Thursday, 18 April 2013

ANZAC Day Remembrance 25th April 2013


New Zealand troops marching through Whitehall London
towards Trafalgar Square during The Victory March
on the 3rd May 1919. All these buildings survived World
War Two bombs and are still extant today.
 [From a photograph in my collection]

ANZAC Day, being the 25th of April, again marks that day when the Sovereign nations of Australia and New Zealand both commemorate those servicemen and servicewomen who have served and also fallen in military operations for their respective countries. The date itself is significant as being the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula during "The Great War" [World War One] in 1915. My previous Blog on ANZAC Day can be viewed HERE.

The image featured above shows New Zealand troops marching through Whitehall London during the Victory March of British, Commonwealth and Allied servicemen through London which took place on the 3rd May 1919. My own Uncle appears to have taken part in this march. The route passed a dais in front of Buckingham Palace where His Majesty King George V reviewed the passing servicemen. You can view a cine film showing excerpts from the Victory March HERE.


Men of the Otago & Southland 7th Reinforcements being farewelled
at Dunedin Railway Station, June 1915. My own Great Uncle is
amongst those standing in the rain. Many of these men would
not return home. The still extant McCarthy's Building on the
corner of Castle Street and Lower Stuart Street is just
visible at upper left.
[Otago Witness Photo]

"When we got to Dunedin [from Invercargill] we were marched round several of the streets there and then halted with the Dunedin quota in front of the railway station where we were officially farewelled by the mayor and council etc. We then joined a troop train which took us straight to Lyttleton, picking up several more lots of troops at Oamaru, Timaru, and Ashburton. During the run we had lunch and tea on the train consisting of sandwiches, meat pies and tea." [Jack Watson from Heddon Bush, Southland, writing from Trentham Camp in June 1915]


The 40th Reinforcements being farewelled at Dunedin Railway Station
in 1918. My own Uncle appears 3rd from left in the centre of the
forward group. These men would all safely return to New Zealand.
[From my own collection]

"The routine of each day is something like this - Reveille at 6am, Parade for physical drill 6.30, Breakfast 7.30, Morning parade for squad drill 9, Dinner 12, Afternoon parade for squad drill 1.30, Dismiss 4.30, tea 5.30, Lights out 10.15 p.m. In the middle of the forenoon and afternoon there is always a spell for 15 minutes so you see we are not very hard worked though for a few days one feels his back a little sore.... In the way of food we are well treated. The supply is plentiful and the quality surprisingly good considering the difficulties in the way. At reveille there is coffee for those who wish it, for breakfast Porridge (without milk), stew, bread, butter and tea. Dinner : tea, bread butter cheese and jam. Tea : Roast beef or mutton, potatoes, tea, bread and butter. The meals are served in the tents and two men are detailed each day to bring them from the cookhouse wash the dishes etc...." [Jack Watson writing on the 21st June 1915]


The 'Tent City' that was Trentham Military Training Camp in 1915.
The only permanent buildings appears to be service buildings.
At left rear can be seen Trentham Racecourse.
[From my own collection]

"Until a few days ago it has been wet and unsettled here too ever since we came and things have been very disagreeable with mud and slush etc. It has also been playing the deuce with the men’s health too and almost everyone has been more or less affected with colds, sore throat’s etc. None of the tents of the 7th have been fitted with wooden floors and with men sleeping on the damp earth the surprising thing is that matters are not worse than they are. I suppose you will see that there is some commotion in parliament over the matter and we occasionally hear rumours of a fortnight’s general leave but I expect these are merely camp fables which have no foundation. At the same time the condition of the men seems to be causing them some uneasiness. On Friday afternoon, the Minister of Defence was in the camp fossicking around, yesterday Massey [Prime Minister of New Zealand], Rhodes [Minister for Public Health] and a few more were here and I understand that Massey and Allan & Joe Ward [Joseph Ward - Leader of the opposition Liberal Party] are back again today." [Jack Watson writing mid-winter on the 4th July 1915]

My Great Uncle John (Jack) Watson never fought overseas as he died of cerebro-spinal meningitis on the 14th September 1915, having contracted the disease during training when he volunteered to look after others carrying the disease. He was given a full military funeral.


Trentham Military Camp, New Zealand, c.1917.
At right can be seen part of the Trentham Racecourse track
with the Hutt River just visible in the background.
[Commercial tinted photo - From my own collection]

By 1917-18, Trentham Camp had been largely transformed from the 'tent city' we could see in the 1915 image further above to the rather more permanent camp of wooden huts we can see directly above. I myself spent some weeks "residing" in one these original huts in 1975, at that time being used as a Government Service Hostel.


Ready to Fight for King and Country - New Zealand troops in training
at Trentham Camp, 1918. My own Uncle appears 3rd from left. Fourth
from left at rear is his neighbour, Martin Patrick Forde. These men
would travel to England but be spared the bloodshed of war at the
 eleventh hour. The shorts are summer non-combat attire.
[From my own collection]

For many, "The Great War" was an adventure, but for most their desire to fight for King and country was unquestioning. Compulsory military conscription was not introduced in New Zealand until the 10th June 1916. My own Uncle commenced training at Trentham Camp in April 1918 and was completing final training at Sling Camp in England when the First World War ended at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month [1918]". He told me as late as 1982 [the year of his death] that he was sorry that he had not gotten to fight. Other than Serbia, New Zealand had the highest casualty and death rate per capita of any country involved in The Great War.


