Monday, 24 April 2017

Auckland Weekly News Photos for 1914-18

The Great War is over!

Now 24,463 Auckland Weekly News Supplement photos for the period August 1914 to December 1918 have been more fully described so that they can be searched by description and subject. This means they will be more searchable and useful for librarians, social and family historians and genealogists.

The photos cover that period’s social, political and military history from a New Zealand perspective. While there is obviously a national emphasis, many photos reflect this country’s involvement with international events in an important period of New Zealand’s history. This can be seen in the following Trevor Lloyd cartoon from October 1914 demonstrates New Zealand’s loyal support for Britain as they face Germany’s massive armies of mangy curs invading Belgium.


At that time, New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War was seen as the most emotionally searing and scarring event to have occurred in the young nation’s history, from a Pākehā perspective. Consequently some of the most poignant Weekly News photos portrayed the effects of the war on the women the soldiers left behind. This photograph was published in 1915 towards the end of the Gallipoli campaign:


Perhaps the best known image from the Weekly News is ‘The Casualty List’, which shows a grieving mother having read of the death of a loved one when New Zealand troops were fighting on the Western Front during 1916.


That image appeared at the start of the Somme offensive when New Zealand troops were still based in the relatively quiet Armentières sector. However the next photo shows British troops advancing to attack the Germans at La Boiselle on the Somme. This image also reminds us that First World War battles were not always fought amidst mud, rain and squalor (although that is what would become of this grassy field during the attritional battles on the Somme.)


Although the best known exploit of the New Zealanders in 1917 was at Passchendaele, the New Zealand Division also fought during the successful battle at Messines earlier in July that year. Here is a photograph of New Zealand artillery at Messines:


And here are the New Zealand Pioneers building a road after the battle.


The next year, the major contribution to Allied victory in 1918 was the involvement of the United States troops. The following drawing depicts invincible, superhuman doughboys charging maskless through clouds of gas, singlemindedly inspired by their battle-cry, ‘Lusitania, Lusitania.’


And even in victory readers were reminded of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, just so that the public did not forget how beastly and unprincipled the Germans were, bullying the Belgians and indiscriminately killing civilians – which after all was the reason for fighting ‘the Great War for Civilisation’.


But one of the most poignant photos demonstrating the ultimately futility of war appeared in the last issue of the Auckland Weekly News for December 1918. In the photo, King George V is presenting New Zealand Lieutenant C. (Max) Carter with the Military Medal. Underneath the photo’s caption is the note ‘Shortly after the presentation Lieutenant Carter has been [sic] killed in action.’

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori

And finally here is Trevor Lloyd’s last comment on Germany’s war ambitions, as the British Lion tows the German High Seas Fleet into captivity.


Author: Chris Paxton

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