I once read somewhere that if a country is invaded then it takes over a hundred years for the wounds to fully heal. It is as if occupying forces can leave invisible scars on the towns, cities, roads, bridges and fields. Once lost, innocence is difficult to regain.
Lemuel Lyes Collection
This banknote from my collection is Japanese occupation currency from the Second World War. It was printed for use in conquered territories and many believe that it was also intended for use in Australia and New Zealand. That assumption isn’t strictly correct as this banknote was actually issued for use in British Oceania (places like the Solomon Islands) but had the Japanese advance continued through to New Zealand then it is likely that similar banknotes would’ve been issued here too. Continue reading →
Today is a pretty big anniversary for history geeks, it is the 197th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. So yes, there will be some pretty big commemorations in another three years when the bicentenary rolls around. To mark this historic day I thought I’d post a bit of a guide for anyone who might make the pilgrimage to this iconic battlefield.
When I was a young history geek I used to associate with some rough-looking sorts who belonged to the local black-powder group. At the age of about fifteen I was taught to fire a musket. It is a skill that I haven’t yet found an everyday practical use for, but it offered a fascinating insight into a period of warfare that many people struggle to comprehend. Why are the soldiers wearing bright colours? Why do they just stand in a line like that? Why waste time carrying flags and blowing trumpets? Fire a musket and you’ll understand.
Fast forward a few years from those humble beginnings and as an “adult” I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Battlefield at Waterloo – the scene of the last and most iconic battle of the Napoleonic Wars. It was a fascinating trip to make and I urge anyone with an interest in history to put it on their bucket list. In case you do then here are a few hints from an experienced Waterloo veteran.
If you are traveling from Brussels then you’ll be wanting to get off at Waterloo – which isn’t nearly as well signposted as the more well-known Waterloo Station. Also trains in Belgium go rather fast so don’t fall asleep or you might end up in another country.
It is about a ten minute walk from the station to the town of Waterloo. If you read your history books then you will remember that the battle wasn’t actually fought at Waterloo, but nearby. While in the town pop into the information centre which will issue you with maps and across the road is the original inn that the Duke of Wellington used as his headquarters before the battle. It is now a fantastic museum where you can see the former resting place of Lord Uxbridge’s leg. Continue reading →
I’ve got an exciting series of posts coming up soon on life in wartime New Zealand including a guide to surviving aerial bombardments, a look at the threat of Japanese attacks and the resulting American invasion. Speaking of which – this month marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of American Forces in New Zealand during WW2.
The US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band are commemorating the anniversary by touring the country. They are mid-tour but still have some upcoming concerts in Auckland, the central North Island and Christchurch. If you can get along they look like a hoot.
Well so far I’ve lasted just over a whole month in the blogosphere so I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a bit of an update on the aim of this blog and some of the places I want to take you the readers in the next few months.
First of all thanks for the comments and encouragement – it is great to know that some of this geekery is of interest to others. It’s been interesting to see what topics have attracted the most attention, so far the most popular have been this one on what children can learn from collecting postage stamps and this write-up on the recent use of T-34 tanks. It is difficult to think of two more antipodal topics! That is the direction I intend to continue to take – an eclectic mix-mash of content all with a history bent.
There are plenty of exciting topics to look forward to in the upcoming months including more tales from maritime, military and New Zealand history, secret societies, gold rushes, shipwrecks, Nazis, postcards, menus and assorted ephemera; and practical self-help guides including ‘What to do if the Japanese attack Wellington’.
To update yesterday’s post – I’m pleased to say that despite snowing the night before the weather was perfect for budding astronomers. I spent the morning at the local observatory where both 19th and 21st century techniques were used to view the transit of Venus. It was a fantastic experience to observe the same event that once attracted so much scientific attention; and to get a firsthand perspective on the size of our solar system and our place in it.
Today is D-Day – the transit of Venus will be visible from New Zealand for the first time in 130 years. If you get the chance then I urge you to get out and take a look as you won’t live to have another opportunity. Just make sure that you don’t look directly at the sun (especially through binoculars or a telescope) without the proper protection. Visit this site for a good write-up on techniques you can use to watch the transit or go along to your local observatory. If the weather packs in then try watching it live online courtesy of NASA.
The transit of Venus has special historical significance to New Zealanders. In 1769 the Royal Society sent none other than Captain Cook to the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus. But why go to all that effort to send him to such a distant part of the globe? Continue reading →
Nelson was founded in 1841 by the New Zealand Land Company and the coastline that would become Rocks Road was witness to some fantastic episodes of local history. At the Tahunanui end it passes the largely forgotten site of the house of Henry Thompson, the Chief Magistrate of Nelson who would meet his end at the Wairau. Further along it looks out to Fifeshire Rock, named after the settler’s ship that made an unscheduled stop there. The road itself was carved out of the cliffs using the best means available to late 19th century engineers – explosives and convicts. Continue reading →