The World War I Collection

Curated by NZ On Screen team

More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in World War l. Over 18,000 died; at least 40,000 more were wounded. Campaigns involving Kiwis, from Gallipoli to the Western Front, were identity-forming, and the war's effects on society were deep. The World War l Collection is an evolving onscreen remembrance. Military expert Chris Pugsley writes about the collection here. 


Great War Stories 1 - Bess and the War Horses

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of Great War Stories follows the experiences of Kiwi horses in World War I by recounting the story of Bess, the thoroughbred stead of Colonel CG Powles of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment. The two would serve in the Middle East, and on the Western Front. Over 10,000 horses were sent to war; Bess was one of only four to return home. The clip finishes with an Anzac Day remembrance at Bess’s Rangitikei grave. The first series of seven short documentaries screened during TV3's primetime news in 2014; another series followed in 2015.


The New Zealand Wars 5 - The East Coast Wars (Episode Five)

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

This excerpt from the final part of James Belich's award-winning history series focuses on Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana — the target of the last action of the New Zealand Wars in 1916, 73 years after hostilities began. He creates an independent community at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras, complete with a remarkable meeting house. But any whiff of domestic dissent is intolerable for a Government fighting a war overseas. Armed constabulary are sent to apprehend Rua on trumped up charges, with fatal results for two of his followers.


The New Zealand Wars 1 - The War that Britain Lost (Episode One)

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

This excerpt from the first episode of James Belich’s award-winning history of Māori vs Pākehā armed conflict looks at growing Māori resentment, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The focus is on Ngā Puhi chief Hōne Heke, who sees few concessions to partnership. He is especially incensed by the refusal of the British to fly a Māori flag alongside the Union Jack. His celebrated acts of civil disobedience directed at this symbol of imperial rule flying over Kororāreka (now Russell) lead to the outbreak of war in the north.


Great War Stories 1 - Leonard Hart

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of Great War Stories series revisits “a candidate for the darkest day in New Zealand war history” — 12 October 1917. The Passchendaele disaster in Belgium is explored via a letter smuggled home from 23-year-old private Leonard Hart. The front was a quagmire of mud and blood where, in a catastrophic blunder, Kiwi soldiers were shelled by their own artillery fire before being caught in barbed wire, and slaughtered by enemy machine guns. Hart called it “the most appalling slaughter I’ve ever seen.” Presenter Hilary Barry also sings the opening hymn, 'Abide with Me'.

Neighbours at war s1e1 thumb

Neighbours at War - Series Two, Episode One

Television, 2006 (Full Length Episode)

Neighbours at War was a popular and long-running TV2 reality show. In this opening episode from the show’s second series, an Otara fence is a battle line in a bitter territorial dispute between Lois and Alec. The mediator is Labour MP for Otara Ross Robertson, who draws on Winston Churchill, General Douglas MacArthur and aroha in an effort to broker peace — amidst allegations of rubbish and porn mags on one side, and swear words and brown eyes on the other. Narrator Bill Kerton’s puns and some choice sound effects punctuate the neighbourly nastiness.


Great War Stories 1 - Mark Briggs

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

This slot in TV3’s Great War Stories series looks at Kiwi conscientious objector Mark Briggs. In World War I imprisonment faced those who objected to doing their bit for King and country on moral grounds. In 1917 unionist Briggs and 13 others (including Archibald Baxter) were shipped to the front and made an example of via ‘Field Punishment No.1’, which saw the pacifists bound to a post in the open, then forced into the trenches. Archive material and art by Wellington's Bob Kerr depict the torture in this short documentary, which screened during 3 News in 2014.


Great War Stories 1 - Keith Caldwell

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

“We’ve chosen someone Hollywood would call an action hero” says Hilary Barry, as she introduces this TV item recalling Kiwi experiences in World War I. The subject is decorated flying ace Keith Caldwell, who left for England in 1916 to join the RAF with only eight hours training (which he’d paid for himself). He became one of the most successful pilots on the Western Front, leading ‘Tiger Squadron’. The short, which screened during 3 News, recounts the dogfights and close escapes that Caldwell negotiated with “splendid skill and fearlessness”.


Great War Stories 1 - Rikihana Carkeek

Television, 2014 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of a series of TV3 shorts retelling Kiwi World War I stories follows Māori soldier Rikihana Carkeek into war. The 24-year-old Te Aute College old boy was working as a clerk in Wellington when he volunteered for the Native Contingent. His grandson, Te Waari Carkeek, a kaumatua at Te Papa, reads excerpts from Rikihana’s diary: recounting waiting for a chance to fight in Malta, and the “hell on earth” carnage of Gallipoli. Carkeek returned home to Otaki and became a Ngāti Raukawa leader. This third episode screened during 3 News on 6 August 2014.


The New Zealand Wars 4 - Taranaki Prophets (Episode Four)

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

In this excerpt from James Belich's high-rating Aotearoa history series, the focus returns to Taranaki, where charismatic chief Tītokowaru had been promoting peace. But settler demands for land and confiscations exhaust his goodwill, and he declares war. Vastly outnumbered, Titokowaru embarks on a devastatingly effective guerrilla campaign, which is aimed at provoking his foes to attack him on his terms. As emotions rise, Tītokowaru's war escalates with the attack on Turuturumōkai Redoubt, an act of cannibalism, and his taunt "I shall not die ..."