New Zealand in German Samoa

On 29 August 1914, New Zealand troops arrived in Samoa and seized it from German control. This turned out to be a reasonably simple expedition but at the time it was regarded as potentially risky, with unknown consequences.

Samoa had been under German rule since 1900, but the presence of Germany in Samoa predates this. In 1855 Germany expanded its trading into the Pacific, initiating large-scale production of coconut, cacao and hevea rubber in Samoa (then known as the Navigator Islands). America and the United Kingdom also had business interests in the Pacific and opposed the German activity, which lead to the Second Samoan Civil War in 1899. Following this war, the Samoan islands were divided between the three opposing powers, with Germany being awarded what is today known as Western Samoa. It became regarded as the ‘jewel’ of German colonialism.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Samoa was of moderate strategic importance to Germany. Using the radio transmitter located in the hills above Apia, German troops were able to send Morse code signals to Berlin, as well as communicate with the 90 warships in Germany’s naval fleet. Britain wanted this threat neutralised and New Zealand agreed to seize Samoa from Germany.

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Officers attached to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Samoa. Tattersall, Alfred James, 1866-1951 :Photographs of Samoa. Ref: PAColl-3062-3-18. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23195986

New Zealand troops departed from Wellington on the morning of Saturday 15 August in two ships, Monowai and Moeraki. These two ships had been requisitioned from the Union Steam Ship Company as transports, and were therefore slow and unarmed. These two unlikely war ships left the New Zealand convoy extremely vulnerable as they travelled to Samoa, especially as the location of the German East Asia Squadron was unknown to the Allies throughout their two week journey.

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S S Moeraki leaving Wellington. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/1-002258-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22460165

When the New Zealand convoy reached French New Caledonia, they were joined by the Royal Australian Navy’s battlecruiser HMAS Australia, the light cruiser HMAS Melbourne and the French armoured cruiser Montcalm. While the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 is acknowledged as the birth of the Anzac legend, the first Australian–New Zealand military operation of the First World War was actually the capture of German Samoa in August 1914.

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Tattersall, Alfred James, 1866-1951. New Zealand troops landing in Samoa during World War I. Making New Zealand :Negatives and prints from the Making New Zealand Centennial collection. Ref: MNZ-0366-1/4-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22716395

Upon reaching Samoa, it became known to the New Zealand convoy that the German defences there were in fact quite weak; they had only 20 troops and special constables armed with 50 aging rifles. The Samoa Advance Party of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force landed at Apia on 29 August with no opposition. It was later discovered that the German administration had received orders from Berlin not to oppose an Allied invasion.

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Part of camp, Malifa, Western Samoa. Hackworth, Philip Vernon, d 1960 :Photograph album. Ref: PA1-q-107-36-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22806414

A fortnight later, on 14 September, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau arrived off Apia and the New Zealand garrison braced itself for large-calibre gunfire. Luckily, the cruisers left once their skippers realised that Samoa was no longer in German hands. Samoa was then declared to be under a New Zealand-run British military occupation. The British flag was raised outside the government building in Apia and Samoa became the second German territory, after Togoland in Africa, to fall to the Allies in the First World War.

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Star Boating Club :Photograph of members of the club who went to Samoa with Expeditionary Force, 1914.. Ref: PAColl-5216. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22348195

If you would like to learn more about New Zealand in German Samoa, we have some materials available:

Syndetics book coverFighting for empire: New Zealand and the Great War of 1914-1918 / Christopher Pugsley.
“One hundred thousand New Zealanders sailed to war between 1914 and 1918, and at the end of four years of conflict the country had suffered 60,000 casualties, including 18,000 dead. Dr Chris Pugsley’s account of the First World War (first published as a section in Scars on the Heart: 200 Years of NZ at War, Bateman, 1996), is a tale of learning about war the hard way, by bitter and costly experience, drawing on photographs, letters and diaries to examine the impact of war through the eyes of those involved. This lively mix of text, photographs and soldiers’ own accounts covers all aspects of the war: from NZ’s seizing German Samoa five days after war was declared, ANZAC Cove and Gallipoli, patriotism at home, Mounted Rifles in Sinai and Palestine, the role of our nurses, the Western Front, and ‘Sea Dogs and Flying Aces – how our sailors and airmen fought the war’.” (Syndetics summary)

THE SAMOA (N.Z.) EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
We have this book in our New Zealand Rare books collection. Published in 1924, it is in a fragile condition but may be viewed by request at the 2nd floor enquiries desk.

