Reading many lives

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.

Cover of deleted scenes for lovers by Tracey SlaughterDeleted 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.

Cover of Meet cuteMeet 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.

Across the wartime waves: Message in a bottle

Though hills and waters divide us,

And you I cannot see.

Remember that the writer thinks

The nicest things of thee.

The ship Tahiti in Wellington Harbour, ca 1914-1918 Reference Number: 1/2-014597-G

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.

The bottle washed ashore in Portland, Victoria, where it was found on 2 January 1915 by a Mr J. Rae on a beach between Cape Grant and Cape Nelson.

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.

Private G.L. Lindsay. Canterbury Times, 23 June 1915.

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”.

Private A.V. Fitchett. Canterbury Times, 7 July 1915.

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.

Private H.S. Rowe. Canterbury Times, 23 June 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 Townshend. Online Cenotaph, Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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.

To commemorate WW100 Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre are exhibiting a display of stories of the men who enlisted from the Sumner area, and at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre you can see the stories of Halswell men who enlisted.

Follow our tweets from @100chch to discover life and events 100 years ago in Christchurch and Canterbury.

Anzac Day in Christchurch – Wednesday 25 April 2018

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 Memorial Service, Little River 25 April 1917. Kete Christchurch, Shuttleworth Collection. CCL-Kete-986

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

View the Christchurch Anzac Day service list [PDF]

Exhibitions, displays, and events

Halswell

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

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

Final salute for Field of Remembrance Newsline

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

Find out more by visiting the Canterbury and World War One: Lives Lost, Lives Changed exhibition at Canterbury Museum.

WW100Find out more

Edward Aubrey and the Battle of Beersheba

The First World War Battle of Beersheba was fought in Palestine 100 years ago.

Our digital collection includes the diary of Edward Aubrey. He served from 10 February 1916 to 19 February 1919. He served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 19th Reinforcements, New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. Edward took part in the Battle of Beersheba, and was wounded on 5 November 1917. Part of his left leg was amputated.

Edward Herbert Aubrey : Soldier's diary CCL-Aubrey-1917-109
Edward Herbert Aubrey : Soldier’s diary CCL-Aubrey-1917-109

From his diary entries 4 and 5 November, and 12 and 13 November:

1917 November 4 Sun
Releived [sic] 6th MR.
heavy casualties here today
1917 November 5 Mon
Wounded 12-30 mid day

1917 November 12 Mon
Operated on again to have tubes put in my leg & knee fixed up a little
1917 November 13 Tues
Another operation on Nov 19th to have my leg off

Edward Aubrey spent the rest of the war in medical care in Egypt and Britain. He came back to New Zealand after the war and went farming in the Omarama area, on land won in a ballot as part of a Returned Soldiers’ initiative.

Read Edward Aubrey’s diary online

More about the Battle of Beersheba

WW100

Visit our page on WW100 – New Zealand’s First World War centenary commemorations

Not such a strange meeting – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon

Cover100 years ago last week at Craiglockhart Hospital for Neurasthenic Officers in Edinburgh, Wilfred Owen introduced himself to Siegfried Sassoon and one of the great literary friendships was born. Wilfred was recovering from shellshock, deeply traumatised by his time on the Western Front in 1917. Siegfried, grieving and angry at the deaths of his friends and men in his unit, had protested against the continued conduct of the First World War. After intervention from Robert Graves, he was sent to Craiglockhart rather than face a court martial. As the aspiring poet Wilfred was well aware, Siegfried was already a moderately famous poet. In the few weeks together they had in Scotland, Siegfried encouraged and mentored Wilfred.

Wilfred was killed on 4 November 1918, exactly a year after he left Craiglockhart and a week before the Armistice, however in the time between meeting Siegfried and his death he produced some of the most famous war poems, including Anthem for Doomed Youth and Strange Meeting. Their shared influence can still be felt today – their works are still taught in school, and Siegfried’s quote “I died in hell; they called it Passchendaele” has been widely quoted in the ongoing commemorations of the Third Battle of Ypres.

CoverWe know so much about their friendship as they both wrote about it – Wilfred in excited letters to his mother and Siegfried a couple of decades later in his volume of autobiography Siegfried’s Journey. This documentation has provided excellent source material for modern authors looking to portray the two poets. They are the subject of a two-hander play Not About Heroes which covers Craiglockhart in Act One and their different paths in Act Two. Intimate and moving, this is a powerful play (but having directed it a few years ago I am quite biased).

