Wed Aug 5: what war?

Parliament, circa 1901, Wellington. Muir & Moodie. Te Papa

Parliament, circa 1901, Wellington. Muir & Moodie. Te Papa

New Zealand’s Governor, Lord Liverpool, announced the state of war with Germany under the central arch on the steps of Parliament (see above) on 5 August 1914. People assembled there to hear the news responded with ‘a cheer that displayed the tense emotions of the crowd…Hats and hands were raised in the air, but the face was one of strained emotion’.

Today, in our hyper-connected world, we hear about cataclysmic events such as wars and natural disasters within an instant. But 100 years ago, not everyone was on the ground to hear the news of New Zealand’s involvement in the European hostilities.

The photographic record, 17 February 1918, Leslie  Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa

The photographic record, 17 February 1918, Leslie Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa

One such person who missed out on the Governor’s announcement was Horowhenua farmer and amateur photographer, Leslie Adkin (above). An avid diarist throughout his life, Leslie’s entry for 5 August is silent about the start of the war. That day he was more concerned about reporting the weather and farm work. In fact, on 5 August he and a farm hand headed ‘off the grid’, so to speak.

North Block, 12 June 1914. Leslie Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa

North Block, 12 June 1914. Leslie Adkin. Gift of G. L. Adkin family estate, 1964. Te Papa

They were going to work up country on the section of his father’s farm known as North Block (above), camping there in a whare for a few days. He noted the ‘beautiful moonlight’ of 5 August, the first night of their stay.

Handkerchief, 1914-1918, United Kingdom. Maker unknown. Gift of Peter Martin, 2002. Te Papa

Handkerchief, 1914-1918, United Kingdom. Maker unknown. Gift of Peter Martin, 2002. Te Papa

Although he had recorded that ‘war was raging in Europe’ on 4 August, the 26-year-old was completely unaware of New Zealand’s involvement until he returned home a few days later.

2 Responses

  1. Paterika Hengreaves

    I’m always fascinated with history. The past and the present…lessons learned and how we reflect and move on for greater things. History is a two-sided mirror – reflection and the present. Always a pleasure to read Te Papa…

    Reply
  2. Kate Hansen

    I love the idea of a retrospective twitter feed … have just checked it out. Wonderful!

    Reply

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