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Information sourced from NZ History and Wikipedia
Images sourced from Timeframes

Large scale ANZAC display at the Central Library

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For the past year, in the lead up to the Centenary of the Gallipoli landings, Wellington City librarians have been producing a series of contributions highlighting various aspects of our collection where you can find resources related to this major historical event. Our latest addition, inspired by a recent blog post http://bit.ly/1DNZ48J about Charlotte Le Gallais, one of the nurses who went to Gallipoli on the Maheno hospital ship, is a large scale exhibition about her story, highlighting the various online resources available for history and ancestry research. Come to the Central Library and discover her fascinating story.

You can also contribute your family stories in our “Scrapbook of Memories” kept by the display. For more resources on WW1, browse our series at www.wcl.govt.nz/ww100

 

“Offspring of the battlefield” – WWI Kiwi soldiers in their own words at WCL

009100 years on from the First World War, there is no shortage of beautifully researched and written books on the subject by historians, sociologists, poets and others. Over the last few months, Wellington City Libraries has highlighted some of these books in our collection. However, our collection doesn’t stop with books written about New Zealanders in the First World War – we also hold those beloved items, original sources – items written and published by New Zealand troops, while still engaged in the war. New Zealand at the Front is one of these – words (and pictures and cartoons) from soldiers’ own pens.

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The two editions of New Zealand At the Front (1917 and 1918) were written as an ‘annual’, a yearly magazine stuffed full of poetry, short funny stories, cartoons and drawings. “Written and illustrated”, as the cover boasts, “in France by Men of the New Zealand Division”. The editor’s note introduces the contributions and the men who wrote them:

   The contributions for this book have come from Trench, Dug-out, and Billet. They are the offspring of the Battlefield. … If they have neither the quality of culture nor of genius, at least they … reflect something of the ideas, the temperament, and the life of men who, from a sense of duty, find themselves engaged in a mighty conflict in a strange environment, far from their own land.

These might be modified raptures, but the contents of the annual lived up to their introduction as a reflection of the men who wrote and drew for its pages, many of whom are identified only by initials, or various nom de plumes.

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The articles are stuffed with in-jokes and references obviously well-understood among the troops who penned them at the time, but bewildering today. Luckily, the editors seem to have anticipated some difficulties in translation, and provided a handy and tongue-in-cheek glossary for confused readers (a modern reader may wish to have a dictionary handy nevertheless!)

Other sections, and formats, are instantly recognisable. The annual contains many cartoons, often poking fun at officers or other soldiers’ quirks – the familiarity of life in close quarters visible in modern comic strips. Those familiar with the “How my boss sees me/ how my mother sees me/ how my friends see me” internet comic form can even see a distant cousin in one cartoon published in the annual, which compares, wryly, how “the padre sees us”, “higher command ‘seize’ us”, “mademoiselle sees us”, and “Mater sees us” – each sketch wildly different from the others (and proving the point that acute punning transcends time!).

013010The pre-occupations and domestic details of life behind the line loom large in the contents of the annual. From a full-colour watercolour of “Private Purripeef” displaying a haul of cans, to a story of nicknaming friends after “bulla-biff”, to a mournful piece titled “A Tragedy of the Line” – in which the tragic victim of a bombing is revealed to be a can of ‘Fray Bentos’ bully beef – tinned beef recurs as a subject at the top of many minds. Long marches are also a popular subject – a soldier identified only as ‘Rewi’ writes a tragi-comic poem about the significance of good footwear, which including the lines

Boots! Boots! Boots!

Till your latest breath

They will climb the hill to fame,

Trudge the road to Death,

Or march back the road you came.

Although many articles in the annuals are light-hearted or tongue-in-cheek, others are sombre, describing the desolation of their authors’ surroundings. A soldier named only as “Q” submits an article describing the “Red Lodge … as lovely a spot, maybe, as there is in the whole of Flanders”, which he and his companion Bob discovered in a Flemish field. Q writes “Bob said I remember, that it reminded him of a scarlet poppy on the mossy bank” – echoing the now-familiar theme of poppies marking war graves. “It is all changed now,” Q continues, describing the later destruction of the lodge. “Bob was killed on that accursed corner…” It’s possible that Q had read the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields”, published in Punch, before he wrote his 1917 piece. The image of red poppies marking a war grave or memorial is one we now all recognise.020

The editor, who hoped these annuals would provide an honest reflection of their authors, may have been more right than he knew. The two volumes of New Zealand at the Front display incredible diversity of subjects, tone, and breadth of ability, many contributions beautifully and humorously done. The diversity of the men who wrote and sent in their contributions from “Trench, Dug-out and Billet” is just as apparent as their humour, and leaves us, 100 years later, a fascinatingly direct snapshot of New Zealanders at war.

New Zealand at The Front is held in the New Zealand Reference Stack Collection, and can be requested for viewing at the Second Floor Reference Desk, Central Library.

