First World War

Onward: Portraits of the NZEF

The centenary of the First World War is rapidly approaching and it is exciting to see the many different ways that the ‘war to end all wars’ will be remembered.  Museum exhibitions, memorials, books, television shows, digitization projects, social media campaigns and much more.  Importantly, many of these commemorations offer the public unique ways to make a valuable personal contribution.  This is one such project.

The ‘Onward: Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’ team are on a mission to find and publish a photograph of each and every member of the NZEF that served overseas during the war.  They are making a special effort to locate previously unpublished material and are focusing on obtaining the highest quality photographs that they can.  This is no easy task – some of the largest sources of photographs of New Zealand servicemen and women are poor quality images from old newspapers – so this is where members of the public can help.

Now is as good a time as any to scan those old wartime photographs from the family album and put them to good use.  Having a digital backup of these invaluable family treasures is highly recommended anyway and in the next few years there will be many opportunities to share them with others and make sure that your ancestors’ wartime service is remembered.

The first volume of ‘Onwards:  Portraits of the NZEF’ is already available for purchase, and the second volume is nearing completion.  If you have any images that you’d like to contribute then you can get in touch with the publisher here.  The first volume look fantastic and offers an important visual reminder that there was a unique individual behind every service number and wartime statistic.  Theirs was a generation that gave so much, so it is great to see them remembered through this series of publications.

Over the next few years there will also be many other ways that you can get involved in the centenary commemorations and share your own family photographs and stories – the already amazing Auckland Museum’s Cenotaph database is currently being redeveloped and keep an eye on the WW100 website for other opportunities to contribute to projects both nationally and locally.

© Lemuel Lyes

9 replies »

  1. Do you happen to know a site where I can learn more about NZ activities in WWII. When I get my site back into WWII, I want it to be even more international than before.

  2. The military records of these people are available via Archives New Zealand, who hold the army records up to 1918 in their Wellington office – a very handy resource.

    I hope the project works out for its authors. On my experience, New Zealand’s military history is exclusive territory; woe betide anybody who dares enter it who has not been anointed by its self-appointed owners, most of whom prosper, one way or another, on salary at taxpayer expense. i gave up trying to write in it – the damage being done to my good name, opportunities and commercial returns by this little in-crowd of viciously hostile academics (none of whom have ever had the guts to introduce themselves to me and discuss the problem they had with my trying to earn a commercial income, on merit and personal effort, in a field where they were employed full time on salary) meant it wasn’t worth the aggravation. Sigh.

    • It is sad to hear that such an attitude persists in New Zealand. One would like to think that in a country as small as ours we should encourage any attempt to explore our history.

      I wonder why this attitude persists specifically with military history. The other day I was reading the programme for a conference called ‘Rethinking War – Is there anything new that can be said about the First World War’. The conclusion drawn by one of the speakers was that it is a misconception that the history of NZ’s involvement in the First World War has been thoroughly covered – and in fact there was much to still be explored. With that in mind it seems particularly poor behavior for some academics to have intimidated others that dared to encroach upon “their” turf.

  3. I’ve made some shrewd guesses as to why – but they don’t reflect well on the integrity and character of the people involved. I only found out that the latest conference occurred by accident; but I’ve been unable to get on their mailing lists and am pointedly not part of the military-historical community where such things get discussed.

    I find lately that my place is so low with the public funded/university military-historical crowd that apparently they feel they can help themselves to my intellectual property. Plagiarism and copyright theft are mortal sins between themselves, but I am evidently outside their rules and so fair game. One of them appeared earlier this year on TV spouting, as if his own, an interpretation of mine that I’d long since published; and then I discovered two of them had republished some of my copyright material, without approaching me for permission. So far they have ignored my letter, and I suppose I’ll have to get my solicitor on to it, assuming I can be bothered dignifying the profound moral vacuum these people obviously operate in, by my standards.

    What it boils down to is that I made an effort to earn an income on my own efforts and merits, commercially; my reward for that from total strangers in the public-funded and university military historical community has been to be publicly represented as incompetent, at the cost of my commercial income, to be rather pointedly excluded from taxpayer-funded opportunities; and – now – stolen from. All by people who are unknown to me, and who lack the guts to actually approach me in person to discuss their problem with my commercial work, on merit, in their field of taxpayer-funded/university employment. Life ain’t fair, ever, but this seems to be particularly unjust, somehow.

    Luckily, as we know, history is a vast and wonderful subject…and there’s plenty else to write about!

    • All this is really disappointing to hear, but sadly I’m not too surprised. The academic world often seems to be riddled with protectiveness, monopolies and politics – historians are certainly not the only ones guilty of that.

      I wonder if the small size of New Zealand exasperates the problem. While I’m sure there is plenty of infighting among international academics there are too many authors to try and dissuade others from writing about say the American Civil War, the Romans or the Third Reich.

      At least, as you say, there are plenty of other facets of New Zealand history to explore – and one can but hope that sooner or later (preferably sooner) the situation changes for the better.

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