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
All words that have been used to describe Mary Ann Shaffer’s bestselling novel, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. The historical WWII novel that Shaffer (a former librarian) wrote when her plans for a biography of Robert Falcon Scott’s widow, Kathleen Scott fell through, “Guernsey” was extremely popular when it was published ten years ago. An epistolary novel (one that is told through letters or other documents), it tells the tale of Guernsey island-life during German occupation and is filled with engaging characters. It’s very much a book for booklovers, capturing, as it does, the transformative magic of reading.
And now it’s a movie. Opening in New Zealand on 25 April, “Guernsey” the movie will be a must-see for fans of the book but also for those wishing Downton Abbey was still a going concern, with no less than four former Abbey-ers in the cast, including lead, Lily James.
If you’d like to read (or re-read) the book as well as see the movie we’ve got the competition for you! For your chance to win one of five double passes to the film and a paperback copy of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society answer our question about epistolary novels and enter your details in the entry form. Entries close 29 April and are open to Christchurch City Libraries members and winners will be announced on Monday 30 April.
Many thanks to StudioCanal for supplying the prize for this competition.
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.
UNESCO’s call today resonates:
Never forget the victims. Never forget History.
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
Those of us who remember a certain movie from the 1990’s may jump to particular conclusions of what the “Monty tour” may be. It actually was the 1947 tour of Australasia by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. Born in 1887 and active in both the First and Second World Wars, he gained two nick-names; “Monty” and the “Spartan General”.
Monty commanded many New Zealand and Australian soldiers during World War Two. He was assumed command of the Eighth Army in North Africa after the failed first battle of El Alamein on the 13th August 1942. He planned and re-strategised for the next offensive at El Alamein which began on the 23rd of October that same year. This was a decisive battle for Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership and said of the two battles “At El Alamein we survived; after that we conquered.” Approximately 200,000 Allied soldiers were involved in the fighting with 4000 losing their lives and 9000 being wounded under Monty’s command in the 12 day battle.
Monty aspired to have “The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose, and the character which inspires confidence”. Charismatic and single-minded, he was popular with the soldiers under his command as he went out of his way to meet and talk with them, but often not liked by his fellow senior offices due to his strong opinions, and particularly not with the American General George Patton. He became one of the most decorated soldiers of World War Two gaining the highest rank of Field Marshal, and was appointed as Chief of the Imperial General Staff after the war and then as Deputy Supreme Commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Invited by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand to visit each country, Monty was in New Zealand from the 16th to 31st of July 1947. Received with much fan-fare throughout the country, Christchurch was no exception. Arriving on the 22nd of July to reputedly one of the biggest crowds in the city’s history. People lined the streets for seven miles to catch a glimpse of Monty in his famous black beret, some had even made periscopes to get a better view. Travelling in an open air car allowed him to stand and wave as his cavalcade passed on its way to the King Edward Barracks for the official reception. Reportedly 10,000 citizens crammed themselves into the Barracks for the civic ceremony, many more remained on the surrounding streets.
Visiting Coronation, Burwood and Christchurch Public Hospital’s, and attending a reception at the Returned Services’ Association were among the itinerary for rest of the day. He was presented with a Kaiapoi travelling rug and a carved walking stick as part of the R.S.A. Reception. He talked with returned service men and women, reminiscensing about countries and places visited during the war, including Captain Charles H. Upham, V. C. He also apologised for his incorrect dress, in that he was wearing a life membership N.Z.R.S.A. badge, even though he was still in active service, and that they had been comrades in war, they could now be comrades in peace.
In an interview with The Press, he said admiringly of the New Zealand soldier, “They have a very independent type of spirit…They will accept a loose framework of control, but you have to make it as loose as possible and you will get value by giving them full scope for their initiative.” The Press, Tuesday, July 22 1947.
Many photographers, both professional and amateur were out wanting to capture their permanent reminder of Monty. The National Film Unit was also there to capture some of his itinerary, and some of this footage can be seen in the following clip made available by Archives New Zealand through their Youtube channel:
Monty later wrote in his memoirs of the tour:
It would be difficult to find words to describe my feelings during my visit to these two Dominions, whose soldiers had fought under my command in the war. I was received everywhere with a depth of affection which seemed at all times to be genuine, warm and sincere. I knew that the warmth of the greeting was not meant for me personally but for that which I represented; it was an expression of appreciation of the bravery and devotion of duty to the men that I had commanded. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K.G., 1958, pg. 460.