Time for a smoke on board the "SS Athenic"
[From my own collection]

"We left New York in the afternoon and steamed away out in a great hurry. We were all very sorry to leave N.Y. so soon and everyone was downhearted but towards dusk when there were still no boats in sight she turned around and the yarn soon got around that we had missed the convoy and were hopping it back to New York. Pleased! ... We got leave every day till Friday and crammed into those few days car rides, pictures, long rides on overhead and sub-way railways, theatres, & rides to the top of high buildings and could walk around on top and gaze down on the little specks of motor cars below and smaller black dots for people. On Friday we had a route march to Central Park and back headed by American Brass and Pipe bands and the Yanks were delighted. A moving cinema took is from quite close as we marched past and the picture is to be sent to all the principle towns in New Zealand so if you watch out you can hardly help seeing Fordie [Martin Patrick Forde] and I, we are right near the front." [My Uncle writing in 1918. Both my Uncle and Martin Forde were neighbours in the country area of Heddon Bush in Southland]


Sling Camp, Salisbury Plains, England, 1918
[Postcard photo from my own collection]

"We sailed into Liverpool on Saturday, the last day in August. We were not there very long and it looks a very smoky show. We were put aboard a troop train, cross compartments with a door opening out on each side, eight to each compartment, 3rd class and quite as comfortable at New Zealand first class.... We got here at 9.30 on Saturday night and were divided into our different draft, allotted our huts, given a feed - the first feed since morning - at a quarter to twelve and got to bed at 1am..." [My Uncle writing on the 4th September 1918]


The YMCA [Young Men's Christian Assoc.] Games Room
at Sling Camp, Bulford, Salisbury Plain, England.
[Postcard from my own collection]

"There are New Zealand soldiers from different reinforcements in this camp, all Otago men, some on leave, some just out of hospital and some waiting to go back to N.Z. I think we will have two or three months training here at the least...." [My Uncle writing on the 4th September 1918].   


Uniformed men and women being transported on a military
 troop transport truck, taken in England circa 1918.
[From my own collection]

The above photograph is interesting as it portrays uniformed New Zealand soldiers as well as uniformed women being carried on a troop transport truck in England. I believe the women could be members of the "Women's Army Auxiliary Corps" [WAAC], having been formed in July 1917. Can anyone confirm this? The women were however non-combatant, serving as cooks, waitresses, clerks and telephonists. They performed a valuable service by releasing able-bodied men in the forces for combat.


Two unknown New Zealand servicemen
having the obligatory photo taken in
Egypt, c.1915-16
[From my own collection]

The above photo is also rather interesting as the striking looking gentleman on the right would strongly appear to be New Zealand Māori. Could this photograph be taken after the Pioneer Māori Battalions were re-organised in February 1916 into four battalions together with the remnants of the New Zealand Otago Mounted Rifles? Unfortunately there are no visible badges however the young man on the left would almost definitely have come from Southland so a link to the Otago Mounted Rifles is certainly possible. I would be very interested in any further information concerning this fascinating photograph. A link to my email address appears at right or you can place a comment at the bottom of this page.

"Zeitoun [Camp near Cairo, Egypt] 1st Aug 1915, We do most of our training in the mornings and evenings, as it is too hot during the day. It never rains..." [H. George Simpson]  

"The Desert, Egypt, 2nd April 1916, ...We are out in the desert among the flies, the heat and the sand and we enjoy life immensely..." [H. George Simpson]

Although badly wounded, H. George Simpson, being a family relative, returned home after recuperating initially at Malta [known as "The Nurse of the Mediterranean" on account of the number of servicemen who recuperated there] then at the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital at "Grey Towers" in Hornchurch, England. 


New Zealand troops sightseeing in London -
taken at The Albert Memorial, c.1918-19.
[From my own collection]

"Grantham [England] 24 Oct 1917. Dear Friend, ...I am leaving for the front this evening, going with a large draft of machine gunners. I don't know what my luck is to be this time, just as well I don't perhaps but will consider myself lucky if I get wounded and be returned to England. The New Zealand troops have had very heavy casualties on the western front, I think the people in N.Z. will be very annoyed the way their troops have been stuck into it.... W.L.A. [William (Bill) Andrews]"

William (Bill) Lowe Andrews, also a neighbour at Heddon Bush in Southland New Zealand, survived the war.




"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old :
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them."

From "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon (1914) 


Credits :

Unless otherwise stated all images and excerpts are from my own collection and may be freely copied for personal use provided a link is given back to this page. Commercial use is prohibited without my express written permission.

2 comments:

  1. Well written, thank you. I am very ambivalent about celebrating the glories of ANZAC Day. Yes those young boys (18 is a baby, really) were passionate about serving king and country. And yes they were very brave leaving the safety of home for goodness knows what tragedies overseas.

    But extraordinary bravery and self sacrifice only applied to people who willingly volunteered. The concept of conscripting everyone, and gaoling those who did not, was immoral and degrading. In the British army at least, young boys who left the trenches from shell shock were taken by their own commanders and put in No Man's Land for German guns to massacre.

    I also wonder what sort of welcome home the physically and mentally injured boys got in 1919. See The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson which provides good quality research on the topic.

    Thanks for the link,
    Hels
    Art and Architecture, mainly

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Hels. I do also perceive, particularly in rural country areas, that the expectation was that any young fit man should sign up. They were made a great fuss of and given expensive gifts but many young men must have felt put under extreme pressure from public expectations. I did try and write this Blog primarily based on what the men themselves said rather than my thoughts. But yes, the devastation of injury, mental or physical, and integrating back into "normal" life must have proved extremely difficult for some after experiencing such horrors. I wish I had had some extant correspondence that covered this subject. Sounds like a very interesting book reference, thank you.

    ReplyDelete

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