Christchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.
11 November 2018 marked one hundred years since the signing of the Armistice that ended the First World War. The scale of this war makes a compelling argument for commemorating it – we must remember in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past – yet does this argument hold true? Guests are invited to ponder the question: Does teaching about war translate into teaching about peace?
Part I:Rowan Light (University of Canterbury)
ANZAC Day commemoration as teaching; changes to ANZAC Day over time including shift from veteran- to state-led event.
The 8th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment were one of the volunteers units raised soon after the war broke out in 1914. Very new to the Western Front in September 1915 they were part of a group of untested battalions thrown into the Battle of Loos. Following the men of the battalion through their training and the confusion of this first battle, Atter has researched and told their story in incredible detail. This is an excellent book if you want to find out about some, perhaps, less well-known aspects of the war.
The other book that stands out for me is Percy: a story of 1918 by Peter Doyle and with illustrations by Tim Godden. This is the story of an individual, based on a small archival collection, poignant and moving.
From this archival collection Doyle has fleshed out the story of Percy Edwards, a conscript from North Wales who joined the army in 1918. We are introduced to his family of miners, the village of Cefn where they come from, and his sweetheart, Kitty. The illustrations really add to the atmosphere of the book, which reminds us that however big the big picture is, its the stories of individuals that connect us to and create that picture.
Are there any recent (or not) First World War book that have made an impression on you?
This WORD Christchurch Festival session brought together American author, Ted Chiang (whose novella, The Story of Your Life, became the acclaimed film, Arrival) and kiwis Whiti Hereaka (author of YA novel Legacy), and Michael Bennett (author, with Ant Sang of graphic novel, Helen and the Go-go ninjas). What, I wondered, would the writers of such temporally transformative works have to say on the topic?
As it was, I was feeling a little like I’d slipped forward in time myself – I woke up that morning to discover that it was September already. How had that happened?
In fact, the first question made reference to James Gleick’s aforementioned book – Ted Chiang disagreeing with Gleick’s assertion that The Time Machine by H. G. Wells represents the first example of a story featuring time travel, and that Wells is the originator of time travel in that sense. Rather, he feels that time travel tales are more a modern take on a prophecy story, a common tale since ancient times. The fact that story prophecies always came true was a reflection of the ancient world’s belief in fate. Your destiny lay ahead of you, and no matter what you might do to try and change it it would always find you. If there was a shift, Chiang believes, it was one away from believing in fate towards believing in free will.
This is something you can see in a story like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge, having travelled to a possible future, escapes his fate by changing his ways. He exerts free will and the course of his life is altered. By comparison, The Time Machine’s protagonist doesn’t engage with the possibilities of time travel at all, moving through time but not making any attempts to alter its course (which, now that I think about it, is kind of the point of time travel stories, by and large).
Michael Bennett and Whiti Hereaka both made comments as to the importance of prophecy in Māori culture. And Bennett pointed out that Māui himself fought time, slowing the sun to extend the length of our days.
When asked about the pervasiveness of the genre, Bennett reflected that we all understand “the unfairness of time” and deployed a rather splendid extended metaphor of the time as a river – we have not choice but to flow with the current, which at certain times in our lives seems too slow, though as we continue along we try to slow it down, looking for the eddies that might delay our arrival at our ultimate destination.
Chiang’s motivation for writing The story of your life was, through the character of Louise, exploring an aspect of human nature “the knowledge that in the future comes great joy and great sadness and coming to accept that both things lay ahead of her”.
Hereaka’s reason for writing a time travel story grew out of her desire to tell the stories of soldiers in the First World War’s Māori Contingent – she hadn’t previously been aware of this part of our history and wanted a way to share it, moreover she wanted to have those characters speak in their own voices, not via a modern one. Later on, in response to an audience question about creating voices from the past, she says that her theatre background helped but it also took some research, reading novels of the time, oral histories and where available listening to recordings.
She also had a really interesting perspective on the relationship between the writer and the reader saying:
I believe writing books is an act of manaakitanga – welcoming people into your world.
When asked about their favourite time travel stories Hereaka admitted that television was her go to – series like Life on Mars and Ashes to ashes as well as Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee was her Doctor but the imminent arrival of a female Doctor is something she’s really excited about). Bennett, somewhat unsettlingly, admitted to reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the tender age of ten, and it has remained a favourite. Chiang favoured the movie Back to the future which he says is “a Swiss clock of plotting” for which he has “immense affection”.