Christmas in the trenches – some very special greetings

Syndetics book cover In 2008, Sarah Ell collated a selection of New Zealand Christmas images, including Christmas cards, Christmas day dinner menus, photographs, advertisements and poster art, from the Alexander Turnbull Library. The result of this collection is the beautiful book A New Zealand Christmas : three centuries of Kiwi Christmas celebrations from the Alexander Turnbull Library. Featuring beautiful images and informative captions about Christmas in New Zealand throughout the years, it also features photographs, Christmas cards and other printed images from World War One at Christmas time. This beautiful edition is an interesting and indulgent read any time, but particularly at this time of the year! Place your reserve here.

When Great Britain first declared war against Germany in 1914, New Zealand did not have its own army. Training camps were urgently set up in Featherston in Wairarapa, at Narrow Neck in Auckland and Awapuni near Palmerston North. The main camp was established at Trentham in Upper Hutt.

The Maymorn camp was built as an overflow camp 7km away from Trentham. It was the home of the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the New Zealand rifle brigade, then the 11th Infantry Reinforcements, until the camp was closed in 1916.

This image shows the tables set up for Christmas dinner at Maymorn camp on 25 December 1915.

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Tables set for Christmas dinner, Maymorn camp, Wairarapa. Allen, S T :Photographs of the Tauranga Bridge and Maymorn Camp. Ref: 1/2-112210-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22329286

After arriving at Anzac Cove to find scores of Australian dead and wounded scattering the beach, the Anzac soldiers were instructed to create a network of dug-outs to provide some shelter from the Turkish barrage. The men lived in these dug-outs in filthy conditions with inadequate food and water, as well as frequent outbreaks of dysentery and other diseases.

This photo, showing two soldiers in a dug-out in Gallipolli, was taken not long before the Allied withdrawal from the ill-fated peninsula on December 20. This brought an end to the horrific eight months suffered by the New Zealand, Australian and other Allied troops who landed at what later became known as Anzac cove on April 25, 1915.


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Christmas celebrations in dug-out, Gallipoli. Martin, W W :World War One albums of Mr Laurie C Mackie. Ref: PA1-o-308-22-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23211213

After withdrawing from Turkey, New Zealand troops were redeployed to France. Germany had invaded France and Belgium, and the British planned to attack the Germans in the Somme region, to relieve pressure on the French. The Battle of the Somme began in June 1916, followed by a second push in mid-September, which involved New Zealand troops. By Christmas 1916, around 1.2 million men on both sides had been killed or wounded.

This Christmas card was sent home to New Zealand from war-torn France.

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Sparr, fl 1916. Sparr, fl 1916 :Compliments of the season from France, 1916-17. Onward. N.Z. Quo fas et gloria ducunt. [Postcard. 1916]. Ref: Eph-A-WAR-WI-1916-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23106539

This Christmas menu is from the Sergeants’ Mess at the New Zealand Army Service Corps number 6 camp at Sling, near Bulford on the Salisbury Plain in England. It was dedicated to the memory of Gallipolli and the newly minted ‘Anzac Day’. The menu shows the men ate well through the day, from bacon, liver and chips for breakfast through a full roast dinner of turkey, beef and chicken to leftover roast, mince pies, jam tarts and beer for supper.

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[Sling Camp (England)] :Remember ANZAC, Gallipoli, 25th April, 1915. Christmas 1916, New Year 1917 / [Cover on menu / list of members].. [Sling Camp (England)] :Remember ANZAC, Gallipoli, 25th April, 1915. Christmas 1916, New Year 1917 / [Sergeants’ Mess, New Zealand Army Service Corps and Details, No 6 Camp, Sling, Bulford, Salisbury Plain, England. [Menu / list of members]. Bennett Bros, Military Printers, Salisbury [1916].. Ref: Eph-A-WAR-WI-1916-02-front. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22590424

This Christmas card from 1916 reflects a sense of imperial and national pride, following New Zealand’s rush to support Mother England against the German aggressors. It was printed for Mr and Mrs Hardie of Wanganui and bears a poem on the cover.

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[Greeting card]. A right loyal greeting. “Land of our birth, we pledge to thee, Head heart & hand, in the years to be”. Xmas 1916 … from Mr & Mrs A. St.N. Hardie. Wanganui, N.Z.. Various artists :[Box of assorted Christmas cards. 1860s-1919]. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1916-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23139304

By Christmas 1917, New Zealand troops were still at war in Europe and New Zealand headquarters was at Chateau Segard in Belgium. This photo shows the New Zealand divisional commander, Major-General Andrew Hamilton Russell, carving a turkey for officers.

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New Zealand Commander carves the turkey on Christmas Day, Chateau Segard, 1917. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013034-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22904056

At the time of this Christmas card’s release in 1917, New Zealand had been at war for three years. This card clearly depicts the sense of distance felt by those in New Zealand that had loved ones fighting overseas, with the imagery of hands clasped across the distance between New Zealand and “somewhere in France”.