With the passing of time and studies by various historians, Field Marshal Montgomery as a man and a commander within the British Army has come to be viewed with a certain level of contradiction and controversy. To learn more about Monty from varying perspectives including his own, his brother’s, his aide’s during WWII and historians, search our catalogue.
If you have any images you would like to contribute to a community repository of Christchurch, please visit Kete Christchurch.
Imagine a concrete lined room, hazy with cigarette smoke and lit only by a few shaded lamps which hang from the ceiling. In the centre, women in uniform surround a large table, atop of which a map of the Canterbury region is spread. Occasionally one of the women might adjust her headset and then, using a stick similar those wielded by croupiers at gambling tables, move a marker into a new position on the map. From a gallery above, officers look down in silent concentration. A runner enters the room and wordlessly passes a note to one of the officers. Then, from over the radio, a frantic voice breaks the tense atmosphere.
“Godley Battery has fallen. Japanese troops have taken Lyttelton.”
Defence of the South Island
For many nights the residents of the hillside suburb of Cashmere had been woken by the sound of blasting accompanied by ground tremors. The war was in its third year and New Zealand was under the threat of an invasion from the Empire of Japan. Throughout most of 1942 black out practices had become a common occurrence in Christchurch. Those living on the hill simply assumed that the military was conducting yet another clandestine operation.
The New Zealand military already had a presence in Cashmere. In July of that year the Government had commandeered Cashmere House, the property of John Frederick Cracroft Wilson, to act as Combined Headquarters Southern Command.
Built in 1909 to designs by Samuel Hurst Seager, Cashmere House was set in a depression atop the Cashmere Hills. Reached via a long driveway which wound its way up the hill, the house overlooked an expanse of trees, lawns and gardens. Within, the house contained more than thirty rooms, enough to accommodate the different departments of the Air Force, Navy and Army that were required to oversee the defence of the South Island. Yet while it provided adequate office space, a civilian house was not designed to withstand the threat of aerial bombardment, nor was a house of that size likely to remain unnoticed by any invading troops.
In preparation for its war with Germany, Britain had established subterranean control stations so that the nation’s defence could be coordinated during aerial bombardments by the Luftwaffe. Anticipating the Japanese invasion, Southern Command adopted the same approach. No sooner had the military taken over Cashmere House than it started the construction of what was intended to be a secret, underground command bunker.
To the northeast of the house two separate adits (passage tunnels) were dug into the hillside. Throughout the excavation, the soil and rock was taken via a purpose built rail and disposed of in a nearby valley. Initially proceeding southward, the adits then curved westward, so as to offer protection against external explosions. From there the adits opened into a large U shaped chamber which had been excavated from the bedrock.
Pre-stressed concrete ribs, constructed at a Public Works Department factory at the Birches near McLean’s Island, were used to brace the chamber. To set them in place a specially designed machine was manufactured at a workshop in Temuka. It was not necessary to set all the ribs in place, only those that were needed to stabilise the caverns. As a result most of the walls remained natural rock
A communications tunnel, intended only for the use of officers, was built to connect the chambers to Cashmere House. The tunnel was accessed from the basement in the house and descended on a slight gradient to the chambers. A ventilation shaft set at the midway point in the tunnel provided fresh air to the chambers.
Initial plans drawn up by the Public Works Department show the extent of the military’s aspirations. The plans show that the northern wing of the chamber was to house an office and separate rooms for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, along with a telephone exchange and cypher room. The southern chamber wing was to house another cypher room and a room for teleprinters. The two wings were connected by a western chamber and a further corridor.
The western chamber was intended to consist of two levels. The northern end would be the combined operations room. The southern end was the plotting room. Ladders would provide access to the upper floor. There, a gallery would allow observers to watch the movement of air force units being co-ordinated on the plotting table. It was proposed that the bunker would also contain kitchens, bedrooms and toilet facilities.
Work on the chambers continued until April 1943 when the war in the Pacific turned against the Japanese and the threat of an invasion was no longer considered a possibility.