The craft of storytelling was highlighted by an audience question about the constraints that time travel places on the story. Bennett confirmed that not making it too hard for the reader to follow can be a concern. And Chiang pointed out that Time Travel as a device is “the universal acid that will dissolve any container you put it in” in terms of story. Suddenly your protagonist’s problems can be fixed by going back in time and doing it again. For that reason Time Travel stories usually have some “rules” or constraints applied to them to stop the easy fix from occurring. And no, these constraints may not hold up to close inspection – but you’re only looking to suspend disbelief for a time, to tell a story.
Hereaka was in agreement with Chiang on this saying:
That’s what stories are… It’s about solving problems and humans finding out what it is to be human.
When asked if they could time travel what they think they would do, Hereaka said that period dramas sometimes make her wish she could live in another era but she’d come to a realisation – “no, you wish you were rich”. So wherever she goes in time she wants to be well funded.
Chiang doesn’t think that “there’s any period in history that I would be better off in than right now” and that trying to change history at all is not a good idea as you can’t have any confidence that the changes you make would work out.
For fans of sci-fi and time travel fiction this session gave some interesting insights into what these kinds of stories can tell us about ourselves, and the challenges they pose to the storyteller. A session that I’m happy enough to have spent some forward travelling time in.
With regards to the quote above, if one were of a sardonic frame of mind one might point out that at the rate at which Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin kills off his characters a thousand lives might be an understatement. Nevertheless the basic premise stands. Reading allows anyone the chance to “inhabit” a great many people and characters.
This is never more true than when you’re reading a book of short stories. Though you may become attached to a character, the next protagonist is probably only a few page turns away. Sometimes this is a relief. Sometimes it leaves you wanting more.
Recently I’ve found myself reading books that work with the theme of many lives but in very different ways.
Deleted scenes for lovers by Tracey Slaughter. I think her surname is appropriate because she killed parts of my soul with this book (in a good way). Her short stories are set in New Zealand, but a rather grimy, rundown one. The stories, with exception of the last one which is a novella, are short and sometimes brutal vignettes from the lives of damaged and lost people. You’ll want to set aside time between each one. This is not a book to rush through. The writing is incisive and brilliant and made me feel a lot of things, some of them against my will.
Meet cute is rather anodyne by comparison. It’s a collection of young adult short stories, all by different writers and all featuring the “how they met” story of two characters. As with any collection like this some authors and characters resonate more than others, and while the bulk of the stories have a contemporary romance kind of vibe there are a couple of sci-fi/fantasy genre tales too. Most, though not all, of the stories are about straight couples – one of the unexpected joys of the book is that you don’t know when you’re introduced to the main character whether their story will be a boy-meets-girl or a girl-meets-girl one – I found it was fun to try and guess in the first page or so.
He rau mahara: To remember the journey of our Ngāi Tahu soldiers: From the pā to the battlefields of the Great War is completely different again – a nonfiction title produced by Ngāi Tahu’s whakapapa unit about the iwi’s First World War soldiers. It’s a beautifully put together book, filled with photographs of soldiers with names you might recognise – Nortons, Pōhios and Skerretts. Nearly two thirds of the book is dedicated to a profile of every Ngāi Tahu soldier who took part in the Great War, with the first part of the book featuring a sample of stories of soldiers, war, and their families. A gorgeous and poignant memorial to South Island soldiers and their whānau, and the lives they lived.
My grandfather’s brother never came back from World War One. He’s buried in Armentières, France. My grandmother’s brother lost his leg, so the family farm in Southland had to be sold – he couldn’t take up his inheritance. My great aunt’s fiancé returned a shell-shocked alcoholic – PTSD, they’d call it these days. They parted and she never married.
In the retellings of the larger stories of war it is often these vignettes of personal loss, the consequences felt by loved ones, that speak quietly but with a universal relatability.
I found myself thinking of those members of my family, and the war that changed their lives, when listening to the beautiful lament E Pari Rā.
Written by Paraire Tomoana (Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Te Whatu-i-āpiti leader) for his relative, kuia Maku-i-te-Rangi Ellison, E Pari Rā gives a lasting voice to her pain and grief over the loss of her son Whakatomo Ellison, who died in the battle of the Somme. Its beautiful metaphor for grief as the surging tide is both deeply personal, and universal.
E pari rā
E pari rā e ngā tai ki te ākau. / The tides surge onto the seashore
E hotu rā ko taku manawa. / with each throb of my heart.
Auē! Me tangi noa / Alas! Weeping without restraint
Ahau i muri nei / for I am left behind,
Te iwi e he ngākau tangi noa. / everyone is utterly heart-broken.
Tēnā rā! Tahuri mai! / So please come back, return
E te tau! te aroha. / my beloved, my love
Tēnei rā ahau te tangi nei. / I weep here
Mōhou kua wehea nei. / for you now far away
Haere rā! mahara mai. / Farewell! And remember,
E te tau! kia mau ki au. / Beloved! Be true to me
Haere rā! ka tūturu ahau. / Farewell! I will be true to you
Haere Rā! / Farewell!
