June 2, 2015
May 1915, First Reaction to Gallipoli
It's not until the 5th of May that the First casualty lists are published. This brings a speech by the Mayor, and another response to the list of casualities arriving in New Zealand. And the Prime Minister says "they have died for the greatest cause possible - for their country." Wounded are being taken to Malta. We finally get a detailed account of the landing on the 8th of May, via England. This is life before the internet, and the newspapers play a very different role from today. There are people waiting for news at the office. Then the next major details were on the 20th. This one has much less of an 'of course we will win' tone. Perhaps the most unexpected thing about the early reports, is the way only the officers are reported by name. And later on, those that die of wounds are reported before those who die on the battlefield, as the hospital ship staff have more time to make lists, and presumably find it easier to pass them on to people with telegraphs.
Italy has declared war on Austria. Which isn't much of a surprise (they've been talking about it for ages). Though with so many Allies I feel surprised that they took so long to win the war. Britain has reorganised its war cabinet. Mr Churchill is now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have no idea what that might entail... They've held the Women's peace conference, just as the war seems to be settling into a no one will talk to each other so we just have to fight to the end phase.
The Maori contingent is being sent to Malta. Though apparently they are impressive enough that the British now think they would be better as reinforcements in Gallipoli. Reinforcements are being asked for, as the rate of enlistment isn't as high as the Government wants. Pressure is mounting on men of enlistment age who are still in NZ. There is a suggestion that a 'bantam' regiment should be formed for smaller men who can't get into the army with the current rules. There is also the vexed case of men who really want to go, but don't meet the medical criteria. One bloke suggests a badge for those medically ineligable (including those who need glasses, though not those who need dentures).
It's funny, every now and then I hit an article at which I burst into tears. This tiny note records the death of Colonel Doughty-Wiley - who was a major figure in a biography I read recently of Gertrude Bell, and extraordinary English woman who was active in Egypt and Arabia during and after the war. His death affected her greatly, and due to the effect of pacing the development of the war through the papers, it's almost like he's just died. And then, this one about Private Newman, who was a civil engineer and played for the Oriental Rugby club and Hawkes Bay.
In terms of how people deal with it (publically) at the time, there are many mentions of fighting for civilisation, and for freedom, but themes of duty are also strong. In this case, a father commends his son for fighting for God, King, and Empire.
The Lusitania has been sunk by German submarines. This is massively problematic, as there were over 2000 civilians on board, over half of whom died. The German position appears to be that they thought there was ammunition on board. I'm struggling to see that as adequate justification for attacking unannounced (telling the boat you're going to sink it so everyone can get into the lifeboats seems to be relatively regular practice). Letters to the Editor are starting to get a nasty tone.
The tattered remains of the ensign from the New Zealand have arrived in the country.
The Government has increased the pay of married soldiers, at least partly to encourage them to go. This seems the least they can do when there is no free government-provided way to even send telegrams to wounded soldiers. One of the schemes for funding wounded soldiers is to seal your letters with a stamp that you buy in addition to the stamps you need for postage. Though Massey is starting to talk about giving land to soldiers.
Chinese and opium. It must be over half the reporting of the very small Chinese population in Wellington relates to opium or gambling. It's also reported if opium is discovered in Napier. Meanwhile rude stories are described as 'dreary filth' by a judge. Two internees escape from Somes, and are then recaptured.
From the local news tidbits desk, the BNZ building on Lambton Quay is having alterations. This is a report on all the local schools, including an early meeting regarding Berhampore school. And the acclimatisation society want to introduce salmon to the Hutt river. (The acclimatisation society seems to mostly be concerned with the quality and numbers of the already introduced species.)
Meanwhile, an emphatic statement that we should keep our windows open at night to provide fresh air. So much for insulation.
May 19, 2015
April 1915, and Gallipoli
I was not expecting to read that there was an earlier engagement in the Dardanelles. Or of this later one. News of nurses carying wounded under fire. The Maori contingent has arrived in Cairo. 50 Nurses have left for England. Gas is being discussed and later reports of it being used (also gas bombs). It is worth remembering that the Germans at this point believe the British are attempting to starve them out. Which they are. Lloyd George has a long, reported speech in which he wants the Government to assume arbitration of labour and reduce the availability of liquor. Its an interesting read, and a beautifully constructed argument. He also covers an ironic point of wanting to save Germany from her militaristic elements, which would become ascendant if Germany wins. Some details about reduction of liquor.
This article about life at Threntham Camp is well worth reading for the insane purple prose as the relatively extensive description of the training camp. A reprint of a 'valuable little guide' for troops in Egypt. Most of the men sent to Samoa have returned. Many have chosen to accept discharge, but generally so they get 4 weeks off, and receive all their pay. Most are planning to reenlist.
The Pankhurts are disagreeing about the Women's Peace Conferece. But it goes ahead (despite difficulties travelling to Belgium). Women are being employed as porters. The wives of soldiers are being helped by (yet another) philanthropic society, as they are sometimes living within a much smaller budget and are parted from their husbands.
