The art of war: the First World War in paintings, photographs, posters and cartoons

By 1916 Britain, Australia and Canada had each established official war art programmes to document their country’s activities in the First World War and to use for propaganda purposes. Muirhead Bone was appointed Britain’s first official war artist in May of that year in an unprecedented act of government sponsorship for the arts. New Zealand lagged behind its allies on this issue because its wartime government considered war art unnecessary and expensive, but in April 1918 Nugent Welch was taken on as New Zealand’s divisional war artist.

Art:
Syndetics book coverArt from the First World War.
“Throughout World War I, the British government employed a diverse group of artists to produce a rich visual record of wartime events. But the art from this important collection often far exceeds this objective, giving voice to both the artist and the soldiers who are depicted. Art from the First World War contains more than fifty images chosen from among the Imperial War Museum’s impressive collection of works by war artists. Art from the First World War features some of the most well-known British artists of the twentieth century, from the brothers John and Paul Nash to William Orpen, Stanley Spencer, and John Singer Sargent, whose Gassed shows a line of wounded soldiers blinded by a mustard gas attack. On the occasion of the centenary, the Imperial War Museum is bringing this book out in a new edition.” (Syndetics summary)

Portraits:
Historically portraits of military leaders were more common then the portraits of the ordinary serviceman. The depictions of other aspects of war such as the suffering of casualties and civilians has taken much longer to develop.

Syndetics book coverThe Great War in portraits / Paul Moorhouse ; with an essay by Sebastian Faulks.
“In viewing the Great War through the portraits of those involved, Paul Moorhouse looks at the bitter-sweet nature of a conflict in which valour and selfless endeavour were qualified by disaster and suffering, and examines the notion of identity – how various individuals associated with the war were represented and perceived.” (Syndetics)

Women artists:
There were no officially commissioned women war artists in the First World War. Women artists were excluded from the front line – the fields of domesticity and social and industrial subjects were considered to be their metier. However women served as nurses, nurse aides and ambulance drivers. Many of them were accomplished informal artists and were able to record their experiences in several mediums.

 

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Left: ‘A Grenadier Guardsman’ by William Orpen, 1917. Right: ‘A bus conductress’ by Victoria Monkhouse, 1919.

Syndetics book coverBeyond the battlefield : women artists of the two World Wars
“World Wars I and II changed the globe on a scale never seen before or since, and from these terrible conflicts came an abundance of photographs, drawings, and other artworks attempting to make sense of the turbulent era. In this generously illustrated book, Catherine Speck provides a fascinating account of women artists during wartime in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and their visual responses to war, both at the front lines and on the home front. In addition to following high-profile artists such as American photographer Lee Miller, Speck recounts the experiences of nurses, voluntary aides, and ambulance drivers who found the time to create astonishing artworks in the midst of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Posters:
Posters were recognised as a powerful recruiting tool with simple slogans and strong graphic imagery designed to appeal to the working class who fuelled so much of the machinery of war. They were also used to stir up patriotic feeling, influence women to send their menfolk to the front and to take up positions in service, farms and factories. They were also used to justify the war, raise money, procure resources and to promote good standards of behaviour.

Syndetics book coverBritish posters of the First World War
“During the First World War the authorities emulated the simple slogans and strong graphic imagery of advertising posters to create a form of mass communication that was easily and instantly understood by the British public. They were aimed at the mostly illiterate working class who did more than their share to feed the machinery of war. This book looks at the art of these posters and explores the themes that emerged throughout the course of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Photography:
Photography in the First World War was made possible by earlier developments in chemistry and in the manufacture of glass lenses, established as a practical process from the 1850s onwards.The ability of photographers to document events was limited to what they could literally see at a certain time, while the quality of their work was hampered by the limited manoeuverability of their equipment. War artists had much greater flexibility as documenters of war, particularly in the difficult conditions of the trenches.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in colour : the definitive illustrated history with over 200 remarkable full colour photographs
“Up to now, World War I has only been seen in black and white. At the time, it was the only way pictures from the front and scenes recreated for the camera could be filmed. Now, for the first time, rare archive footage in black and white from worldwide sources, including Russia, Germany, France, Italy, the USA and the Imperial War Museum, London, has been recast into colour with the greatest care and attention to detail. The results are breathtaking, bringing a remarkable immediacy and poignancy to the war which consumed the lives of 10 million soldiers and civilians.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverImages of war : World War One : a photographic record of New Zealanders at war 1914-1918
“In this photographic collection from the archives of the Waiouru Army Museum, renowned military historian Glyn Harper has selected and annotated the story of Kiwis at the front during the First World War.” (Syndetics)

Cartoons:
For many confronted with the effects or aftermath of the war’s violence, photos were too graphic for daily consumption. Caricatures and cartoons served as a release valve—allowing citizens to make fun of politicians, or the enemy, to offset the dire realities of the day. The period was a high point for illustrated magazines, and cartoons were contemporary commentaries.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in cartoons
“Using images from a wide variety of international wartime magazines, newspapers, books, postcards, posters and prints, Mark Bryant tells the history of World War I from both sides of the conflict in an immediate and refreshing manner that brings history alive. The book contains more than 300 cartoons and caricatures, in colour and black and white, many of which are published here in book form for the first time. Artists featured include such famous names as Bruce Bairnsfather, H.M.Bateman, F.H.Townshend, Alfred Leete, E.J. Sullivan, Lucien Metivet and Louis Raemaekers, with drawings from the Bystander, London Opinion, Daily Graphic, Punch, Le Rire, Simplicissimus and Kladderadatsch amongst many others.” (Syndetics)

Art and medicine:
Drawings, portraits and photographs were used to help the four pioneering plastic surgeons of the two world wars to reconstruct the faces of disfigured servicemen and civilians.

