Month: January 2015

Caring for a precious collection

Caring for a precious collection

We were in the vaults; that converted carpark wherein lies most of the museum’s property. Much of it is already old, and we expect it to get much older. With the latest run of natural disasters and threats to man-made structures, heritage or otherwise, how long can we preserve our history?  “We’re looking for perpetuity,” says museum curator, Libby Sharpe. “Most people would never imagine that the museum has about 80 per cent of its collection in storage … That 15 per cent on display is more or less a formula for most museums.”

Libby began her museum career at the Canterbury museum, a place that underwent major earthquake proofing a couple of decades ago. It paid off. Their website reports minimal structural damage to the old buildings and 99 per cent of the collection is unharmed.

She says Wanganui is particularly prone to flooding and during the 2004 deluge the museum, itself safely above the rising water table, helped people clean and restore family papers, photographs and paintings and assist with advice and direction. She says family treasures and memories can often matter more than a house or other property and their loss can be devastating. So we talked about disasters and the plans that are in place for such institutions as museums, art galleries and libraries.

“They have specific priorities in rescue,” says Libby, “Obviously, people first, but we hold these collections that are immensely valuable, and I don’t necessarily mean in terms of money, although that is a consideration. They are a huge asset, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.” She talked about measures that are in place to preserve damaged material until experts can take over and complete the restoration. For example, she says she has seen sodden, ancient books being wrapped in plastic and put in the freezer until such time as serious salvage can be performed.

The archives in our museum is a huge collection by most standards and it is uniquely Wanganui. As Libby says, there is no other collection like it in the world. “So you see, we do take a lot of trouble with our storage. We use waxed boxes which have a degree of fire retardancy and also protect from light and atmospheric dirt,” she says. The boxes (called transit boxes) also allow air to circulate, preventing mildew and dankness. She also mentioned a ‘number 8 wire fix’ used since the 1970s to store rolled plans; realising they would be crushed if stored in a flat drawer or shelf, someone came up with the idea of a calico sling.

Keeping in mind changing technology and standards of preservation, Libby says, “Anything we do should be reversible. Conservation is incredibly expensive because it’s time-consuming and vastly expert. Conservators train for seven or eight years.” She says the local museum staff are trained in basic conservation to enable them to provide optimum conditions for the collection and to prevent any further deterioration. Temperature and relative humidity is monitored, keeping conditions right to keep the collection stable.

Libby showed me a red line that runs along the concrete in the ‘vaults’. To one side of that line, the concrete flooring has been reinforced to allow storage of great weights. Up to 500kg per square metre can be stored on that part of the museum, contrasting with up to 300kg outside the line. She also showed me one of several orange cupboards in which emergency supplies are stored. Most of the equipment within is for dealing with water damage. There are also personal lidded buckets for each staff member, filled with essential items should disaster strike.

As we walked through the vaults, Libby showed how shelving was made secure and how stored items like crockery were protected with acid-free foam. Ancient stone tools rest in their drawers, fitting snugly into thick-cut double-layered foam. She says the museum is one of the most protected buildings in Wanganui, certainly as far as fire safety and security against human invaders is concerned, as well as safeguards against time.

“We have to lessen the impact of disaster by how we manage our building and collections,” says Libby. “We need to address possibility, not wait for inevitability. All the same, all the money and all the care in the world will not guarantee either is safe.”

Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek in March 2011.  Reproduced with permission from the Publishers.

Wish you were here: Postcards and Postcard Albums

“Tom Thumb” No inscription or date

“Tom Thumb” No inscription or date

In the days before memes and instant messaging, postcards were a popular way to stay in contact. We still use them today, collecting them as souvenirs of places we’ve visited or things we’ve seen, and sending them to friends and family to make them jealous of our travels.

“A Jolly Xmas from Inglewood” Sent to Aunty Gladys from Mona on 2 December 1910

“A Jolly Xmas from Inglewood” Sent to Aunty Gladys from Mona on 2 December 1910

Postcards have been in use since the mid-1800s.They were designed as small letter cards, just big enough to carry a message without requiring an envelope, which reduced the postal fee. They became popular due to their convenience and cost effectiveness, and once they were able to be printed with a wide variety of images their popularity increased.