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Frank Duncan and Company. Postcard. Christmas greetings. Hands across the sea. NZ Postcard published by Frank Duncan & Co., High St., Auckland. [1917]. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-WWI-1917-02. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22780721

This card was posted to New Zealand from France in 1918, clearly expressing the sender’s desire to return home with the poem on the front: “God gave all men all earth to love / But since our hearts are small / Ordained for each one spot should be / Beloved over all. / Gorse behind the windy town, pollen o’ the pine / Bell-bird in the leafy deep where the Ratas twine / Ferns above the saddle-bow, flax upon the plain / ‘Tis where Pohutukawas bloom we long to be again”.

The drawing of the damaged windmill on the front of the card is thought to depict a windmill at Courcelles in northern France, which withstood repeated shelling and became a landmark for New Zealand troops fighting in the area.

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To Pater, with all good wishes from Bob. Somewhere in France, 4/11/18. “God gave all men all earth to love … ” [Map of New Zealand, by Johns]. 1918.. Cheerio from France. Christmas 1918. A “Diggers'” landmark / Johns. [Card].. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-WWI-1918-03-inside. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22432725

New Zealand troops were easily identified from other colonial troops by their hat – their distinctive headwear, which became known as a lemon-squeezer, is said to have been developed in 1911 by Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, who felt that the fore-and-aft dented hats worn by his troop collected water too readily. He redesigned the hat so that water ran off more easily. Malone’s Wellington regiment adopted this style of hat and was more widely distributed from mid 1916 to other troops. They became a highly visible way to distinguish New Zealand soldiers from other colonial troops.

These cards both show New Zealand soldiers in lemon-squeezers – the first dates from 1917 shows a Kiwi soldier resting on a milestone which is engraved with ‘France to New Zealand, 13,000 miles’ The second is from 1918 and was designed by solider and artist Lieutenant George Patrick Hanna.

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Bell, William Frederick, 1895-1920. Bell, William Frederick, 1896-1920 :Aotearoa. [Greetings card. 1917].. Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-WWI-1917-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22857458

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Perry, Murray (Mrs), fl 1975. ‘With every wish that’s brightest & best’ / G P Hanna. N.Z. Division, France. Xmas 1918.. [Ephemera relating to World War I. 1918. Folder 1]. Ref: Eph-A-WAR-WI-1918-02. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23253028

If you’d like to find out more about cards and postcards sent home to New Zealand during World War One, we also recommend this book:

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand and the First World War : 1914-1919 / Damien Fenton ; with Caroline Lord, Gavin McLean and Tim Shoebridge.
“The full story of New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War” (Publisher information)

All images and accompanying information sourced from Sarah Ell’s A New Zealand Christmas: Three Centuries of Kiwi Christmas celebrations from the Alexander Turnbull Library.

WWI Soldiers and Archived Records

Lest we forgetLFor New Zealanders April 25th is the day we remember those from our nation who left our shores to fight in wars. For many of us it’s the day we wear a red poppy and perhaps attend the local memorial service. The number attending the memorial services is growing and all day television coverage with interviews and war documentaries are now part of our Anzac Day experience. Next year the chance to attend the ANZAC memorial service, to be held at Anzac Cove, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli was much sought after and a ticket ballot was announced for family members of those who fought at Gallipoli. A newspaper article War records minefield by Michelle Duff in the Sunday Star Times highlighted the fact that sometimes the families did not know the details of family member’s war records and that a common misconception was the thinking that if your family member fought in the First World War then they would have been at Gallipoli. This brings us to the question, do you know where your relatives served in World War One?

Genealogy is a popular topic here at Wellington City Libraries and we have a number of resources to help you discover if your relative did indeed serve at Gallipoli. Your first point of call may be our Genealogy Popular Topics Page. Here you can find general information on researching your family history. From this page there are links to Military Resources. This page is a wealth of information for finding out about your family members’ military service.

Some of the most popular and useful links are:

AncestryAncestry Library
Available from internet PCs within our libraries. Contains millions of records accessible in one powerful search. Access is through the My Gateway page on our library website.

It includes:

Nominal Roll – NZ Army WWI Nominal Rolls, 1914-1918,
– New Zealand Army WWI Roll of Honour, 1914-1919,
– New Zealand Army WWI Reserve Rolls, 1916-1917,
– New Zealand Army WWI Casualty Lists, 1914-1919, and
– New Zealand Army WWII Nominal Rolls, 1939-1948.

Archives New Zealand offer a reference guide to the war information they hold in PDF form.

