Canterbury and World War One: Lives Lost, Lives Changed
The experiences of Cantabrians who served on the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East and those they left behind tell the story of Canterbury and World War One.
In the four years of the conflict 98,950 New Zealand soldiers and nurses served overseas, 18,058 of those died and thousands more were injured. Most New Zealanders knew someone who had died in the War.
The declaration of war had caused great excitement in Canterbury. Thousands enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. But as the War dragged on, voluntary enlistments declined and conscription was introduced to keep up the supply of men. While many young men left the country expecting a great adventure, their families worried that they would never see them again.
New Zealand soldiers and nurses had a variety of experiences overseas. Some collected souvenirs while serving in the sands of the Middle East while others endured gassing in the muddy trenches of Europe. All endured the joys and sorrows of life at war and all had stories worth telling.
At home, Cantabrians waged their own war and did what they could to support soldiers, nurses, their families and innocent civilians caught in the conflict. In many respects the War at home was the women’s War. Mothers, wives and sisters did an enormous amount of fundraising and organised thousands of care packages for those serving overseas. People also expressed their views on the German enemy and their feelings about conscription.
Developed by Canterbury Museum with support from the Lottery World War One Commemorations Fund.
Image: Annie Thomson looks upon her son George William Ladd Thomson, a sergeant from Timaru, for what may be the last time on 16 October 1914. Despite his mother’s angst. George did return to New Zealand. Image courtesy of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum PH-2003-1-36