“The Weather Prophet” Sent to ‘Beaver Brad’ from Zillah O’Leary on 19 December 1908

“The Weather Prophet” Sent to ‘Beaver Brad’ from Zillah O’Leary on 19 December 1908

Postcards hit their height of popularity in the Edwardian era. In a time without telephones, urgency of contact was a priority and in Britain the post was delivered up to six times a day.  Postcards were used to send messages between friends, order deliveries to home or business, ask a favour, and even assist in courtships. You could write a postcard to a friend in the morning inviting them to dinner, and rest safe in the knowledge they would attend or send a return postcard with an apology before the table was set. It could be considered the equivalent of texting today.

“Best Christmas Wishes” Sent to Dear Mona from Mum (Zillah), undated

“Best Christmas Wishes” Sent to Dear Mona from Mum (Zillah), undated

Postcards started out as bland rectangular cards, with nothing permitted on the front except the address of the recipient. There was some concern that putting the address on the same side as the message would encourage mail sorters to read them. The rules gradually relaxed and the strict official cards evolved into the pictorial postcards mail items we know today – the front emblazoned with an image, poem, or witty comic, and the reverse split with the message on one side and the address on the other.

“The Glad Eye” sent to ‘Miss so and so’ from ‘so and so’; undated

“The Glad Eye” sent to ‘Miss so and so’ from ‘so and so’; undated

But it is not just the sending of the postcard that is important, but the receiving. And it was quite common for postcards to be collected and sorted into albums for posterity. Series of cards were created and the collector aimed to complete the set; different countries, different subjects, even celebrities. At one stage it was fashionable to print news stories on the cards; and some would be printed and ready for sale within hours of a news event occurring.

“The Christian Congregation in Jagadhri” No inscription or date

“The Christian Congregation in Jagadhri” No inscription or date

Postcards were often sent for the sole purpose of collecting, and many a collection would feature a card with the message “for your collection” or similar on the reverse, or even blank as it had been bought for the collection specifically, rather than the post box.

“To Be Delivered” No inscription or date

“To Be Delivered” No inscription or date

The Whanganui Regional Museum holds several postcard albums, one of which came from the Freeman Estate. The postcards were collected and put into the album by Miss Mona Gladys Freeman, originally of Marton, then of Niblett Street in Whanganui. Mona was born on 22 January 1899 to parents John James and Zillah Ann Freeman and was quite young when she collected the cards, which were sent in the early 1900s. The album holds 313 postcards, some of which are visible here.

“Greetings From CHRISTCHURCH” Inscribed: Dear Miss Freeman, I have been longing and waiting for an introduction to you for some time now.  How about you meeting me tomorrow evening say about 7.30pm on the second step of W. Post-office. I think we know each other well enough and I see you every morning coming to work. Do come, Your most Ardent Admirer C.G.B. Do come dear darling”. Undated.

“Greetings From CHRISTCHURCH” Inscribed: Dear Miss Freeman, I have been longing and waiting for an introduction to you for some time now. How about you meeting me tomorrow evening say about 7.30pm on the second step of W. Post-office. I think we know each other well enough and I see you every morning coming to work. Do come, Your most Ardent Admirer C.G.B. Do come dear darling”. Undated.

Meanderings through the wardrobe

Meanderings through the wardrobe

In the tradition of Narnia, interim museum manager Debra Elgar takes us on a trip through the wardrobe. The room is called the textile store. Not a particularly glamorous name for a place where wearable history is racked, drawered and hung, silent witnesses to past lives and historic body odour.

“We get given hundreds of things, and textiles is one of them. Clothing, it’s amazing, from 18-something-or-other to T-shirts of the ’70s with ‘Make love not war’ in screenprint,” says Debra.  “So all of those have a home here. Anything from outerwear to some prehistoric underwear, which looks nothing like the sort of thing that you’d buy in Farmers today.” So we gazed at drawers, bloomers and vests that once adorned the well-to-do, underneath many layers of seemly other garments, of course. Debra says that most of the museum’s young visitors find the garments unrecognisable. The thong is not a patch on the bloomers … no, a patch would be much bigger.

There’s a christening gown on a rack, and it looks almost new.  Everything is cared for in a temperature controlled environment and delicate items are carefully wrapped in acid-free tissue and handled only with cotton gloves.

“My interest in the textile room,” says Debra, ”is, firstly, my mother-in-law is involved heavily in costuming. She is the wardrobe mistress for Amdram Theatre. They have an enormous textile room there. So there is a sort of a family connection. My mother was always a sewer but I have absolutely no sewing skills whatsoever, so for me, I’m in awe of these amazing creations.”