Haere rā e tama / Farewell young man
Haere rā. / Farewell.
Haria rā te aroha i ahau / Take my love with you
Auē! Me tangi noa / Alas! Tears fall
Ahau ki muri nei / as I am left behind here
Te iwi e he ngākau tangi noa. / the hearts of your people weep openly
The thought of starting research can be daunting, so a great starting place is a hidden gem of an eResource – Credo Reference.
Credo Reference is a collection of over 800 reference eBooks with full text articles, images, and videos covering a huge variety of information – for all ages.
To show you how it works, I have started by searching Anzac Day.
Top result is from the eBook Holiday Symbols and Customs.
This title covers the origins of the day, and symbols and customs such as Dawn Service, Anzac Day parades, and the Australian gambling game Two-up.
From the results page, Credo offers you a Mind Map tool so you can search other related topics on Credo. Below is the example Mind Map of Anzac Day. You can then find information on certain battles, Gallipoli, and other remembrance days. List of sources will be on the right side of the page if you want to read more about any of the mind map headings.
Credo is a great place to start your research, it is easy to use and using tools like Mind Map it can take your quest for information in a different directions.
So read the message placed in a bottle by four Christchurch lads off on, what many had thought, would be a great adventure.
Dated 21 October 1914 the bottle with the message had been tossed overboard from the troopship H.M.N.Z.T. No. 4. Tahiti possibly while it was docked at Hobart, Tasmania, or maybe during the ship’s voyage west to Albany, Western Australia from where it departed in November 1914 bound for Egypt.
By this time the four soldiers of the 1st (Canterbury) Regiment A Company, who had signed the message, George Lindsay, H Townsend, Sydney Rowe and R. Fitchett were on the other side of the world and about to enter a war which two of them would not survive.
George Lindsay was born in Avonside. He’d been involved in farming at Rangiora but prior to going overseas he had a touring car which he ran as a taxi. He enlisted in August 1914 and by October was on his way to Egypt. George was killed in action on 8 May 1915 in the Dardanelles.
He had been a member of the Linwood Congregational Church and after his death the Reverend H.A Job recalled George as being “of a quiet and inoffensive nature, and not what is commonly the fighting type”.
Victor Fitchett was an English immigrant who lived in Sumner, working for Gibbs Bros. It wasn’t clear when he had arrived in Christchurch but news articles indicate it was around 8 years before the war.
He was a keen sportsman involved with the Sumner Football Club, and also the Fire Brigade. Victor also served and died in the Dardanelles – his body was never found but a board of enquiry deemed he had been killed on, or about, 7th August 1915.
Henry Sydney Rowe lived in Redcliffs. On the electoral roll he was recorded as a plumber but on his enlistment forms he’d been recorded as a motor driver at Sumner Garage. He had married Janey Daly in September 1914. Henry also served in the Dardanelles, where he was wounded and then returned to NZ aboard the Maheno in December 1915, after which he was medically discharged.
After the war he and Janey continued to live in the Sumner /Redcliffs area. Henry died in 1966.
Joseph Henry “Harry” Townshend (Townsend) had been born in Mataura but moved to Christchurch with his family when he was 15, living in Spreydon. He’d worked as a draper at Strange and Co. before enlisting. He was injured at Gallipoli in August 1915, evacuated home, and sent to convalesce at the Trentham Hospital.
After the war he remained in Wellington, marrying Emily and working as a splint-maker – a skill he learnt as part of the vocational training course he undertook while convalescing – at Trentham and then Wellington Hospitals. Harry died in 1964.
George and Victor are among the many men and women who have been remembered on war memorials in Christchurch, and whose biographies have been shared on Kete Christchurch.
Anzac Day will be commemorated on Wednesday 25 April. All our libraries will be closed on this public holiday. Read our page on Anzac Day and Gallipoli to find out more about this commemoration.
Anzac Day services
The following information is from Christchurch City Council:
Dawn Parade and Anzac Service
The dawn parade and Anzac service will be held in Cranmer Square. The parade marches from the RSA building on Armagh Street.
6am to 6.15am: People gather
6.15am: Parade begins from RSA
6.30am: Service begins centred around the Memorial Cenotaph in Cranmer Square
7.15am: Service concludes with wreath laying, as Mayor Lianne Dalziel lays a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Christchurch.
This event is organised by the Canterbury Branch of the Malayan Veterans Association in conjunction with the Christchurch Branch of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) and Christchurch City Council.
Christchurch Citizens’ Service
The Anzac service for Christchurch citizens will be held at the Transitional Cathedral, Latimer Square starting at 10am.
