At 3PM, 5 August 1914, New Zealand officially entered the First World War.

At 3pm on 5 August 1914, the New Zealand Governor, Lord Liverpool, read a telegram from His Majesty King George V to a crowd of 15,000 people gathered at Parliament in Wellington. The telegram expressed The King’s appreciation for the solidarity of his overseas dominions after Britain declared war with Germany. Lord Liverpool responded with New Zealand’s own commitment to make any sacrifice necessary. With that commitment, New Zealand officially entered the First World War, forever changing our society.

News was received in Christchurch by 3:45 PM. The evening paper The Star had a special edition out by 4 PM with a 5 PM edition containing the details of the New Zealand commitment. The next day The Press found space on page 6 to share the news of war.

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Find news via Papers Past including the local papers Press, Star and Sun.

 

 

One hundred years on from the outbreak of war

For the past few months interest in the centenary of the outbreak of World War One has been growing. This major anniversary is now upon us and over the next four or so years we have the opportunity to reflect on and discover all aspects of this global conflict at a local, national and international level.

A month after the assassination on 28th June 1914 of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Over the next few days other countries and empires declared war on each other, with Britain declaring war on Germany on 4th August. This news was received in New Zealand on 5th August. Many New Zealanders had close ties to Britain and there was strong support for the war. The conflict we now call World War One or the First World War had begun.

Cover of From the TrenchesBefore the month of August was out the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) sent to capture German Samoa had succeeded in their objective – this was the second Germany territory to fall to the Allies in the war. The main body of the NZEF set sail in October 1914, seeing service at Gallipoli, on the Western Front in France and Belgium and also in Egypt and Palestine.

In Canterbury on 12th August 1914 men started to report to the mobilisation camp at the Addington Showgrounds to establish a mounted rifle brigade. Many had brought their own horses and where suitable these animals were taken into service by the government and then re-issued for use to their former owners. Many more reported than were taken into the regiment and the medical test was a significant reason for large numbers to be turned away.

The regiment was equipped and trained at Addington and Sockburn until 23 September 1914. In the early hours of the morning the Canterbury Mounted Rifles left the mobilisation camp for the last time and rode to Lyttelton. Their route took them across the Avon where they watered their horses, on over the Heathcote Bridge, Ferry Road and through Sumner to the transport ships. They were taken first to Wellington and in October that year they sailed for Egypt via Australia and Sri Lanka.

Want to know more about the outbreak of war or about how to research those who took part?

Want to find out about projects to commemorate the war?

War books in Gale Virtual Reference Library

Gale Virtual Reference Library gives you access to over 200 electronic reference books covering virtually any subject, including health, business, careers, history, literature, biography, science, travel and more.

Some war-related titles have just been added to this colllection:

Cover of Auschwitz Cover of Hiroshima Cover of The Normandy beaches

Science Fiction newsletter

Here are a few of the covers from our August Science Fiction newsletter:

Cover of The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes Cover of Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card Cover of Abadon's Gate by James S. A. Corey Cover of the Humans by Matt Haig Cover of The Humand Division by John Scalzi Cover of Neptune's Blood by Charles Stross

Subscribe to get this newsletter delivered to your email inbox every other month.

The other ANZACs – New Zealand e-book month

By the end of The Great War, forty-five Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service and over two hundred had been decorated. These were women who left for war on an adventure, but were soon confronted with remarkable challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them.

They were there for the horrors of Gallipoli and they were there for the savagery the Western Front. Within twelve hours of the slaughter at Anzac Cove they had over 500 horrifically injured patients to tend on one crammed hospital ship, and scores of deaths on each of the harrowing days that followed. Every night was a nightmare.Their strength and humanity were remarkable.

Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps, and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. This is a very human story from a different era, when women had not long begun their quest for equality and won the vote. They were on the frontline of social change as well as war, and the hurdles they had to overcome and the price they paid, personally and professionally, make them a unique group in ANZAC history.

You can read The other ANZACs  as an e-book from our Overdrive collection.

The other ANZACs is also available as a paper book

Fiction in the shadow of history

On Canaan's SideLife: An unexploded diagramSalvage the Bones

Before I came to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, I wrote that there was a theme of shadows running through my selections. It seemed fitting I should be the one to attend a session called “In the shadow of history”.

This session brought together three writers who’ve written fictional works about real, significant, historical events. These authors, their books and the events in question are:

Given the significant historical events that have happened in dear old Christchurch, I was interested to hear how these authors used the stuff of fact to create fiction. How does a writer create art out of the shadow of history?

Mal Peet is interested in how historical events shape human identity. He says, in his dry laconic way, that there are ‘floating particles of history in the air all the time’ and he’s fascinated with the concept that there are three molecules of Julius Caesar in everyone alive today. Life: An Unexploded Diagram plays with the notion that if we could explode people, break them down to their atoms, we could see the historical and biological patterns that make them up.

In Life, the characters are aware of the Cuban missile crisis but they live in their personalised present and do little about it. It’s a story about “bluff, double bluff and bumbling” where no one seems to realise they’re taking part in history until after the event. Then, there’s an epiphany and the author explores how  events change lives.

Sebastian Barry spoke in general terms about his novel On Canaan’s Side. He observes that Irish literature never seems to go to war. It’s much more concerned with portraying marginalised people.