Fire and concealment
By the end of 1944 the Army and Navy services had already vacated Cashmere House, leaving only the Air Force to occupy it. In November, plans were arranged for the Air Force to hand the building and its grounds back to the trustees of the Sir J.C. Wilson estate by the start of December. Yet before this could take place, on 12 November 1944 at 11:40pm, the building caught on fire. Although the fire was eventually brought under control, by 2am much of the building had been lost. The cause of the fire was never discovered.
By January 1945 details of the caverns had been leaked to The Press. The resulting article was accompanied by photographs which showed not only the district engineer of the Public Works Department inspecting the interior of the chambers but also the machines used to construct them. As it was still wartime, the defence force refused to discuss the existence of the caverns and no further information was made public. The tunnels were sealed and the owner of the property bulldozed the entrances to discourage any members of the public from attempting to enter them.
Following the conclusion of the war in September 1945 the existence of the caverns soon faded from public memory. Sworn to secrecy, those who had assisted with the construction or who had served as guards at the Cashmere property never spoke openly about what lay hidden beneath the grounds of the former house. As generations passed, even incoming members of the military seem to have remained unaware that such a project had ever been undertaken.
A chance discovery
The caverns may have remained hidden from the public for longer were it not for the retirement of a nurse at Princess Margaret Hospital. In 1987, while attending a farewell function being held for his mother, TVNZ reporter Jeff Field was told of the caverns by the hospital gardener.
Intrigued, he visited the Ministry of Defence library where he found the aforementioned Press article. Since he was due to take up a new role, Jeff assigned the investigation to another reporter, Bill Cockram. Following the 1944 fire, a new house had been erected on the site of Cashmere House. Upon visiting the owner, Bill Cockram learned that the building was experiencing problems with drainage. As such, the owner was interested to discover what lay beneath his house and gave Bill permission to proceed with his investigation.
Given that the former grounds of Cashmere House had been redeveloped, the only sign that anything lay hidden beneath was the protruding end of a pipe which marked the location of the ventilation shaft. After breaking the seal with a jackhammer, Bill next contacted Tim Williams of the Canterbury Caving Group. Together, with fellow caver, Bud Chapman, a television crew, and the property owner, they abseiled down the ventilation shaft and entered the caverns.
It was the first time that anyone had done so since they were sealed.
The television crew filmed the experience and the resulting documentary was screened as part of The Mainland Touch. Bill Cockram’s discovery, coupled with the release of the documentary, led to renewed public interest in the caverns. In December 1987 the Heathcote County Council’s planning committee even considered listing the bunker as a historic place.
The university moves in
The University of Canterbury, however, already had a vision for the caverns. Initially their ring laser laboratory which measured variations in the earth’s rotation was set on the top floor of a building on the Ilam campus. Yet such a location meant that the experiments were constantly being disturbed by wind, heat, and the movement of people. After considering the military tunnels in Lyttelton and a seismological station at Gebbies Pass, it was eventually proposed to make use of the caverns.
So it was, for the first time since they were excavated from the earth, the caverns came to be formally occupied. Yet rather than being used to co-ordinate a desperate defence against an enemy invasion, the caverns became a temporary home for numerous PhD students and international scientists who joined together to perform research that might benefit humanity.
In 1995 the Christchurch City Council took ownership of the caverns and in the following year the university installed the CII ring laser. The university continued to use the caverns as their laboratory, installing new equipment, and producing new results. Open days were also held for those members of the public who were curious.
Although they were built to withstand the impact of an enemy bombardment, the facility was rendered unsafe by the Canterbury Earthquakes. They have remained closed to the public ever since.
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.
You may not have come across these elegant, unassuming ladies in our library shelves, well groomed in dove-grey covers and creamy-white spine labels. Don’t be misled by their quiet twinset and pearls demeanour. Take a chance and have a browse! You might be seduced by their petticoats, their gorgeous end papers.
Who are Persephone Books and what have they to say for themselves? Let me have the pleasure of introducing you.
The name is a clue. In Greek mythology Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, being rather beautiful, is stolen away by her Uncle Hades to become his wife and queen of the underworld. She emerges only in spring, thus becoming goddess of Spring and Vegetation.
Persephone publishers chose this imagery for their mission of rescuing twentieth century works published over 60 years ago, largely by women, which have been neglected and in danger of falling into obscurity. Intelligent, thought provoking and beautifully written fiction and non-fiction, focusing on women’s lives in the difficult and changing world of the first half of the last century. They talk about relationships, sexual politics, domesticity, war, separation, austerity, single women, work, social comedy. They are often subversive but in a quiet way; feminist before Women’s Lib kicked in.
