Four of Te Papa’s ‘Berry Boys’ were amongst the 8500 men who left with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 16 October 1914. These men, in their fresh uniforms, were draper George Hornig (above, in a photo taken in 1912), cabinetmaker Roy Houchen, and Frank Barber, from Wellington, plus Alfred Gower, a farmer from Taranaki. All four men survived the war, and you can read some of their stories in Te Papa’s Press’s Berry Boys: Portraits of First World War Soldiers and Families by Michael Fitzgerald and Claire Regnault.
The Main Body left in a convoy of 10 troopships, which also carried nearly 4000 horses. This was the largest departure from Wellington harbour. As the photo above suggests, the ships and their naval escorts anchored in the harbour dominated the view.
The troops had marched through town down to the wharves prior to their departure. The reality of separation set in once men had boarded the ships and lifted anchor. Alfred Morton, on the Maunganui, observed:
‘small groups of people on the various hills near the entrance [of the harbour], waiting to see us steam out and get a last glimpse of the “great grey fleet”. We kept on deck and watched the last views of Wellington in sight until we turned into Cook Straits [sic] and they faded into the distance.’ (AB Moreton diary, MS-Papers-1310-2, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.)
We are also saying farewell, tomorrow, to the Berry Boys exhibition on level four at Te Papa. But like the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who served overseas in the war, the Berry Boys – those we have identified with your help and the 18 men still unknown to us – won’t be forgotten.