Thursday, 15 September 2016

A Selection of Somme Postcards

"A Charge at the Battle of the Somme 1916" an Oilette postcard by British artist Harry Payne.

"Amiens Cathedral from the Banks of the Somme" a NZ YMCA postcard signed by artist 'SM'.

" 'Somme' Retreat" postcard by artist T Gilson.

A German panoramic postcard of the Somme countryside.

A French postcard showing Albert's Basilica in ruins following heavy artillery fire.

A NZ YMCA postcard entitled "A Well-known Village on the Somme".

A selection of souvenir postcard booklets.

100th Anniversary - Battle of the Somme

The haunting sound of the whistle synonymous with the clamber of troops heading 'over the top' and doing best to rush across No Man's Land, was the sound that many would rather forget.
That shrill blow from the lips was the call to death for so many of our New Zealand lads one hundred years ago today.
It was Friday 15 September 1916 and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on the Somme in Northern France had begun. Few anticipated the huge cost in casualties the New Zealand Division would sustain over the 23 consecutive days they spent on the bloody, muddy Somme landscape.
Among them was Rifleman Eric M. Austin, age 23 of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He was killed on the opening day of this conflict. Below is a postcard addressed to him and wishing him a happy birthday in June 1916, just a few months before he met his fate.

It is sadly ironic that Austen, a keen gardener employed by Thomas Horton Nurseries in Pahiatua prior to the war, should leave behind nature's beauty for the ugly barren battlefields of the Western Front and end his days there.

Another New Zealand casualty was Private Peter Henry Neilson of 2nd Battalion Otago Infantry Regiment. Using the colourful and sentimental postcard below, he wrote to his sister in Invercargill from the trenches on 24 July 1916...

"Dear Mary, 
Just a card hoping it finds you all in the best of health as it leaves me at present. We are still in the trenches but I think we will be going out for a spell shortly. I received your letter the other day and was glad to hear from you. I have not seen Joe yet but I met Chris and Harry. They are both in the trenches now. Last time I saw them they were both looking well and were having a good time. I have had very little time to write lately but will write you a letter as soon as we go out for a rest. I will now close. 
With best wishes. Goodbye. Peter xxxx."

Private Neilson was 21 years of age when he was killed at the Somme on the 15th September 1916.


Monday, 30 May 2016

100th Anniversary - Battle of Jutland

To mark the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and H.M.S. New Zealand's involvement in this naval encounter, I have gathered together some of my postcards on this subject to share with you...
An early postcard of H.M.S. New Zealand. A record of the major actions she faced during the First World War feature in the picture: Heligoland, August 1915; Dogger Bank, January 1915; and Jutland, May 1916. Admiral Jellicoe can be seen on the right of the picture. A short handwritten message on the back reads: "To Mother and Dad, from Will. Wishing you both and all at home a hearty Xmas and a pleasant New Year. Hope you like the card Mother Dear."

 A British made postcard with a brief handwritten message on the back that describes the image seen here; "Piece of armour blown out from X Turret in Jutland Battle."
This 483 kilogram piece of armour plating was blown out of X Turret on H.M.S. New Zealand by a German warship during the Battle of Jutland in May 1916.

The same piece of armour as seen in the black and white postcard above. This was on display at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum in Auckland in 2012.

"P" Turret gun crew on the deck of H.M.S. New Zealand. They hold a sign recording the naval engagements they have been in. This includes the Battle of Jutland. If you look closely there is a sailor holding the ship's mascot 'Pelorus Jack', a brindle bull dog. He is in the row directly above and to the left of the sign. 

H.M.S. New Zealand's flagstaff was damaged by a German shell during the Battle of Jutland. This photographic postcard was produced by 'Muir'. The image appears in my book "Just to let you know I'm still alive - Postcards from New Zealanders during the First World War."

This postcard shows the point of a German 12 inch shell that hit the Queen Elizabeth Class Battleship, H.M.S. Malaya at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. She was struck eight times by enemy shellfire during this battle and over 60 of her crew were killed.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Some Donald McGill light humour...

Some postcard humour from British artist Donald McGill. 
This card was published by Inter-Art Co., Florence House, Barnes, London and is part of the "Comique" Series, no.2184.

The message on the back of this postcard was written by a New Zealand soldier named Archie while at Brocton Camp in England. He has dated the message 14 April 1918 and addressed it to his brothers Harry and Will...

"Dear Harry & Will,
Just a line. I am still in Old Blighty and going strong. We are having rumors of war here occasionally. Expected to go over last week but it was a washout. Am on the Lewis gun stunt now as they are found to be very effective implements, fire six hundred shots a minute and can be used single handed if you have the ammunition. I was talking to a young man from Omata on Friday. He's in the 34th, says he remembers you at the dances. The 34ths have just got out of Isolation and a 150 of them are on the mat this morning for being out late, went to Stafford and couldn't get a bus back. I had to walk myself but got an early start, its about 6 miles. Have just seen that Will was turned down, sine die in the Budget, so you will be alright. Should like to have more news from home. Only get Olga's letters and an odd one.
Wishing you good luck, 
Brother Archie."

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Anzac Day 1932 - Wellington's Carillon

A proposal to erect a National War Memorial in Wellington in 1919 was postponed owing to financial strains on the New Zealand economy caused by the war. The favoured proposal was to build a Carillon at Mt Cook. In 1930 the bells intended for Wellington's Carillon were erected in a special structure at Hyde Park in London for the inaugural recital before the bells were shipped to New Zealand. The carilloneur for the occasion was Mr Clifford Ball whose talent hailed from the Cadbury Brothers Carillon at the English town of Bournville. He was assisted at the recital by New Zealander, Miss Gladys Watkins who had studied carillon playing at Malines in Belgium.
In 1931 the steamer Ionic arrived at King's Wharf, Wellington. Her precious cargo included some of the big bells intended for temporary storage until the new Carillon was built.

On the afternoon of Anzac Day 1932 the National War Memorial Carillon was officially opened in front of a large audience of over 50,000 people at Buckle Street, Mount Cook, Wellington. Today its presence on the Wellington city's skyline is complemented by the Hall of Memories (1964) and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (2004) all of which are located at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park opened in April 2015. What follows are a few early postcards of the Carillon, assorted newspaper information reporting on the grand occasion of its official opening and some personal photographs taken in recent years.
An early photographic postcard of the Carillon in Wellington taken by photographer Heaton Clairemont Peart. Note that the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum buildings have not yet been built behind the tower. The Gallery and Museum were officially opened in 1936. 

A view of the Carillon from Mt Victoria Tunnel taken by Heaton Clairemont Peart.

(source: Evening Post, 20 April 1932)

(source: Evening Post, 23 April 1932)

(source: Evening Post, 23 April 1932)

(source: Auckland Weekly News, 4 May 1932)

National War Memorial fountain and steps leading up to the Carillon. (2014)

War planes fly past the Carillon. Anzac Street Parade to Pukeahu War Memorial Park (24 April 2015).

Pukeahu War Memorial Park Sound and Light Show (2015)

Left: Wellington Anzac Dawn Service at the National War Memorial Carillon on 25 April 2015.
Right - Grand official opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on 18 April 2015.