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The impact of war on NZ

Two groups of men taking part in a piggyback tug-of-war troopship headed for Europe in WWI. PHOTO/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE


Did the victory of 1918 destroy our civilisation?


Featherston Booktown has announced an event to mark the centenary of the Armistice on  November 11, titled ‘In the Shadow of War’ which explores eminent historian, Paul Ham’s writings that “The victory of 1918 destroyed our civilisation. Nothing can make that worthwhile.”.

New Zealand did not escape unscathed.

Of the 100,000 Kiwis who served in WW1, almost 17,000 were killed and 41,000 were wounded – a 58 percent casualty rate – and the Great War ushered in significant changes for our wider society which impacted families, the role of women and our sense of national identity.

The panel-style event of leading historians will be moderated by distinguished NZ diplomat and co-Chair of the World War One Centenary History Project, Mr Gerald Hensley, at the Kiwi Hall, Featherston.

“We are pleased that Featherston Booktown is able to present this special event as part of the official Featherston Armistice Centenary programme and the eagerly anticipated unveiling of the Featherston Camp Sculpture,” said Mr Peter Biggs, Chair, Featherston Booktown.

“We have assembled a panel of leading historians who will discuss the significance of the year 1918 and the impact the war has had on New Zealand society.”

The three-person panel discussing the far-reaching consequences of war for our country from 1918 to the present day, will comprise: Jane Tolerton – Wellington writer and co-founder of the WWI Oral History Archive; Neil Frances – the Wairarapa’s leading military and aviation historian; and John Crawford – the New Zealand Defence Force Historian.

‘In the Shadow of War’ will be held Sunday 11 November, 4.00pm until 5.15pm at the Kiwi Hall, Featherston.  Tickets are $16 and available Eventfinda or at the door.


About the Panellists


Jane Tolerton

Jane Tolerton is a Wellington writer, author of the award-winning Ettie: A Life of Ettie Rout and the best-selling Convent Girls and other oral history books, including Sixties Chicks.

She started the World War I Oral History Archive in 1987, with Nicholas Boyack, and is the co-author of In the Shadow of War and the author of An Awfully Big Adventure, both containing edited extracts from the interviews.

Jane wrote Make Her Praises Heard Afar: New Zealand women overseas in World War I.

Her latest book is But I Changed All That: ‘First’ New Zealand women. In 2016 Jane was awarded an ONZM for services to history.


Neil Frances

A lifelong resident of Wairarapa, Neil’s grandfather and father were war time members of the NZ Division and 2nd NZ Division respectively, but Neil’s only military connection was with the Air Training Corps in the 1960s.

He has had more than 50 years of reading military history, especially of the 20th century, split fairly evenly between land, sea and air forces and the last 31 years of working life was in the library and archive worlds.

Over the last ten years, much of his time at the Wairarapa Archive has been spent on WW1 research and projects.

Since 2005 Neil has published five books covering aspects of Wairarapa military history – Ketchil: a NZ pilot’s war in Asia and the Pacific (2005); Things have been pretty lively: The Great War diary of Melve King (with Doug King) (2008); and Safe Haven: the untold story of NZ’s largest ever military camp, Featherston 1916-1919 (2012); A Long, Long Trail: marching over the Rimutaka Hill, 1915-1918 (2015); and A Rifle and a Camera: Wairarapa soldiers photograph the Great War (2017).


John Crawford

John Crawford is the New Zealand Defence Force historian and has written on many aspects of the history of the New Zealand Armed Forces and defence policy.

Currently, he is working on an organisational history of the New Zealand expeditionary Force in the First World War.

His major publications include: The Territorials: The history of the Territorial and Volunteer Forces of New Zealand, co-authored with Peter Cooke (2011);  The Devil’s Own War, The First World War Diary of Brigadier-General Herbert Hart (2008); New Zealand’s Great War: New Zealand, the Allies and the First World War, co-edited with Ian McGibbon (2007), To Fight for the Empire: An Illustrated History of New Zealand and the South African War, 1899–1902 (1999) and Kia Kaha:  New Zealand in the Second World War (2000).


About the Moderator


Gerald Hensley

South Wairarapa resident, Gerald Hensley, has had a distinguished career as one of New Zealand’s top public servants.

He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1958 and served in Samoa, at the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat and Washington DC, and in 1976 was High Commissioner in Singapore.

In 1980, he became Head of the Prime Minister’s Department where he served under both the Muldoon and Lange governments.

He subsequently served as Coordinator of Domestic and External Security and as Secretary of Defence.

After retirement in 1999, he published three books on New Zealand’s diplomatic history, including Final Approaches, a volume of memoirs.

Gerald is co-chair of the World War One Centenary History Project and is involved with publishing 14 books on New Zealand’s part in the First World War.


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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