We moved to a rack of gowns, mostly, from where Debra extracted a thick, heavy, ancient, old gold bronze-coloured gown of the 19th century. Made of shot silk, the bodice and skirt are detachable. Debra pointed out the width of the waist and remarked how small the clothing of yesteryear was. She says corsetry made a difference, but in fact the people were a lot smaller (slimmer). She showed me the stitching, done by hand, of course, which allowed for unpicking to wash pieces separately before sewing it back together again. Mind you, it’s so hard to get good help these days.

“These are not just gowns,” says Debra, “These are creations. These were the outer garments that were worn by wealthy people. These were not the garments of the commoners. By and large, the garments of the common people haven’t survived; they’ve been used up. They became rags, they were cut down for children’s clothing, that sort of thing. So what we get is the very exquisite and rather expensive thing.  Of course, the textile room is an absolute gem for Wanganui because, aside from my personal interest, we have a fashion and design school here at UCOL.”

As we browsed through the gowns, marvelling at the workmanship and quality, it became more apparent that Debra’s observations about the size of our foremothers was correct. Even today’s modern teens would struggle to fit into these gowns, especially if the obligatory layers of engineering (corsetry and petticoats) were included underneath. The obvious cost of the garments meant they once belonged to people of wealth and importance, ladies who were seen at all the best places in Wanganui, wearing their finest apparel and accessories.

Debra showed me a very blue wedding gown. I’ve never seen so much blue in one garment, even though the wearer was evidently tiny. There would be an interesting story there, if only we knew it. Why blue? Why not white? Or cream? Who was she? Was it a second marriage? Was she colour blind?

Debra sees the textile room as part of the history of a lot of Wanganui women. There are dressing gowns, ‘tea’ gowns, evening gowns, wedding dresses, costume jackets.  There is men’s clothing too, naturally – trousers, jackets, hats, boots – everything suitable for an evening at the snooker tables in the Wanganui Club. We are lucky that families have thought to save these clothes and pass them on to the museum.

Debra’s parents were teachers. She has lived all over New Zealand. She was educated at Wairarapa College, an unusual beast in that it was a co-ed boarding school. She went nursing after school and “enjoyed the challenge and the excitement that went with it”, before moving into health management. Now she uses her considerable expertise to mind businesses and organisations that need looking after during times of change or transition. Hence her position as museum interim manager. So Debra Elgar, wife of Amdram president Geoff Campbell, daughter-in-law of Ray and Marion Campbell of Amdram’s wardrobe and costume department, we know your weakness – fine clothing. Thanks for sharing your passion and some finely wrought textile treasures from the past.


Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek in January 2011.  Reproduced with permission from the Publishers.

What did the giant eagle look like?

The most commonly seen resonstuction of Harpagornis, attacking adult moa, with plumage like an Australian wedge-tailed eagle. Pic: John Megahan / Wikipedia

The most commonly seen resonstuction of Harpagornis, attacking adult moa, with plumage like an Australian wedge-tailed eagle. Pic: John Megahan / Wikipedia

New Zealand was once home to the largest eagle in the world, Harpagornis moorei, often known as Haast’s eagle. I’m not a fan of that name: Julius von Haast was the Director of the Canterbury Museum and the first to scientifically describe the eagle, from bones collected from a North Canterbury swamp, in 1871. But getting an eagle named after yourself seems a trifle vain, so I prefer to call it the New Zealand eagle or the giant eagle, both of which are more descriptive.

Harpagornis is a marvellous name: “grappling-hook bird”, for its enormous clawed feet. What its Māori name was we’re not sure: pouakai and hokioi have both been recorded, but by the time written transcripts were being made the eagle had been extinct for centuries and had entered the realm of legend.

Wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax). The largest eagle in Australia, and capable of taking down a kangaroo, the wedge-tail has a typical eagle skull and head feathers, relatively short compared to a New Zealand eagle. Photo: Sam Schmidt / Flickr

Wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax). The largest eagle in Australia, and capable of taking down a kangaroo, the wedge-tail has a typical eagle skull and head feathers, relatively short compared to a New Zealand eagle. Photo: Sam Schmidt / Flickr

Recent examination of its DNA shows that the New Zealand eagle was most closely related to the Australian little eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides), the smallest eagle on that continent. Its ancestors were blown to New Zealand and increased in size tenfold within a million years, an extraordinarily-rapid increase. Giant eagles weighed about 10kg in males and 14kg in females, nearly half as large again as the largest eagles alive today. They were big enough to kill adult moa—we’ve found the claw marks in moa pelvic bones. And they would have been very capable of killing humans too, which is probably why they were wiped out quite quickly, along with moa, soon after Polynesians arrived in New Zealand.