You can search the National Archives Archway Database to discover what military records are held by Archives and it also searches on probate records. Searching your relatives name may give you the names and dates of the files, record numbers and where the files are kept.

CWGCCommonwealth War Graves Commission The “Debt of Honour Register” is the Commission’s database listing the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars and the 23,000 cemeteries, memorials and other locations world-wide where they are commemorated. The register can also be searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War. Information includes age, date of death, parents and parents’ place of residence.

With the celebrations and remembrance of the centenary of the declaration and start of World War One there are also many new books being published on World War One topics. The following two are good sources of material to be able to learn about the soldiers experiences through the eyes of the soldiers who were there.

Syndetics book coverFighting for empire: New Zealand and the Great War of 1914-1918 / Christopher Pugsley.
“One hundred thousand New Zealanders sailed to war between 1914 and 1918, and at the end of four years of conflict the country had suffered 60,000 casualties, including 18,000 dead. Dr Chris Pugsley’s account of the First World War (first published as a section in Scars on the Heart: 200 Years of NZ at War, Bateman, 1996), is a tale of learning about war the hard way, by bitter and costly experience, drawing on photographs, letters and diaries to examine the impact of war through the eyes of those involved. This lively mix of text, photographs and soldiers, own accounts covers all aspects of the war: from NZ’s seizing German Samoa five days after war was declared, ANZAC Cove and Gallipoli, patriotism at home, Mounted Rifles in Sinai and Palestine, the role of our nurses, the Western Front, and `Sea Dogs and Flying Aces’.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn awfully big adventure : New Zealand World War One veterans tell their stories / selected and edited by Jane Tolerton from interviews for the World War One Oral History Archive.
“[On] New Zealand Listener’s ‘100 Best Books of 2013’. What was it like to be a New Zealand soldier in the First World War? What impact did the war have on those who returned? Let them tell you. An Awfully Big Adventure traces the reminiscences and reflections of 80 veterans interviewed for the World War One Oral History Archive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The pen and the sword – First World War poetry, letters and memoirs

541px-Poppy-closeupIs the pen mightier than the sword? In a physical sense alas no — otherwise the celebrated war poets would not have been so cruelly cut down in their prime — but the curious phenomenon about this terrible episode in our history is that it produced a magnificent flowering of the written word. Many of those fighting at the front were highly educated men, well versed in the classics and literature. Poetry — considered the highest of the literary forms — was the natural medium in which to express not the pity and the horror of this dreadful war but also a heightened sense of the beauty of life. It is the poignancy of this mix, coupled with the youth of the poets, which has the power to move us so profoundly today.

“The Great silence” followed The Great War — a period when everybody wanted to forget about it and nobody wanted to talk about it. Memoirs were slow to come, and many have only just been produced using letters and diaries as source material.

There are many many books about this war to end all wars — and this being the centenary year of the conflict there are likely to be many more. Those we have chosen below are a guide to what is held in each category. Have a read!

Poetry:

Syndetics book cover1914 : poetry remembers / edited by Carol Ann Duffy.
“The First World War holds a unique place in the nation’s history; the poetry it produced, a unique place in the nation’s hearts. To mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has engaged the most eminent poets of the present to choose the writing from the Great War that touched them most profoundly: their choices are here in this powerful and moving assembly. But this anthology is more than a record of war writing. Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned these same poets of the present to look back across the past and write a poem of their own in response to the war to end all wars.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFirst World War poems / edited by Andrew Motion.
“The First World War produced some of the most haunting and memorable poetry of our age. In this compelling anthology, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion guides us through both the horror and the pity of that conflict, from the trenches of the Western Front to reflections from our own age. With a selection of our best-known war poets, this collection also returns lesser known pieces to the light and extends the selection right through to the present day. The text serves to remind us how poetry of that time has, more than any other art from, come to stand testament to the grief and outrage occasioned by World War I” (Summary from Global Books)

Biographies & memoirs:

Syndetics book coverTestament of youth : an autobiographical study of the years 1900-1925 / by Vera Brittain ; with an introduction by Mark Bostridge ; and a preface by Shirley Williams.
“In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain’s account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverThe Englishman’s daughter : a true story of love and betrayal in World War I / Ben Macintyre.The Englishman’s Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War One
“In the first terrifying days of World War I, four British soldiers found themselves trapped behind enemy lines on the western front. They were forced to hide in the tiny French village of Villeret, whose inhabitants made the courageous decision to shelter the fugitives until they could pass as Picard peasants. The Englishmans Daughter is the never-before-told story of these extraordinary men, their protectors, and of the haunting love affair between Private Robert Digby and Claire Dessenne, the most beautiful woman in Villeret. Their passion would result in the birth of a child known as The Englishmans Daughter.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFor king and country : voices from the First World War / edited by Brian MacArthur.
“Far more than an anthology, this gripping collection of writings tells the story of World War I from the perspective of those who endured its horrors both at home and abroad. From the men who served in Europe comenbsp;accounts of fear, tedium, horror, and occasional joy, while those on the home front describe the pain ofnbsp;waiting for news of their loved ones. Along with selections from letters, diary entries, and memoirs, famous songs sung in the trenches as well as poems from soldiers and noted authors alike are also included.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverFighting on the Home Front : the legacy of women in World War One / Kate Adie.
“Bestselling author and award-winning former BBC Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie reveals the ways in which women’s lives changed during World War One In 1914 the world changed forever. When World War One broke out and a generation of men went off to fight, women emerged from the shadows of their domestic lives. Now a visible force in public life, they began to take up essential roles – from transport to policing, munitions to sport, entertainment, even politics. Kate Adie charts the seismic move towards equal rights with men that began a century ago and asks what these women achieved for future generations. This is history at its best – a vivid, compelling account of the pioneering women who helped win the war.” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverTickled to death to go : memoirs of a cavalryman in the First World War / edited by Richard van Emden.
“Tickled to Death to Go is no ordinary memoir. Illuminated by Ben Clouting’s lively sense of humour and healthy disrespect for petty restrictions, it is a remarkable story told in his own words” (Summary from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity 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.” (Summary from Global Books)

And a novel which reads like a memoir (you will not believe it’s fiction!):

Syndetics book coverDiary of an ordinary woman / Margaret Forster.
“Margaret Forster presents the ‘edited’ diary of a woman, born in 1901, whose life spans the twentieth century. On the eve of the Great War, Millicent King begins to keep her journal and vividly records the dramas of everyday life in a family touched by war, tragedy, and money troubles. From bohemian London to Rome in the 1920s her story moves on to social work and the build-up to another war, in which she drives ambulances through the bombed streets of London. Here is twentieth-century woman in close-up coping with the tragedies and upheavals of women’s lives from WWI to Greenham Common and beyond. A triumph of resolution and evocation, this is a beautifully observed story of an ordinary woman’s life – a narrative where every word rings true.”. (Summary from Global Books)

Letters:

Letters were the commonest form of communication in the early 1900s and people of all classes wrote them frequently. In the highly literate letters of the officers and the simple and direct communications of the ordinary soldiers we see the a true history of the war emerge — the terrible battles, the day-to-day experience of the troops, and the realities of life at home.

Syndetics book coverLetters from the trenches : a soldier of the Great War / Bill Lamin.
“I was very pleased to hear from you and that you are going on all right . . . We have had another terrible time this week the men here say it was worst than the Somme advance last July. We lost a lot of men but we got where we were asked to take. It was awful I am alright got buried and knocked about but quite well now and hope to remain so. We were praised by the general and all, everybody said we had done well, quite a success . . . It is a rum job waiting for the time to come to (Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverPrivate wars : personal records of the Anzacs in the Great War / Greg Kerr.
“Greg Kerr retraces the journey of Australian and New Zealand troops from Gallipoli in 1915 to the final penetration of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. While covering the general strategic course of the war, the author focuses on the human side of the war. Similar to his acclaimed Lost Anzacs: The Story of Two Brothers, Kerr follows the experiences of roughly sixty figures–officers, privates, nurses–and captures their experiences through judicious and uncensored extracts from their letters and diaries. The book also includes numerous photos, many previously unpublished. The combination of photos, letters, and historical backgroundmake for an unforgettable account of what the war was really like on the ground.” (Syndetics summary).

And what happened next…

Syndetics book coverSingled out : how two million women survived without men after the First World War / Virginia Nicholson.
“The First World War deprived Britain of three quarters of a million soldiers, leaving as many more incapacitated. In 1919 a generation of women who unquestioningly believed marriage to be their birthright discovered that here were, quite simply, not enough men to go round. They became known as ‘the Surplus Women’.” “Many of us remember them: they wee our teachers, our maiden aunts, women who seemed to have lost out life’s feast. This book tells their stories.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverCasualty figures : how five men survived the First World War / Michèle Barrett.
“In this delicate look at history in microcosm, Barrett (literary and cultural theory, Queen Mary, University of London) follows the experience of five soldiers who survived World War I, two in the medical corps and three in the trenches. Their survival was debatable, though each man suffered from shell shock that affected his later life and damaged his relations with family and friends. Using private letters, diaries and military records Barrett paints a harrowing portrait of these men, what they survived and how they coped but never really recovered. This is a beautifully written psychological biography that, sadly, is all too timely.” (Syndetics summary)

Music of World War One

War songs cropped small

World War 1 inspired a wide range of music which evolved during the 4 years of the conflict.
You will find some good examples in our music collection, ranging from sheet music, song books or actual recordings available in our music databasesHere are some recordings of music of WW1 on Alexander Street Music. And some more in Naxos.

