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. 

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 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.

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 2 - Ormond Burton

Television, 2015 (Full Length Episode)

From the second series of short documentaries remembering New Zealanders in World War I, this episode looks at Ormond Burton. Burton left for war as a 21-year-old, and served as a medic and in the infantry. He was decorated for bravery, and a bible saved him from a bullet. His stance on the justness of war changed after experiencing the horrors of Gallipoli and the Western Front. During  World War ll the Methodist minister was jailed as a conscientious objector; later he became a prominent pacifist and anti-Vietnam War campaigner. The series screened during 3 News.

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.

Great War Stories 4 - Rizk Alexander

Television, 2017 (Full Length Episode)

Rizk Alexander found himself in a rare situation during WWI  — he was an Ottoman subject who chose to fight for the British Empire. His brief life still holds a fascination for his descendants. From a Syrian Christian family, Alexander had only been in New Zealand three years, when the 17-year-old signed up for war. Hoping to fight the Turkish Ottomans, he instead ended up on the Western Front, proving himself at the Battle of Messines in 1917. Later gassed, Alexander returned to Wellington to recuperate but he never fully recovered, dying in 1924. He was 27.

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 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. 

The New Zealand Wars 3 - The Invasion of the Waikato (Episode Three)

Television, 1998 (Excerpts)

In this excerpt from James Belich's popular and acclaimed history series, George Grey returns to the governorship in the wake of the costly Taranaki war. Now bitter, secretive and reluctant to share power, he talks peace while secretly planning to strike at the heart of the King Movement in Waikato. As gunboats patrol the Waikato river and a great road is painstakingly built to take his army south, Grey fabricates plots and conspiracies, convincing London to send more troops and ships, until the military balance of power tips in his favour.