Syndetics book coverReconstructing faces : the art and wartime surgery of Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe & Mowlem
“The two world wars played an important role in the evolution of plastic and maxillofacial surgery in the first half of the 20th century. This book is about four of the key figures involved. Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe were born in Dunedin; McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, and Henry Pickerill was foundation Dean of the University of Otago Dental School.” (Syndetics)

How the First World War shaped the future of Western art:
The First World War utterly changed the way artists looked at the world. Throughout Western art, the grim realities of industrial warfare led to a backlash against the propaganda and grandiose nationalism that had sparked the conflagration. Cynicism toward the ruling classes and disgust with war planners and profiteers led to demands for art forms that were honest and direct, less embroidered with rhetoric and euphemism.

Syndetics book coverEsprit de corps : the art of the Parisian avant-garde and the First World War, 1914-1925
“In analyzing the changes in modern art between the outbreak of World War I and the Paris Exposition des Arts Dcoratifs of 1925, Kenneth Silver shows that the Parisian avant-garde was deeply involved in French society and its dominant values and relationships. He radically reinterprets masterpieces of modern art, from Matisse and Picasso to Léger and Le Corbusier, demonstrating how their creators all refer, consciously or not, to the Great War and its aftermath.” (Syndetics)

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

 

Nursing our boys: a Kiwi aboard the first hospital ship

Nurses RegisterCharlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais is a distant relative of mine, who joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. Her registration details can be found in the New Zealand Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933, from the Ancestry database (available in-library only. Check out our Genealogy page for further information). She was one of fourteen nursing sisters who were selected for the first voyage of Hospital Ship No. 1 (the ‘Maheno’), which left Wellington 10 July 1915, and was bound for Gallipoli.

Here is a photograph of the ship in the 14 July 1915 issue of The New Zealand Herald, retrieved for the PapersPast database accessible from our Newspapers and History database pages. The page is full of War-related articles, a year into the 4 year campaign. (Click on the image to enlarge)New Zealand Herald, July 14, 1915 SMALL

Lottie completed her voyage, and was posted to the retired list 21 June 1916. On her return to New Zealand, she married her fiancé, Charles Gardner, with whom she had two children. Lottie died in 1956.

Two of Lottie’s four brothers served in WWI – Leddra (Leddie), who was killed in action at Gallipoli 23 July 1915, and Owen, who fought in France, and survived the war to return home.

A book was written about Lottie, and this is in our collections:

Lottie: Gallipoli Nuse coverLottie : Gallipoli nurse / text by John Lockyer ; illustrations by Alan Barnett.
“An extraordinary account of a nurse’s journey to Gallipoli aboard the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno. Her experiences include caring for the wounded and coping with the death of her brother Leddie, who was killed in action. Based on the letters of Lottie and Leddie Le Gallais and the war diary of John Duder.” (Syndetics summary)

Other titles

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses / Peter Rees.
“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. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.” (Syndetics summary)

White Ships coverThe white ships : New Zealand’s First World War hospital ships / Gavin McLean.
“In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these ‘mercy ships’ and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries.” (Syndetics summary)

“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.

World War I online resources for children Part 3

Over the next year many schools will have a World War One focus, requiring children to research some aspect of the war, or the war time era. The list of potential topics is long and the sheer amount of information available out there can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to know where to find reliable information that is age-appropriate for your children. Here we have created a guide to reputable online resources that are suitable for children. This is the final of three parts published in this series. They will soon be available as resources on one page, which we will provide a link to once it has gone live.

Primary Sources


Moule, D, fl 1919. Moule, D, fl 1919 :Record of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War. 4th Aug. 1914 [to] 28th June 1919 / D Moule del. Published by the Government Life Insurance Department. [ca 1919].. Ref: Eph-D-WAR-WI-1919-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22790825

— Christchurch City Libraries has a online digital archive of primary resources: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/DigitalCollection/WarsandConflicts/WorldWarI/

— DigitalNZ is an online resource for images and other media: http://www.digitalnz.org/ Use their search box to find World War One (or Great War) media.

— Papers past is a digital archive of New Zealand Newspapers: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast Search for World War One, Great War, or individual battles and campaigns. You can limit the results by date, region and title of publication.

General World War One sites


Ian McGibbon. ‘First World War’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Nov-12 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/first-world-war

— BBC: http://www.bbc.com/ww1
— BBC Schools page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/
— Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/first-world-war
— New Zealand History: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/first-world-war
— WW100: http://ww100.govt.nz/
— Imperial War Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk/
— FirstWorldWar.com: http://www.firstworldwar.com/
— Archives New Zealand: http://archives.govt.nz/world-war-one
— The British Library: http://www.bl.uk/world-war-one
— National Library New Zealand: http://natlib.govt.nz/ww100

Children are also welcome to chat live with an online librarian, who will help them with their research and finding online resources. AnyQuestions is a government-funded homework help service for New Zealand School Students. It’s open 1pm – 6pm Monday to Friday: http://www.anyquestions.co.nz

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)