Collection

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. 

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 - 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.

Great War Stories 3 - Alexander Aitken

Television, 2016 (Full Length Episode)

Hilary Barry presents this episode from the third series of Great War Stories. The subject is Alexander Aitken, a veteran of World War l who would later become a world-renowned mathematician. Aitken wrote an acclaimed war memoir (Gallipoli to the Somme) which a student reads from at Aitken's old school, Otago Boys' High, on Anzac Day. The story of the violin he kept by his side at Gallipoli is told, and a musical arrangement of Aitken's is played. The short documentaries were made for the centenary of World War l, and screened during TV3’s nightly news. 

Great War Stories 4 - Bill Dobson

Television, 2017 (Full Length Episode)

Bill Dobson was one of around 500 New Zealanders to be taken prisoner by the Germans during World War I. His grandsons, filmmakers Grant and Bryce Campbell, use Dobson’s letters home, his sketch book and contemporary photographs to describe his journey. Bill was one of 210 Kiwis captured at French village Méteren, near the Belgian border, during Germany’s 1918 Spring Offensive. Camp conditions were tough, but Dobson filled his time with prolific sketching and performing in the Camp Concert Party. Post-war, Dobson married vaudeville performer Louise Morris.

Great War Stories 3 - Gallipoli tortoise

Television, 2016 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of Great War Stories accompanies author Shona Riddell to Berhampore Primary School in Wellington, where she reads her story of a pet tortoise that she grew up with. It was taken from the trenches of Gallipoli by a soldier, gifted to hospital nurse Nora Hughes (Riddell’s great aunt), then transported to New Zealand, where the tortoise’s adventures didn’t end: he made local news on a walkabout to Mangatainoka Brewery. The series of short documentaries screened during TV3’s nightly news, as part of centennial commemorations of World War l.

Great War Stories 2 - Hāmi Grace

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

In Wellington, Hāmi Grace was respected for his cricketing and rugby prowess. In Gallipoli, his sniper skills became legendary. This four minute short documentary uses Grace's diary entries to recount his experiences at Gallipoli with the Wellington Battalion. The former Wellington College pupil turned lieutenant wrote about the squalid conditions, graves "everywhere", and fighting the Turks. Grace was killed at Chunuk Bair in August 1915. Every year Wellington College holds a remembrance ceremony for Grace and the 29 other former pupils who died in Gallipoli. 

Great War Stories 3 - Ranji Wilson

Television, 2016 (Full Length Episode)

All Black Ranji Wilson was 30 when he set off for France to fight with the Rifle Brigade during WWl. When he wasn't involved with trench warfare, his rugby skills were used to full advantage. Wilson vice captained the "Trench Blacks" to win against the French in 1918. After France (where he was injured at the Battle of Havrincourt), Wilson visited South Africa but wasn't allowed to play rugby because he was "coloured". Wilson, whose father was West Indian, became an All Black selector on his return to New Zealand and died in Lower Hutt in 1953.

Great War Stories 3 - HMS New Zealand

Television, 2016 (Full Length Episode)

This first episode from the third series of Great War Stories chronicles HMS New Zealand, a navy battleship that served in the Royal Navy (New Zealand didn’t have a navy in World War I). The ‘first class battleship’ was paid for by New Zealand to aid British sea power. Nearly half the population of New Zealand visited the ship when it visited in 1913. Its role in the Battle of Jutland is explored, including a ‘lucky charm’ piupiu worn by its captain in battle. The series of short documentaries screened during TV3’s nightly news, as part of Great War centennial commemorations.