The songs of WW1 were at first rousing calls to arms such as ‘We Don’t Want to Lose You, but We Think You Ought to Go’, but as the number of deaths steadily grew the popular songs became more sarcastic and somewhat bitter such as ‘Oh, It’s a Lovely War!‘  This drop in enthusiasm led to a war time marching song competition held by New York publishers Francis Day and Hunter, who were giving a prize of 100 guineas for a marching song for the troops to help with recruitment and frontline morale. The winner of this competition was ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile‘ written by George Henry Powell. This song became hugely popular during the war and can be interpreted as saying that the war has ended so there is no need to worry any longer.  Here is a recording of this song on Alexander Street Music.

Although most people would have heard a gramophone at a seaside resort or park gala, these would have been unaffordable to buy for the ordinary person in the U.K. Thus, Music Hall and sheet music was the popular and affordable way for the masses to enjoy music during the era of The Great War. If a song was very popular it was not unusual for the sheet music to sell over one million copies!

syndetics-lcMarching bands were used to entertain the troops on the Western Front who were waiting for long periods in between battles, and almost every division had its own entertainment troop.
America was at first reluctant to enter the war. This reluctance was evident with the popularity of the song at the start of the  war, ‘I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier’ but after the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 America’s attitude changed, as can be noted with the song ‘When the Lusitania Went Down’.

Although the recording industry was in its infancy, many record labels were quick to jump on the bandwagon and cashed in releasing many popular songs referencing the war. As phonograph production increased the war was brought back home with recorded speeches, novelty songs and patriotic anthems.

An interesting perspective of the ANZAC’s musical contribution can be read in ‘And the Band Played On’. Many soldiers were asked to bring forth their talents to aleviate the strain of war.

Remembering WW1 on Anzac Day

On 25 April 1915, New Zealanders along with other Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, with the aim of taking the Dardanelles, and threatening the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul). At the end of the nine month campaign, about a third of the New Zealand soldiers taking part had been killed. Anzac Day commemorates all New Zealand soldiers killed in war, and also honours returned servicemen and women.  Here is some further reading:

Syndetics book coverShattered glory : the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front / Matthew Wright.
“The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 destroyed New Zealand’s fantasies of war as a glorious schoolboy adventure on behalf of a beloved Empire. The Western Front campaign that followed in 1916-18 gave shape to the emotional impact. it was a horror world of death and mud that destroyed the souls of the young men who fought in it. Together, these two campaigns shaped the lives of a generation of New Zealanders and have given a particular meaning to modern memory of war. In Shattered Glory, highly regarded historian Matthew Wright illuminates New Zealand’s human experience during these two First World War campaigns, exploring the darker side of New Zealand’s iconic symbols of national identity and explaining some of the realities behind the twenty-first century mythology.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverDevils on horses : in the words of the Anzacs in the Middle East 1916-19 / Terry Kinloch ; foreword by Dr Christopher Pugsley.
“Reunited with their horses in Egypt after the shattering experience of Gallipoli, the Anzac mounted riflemen and light horsemen were initially charged with the defence of the Suez Canal, then with the clearance of the Sinai peninsula, and finally with the destruction of the Turkish armies in Palestine and Syria.
At last they could pursue the style of warfare for which they had been trained: on horseback.
The First World War battlefields in the Middle East have long been overshadowed by those of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Yet the story of the mounted riflemen in Sinai and Palestine is a truly fascinating one. Using the soldiers’ original letters and diaries wherever possible, Kinloch vividly describes every battle and skirmish in the long campaign against the Turks: the crucial Battle of Romani, the defeats at Bir el Abd, Gaza and Amman, and the successes at Beersheba, Ayun Kara and elsewhere.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverMapping the first world war : battlefields of the great conflict from above.
“Some one hundred years on from the Great War, Mapping The First World War provides a unique perspective on the ‘war to end all wars’. Over a hundred maps and charts show the broad sweep of events, from Germany’s 1914 war goals to the final positions of the troops. There are maps depicting movements and battles as well as related documents, such as those on levels of conscription and numbers of weapons.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverPasschendaele : the anatomy of a tragedy / Andrew Macdonald.
“This extensively researched book tells the story of one of the darkest hours of Australia and New Zealand’s First World War military. With the forensic use of decades-old documents and soldier accounts, it unveils for the first time what really happened on the war-torn slopes of Passchendaele, why, and who was responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of soldiers in the black mud of Flanders. Macdonald explores the October battles of Third Ypres from the perspective of the generals who organised them to the soldiers in the field, drawing on a wide range of evidence held in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and Germany. His book is far more than a simple narrative of battle and includes critical and comparative assessments of command, personality, training discipline, weapons, systems, tactics and the environment. It looks equally at the roles of infantry, artillery and engineering units, whether Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or British, and in so doing presents a meticulous, objective and compelling investigation from start to finish. Along the way it offers numerous unique insights that have, until now, been obscured by a nearly century-old fog of war. This book will reshape the understanding of one of the most infamous battles of the First World War.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe other Anzacs : nurses at war 1914-1918 / Peter Rees.
“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.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverArchduke Franz Ferdinand lives! : a world without World War I / Richard Ned Lebow.
“For Lebow (A Cultural Theory of International Relations), a professor of international political theory, the erasure of WWI from our historical timeline would have placed our world on a path quite different from the one we are on today. He expounds on the theory of counterfactuals to revisit and better understand our history. “What-ifs of this kind offer insights into the world in which we actually live,” Lebow claims, letting us “probe why and how it came about, how contingent it was, and how we should evaluate it.” He begins with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and its aftershocks, detailing what could have happened in the fields of science, art, medicine, and politics had the archduke survived. Using historical and personal records, supported by known personality traits of notable period figures, Lebow fashions two possible worlds, one better and one worse, had WWI been avoided. His confidence is evident on every page; this work of alternative history reminds us of our own position in flow of events and tempts us to follow Lebow’s lead in fantasizing about the possibilities inherent in these very distinct worlds. Though we can’t escape the realities of our past, Lebow provides his readers with exciting alternatives to consider.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : the final battles and evacuation of Anzac / David W. Cameron.
“This book is the first book since Charles Bean’s Official history to provide a detailed narrative of the bloody and tragic battle for Hill 60, along with the other engagements that went on until the very last days at Anzac – viewed from both sides of the trenches. It also examines in detail the planning and execution of the evacuation of the troops from Anzac – the most successful part of the whole Gallipoli fiasco. David Cameron’s detailed research and use of firsthand accounts including letters, diaries, and interviews, enables him to convey the confusion of battle while also telling a good story with a powerful emotional impact” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverMeetings in no man’s land : Christmas 1914 and fraternization in the Great War / Marc Ferro … [et al.] ; translations by Helen McPhail.
“In the winter of 1914, after long months of marching, soldiers on both fronts began to dig trenches and the war became a battle of attrition in which ordinary men faced each other across the bombed mud of No Man’s Land. The enemy lines were often no more than a few yards away, the soldiers of both sides in equal desperation, surrounded by carnage and horror. Out of this hardship came a shared feeling which was demonstrated in the unofficial armistice of Christmas 1914, when German and English soldiers laid down their weapons for a blessed moment of peace, played football and swapped food.
In this book, four international experts look at the story of Christmas 1914 and the evidence that fraternization was far more common than previously accepted. Using new research, the book explores these brief moments of humanity on all fronts and throughout the conflict, and shows them to have been not only prevalent but also vital, long ignored, factor in the war. For the French, defending their home territory, fraternization was the last taboo and until now omitted from the record.
Meetings in No Man’s Land reveals a story of the Great War that has long been forgotten or lost in censored official reports or officer journals, and brings new light to the harrowing experience of the ordinary soldier’s life in the trenches.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe Great War handbook [electronic resource] : a guide for family historians & students of the conflict / Geoff Bridger ; foreword by Cornelli Barnett.
“Geoff Bridger’s The Great War Handbook answers many of the basic questions newcomers ask when confronted by this enormous and challenging subject not only what happened and why, but what was the Great War like for ordinary soldiers who were caught up in it. He describes the conditions the soldiers endured, the deadly risks they ran, their daily routines and the small roles they played in the complex military machine they were part of. His comprehensive survey of every aspect of the soldier’s life, from recruitment and training, through the experience of battle and its appalling aftermath, is an essential guide for students, family historians, teachers and anyone who is eager to gain an all-round understanding of the nature of the conflict. His authoritative handbook gives a fascinating insight into the world of the Great War – it is a basic book that no student of the subject can afford to be without.” (Syndetics summary)

ANZAC Day – Your Ancestors’ Military Past

GenealogyInterested in researching your family history?
From time to time we’ll be posting genealogy facts and advice here on the News Blog.
For other blog entries on genealogy, click on the tag “genealogy” at the bottom of this post.

Australians and New Zealanders know ANZAC day – 25th April – as a national day of remembrance to honour members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I.

Did you have a relative who took part in WW1? Would you like to read their Military Personnel Record?

Military records can provide amazing details for genealogists, especially ages and places of birth, while they can also expand family histories with information about campaigns, conduct and even physical descriptions of ancestors.

Continue reading “ANZAC Day – Your Ancestors’ Military Past”