World War One Stories on Tour

Thursday, 05 November 2015

The stories of four Cantabrians – from Hurunui, Waimakariri, Selwyn and Christchurch - during the First World War are told in a Canterbury Museum touring exhibition which opens this week at Hanmer Springs Library.

Image: Captain Robert Heaton Rhodes. 1902001

Image: Captain Robert Heaton Rhodes. 1902001

The exhibition, Canterbury and the First World War, will be in Hanmer for three months and is travelling to libraries around Selwyn, Waimakariri and Hurunui over a two year period.

The exhibition includes photographs, letters and military items belonging to soldiers Arthur Elderton from Amberley and Charles Ivory from Oxford. Audio entries from the diary of 16-year-old Cashmere schoolgirl, Alison MacGibbon (nee McLeod) tell of life during the last months of the war and the spread of influenza through Christchurch.

Sir Robert Heaton Rhodes, who had already served in the South African War in 1902, was MP for Ellesmere and held a number of public positions during the conflict, including that of Postmaster General. In 1921 he gave 70 acres to the residents of Tai Tapu for a park. The gates to the park still stand as one of the Canterbury’s memorials to those in the area who served in the First World War.

Sir Robert is known not only for his political roles and the amazing garden at his home, Otahuna, but also for his stamp collection which is now held at Canterbury Museum. The touring exhibition features a 1936 First Day Cover marking the twenty-first anniversary of Anzac Day, as well as Sir Robert’s photograph album which includes images of the declaration of war in Wellington.

Exhibition curator, Sarah Murray says that as a nation, New Zealand suffered more casualties during the First World War than in any other subsequent conflict; more than 18,000 died and 40,000 were wounded.

“For those at home, letters, diaries, photographs and other mementos, provided a welcome connection to their loved ones serving overseas. A hundred years on these items give us a remarkable insight into the lives of Cantabrians during the conflict, both at home and on the front line.”