One account of the eagle, collected by Sir George Grey from a Ngāti Apa elder around 1850, describes it as living in the mountains, having red, black, and white feathers with a red crest, and being as big as a moa. The problem with this account is that giant eagles never, as far as we know, lived anywhere near Ngāti Apa in the Whanganui or Manawatu area. All the fossils we’ve found are from the eastern South Island and Southern Alps. So this centuries-old tradition is unlikely to be based on eye-witness accounts.

3. attenboroughOlder reconstructions of the giant eagle, based on this 19th century description, show it with lurid red plumage and a pointed crest. Its closest relative, the little eagle, is a rather more inconspicuous rusty brown. Most recent depictions give it the brown plumage of an Australian wedge-tailed eagle. Almost none of the reconstructions, however, get the head right: the giant eagle had an extraordinarily long skull, half as long again as you’d expect from a bird its size. The recent David Attenborough documentary set inside the Natural History Museum included a computer-animated Harpagornis, but it was really just a scaled-up golden eagle, with long narrow wings and a too-short skull.

(Attenborough was rather guilty of exaggeration when he described the eagle, in breathless voice-over, as having “a beak the size of a butcher’s cleaver”. Its beak is actually about 7 cm long, the size of my little finger or a paring knife.)

1. eaglevulture-sketchThe giant eagle’s extremely long bill, with small bony flaps protecting the nostrils, is actually rather like that of some species of Old World vultures. A vulture’s elongated bill is an adaptation for sticking its head inside the messy carcasses of animals much larger than itself. Most eagles don’t need such bills, because they’re feeding on relatively small prey. But giant eagles were killing moa 15 times their size, so their feeding would have been similarly messy. Not only did they have the elongated beaks of vultures, they perhaps had the short head feathers or even bald heads of them as well.

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) have shorter, finer feathers on their head and neck (sometimes bald) and protected nostrils to prevent clogging. Photo: mhx / Flickr

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) have shorter, finer feathers on their head and neck (sometimes bald) and protected nostrils to prevent clogging. Photo: mhx / Flickr

Ornithologists who study the New Zealand eagle get defensive when you suggest it may have had a head like a vulture. For decades, Harpagornis was victim of a terrible slander: its short wings supposedly meant it was on its way to becoming flightless, and it thus must have spent most of its time on the ground scavenging moa carcasses. In fact, short wings are a characteristic of forest eagles that need to maneouver around trees, not soar for long distances. And the discovery of claw marks on moa bones show that Harpagornis was indeed killing its own prey. But it took quite some time to dislodge its reputation as a scavenger, and a vulture-like reconstruction would hardly help.

Whether the New Zealand eagle had a bare head, or indeed a fancy red crest, is ultimately something we can’t determine from the few remaining bones. Māori rock art depictions of eagles are too stylised to help. Nobody has seen one for 500 years. Perhaps one day a mummified skull with feathers will turn up, as has happened with moa. But ultimately we have to make our own estimate of what’s probable, and rexognise that all depictions of a long-extinct creature, however convincing, are mostly well-informed guesses.

Dr Mike Dickison is Curator of Natural History at the Whanganui Regional Museum.

A lesson in arms

A lesson in arms I

To talk with Alex Aiken, museum digitisation officer, is to receive an education in firearms manufacture and history. It’s a passion. When Alex was perusing the museum armoury, he was quick to recognise the Model 1894 Winchester lever-action hunting rifle and knew he was going to share it with readers of Midweek.  “It’s the most common as well as the most sought-after hunting rifle in the US,” says Alex. “It was made in New Haven, Connecticut, at the old Winchester factory which closed down in 2006.  That exact model was in production for 112 years.”

This rifle, he says, could have been made anytime between 1894 and 2006 but, from the wear and tear and general appearance, looks more likely to have been manufactured in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. It’s a .303 calibre and can take six or seven shells, depending on the length of the shell.