CoverPerhaps the most well-known depiction of their friendship is in Pat Barker‘s award winning Regeneration Trilogy. However, in Barker’s interpretation of Siegfried’s time at Craiglockhart, his friendship with Wilfred is overshadowed by his connection with his doctor, W. H. R. Rivers. There’s a lot going on in the trilogy – the cultural construct of masculinity cracking under pressure, mental health, sex, pacifism – and Siegfried and Wilfred are only one strand to this. Rivers is perhaps the main character and the marvelous fictional creation that is Billy Prior dominates the last two books.

I’ve mentioned before how Billy is possibly my favourite literary character. He’s the working class kid who becomes an officer; he’s bisexual; he’s somewhere on the continuum of sanity and insanity; he’s a split personality. He’s so many things that in some ways he shouldn’t work but – to me at least – he does. Billy and Rivers tie the trilogy together.

And so a chance meeting 100 years ago is still being interpreted and played out today; the voices of those caught up in conflict still resonating.

Do you have a favourite war poem?

A WWI story in letters: The Last Maopo

I find myself drawn to diaries and letters that record a soldier’s experiences of World War I. They are often intelligent, interesting and informative; and diary entries in particular can paint a vivid picture of what these men had to endure. It is never far from my mind that more often than not they chose to go to the other side of the world to stand side by side with strangers to defend the Empire and ‘see some action’. But I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of experience Māori had compared to Pākehā. They were just as eager to travel to the other side of the world and fight for Empire and country as their Pākehā counterparts.

But the Māori contingent were up against it from the beginning. Initially the Government wouldn’t allow them to fight at the front line due to the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi preventing them from participating in a European War. Concession was instead made for Māori to provide garrison, engineering and construction duties to support the war effort. However, it wasn’t long before they became the reinforcements as the allies suffered heavy losses.

This is how I found The Last Maopo by Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson. This is the very moving story of Wiremu Maopo and Phoebe Prentice – separated by war and the misguided intentions of her parents; they were destined to live out their lives apart. They were having a secret love affair while living at Taumutu, prior to Wiremu leaving for war, and he sadly would never know that he had fathered a little girl with Phoebe.

Cover of The last Maopo

Phoebe’s parents effectively stole her daughter Marjorie Joyce from her and had her adopted out to a loving family. It would be many years before Phoebe was reunited with her daughter as she never stopped looking for her. The tragedy is that Wiremu never knew he was a father and Phoebe never searched for him either as she was told that he died in the war. Wiremu wrote letters to Phoebe but never heard from her as they were destroyed to sever the connection she had with him, so he assumed that she had lost interest. She married 2 other men in her lifetime but maintained that Wiremu was her one true love.

The Last Maopo is their story – brief as it was. It is the result of 20 years of research by Tania Te Rangingangana Simpson. She pieces together peoples recollections, historical facts and Wiremu’s letters home to long time friend Virgie Fincham, from the more than 3 years he spent on active service. Their friendship and correspondence continued after the war when Wiremu returned to New Zealand to recover from a bad bout of pneumonia. Over the years his once large family had diminished until only Wiremu and his sister remained. Sadly she also died far too early which left him, as far as Wiremu knew, the last of his family line.

This makes it all the more fortuitous that events aligned to once again bring the Maopo family line into being. What an incredible gift to have the letters of our ancestors bring your family’s heritage to life. This is a very poignant book to take on but well worth your time. In addition to the personal story it is wonderful to see the high esteem the Māori Pioneer Battalion were held in for their bravery, work ethic and good natured camaraderie. If you are like me and enjoy reading historical diaries and letters, why don’t you try these:

 

Sergeant Henry James Nicholas V.C., M.M

He was a carpenter, a sportsman – a boxer – went to Christchurch Normal School (local boy), his photos show a nice face, and he wasn’t married. Just an ordinary kiwi bloke, maybe. But he did extraordinary things.

Sergeant Henry Nicholas
Sergeant Henry Nicholas, File reference: CCL-2011-11-17-November2011 358-HenryNicholas

Henry Nicholas enlisted in February 1916 with the 1st Canterbury Battalion, and landed in France in September 1916. With his Regiment was involved in fighting at The Somme, Messines and Polderhoek, (Belgium).

It was from the action at Polderhoek on 3 December 1917 that he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty… exceptional valour and coolness”. He destroyed an enemy strongpoint that was inflicting heavy casualties and overpowered a sixteen-man enemy garrison, capturing four wounded prisoners and an enemy machine-gun.

