As described by the Photo Hunt entrant in 2016, “This is my father and mother on Sumner Beach just before dad went for about (I think over) four years to the Second World War. They married just before he went. The war affected them both as my mother said it was like a stranger she met after four years. I feel the beach photo shows a vulnerability of the unknown to come in both their faces. I think she was opening her purse to get her lipstick for the photos!”
Highy Commended entry in the 2016 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt.
Do you have any photographs of people’s lives in Christchurch during the Second World War? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.
About Photo Hunt
October is Photo Hunt month at Christchurch City Libraries. We invite you to share any of your photos and help grow the city’s photographic archive. All entries must be received by 31 October.
Share your photos and help us to create a true picture of our city’s rich history. Anyone can contribute.
On the 6th of August 1945, at 8:16am (Japan time), an American B-29 bomber let loose ‘Little Boy.’ The first atomic bomb to be used in warfare, Little Boy descended upon the Japanese city of Hiroshima and detonated with around thirteen kilotons of force. This is the equivalent of 13,000 tonnes of TNT. In an instant, tens of thousands of people were killed as a direct result of the blast. Many more would succumb to radiation sickness within the year.
As we know the attack on Hiroshima was followed, three days later on August 9th in the early hours of the morning, by a second attack: this time upon the city of Nagasaki. ‘Fat Man’ killed at least 40,000 people, a figure which would also climb as the year wore on.
I was lucky enough to visit Japan with some friends in 2016. We spent a few days in Hiroshima. We were eager and curious to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and see the flamboyant chains of 1000 paper cranes displayed in honour of Sadako Sasaki, sent in from around the world. Sadako Sasaki was a young Japanese girl living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombings, who died a few years later from consequential leukaemia. (Read more about Sadako Sasaki’s poignant story)
Yet for me the most moving exhibition of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was seeing the Atomic (Genbaku) Dome up close, so perfectly preserved in all its horror. Knowing what occurred there, and seeing the once beautiful structure in ruins serves as a powerful testament to the destructive power that humans are capable of. As our trip was in the middle of the Japanese winter, it soon began to snow. The snow fell into the exposed insides of the Genbaku Dome and the atmosphere was sad and eerie. If you head for Japan, make Hiroshima one of your stops. It is well worth a visit.
One Thousand Paper Cranes
The paper crane is probably the most recognisable piece of origami across the world. For something so exquisite, it is really not that difficult to make. Here is a video showing how to fold an origami crane.
Research the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through Christchurch City Libraries’ collection of reference eResources. You may need to log in with your library card and PIN/password. Here are just a few ideas to start:
The following image is from our local Christchurch resource Kete Christchurch. It is a memorial plaque to the victims of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima & Nagasaki by the Untied States, at the end of World War II. Inscriptions are in Japanese, Māori and English. The plaque can be found on the riverbank reserve, Cambridge Terrace, between Cashel and Hereford Streets.
Here is archival footage taken from the air, showing the Hiroshima bombing in action
And here is footage surveying damage from the aftermath of the bombing
Find more educational film resources on our eResource Access Video, including this two part BBC documentary on the Hiroshima disaster
I never wanted to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I’m not a fan of books based on letters – I find it hard to gain an interest in the characters. I did however see the movie. I quite liked it, (especially the clothes, but that probably isn’t really the basis for a good movie) However, what it did do was pique my interest in a part of World War II that I knew nothing about.
The library has recently purchased a title that was originally published in 1995, The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands under German rule 1940-1945 by Madeleine Bunting. This is a fascinating story of what actually happened and the author looks at a variety of previously unanswered questions. Why wasn’t there a resistance movement against the German occupation, how did Britain manage and cope with the occupation, and what of the Islanders themselves – were the stories true of collaboration, or was it just a means of survival. Was this all a dirty secret that Britain didn’t want the rest of the world to know about, and what has been the impact on these Islands and their inhabitants?
Although I wasn’t a fan of either the book or the movie, they did create a curiosity and interest in the occupation and the toll it took on the Islands’ inhabitants. I recommend this book if, like me you knew nothing about this time in history.
