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.

 

 

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?

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

Christchurch music lovers – every week get your Freegal on and download your three free music MP3s.

This week the theme is ANZAC Day.

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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

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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

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.

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