So why did Alex choose a firearm and why this one in particular?  “My grandfather was an armourer in the British Army and his fascination with weapons has been passed on to me,” he says. Things military are now part of Alex’s arsenal of interests, and not just arms; tactics and things more cerebral are an attraction too.

This rifle was imported from the US and sold in New Zealand by A&W McCarthy in Dunedin. In 1973 it was donated to the museum by Father Feehly, a local Catholic priest. How he came by it we don’t know, but it would have been a novel way to keep his parishioners in line or maintain interest in his sermons.

Alex says the 1894 model Winchester was designed by John Browning, who has more than 120 gun patterns to his name. Browning and Winchester were in partnership until Winchester’s death. Browning continued alone at the factory in New Haven, producing both Brownings and Winchesters.

A lesson in arms II

To complicate matters, the original company was started by Smith and Wesson in 1855. Smith and Wesson then concentrated on pistols, leaving the Winchester factory to focus on rifles.

With the close of this phase of the museum’s digitisation process, Alex moves on to a job with Study Link in Palmerston North.

Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek in September 2010.  Reproduced with permission from the Publishers.

What are you doing next weekend?

vintage-weekend-whanganui logo

Have you got plans for next weekend 17-19th January?  If not, why not come to Whanganui and see the exciting offerings on the table as part of our Vintage Weekend?  The Vintage Weekend is an annual event held on Wellington Anniversary Weekend in Whanganui, celebrating yesteryear.

There is a huge range of events.  Come along to the Caboodle street carnival with lots of stalls and special bargains up for grabs, and enjoy the entertainment from Tami Neilson and The Wellington City Shake ‘Em Downers.  Experience vintage vehicles with the Jigsaw Charity Ride and trips on ‘Mable’, the renovated No.12 Tram.  Bring your glad rags and grab a ticket to the Great Gatsby Summer Ball.  The Boundless Banquet, Farmers Market, Burma Rally, High Tea, Soapbox Derby… the list goes on.

Check out the full programme here, and remember to pop into the Whanganui Regional Museum while you’re in town.


Bells and Bibles

Bell and Bibles

Museum Kaiwhakaako, Āwhina Twomey, wanted to show us a ship’s bell and two Bibles that once belonged to pioneer Jock McGregor.  The big – and heavy – bell and Bibles were laid out on a table below decks (in the basement) for our inspection. The Bibles are actually one Bible in two parts, the second starting at the Book of Isaiah.

The bell bears the legend ‘John McGregor’ in an arc pattern, underneath which is a representation of a Scottish thistle. Beneath that is ‘Aberfeldy Station’ and around the rim is inscribed ‘In London 1876’. The inscription is all in upper case.

The clapper has long since gone, but the bell was once used to regulate comings and goings at Aberfeldy Station and, later, to announce closing time at the museum. It was later returned to its owner, Dr Maurice Watt of Dunedin but has since found its way back to the museum.

Inside the front cover of the Bible(s) is a McGregor family history of the 19th century, written in ink, parts of which are faded and stained, but on the whole it is still mostly legible. The publication date is 1795 in Roman numerals and the bottom line reads “Printed by M Brown in the Flesh Market, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne”. Isn’t that quaint?

So why is Āwhina interested in these one-time possessions of Jock McGregor?  Because she is a direct descendant of Jock via his only child, Teone.

There are many accounts of the life of Jock McGregor but I’ve used the one written by Flora Spurdle in New Stories of Old Whanganui, first published in 1958.  Mrs Spurdle called Jock ‘that versatile Scot’, a man who traded around the New Zealand coast long before the NZ Land Company’s ships arrived. Jock built his own ships and one day, while sailing into Wellington Harbour in a brand new 30 ton schooner, he got a big surprise to see ships bearing settlers. He, therefore, called his little ship Surprise and it is from that ship the bell in the museum originates.  The Surprise was the ship that carried the goods that Edward Jerningham Wakefield used to ‘buy’ Whanganui. Jock was one of the few early sailors who got his ship across the Whanganui bar without getting wrecked.

A popular story led to the lower part of Shakespeare Cliff once being called McGregor’s Leap. It was 1847 and things were tense between the settlers and the local Maori. Captain Campbell and Messrs Allison, Bell, Gilfillan and McGregor had all made arrangements to send their cattle away. Jock was at the top of the cliff looking for some of his stock when he was fired upon by five Maori. He ran and jumped off the cliff, landing in the river. He was rescued from the water by a young officer, who bravely took a boat to him.

