The End of the War? our new audio-visual exhibition showcasing the effect of the First World War on New Zealanders opened today. This final episode in Chapters of the Great War – created by Story Inc and Dusk – was conceived as an inter-generational conversation about the war. The descendants of eight New Zealanders who were involved in the First World War in different ways talk about its impact on their ancestors, and on the generations that followed.
Today, national media attended the opening and interviewed some of the show participants about their experiences.
Ashley Mackenzie-White, whose great granduncle William Arthur Ham was the first New Zealand soldier killed in the First World War (in the Middle East) is one of the eight descendants who speaks in the show. Here’s short snippet of her contribution.
The End of the War? looks at the war-time experiences of men and women, Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika and Asian. The feelings engendered by the war are as varied as the experiences of those who lived it — nurses, ambulance drivers, patriotic supporters, conscientious objectors, wounded soldiers and those killed in action.
Private Frank William Tararo from the Cook Islands served in the Maori battalion and lost an arm. He was the only one of 500 to return to the islands after the war. His granddaughter, Tui Tararo, says, “I have to think about my sons and my daughter. I would probably be the parent that would be standing there saying ‘No, this is not our war.’”
New Zealand’s most famous conscientious objector, Archibald Baxter was one of four New Zealand pacifists who were physically forced to go to the front. His great-grandson Jack Baxter comments, “I’ve always found ANZAC Day quite challenging growing up… and that’s not because I don’t think that we should be remembering or commemorating World War One — I absolutely think we should be, to learn those lessons.”
Hugo Manson, son of Cecil Manson, who was only 19 years old at Gallipoli, reflects upon his father’s experience. “Not to go, is not to support, or not to be helping, what a lot of other people have no choice being a part of.”
Māori Member of Parliament Sir Maui Pomare and his influential wife Lady Miria were at the forefront of the Māori and Pacific Islands contribution to the war. Sir Maui was Chairman of the Maori Recruiting Board responsible for recruiting the Māori Battalion, and visited the Cook Islands to recruit the Rarotongan Contingent. Lady Miria launched the Maori Soldiers’ Fund in 1915, which provided comforts to Māori soldiers overseas.
“I’m sure there were regrets,” her great-granddaughter, Miria Pomare says. “She had a real empathy, as Sir Maui did, with the Waikato people, the Taranaki people — his people — who struggled with the notion of sending their sons to fight a pākehā war on the other side of the world. When those lists of Māori deaths were first released, I think that she and Maui would have felt a very very personal and deep sense of loss.”
Story Inc.’s blog post about the exhibition is here.
Leading up to commemorations of Armistice Day in November, this exhibition is a reminder that although the Great War ended, its effect on New Zealand society did not.
The End of the War? runs until late November 2018. To book general admission to the main exhibition, a guided tour, a Quinn’s Post Trench Experience, or a combo ticket for all three, please click here.