Games on NZ troop ship WWI by Flickr

WW100: Finding Our Way Back

The WW100 Centenary Programme, which was created by the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage to commemorate the 2014-2019 centenary of the First World War, is winding up at the end of June.

Over the course of the 5 year centenary the programme office has supplied posters and resources to libraries, museums, archives and other institutions engaged with the commemorations. The programme has been reflective of New Zealand’s experience of the First World War on the battlefields of Turkey, Europe and Middle East, and on the home front. It has addressed different themes of the experiences of the War over the 2014–2019 period:

  • 2014 - Duty and adventure
  • 2015 - The Anzac connection
  • 2016 - Transition - a national war effort
  • 2017 - The grind of war
  • 2018 - The darkness before the dawn
  • 2019 - Finding our way back

The WW100 Final Report revealed that almost all New Zealanders had engaged with the First World War centenary in some way, most commonly by attending an exhibition at a museum or gallery. Anzac Day 2019 was the final commemorative event of the programme and the theme was Finding our way back. This focused on the returning nurses and soldiers and their journey back to civilian life. Support was provided from the government who set up a programme of training, loans, land settlements, pensions, and rehabilitation schemes. 

The Armistice of 11 November after Germany's surrender in 1918  marked the end of fighting for all nations but not the end of the war. This only happened with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919, a peace treaty which placed a crippling economic burden on Germany, and which ultimately became a major cause of the Second World War. After the end of fighting New Zealand troops were quartered in Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain in southern England, where they waited for transport home. The Bulford Kiwi: The Kiwi We Left Behind by Colleen Brown relates the story of the construction of the Bulford Kiwi, a project set up to occupy the frustrated troops in the camp, which became both an emblem of home and a monument to the lost soldiers.

One of the WW100 legacy projects is Nga Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails, which are guides to historic landscapes and sites of the First World War. Beginning in 2011, The Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association have jointly produced a series of authoritative print histories on New Zealand and the First World War. These include New Zealand's Western Front Campaign by Dr Ian McGibbon, New Zealand's First World War Heritage by Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge, Whitiki!: Maori in the First World War by Dr Monty Soutar, and With Them Through Hell : New Zealand Medical Services in the First World War by Anna Rogers (shortlisted for the 2019 New Zealand Ockham Book Awards).

Other publications include: 

Le Quesnoy 1918: New Zealand's Last Battle by Christopher Pugsley is a definitive account of the New Zealand Division's last and most successful action in the war, the capture of the French town of Le Quesnoy.  ANZAC by Laurence Aberhart is a comprehensive photographic record of 50 New Zealand 'Digger' memorials. The Onward Project has published 4 volumes of photographs, totalling around 16,000 portraits, of members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. It aims to locate and publish a photograph of every member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who served overseas during the First World War 1914 - 18, and is currently working on volume 5. Finally, if you haven't managed to see the First World War exhibition at Te Papa,  Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War, there is still time as it has been extended to Anzac Day 2022.