There was no conscription in Southern Ireland during World War 1 but 200,000 soldiers went to war and 50,000 died. The soldiers were all volunteers. When the survivors came home in 1916, they didn’t get a hero’s welcome. They were forgotten because the war didn’t fit the national story. These men were damaged by the horrors they’d seen, and the shadow of their experiences haunted them and the lives of those who loved them. His book follows the story of Lilly Bere who is forced to flee Ireland after the war as she tries to make sense of the sorrows of her life.

Jesmyn Ward bases her novel Salvage the Bones on her own experience of  living through catastophic Hurricane Katrina which destoyed large areas of New Orleans in August 2005. She became angry about the unjustness of the commentary in the media. She gives the example of a newspaper photograph showing a white couple going through a rubbish skip accompanied by the caption ‘foraging for food’ whereas a black man doing the same thing was accused of looting. She wrote her novel to “offer people a fuller experience of what it was like for the people that lived through it.” Sebastian Barry made the observation that the storm of racism that followed Hurricane Katrina was even more heartbreaking than the terrifying natural storm.

Jesmyn Ward didn’t start to write her novel until two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, Mal Peet writes of events that occurred in the early 1960s and Sebastian Barry looks back in time to WW1. It may be too early yet to see how the Christchurch earthquakes will impact upon the New Zealand literature, but the fact is that significant events shape our identities and out of the shadow of history comes art.

Sent to action: The World War I diary of Herbert Harold Stephens, of Sydenham, Christchurch

Diary
The last entry in Herbert’s diary

Monday 10 July 1916: Was hit this morning. Got it in the left hand ear and neck. Parapet came down on top of me; was buried for about an hour… on Nov 6th sent to Monckworth.

Nov 14th – sent to action.

And there ends the War diary of Herbert Harold Stephens. I got a bit teary-eyed as I thought that meant he was lost in battle, but then read about the provenance of this diary, and how it ended up being digitised in Christchurch City Libraries’ collection:

This war diary is a small pocket diary donated by H.H. Stephens’ family some time after his death about 1968, and deposited in the Canterbury Public Library by Mr R.C. Lamb, 27 April 1978.

The diary is full of the everyday stuff of war and hospitalisation – shipboard life, clergymen visits, lady visitors, and the joy of meeting other Kiwis, especially Cantabrians:

… saw 4 NZ men there. One was from Belfast, and knows Rangiora and Chch well. Had a long yarn with him … he has lost a leg above the knee.

Private H.H. Stephens from Sydenham, Christchurch, joined up and was stationed in C Company, Infantry, of the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He departed for the war zone from Wellington on Saturday 14 August 1915, as a member of the Sixth Reinforcements. Private Stephens’s war quickly became a personal battle against dysentery which took him to England and hospital. On 9 May 1916 Private Stephens arrived at the Western Front near Armentieres. On 10 July he was wounded and again evacuated to the Middlesex Hospital in England.

Militaria mania

Photo of medieval armourFor something completely different, I agreed to work my club’s stand at the Arms and Militaria Show held at the Riccarton Racecourse. I have to confess that I have a long-standing fascination with things military,  reaching back to a binge on WWII young adults literature at high school. Even so I didn’t really know what to expect, and hadn’t really expected quite such a range of people and products as were on show, and for sale. Here are a few photos of some of the different stands.

Medieval armour and weapons were on display at the Society for Creative Anachronism stand. This was a major hit with the kids, many of whom got to try on helmets, gauntlets and other bits of armour. The SCA has been ‘recreating’ the medieval world for over 40 years and also put on displays of combat outside the building.

Right next door to them was the Western shooting club whose members were also clad in appropriate gear (cowboy hats and fringed leather).

Model airplanes I was hugely impressed by a maker of model airplanes, the level of detail of which was extraordinary. At the other scale of modelling there was a full-sized display of a WWII Afrikakorps campsite.

There was a huge amount of military memorabilia on display, some of which was for sale. Medals, coins, books, magazines, uniforms and weapons were all available for the eager collector. We have quite a lot of resources for collectors of militaria I discovered, including several collectors’ guides, books about medals and badges, toy soldiers, collectable guns and blades and many titles about uniforms and armour including the well known Osprey books.

MedalsIn addition to our book collection the PriceIt source is another useful tool for the collector. It collates information from a wide variety of auction houses including eBay and includes authoritative articles about repair, restoration and conservation of antiques, hiring an appraiser and many specific areas of collecting.

Like all our sources PriceIt is free to use online: just enter your library card number and PIN.

Spirit of the Blitz – how to build your resilience and bounce back

cover for The Bounce Back BookPrime has been showing a programme called Blitz Street. A typical English street of World War II vintage has been created and then blown up to simulate the kind of damage caused by bombing. Along the way survivors of the Blitz share their experiences. It’s finished now, but it’s the sort of thing that might resonate with Christchurch residents. Earthquake street could be our new reality show!

What the Blitz survivors talk about is resilience. How to endure terrible experiences and stress and bounce back up again. Resilience in the face of adversity can help with your mental and physical well being. So how do you build your resilience?

The other day the water went off in my house for half a day. It was the first time since any of the quakes and it really threw me for a while. I found it hard to concentrate or do anything. I had to remind myself about all the positives – power is on, house is warm,  house is weatherproof and so on. I went to have a look  around our neighbourhood and saw the comforting sight of men at work. Then I made preparations in case we were without water for some time. I tried to get through a crisis in a positive way but it made me realise I wasn’t as resilient as I thought.

I looked up the library catalogue to see what I could find and sure enough – resilience brings up a good list of titles.

Our earthquake information page also lists the help out there – asking for help seems like a pretty good sign of resilience. This web page is a good starting point for all kinds of help.