While on leave in England in mid-1918 he was invested by the King, the first solder in his regiment to be awarded the V.C., and he returned to France in September 1918, promoted to sergeant.

The Regiment had the duty of holding the town of Beaudignies, near Le Quesnoy. A skirmish on 23rd October with a German patrol cost Nicholas his life, and earned him the Military Medal.

Armistice was just a few short weeks away.

The funeral of Sergeant Henry Nicholas, VC, in World War I, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013667-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23124751

For more information:

The magic word ‘Anzac’

On 25 April we will stop to remember those who served in the conflicts New Zealand has participated in, from the world wars to Iraq and Afghanistan, via Korea, Vietnam and others, and not forgetting New Zealand’s 19th century wars and the Boer War.

“Indian Troops at Gas Mask Drill.,” by Unknown. The Imperial War Museum via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed April 13, 2017, http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/3616.
“Indian Troops at Gas Mask Drill.,” by Unknown. The Imperial War Museum via First World War Poetry Digital Archive, accessed April 13, 2017, http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/collections/item/3616.

There is much to remember, and this year the focus will be on the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of Messines in June and Passchendaele in October, in particular 12 October which saw more than 800 New Zealanders killed in a single day.

As the First World War disappears from living memory, we are fortunate to have access to historic newspapers either on microfilm at Central Library Manchester or at Papers Past. They can show us how Anzac Day has been commemorated and represented over the past century. An editorial from The Press on 25 April 1917 explains that the “magic word ‘Anzac’… tells us how Australians and New Zealanders fought and died shoulder to shoulder in the cause of freedom” and that “time has not yet mellowed the memory of that day.”

CoverThe editorial also makes a passing reference to some of the Indian troops who served during the Gallipoli campaign. Around 16,000 individuals from the Indian Army served during the campaign and their neglected story is well told in Die in battle, do not despair: the Indians on Gallipoli, 1915 by Peter Stanley.

Ever growing access to different sources and new publications means that we can uncover and share more stories than ever about the First World War and other conflicts New Zealand has been involved in.

Lord Jellicoe inspects the First Canterbury Guard of Honour, ANZAC Day, foundation stone ceremony, Bridge of Remembrance [25 Apr. 1923] CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0023
Lord Jellicoe inspects the First Canterbury Guard of Honour, ANZAC Day, foundation stone ceremony, Bridge of Remembrance [25 Apr. 1923] CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0023

Anzac resources

This article was published in issue 3 of our quarterly magazine, uncover – huraina. Read it online.

Upcoming opportunities for Māori writers and students

Pikihuia Awards

The biennial Pikihuia awards have returned for 2017 bringing with them the chance for fame and cash prizes. Selected winners and finalists will be published in Huia Short Stories 12.

Pikihuia Awards poster 2017Six categories including:

  • Best short story written in English
  • Best short story written in te reo Māori
  • Best short Film Script
  • Best Novel Extract
  • Best short story by a school student in English
  • Best short story by a school student in te reo Māori

With $2000 up for grabs for the winners of the first four categories and winners of the school student categories are up to win a cash prize of $500 and $250 worth of HUIA books for their school be sure to get your entries in.

Enter online at Huia or The Māori Literature Trust, entries close 5pm Tuesday 18th April and winners are announced at the awards ceremony in Wellington this September.

Check out some of the books in our collections from past winners:

Or try the Huia short stories collections.

Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship

Cover of He Tipua The Life and Times of Sir Apirana NgataUp to 10 scholarships are on offer at a value of between $1000 and $3000 and are open to all Māori students, in any field, from any iwi. Preference is given to applicants who are descendants of Māori WW1 veterans. Applications close 1st of May 2017.

The Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship, created by the Māori Soldiers Trust to support higher education amongst Māori, is administered by Te Tumu Paeroa. Funding for the scholarship comes from Hereheretau Station, an investment of the Māori Soldiers Trust Fund set up at the urging of Sir Āpirana Ngata, who was once a recipient of a scholarship himself.

Download an application for the Sir Apirana Ngata Scholarship

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei.
Pursue excellence – should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Gas Mask: Picturing Canterbury

Gas mask. Kete Christchurch. Pearce_family_photos_06.jpg. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt, CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

One of the Pearce family wearing a WWI gas mask at the Pearce family home on Aikmans Road, Merivale, about 1919.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.