These are books written about people and places and a way of life that no one seems to write about nearly as well anymore. The kicker, of course, is that they are all just flat out great to read.
The collection currently stands at 110 titles. Christchurch City Libraries have 13 of them. Personally I’d push for more. A further mention of their petticoats! For the lovely endpapers Persephone have cleverly chosen prints of fabrics current in the era of the books’ original publication and which complement the emotional tone of the books. For me these greatly add to the retro appeal and sensual pleasure of these publications.
In her mother’s day a pregnant woman spent a good deal of time on a sofa, thinking beautiful thoughts and resolutely avoiding unpleasant ones; people took care not to speak of anything shocking or violent in front of her. Nowadays shocking things turned up on the doorstep with the morning paper; violence was likely to crash out of a summer sky on a woman who could move only slowly and who was not as spry as usual at throwing herself on her face in the gutter.
The stories portray the lives of Londoners, mostly women without men, who have normal, day to day human concerns while coping with the deep anxieties of living through the continual bombing, with gas masks, blackouts, lack of sleep, food shortages, the evacuation of their children, fear for their menfolk overseas. The “stiff upper lip” was their way of handling such a ghastly time. Did you know that the death toll for British civilians in WWII reached 62,000?
Ruth is a housewife trapped in a commuter suburb, and heading quietly for a nervous breakdown while her husband, sons at boarding school, and daughter at university live their lives elsewhere. The women around her are…
Like little icebergs, each [wife] keeps a bright and shining face above water; below the surface, submerged in fathoms of leisure, each keeps her own isolated personality. Some are happy, some poisoned with boredom; some drink too much and some, below the demarcation line, are slightly crazy; some love their husbands and some are dying from lack of love; a few have talent, as useless to them as a paralysed limb.”
Dorothy Whipple in “They were Sisters” They Were Sisters (1943) explores the very different marriages of three sisters (shades of Chekhov) Lucy, Charlotte and Vera. On the surface a gentle read but lurking underneath is the shadow of domestic violence.
Others titles are much more light hearted and fun. I especially enjoyed romping through Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day by Winifred Watson (1938). Miss Pettigrew, a staid middle aged, recently laid off governess, is mistakenly sent to work for night club singer, Delysia Lafosse, glamorous, ditzy but generous hearted, and in the course of 24 hours finds her life transformed. A truly “ripping” read full of comedy, poignancy and loose living 1930s-style.
In Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (1932) Julia Strachey writes about truly awful things that can happen in the last hours leading up to a wedding. The bride-to-be fearing she has made a dreadful mistake, drinking a lot of rum, her ex boyfriend arriving, her mother constantly praising the weather, peculiar relations abounding and who knows what’s going to happen next!
Both of these have recently been made into films, which shows the extent of their contemporary appeal.
I’m hoping, Dear Reader, that something here piques your curiosity and you have a real good winter read.
“I’m over it” has been a common comment after recent events, but how did people cope when the disasters kept on coming, sometimes for years?
Having a bit of an obsession with fiction featuring World War II does make me something of an expert on the subject, but it must be possible to learn more about the Blitz than can be gleaned from The night watch. Fiction is all very well, but how did people really get on under the threat of bombs dropping out of the sky with little or no warning? What did a diet of Spam and powdered egg and one inch-square cubes of cheese do to them?
The world’s first pictorial weekly newspaper, The Illustrated London News, gives a tremendous account of what life was like for Londoners from 1939-1945, using the actual words and pictures published at the time.
So how did they cope? One thing they did was build a ‘blitz farm’ on bomb sites in Bethnal Green. When Queen Elizabeth, Queen consort, come to visit she was told that every inch of soil had been reclaimed from under four feet of rubble. Her Majesty then observed: “It’s amazing what hard working people can do”.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction versions of history? What’s your favourite World War II tale? And what survival stories will we share with our grandchildren?
Nicknamed The Ferret, Eric Batchelor hailed from Waimate, where there is a subdivision named after him. When it opened, according to the ODT, a pipe band performed a song written in his honour – Waimate Warrior. This dairy owner and odd jobs man was one of our most decorated war heroes.
Lots will be said about him in the coming days, and a TV programme has been made.