There has been an anti-German riot in Wanganui which involved an attack on a Hallenstein Bros shop. The police and Mayor attempted to stop the riot, the Mayor imploring the rioters to "be British".
Interesting summary of which official communiques to believe.
Lovely nostalgic piece which has actual information about Plimmer's Ark (the house in this case, not the boat), just as it is being destroyed. New police station planned in Lambton Quay (it has a cycle stall in the basement and a billiard room). Inconsistent sentencing - interesting insight into penalties. Followed by a summary of the state of prison labour and the Wellington prisons (Terrace is due to be closed, Mt Cook is temprary, and Crawford is still being built). There are plans to use prison labour to complete the road round the peninsular. Precursor to building the Cable Car, suggestions to make an electric lift to the top of the Terrace. Like they have for the "tube" in London. Though you might not want to use it if the city's electricity fails. We nearly had Wednesday off instead of Saturday.
So, that's most of April. Then, in the last few days, we have Gallipoli.
I didn't actually read a newspaper for ANZAC day, as no Wellington dailies were printed (it being a Sunday). It takes a while for the news to filter through, which is pretty surreal given the various comemorations going on in Wellington at this time. I'm very aware that the immediate experience of ANZAC day in 1915 was going about your business as usual. Possibly given the timezone delay, and difficulties with communications, news doesn't really hit till the 28th.
The newspapers are providing what information they can, which includes A Map. But they have very little news. But we're celebrating anyway. And reading glowing report about the Canadians near Ypres. a lot. It provides some interesting context for how New Zealanders approached assessing our work in Turkey, the Canadians saw major action just before the ANZACs did.
And, in the background of this (in addition to a spectacular mess in Mexico which is all but invisible), we have reports of an massacre in Armenia.
April 04, 2015
March has been yet more of the same. New news is mostly about the bombardment of the Dardanelles by the (mostly) British fleet. They are reported as making short work of the Turkish forts and clearing mines successfully. It's becomming obvious that the New Zealand troops are going to end up on the peninsular, but people refrain from saying anything about it. The war in Europe is crawling along, with most battles being fought over tiny bits of land - a few miles here, a few there.
First mention I've seen of the ANZEF being referred to as the ANZAC. Summary of clothes issues to soldiers (only one pair of pants that I can see). The troops march through Wellington a fair bit, and there is usually a long march before they head off anywhere. This describes the new troops heading for Samoa, they're 40-47 years old and many are veterans of the Boer War.
Turkish news (they're a mess). A fair example of coverage of the bombardment of the Turkish forts on the Dardenelles. Further updates (includes mention of 200 Armenians arrested for plotting against the Young Turks). First mention I've seen of a land invasion of the Dardanelles. British war ships "dash through the narrows". That'll be the last of the news for a while though, as the British Admiral has requested "rigid censorship" (2nd article) over reporting of operations.
Account of the retreat from Aisne. And how the medical profession is responding to disease and parasites in the trenches. Not graphic - but grim nevertheless. Serviaseems to consistently have some of the worst conditions reported. Which is impressive given the mess in Belgium.
A distinctive feature of the coverage of the war is a series of shorter or longer articles about the Germans "hating" the British. At one level, they're reported like all the other news, and at another level, they seem blatantly propogandist to me - to the point where I've mostly stopped reading them. I read this one though, and it's a fair example. And this is a counter-point.
The war is causing prices to rise. It's difficult to tell how much this is actually affecting people, but this indicates how far it is beginning to bite. At least part of the problem is not enough wheat being grown in South Canterbury and North Otago.
Schemes are afoot to bring women into the workforce to fill places left by men enlisting. Harrod's have 'girls' working the lifts and packing parcels, but they're not yet sure if they are capable of slicing bacon.
In local news a man executed (hanged) at the Terrace Gaol. I went to the primary school which was built on the land the gaol occupied. Two internees escaped from Somes Island by swimming. Apparently they wanted to complain about being set to making roads. Plans for the brewery building which is now Thorndon New World supermarket. Manager of Huntly mine is being charged with manslaughter for not keeping health and safety to an adequate standard (later acquitted). Parliament buildings is being delayed by poor quality stone from Sandy Bay. Celebrations of St Patrick's day are mostly Catholic mass, a parade and a sports day and picnic at Newtown Park. Apprently Thermometers are not always reliable.
Kahanamoku continues to swim, and met Te Heu Heu, who called him a Honolulu Maori. The Polynesian Society appears to be entirely inhabited by Europeans. And bewilderingly, so does the Native Society. Urewera settlement welcomed by local Maori.
Fundraising for a recent Earthquake in Italy, note the Italian names in the list of donors.
In light of recent reporting of the anniversary of atrocities against Armenians, it is interesting to see reporting of a massacre of Armenians by Kurds. And a massacre of Assyrians and Christians by Turks and Kurds.
Applications for official news correspondent with the New Zealand troops were taken this month.