Women of the Air Force Auxiliary, Harewood, Christchurch (1941).
The first batch of 41 women volunteers in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force began work at Harewood aerodrome in 1941. Women had not figured prominently in air force activities prior to this date. They were needed because many men were away fighting in World War Two. Here some of the women are shown leaving the city for the aerodrome by bus.
Do you have any photographs of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in Christchurch or of the Harewood aerodrome? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.
Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.
It’s 1940 and the Chilbury village men, young and old alike, are called upon to fight to defend their heritage and their immediate future.
The Vicar leaves a note on the church noticeboard stating that ‘As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close’. This high-handed attitude rattles on the remaining but suddenly defunct females of the choir. Action has to be taken and it is …
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the result and a few prominent members of both choir and village are prompted to divulge their thoughts, actions, and emotions through correspondence – letters are written; journals are jotted in and generally, the fictional village of Chilbury and its occupants, are brought to life in what is a very uncertain and frightening time.
I debated whether I wanted to read about an all-female choir but it was essentially the ‘glue’ that held all the characters together and propelled the sub-plots along within the main storyline.
Blackmail, black marketeering, village hierarchy and social status combined with a healthy dollop of romance all play a part in the unfolding drama but it is the diverse female characters – young and old – who symbolise what mental and physical reserves of strength were required to survive yet another German invasion when still experiencing the effects of the previous one some twenty years ago.
I especially warmed to the precocious but somewhat naïve 13-year-old Kitty Winthrop who starts a diary as a result of an announcement on the wireless that ‘keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for the stamina’. Her entries are funny, optimistic, deluded and very in keeping with an adolescent who feels she has a very old head on youthful shoulders when, in fact, her inability to understand the subtleties of life, make it both sad and funny at the same time.
This May sees another 75th anniversary from the Second World War with great significance for New Zealand.
From 20 May to 1 June 1941 Allied Forces, including the 2nd New Zealand Division, took part in the ultimately unsuccessful but fiercely fought battle for Crete. That April the Germans had invaded Yugoslavia and Greece and as they had quickly occupied these countries, the Allies evacuated to the island of Crete.
On 20 May German paratroopers invaded the island and over the next 12 days a tightly contested battle raged. The Allies were forced to retreat again, with many being evacuated to Egypt and several thousand becoming prisoners of war.
The 2nd New Zealand Division regrouped and went on to take part in successful campaigns in North Africa and Italy.
Running from early July to the end of October, the Battle of Britain ended in the failure of the Luftwaffe to gain air supremacy over the UK. The German invasion of Britain was called off and Hitler turned his attention to the Soviet Union instead.
Together Australian and New Zealand airmen made up the second largest Allied foreign contingent in the battle. Their story has been told fully for this first time in Dogfight by Adam Claasen, Senior Lecturer in History at Massey University. In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the battle we spoke to Adam about its Anzac connections.
134 New Zealanders and 37 Australians fought in the Battle of Britain. How do their experiences add to the overall story of this pivotal event of the Second World War?
It’s a story that has never been brought together before. There has been the odd book either side of the Tasman but this is the first time the New Zealand and Australian experience has been combined and told within the four phases of the Battle of Britain.
What I discovered was that the Anzacs had a significant part to play in combat and a larger role in leadership. The Anzacs nearly made up a third of the top ten aces of the campaign and became widely known: Colin Gray and Brian Carbury from New Zealand and Pat Hughes for the Australians. Gray, Carbury and Hughes knocked out close to fifty machines in total over some four months.
Air Marshal Keith Park performed magnificently under very difficult conditions, notably a lack of trained airmen. His leadership and strategy at the time is widely seen as instrumental in the eventual success of Fighter Command the failure of Hitler to gain air ascendancy as a perquisite to an invasion of Britain.
A number of these Anzacs flew Boulton Paul Defiants with 141 and 264 Squadrons. How did this two seater fighter aircraft compare with the with the famous Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane?
