the New Zealand Field Artillery and his brother Hugh was in the 36th Reinforcements. Both returned home after the war.

John Douglas Perrett's son Jack, Auckland Weekly News, 13 January 1916

Perhaps an undervalued and little known artist to many New Zealanders today, Perrett was a prolific and respected artist here in New Zealand from the 1890's through to the 1930's. He is recognised for being one of the original members of the Auckland Academy of Art, gained a silver medalion for a fine marine study, and was renowned for an excellent drawing of the Pink and White Terraces, a piece of work he had just completed when the Tarawera eruption occurred in 1886. Some of his other works include; "Haunt of the Sea Birds", "Hutt River", "Island Bay - Wellington", "Evening - Milford Sound", "Wanganui River", "Branch of the Wanganui River", "The Reef Suva - Fiji", "Morning - Lake Pukaki", "Mount Cook from Lake Pukaki", "Evening, Mount Cook", "Auckland Harbour", "A Peaceful Vale", "The End of the Day", "Clearing After Rain, Milford Sound", "Cathedral Peaks, Lake Manapouri", "Lake Manapouri", "Dunedin Harbour",  "Government House and grounds", "Mount Ruapehu", "Summer Weather, Auckland Harbour", "Pelorus Sound", "Moonlight, Akaroa Harbour", "Lake Kanieri", "Nature's Mirror", "A Rockbound Coast", "Lake Waikaremoana", "Waikareiti" and many others.

John Douglas Perrett continued to paint and exhibit his work through until his death on 18 January 1937, age 78 years. His wife Helen Marion Perret died just two and a half months later, age 77 years.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Don't Worry! I'm Quite Comfortable at Sling Camp

"Don't Worry! I'm Quite Comfortable at Sling Camp". Postcard by artist Reg Carter and published by E. Mack, King Henry's Rd., Hampstead, London.

Comfortable at Sling Camp..."I Don't Think"! This military camp situated in the cold bleak landscape of the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire often received unfavourable comments from many New Zealand soldiers who trained there. Not only was there a dislike of the camp's isolated location exposed to wind and weather, but also they dreaded the hard and unforgiving camp discipline, parades, lectures, and long route marches. Despite this, the training at Sling Camp in bomb fusing and throwing, gas mask drills, Lewis machine gun instruction and trench digging helped to strengthen the New Zealand fighting force before final departure to the battle fronts in France and Belgium.

Private James Walker of 3rd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force left New Zealand with the 14th Reinforcements on the troopship Athenic on 30 December 1916. When the ship arrived at Plymouth in England, the New Zealand troops were transported on to Sling Camp for training and drill. This postcard was written by Private James Walker to his father in New Zealand when James was stationed at Sling Camp.  

March 10th 1917

Dear Father, 
                   I met Jim Hollow last night  in our canteen. He is going back to the trenches in about 2 weeks. His brother Bill is in the trenches now. Jim is in the next camp to ours. His hut is only about 300 yards from ours. I will write first chance there is. Nothing but snow, mud and rain here. It is decent drilling in the mud.


James lost his older brother William just four months before writing this postcard. William was killed in action at the Somme. 

When the 14th Reinforcements training at Sling finally came to an end they received their posting orders for the battlefields of Belgium and France. The New Zealanders were in the thick of the fighting at the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge in Belgium in June 1917. Despite the casualty list, the heat and the thirst, the New Zealanders were victorious in driving out the Germans from the town of Messines. Four months later, the casualty lists grew to horrific numbers and the heat was replaced by rain and mud. This was Passchendaele and for Private James Walker, this is where the war came to an end. He was killed in action on 4 October 1917 at just 23 years of age. James' cousin Jim Walker Hollow whom he mentions on the postcard above, died on 12 October just 8 days after James was killed. This date is well documented and remembered as New Zealand's blackest day owing to the large number of New Zealand casualties.
Bill Hollow, also mentioned, survived the war. 

Real photographic postcard of Sling Camp published by 'T.I.C.' (Thomas Illingworth & Co.).

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

New Zealand schools help Belgium

A New Zealand postcard using a French photographic portrait entitled 'La Famille Royale De Belgique'.
Pictured are King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and their children Leopold (eldest son seen on far right), Charles (far left) and Marie José (centre).

Most of Belgium was occupied by the German Empire during the First World War. Its towns, cities and countryside was ripped apart by the ravages of war. The Belgian people suffered terribly, many were homeless and struggling to survive. Food, water and shelter in their homeland was scarce.

New Zealand, among other representing nations of the British Empire realised the desperation of the situation in Belgium. Right throughout the country, New Zealanders endeavoured to make a difference by contributing money and resources to those in need in Belgium. As evident in print on the postcard shown above, New Zealand school children worked with great spirit to raise money to help the starving Belgian children.

Many New Zealand schools contributed to the Belgium Fund during the war. Some examples include; Hikumutu school near Taumarunui had longed for a school library but they unselfishly gave up this idea and instead donated the money to the Belgian Children's Fund in 1916. Ellesmere school held a concert and raised over £30. The school pupils at Whakarewarewa "cheerfully gave up all their lollies and their Saturday afternoon 'pictures' " and in doing so raised over £20. School children from all over Wellington took the leading role in hosting a large Produce Fair at the Wellington Town Hall on 27 and 28 July 1916. It was officially opened by His Excellency the Governor, the Earl of Liverpool. A vast array of produce provided by the province's farms was successfully sold with all takings going to the Belgium Fund. Among the stalls of potatoes, pumpkins, swedes, marrows, jams, cakes, rabbits, pigs, turkeys, geese, ducks and some 800 dozen eggs was the sale of some dainty lingerie made by the boys of the Weraroa Boys' Farm. They say, 'variety is the spice of life!' Similarly, Paparoa Infant school in Nothland, Karekare school near Piha, and Waituki school all made contributions to the same good cause.

School girl Muriel Brown of Aranui school near Christchurch, under the approval of the school's headmastress wrote a letter to the Lord Mayor of London, chairman of the National Committee for Relief in Belgium;
"I am writing this letter on behalf of the children who attend the little school in Aranui (50 children), which is five miles from Christchurch, New Zealand.
In response to your appeal for the starving children of gallant little Belgium, we gladly did what we could to show them our loving sympathy.
On Monday, 10th July, we held a juvenile bazaar and in the evening we gave the best entertainment we could, and to our joy we managed to gather £15. Just ten minutes ago two of the big boys rode out of the playground on their bicycles carrying the money to give the secretary of the Board of Education, and as they went off we all gave three cheers for the Belgians.
We hope our gift will help some poor little children to get a good meal such as we enjoy every day in the sunny land of New Zealand. 
Yours faithfully, Muriel Brown."
(source: Hawera and Normanby Star, 24 October 1916, pg 5)

The schools of New Zealand successfully raised a sum of £5,400 as the first instalment sent for Relief in Belgium and continued to raise more money throughout the war not only for the Belgians but for other good causes such as the Red Cross, YMCA, New Zealand military hospitals, Sailor and Soldier Funds and others.

Patriotic postcard of "Belgium - Children of the Allies" by artist Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973). 
This postcard was printed and published by J. Salmon, Sevenoaks, England.