Organised by Christchurch City Council in conjunction with ChristChurch Cathedral and the RSA.
Anzac Day service at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Come and join in honouring the service and sacrifice of thousands of New Zealanders who have served with the Air Force at their annual Anzac Day commemorative service. The service will commence at 12pm midday on Wednesday 25 April 2018, in the Museum’s Atrium.
More Anzac Day services in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula
Halswell Heroes Exhibition (on until 6 May)
Staff from Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Upper Riccarton, and Spreydon libraries share their research from the war stories of men who enlisted from the Halswell area.
Sumner Boys Exhibition (26 April to 25 May)
A collaborative display of research on the war stories of men who enlisted from the Sumner area. Stories and photos are included of soldiers on the roll of honour located on the wall outside Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre.
Christchurch Field of Remembrance – Cranmer Square
The Christchurch Field of Remembrance was established in 2015 for Anzac Day, with 632 named crosses commemorating Cantabrians who died in World War I in 1915. Each year more crosses have been added to represent the fatalities from that year – 825 crosses were added in 2016 representing those who died in 1916, 1406 crosses were added in 2017 for those who died in 1917. The final 1528 crosses – representing those who died in 1918 – were added on Saturday 14 April 2018. There are 4391 crosses.
Canterbury and World War One: Lives Lost, Lives Changed – Canterbury Museum
Yesterday I happened to be in Cathedral Square, walking past An Origin Story‘s lovely hoardings around the convention centre site. As you can see in the image, from one angle the panel which states that ‘the future is just around the corner’ points right to Tūranga – the future of Ōtautahi is appearing right in front of our eyes. We cannot wait to share our new facility with you!
And yet, I’ve been thinking, the future is so terribly fragile, quickly becoming the present – for a flash – and then the past. The present of Tūranga still feels a long way off, but how long before it becomes a familiar, comforting and challenging place that we know and love and feel as if it has always been there?
Everything becomes superseded. This point has been brought home to me recently, when reading Ben Shephard‘s Headhunters: the search for a science of the mind. It looks at the lives and careers of four men (quelle surprise) who worked across the fields of medicine, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology and neurology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At that time, many of these scientific disciplines were new and emerging with exciting ideas being developed, tested and sometimes lauded. Looking back, we can see that some of those ideas were offensively racist.
They championed field work in anthropology and lead the way in defining and treating shell shocked and mentally wounded service personnel in the First World War. And yet and generation or two – or even less – of their deaths many of their theories and work was disproved or supplanted. What was once cutting edge is now old hat.
But that’s what happens, doesn’t it? We are all part of a continuing development and dialogue, and improved theories and ideas grow out of older ones. That’s one of the many exciting things about Tūranga – how many ideas and thoughts etc etc will be developed and created there using exciting collections, programmes and other resources, before it too is superseded?
Now more than ever it is important that we remember. As we approach the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day, on Saturday 11 November, it is good to reflect on the enormous sacrifice of our forebears, lest we ever find ourselves at war again.
Armistice Day – Wreath Laying Ceremony
Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch. Saturday 11 November
10.45am Gather with the veterans if you wish to walk in the procession up to the bridge for the ceremony.
10.50am Viewing public gather for ceremony at the bridge.
11.00am 2 minutes silence will be held.
I grew up in Australia and I can still remember being told at school to sit in silence for a minute – and not fully understanding why. This followed by many silent but awkward looks around the classroom as one and all struggled to either remain silent; or willfully goaded their classmates into doing something that they would be reprimanded for. It wasn’t lost on me that it was out of respect for people that had fought in the war but what that means to me now is vastly different to what it meant to me then.
Fortunately, most of our children today have very little concept of war and the suffering it brings; as it is something far beyond their living memory. Even their grandparents are now the baby boomers rather than coming from a generation that lived through either of the world wars. Maybe because of this, you get the sense that recent years have seen a decline of recognition of such solemn occasions as Armistice Day. I honestly can’t recall a time in the last few years that I paused at work to mark the moment. With all of us attending to busy lives, 11am has simply passed without comment from everybody in the vicinity. And this is rather sad.
I think we need to bring Armistice Day back into the spotlight. I think it would stand us all in good stead if we do have timely reminders of the loss, misery and horror that war represents. So let us not forget, let us always remember, let us instill these values into our children so they can lead the way for theirs.
Come down and see us at the library and we will be more than happy to share our numerous Armistice Day resources with you. Then gather up your loved ones and head over to the Bridge of Remembrance on Saturday 11th November. Arrive in plenty of time to get a good spot where you can share in this solemn occasion and quietly reflect at 11am for a minutes silence.