Later Jock bought a large area inland from Sedgebrook – he called the place Cherrybank. He later bought another big area of land some 20 miles up the Parapara and called it Aberfeldy after his Scottish home. It still bears the name to this day.

Mrs Spurdle tells the story of his child thus: When Tu Tepourangi, chief of D’Urville Island was asked to help the Muaupoko (Horowhenua) during the struggle with Te Rauparaha, he arrived with his followers and his daughter Hinekawa.  Te Rauparaha was victorious and Tu Tepourangi and his daughter hid on Jock’s ship, which was lying off shore. Te Rauparaha came on board and killed the chief but Hinekawa had hidden up the mast in a furled sail and he did not find her.  Jock married her ‘Maori fashion’, and they had a son, Teone.

Āwhina Twomey is seven generations removed from Jock but the family history in the Bible also gives her a connection with Rob Roy and an ancestor who died at the Battle of Culloden in 1745.

Āwhina heard about the Bible(s) through her uncle, George Kereama, who was doing some family research at the museum, but she didn’t know that Jock actually settled in Whanganui. Neither did her uncle George, who, with his wife, once spent the better part of a trip to Scotland trying to find his grave. All the while it was right here in the old cemetery in Heads Rd.

It was the book Making Waves by Felicity Campbell that enlightened her and Āwhina attended the book launch at the Wanganui East Club and spent some time at Cherrybank on the day. Sadly, the original homestead has gone but a descendant of Jock McGregor once again stood where he once grew fruit for Whanganui.

Original article appeared in the Wanganui Midweek in May 2010.  Reproduced with permission from the Publishers.

New Zealand’s War Horses

2. 1802.3437.2

A postcard showing how horses were used to pull weapons and carry officers.

The presence in Whanganui of Tylee Cottage Artist-in-Residence Cat Auburn, who is creating artworks associated with New Zealand horses that went to war and never returned, has prompted many into asking about horse war records.

Between 1914 and 1916 the New Zealand Government acquired 10,000 horses for use by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. With an estimated 400,000 horses in the country at that time finding suitable mounts was not difficult, although horses were still extensively employed in agriculture, horticulture, for transport and delivery.

A horse comes from the Strachan family of Okoia

A beautiful mount for an officer. This horse comes from the Strachan family property of “Lornty” in Okoia.

Stock Inspectors from the Department of Agriculture checked the horses for suitability and bought appropriate mounts for £17- £24 ($2,500-$3,500 in today’s money). Some enlisting soldiers brought their own horses which were inspected by the officers and purchased if found to be suitable, then issued back to the soldier for his own use.

Accepted horses were examined and classified as troop (riding), artillery (draught), or transport (pack) and branded with government and individual brands before being shipped to the front. Most of the horses went to Egypt, but they also served in German Samoa, the Middle East, the Western Front and Gallipoli.

Sturdy horses used to drive milk carts through thick mud were in demand.

Sturdy horses used to drive milk carts through thick mud were in demand.

The horses were extremely useful to the troops. They allowed soldiers to patrol wider areas than they could on foot and provided extra mobility during battle. Draught horses carried heavy guns and equipment to save the soldiers’ strength, and carried wounded soldiers from the field so their comrades could keep fighting.

It was hard work; aside from the danger, the horses often carried over 100 kg at a time and faced shortages in food and water, not to mention the new diseases and insects they had to endure. The New Zealand Veterinary Corps did their best to look after the horses, and losses of original mounts were replaced with local animals. They were deemed soft compared to the hardy New Zealand beasts.

1. 1802.3794

“What rain does at the front – an ambulance with ten horses coming across country …”

Around 3% died during the voyage, mainly from diseases including pneumonia, and many died from disease or injury while overseas. After the war, shipping and quarantine restrictions to prevent disease coming back into the country lead to many of the animals being killed, sold or kept for use by the British Army. Of the 10,000 animals that were sent from New Zealand, only four returned home.

Horses and wounded soldiers outside Zeitoun Camp, Egypt, 1915.

Horses and wounded soldiers outside Zeitoun Camp, Egypt, 1915.

There is a great exhibition at the National Army Museum in Waiouru titled Harnessed: New Zealand’s War Horses. There are uniforms, weaponry, saddles and equipment as well as graphic diorama of a World War I Western Front scene of horse carnage. It’s worth seeing.