I'd never thought that the Jacobites had any interest in World War I, but apparently they found themselves in the awkward position of supporting Queen Mary of Bavaria as their rightful Sovereign.
A rare investigation of possible terms of peace.
March 03, 2015
This is actually published considerably after is was written, as my web hosting has been broken, and taken a long time to fix.
February continues the slightly distracted quality that January had. The war takes up about 1.5 pages of the newspaper, and it covers a range of topics which look sort of like this:
- The Western front (variations on carnage)
- The Eastern front (variations of carnage with less accurate reporting)
- The State of the Germans (variations on how weird or bellicose they are and how much they are suffering)
The New Zealand news covers details of enlistments and some slightly breathless coverage of their engagement with the Turks in Egypt. There is a fair amount of back-patting involved in this as we report as many positive statements about our troops as we can get our hands on.
Curiously, any bad behaviour of troops locally tends to make the news: `Rowdies in Uniform`.
A fair component of the news about the kiwi troops in Egypt is from personal letters which are somehow printed in the newspapers. This example covers local nightlife. In terms of coverage of soldier's lives, we have the occasional report of things such as A day in camp. From time to time we get updates about the garrison in Samoa or a sample of Life at the front.
Early mention of the Dardanelles as a target for the Allies.
The Government is trying to only take single men, as married men are more expensive.
Should the clergy fight? According to this article, yes.
Food. This is a longer version of what I have come to think of as `food stories`, with some interesting details about what the different troops `Is the Kaiser Sane?` and Diamond Jubilee. Also, a visiting Hawaian champion swimmer.
In non-military news:
- The war has implications for enemy nationals. If they're not interned, they sometimes still have significant difficulty getting by as they often can't find work, and they have difficulty leaving the country. Here's an example of a young man who would rather be interned.
- One of the striking differences between now and 100 years ago is the way they describe opportunities. For example, this description of the possibilities of Wairoa. But some details stay the same: fires near Blenheim.
- Oriental Bay sea wall approved. Fill to be provided by 'street sweepings'. And apparently the city occasionally suffers from "Fishy Water".
- Finally, I thought this captured the confusion many Pakeha had about Maori. This covers local Maori reacting to surveying in Rotorua. Predictable in hindsight.
February 03, 2015
Most of my January reading was from the Southland Times, Otago Daily Times and The Press. They're mostly the same, but there's something lovely about reading about events from 100 years ago as you go through the same landscape.
January sees the New Zealand troops settle into Egypt. There's a sort of tentative, jerky reporting about Egypt. The international news sources have a similar tone to other international news, so they're quite impersonal and terse. A fair bit of the reporting of the actual circumstances of the NZ troops is either official telegrams (terse) or personal letters from soldiers, which are intimate, informal, nervously cheerful and arrive 3 weeks after they were written. There's a definite sense of anticipation about a possible engagement with the Turkish army. The reporting of most things Turkish paints the Ottoman empire as basically already defunct. It is very easy to see how they thought an attempt to take the Dardanelles was a good idea.
The Western front doesn't seem to be moving at all, despite the carnage. I can't find most of the places in my 1907 Atlas. The reporting is down to such a small scale (a mile's movement here, two miles there) that it doesn't appear on my maps. I presume if I were living in 1915, I would have spent a morning at the city library by now and used a major atlas to look everything up. Which would help a little, but overall it is frustrating to not be able to see where anything is. I can see why some people had maps with pins in that they tracked events with. There is little reporting about the possible length of the war these days, though there is some reporting of offensives being planned for spring/summer.
Portugal has entered the war. The war in Africa is bigger than I had realised. It mostly being ignored, and what reporting there is is inevitably racist.
A small insight into the French response to the massive number of dead soldiers can be gauged by this report about flowers laid on graves for Toussaint. This happened in November, but was only reported here in January.
Mr Fisher (the Australian prime minister) is touring the country. His itinerary. The country is having much the same sort of summer we've had in 2015, except it is wetter in the deep south.
January 24, 2015
December - ends 1914
This post is very late due to being on holiday for weeks, with limited access to the internet.
In December the NZ Expedition force arrived in Egypt. They've set up camp there, at least partly in response to Turkey joining the enemy. There doesn't seem to be much functional support for Turkish rule in Egypt, which is presumably at least partly because the British have been administering Egypt for a while now.
The Eastern front appears to have bogged down in Poland and Austria. Austria doesn't appear to be making much progress in the Balkans. Russia is possibly making some progress against Turkey through the Caucasus, but the place names are all foreign, so it's difficult to tell for sure.
Locally, the holiday season has started. I've decided to read the local papers for the areas of the South Island I visited (a little in retrospect) as this seems to make sense within the parameters of the project. New Year's Eve celebrations in Nelson focus on a regimental band playing the old year out and the new year in between 11 pm and 12 am.
The other seasonal detail worth mentioning is the number of schools which hand out monetary prizes to scholars at the end of the year. Most of these are being donated by the children to Relief Funds for Belgian children, which is pretty awesome really. Especially considering the disruption many Belgian children must have had to their education due to the war.