The Boulton Paul Defiant was a strange beast. Officially it was know as an ‘interceptor aircraft’ but popularly known as a ‘turret-fighter.’ It looked very much like the Hurricane but with the important addition, directly behind the pilot, of a powered turret armed with four Browning machine guns. In a way, it harked back to the successful two-man fighters of the Great War, for example, the Bristol F.2 Fighter.
However, the Defiant was no match for the Luftwaffe single engine fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, because it suffered from two principle impediments: first, a lack-luster climb rate and poor maneuverability due to the added weight of the turret; and, second, it was not equipped with forward firing guns. Once Luftwaffe airman had gotten over the initial surprise of a backward-firing fighter they simply attacked it from below or head on.
Eventually they were withdrawn from the frontline of the Battle of Britain, but not before a number of men were killed in these ill-fated machines, including the youngest New Zealander to lose his life in the battle, eighteen year old Lauritz Rasmussen, a Defiant gunner. In the pre-war period, Winston Churchill had strongly advocated that Fighter Command to be equipped with large numbers of Defiants but mercifully wiser heads prevailed and only two squadrons saw the light of day.
The atomic bomb named “Little Boy” was dropped by American airmen on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Three days later on 9 August 1945, the atomic bomb “Fat Man” was dropped over Nagasaki.
The Hiroshima explosion destroyed 90 percent of the city and killed approximately 80,000 people; tens of thousands more died later from radiation exposure. The Nagasaki A-bomb killed approximately 40,000 people.
Hiroshima – Small child with baby on back searching for anything of usefulness. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: J-0012-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23130201
Thursday 6 August 11.15 am at the World Peace Bell in Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
As in recent years, the NZ Chapter of The World Peace Bell Association is participating in an international bell ringing to mark the exact time of the Hiroshima A bombing 70 years ago (8.15 am Japan time. 11.15 NZ time.) The event originated with peace campaigner SuZen in NYC. She organizes a huge event in New York Central Park every Hiroshima anniversary. This being the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima, it is suggested we ring the bell once for every year. It would be great to have church bells, tram bells, and any other bells joining in.
Information from the World Peace Bell Association.
70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 5pm on Sunday 9 August at the World Peace Bell in the Botanic Gardens.
The Disarmament and Security Centre would like to invite you to join us to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at 5pm on Sunday 9 August at the World Peace Bell in the Botanic Gardens. The Mayor will be one of the speakers. There will be a gathering afterwards at 6pm at the YMCA for soup and bread and a time to catch up.
Find out more about the World Peace Bell in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and its connection to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I recently heard a story about an elderly lady living in a rest home who had played a significant role during the First World War. She had lived in the rest home for some five years or so and no one had a clue of her incredible background. This got me thinking about how many untold stories there must be of women who contributed in so many ways to the war effort.
On research I have found that there is little written about the efforts of women, yet they had their own challenges and hardships.
One book I discovered, Women in Wartime: New Zealand Women Tell Their Story edited by Lauris Edmond, reports many personal accounts of women during both the first and second world wars. This quote from the book, from the story “A Memory from Poukawa”, is a fine example of the struggles of a mother during the First World War.
Mother, although barely fifty years old, was a grey-haired, worn out old lady striving to manage on our meagre income… with a large house to care for and numerous farm chores to attend to, because farm labourers were not to be found, she must have, with her indifferent health, worked to the limit of her endurance.
And from “Post Office, Tokomaru Bay”:
…women were doing men’s work on the farms. others were driving the buggies and wagonettes to meet the passengers off the steamers… The women handled great baskets of mail… sewed for the hospital ships and packed parcels for prisoners-of-war.
Over 600 nurses served in the New Zealand Army Nurses and many others for the Red Cross. Many received medals and awards.
The book has many extraordinary stories and tells of sacrifices, dedication, and sadness. However, I felt it also uplifting in the description of how the nurses comforted injured soldiers, who they describe as “their boys”. This book is a thoughtful read and is available in hard copy as well as well as an eBook.
Have you read any books about women’s role in wartime?