National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Romantic Relics from the Collection

Romantic Relics from the Collection

February 12th, 2017

Just in time for St. Valentine’s Day this year we are showcasing some of the more romantic relics held within the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa’s extensive military collection. Made of materials such as gold, enamel, mother of pearl or brass, Sweetheart Brooches were a keepsake gifted to loved ones during World War One and Two. Given by soldiers to mothers, sisters, daughters, wives or girlfriends, these brooches came in a varied range of designs. They could be miniature versions of a soldier’s unit badge or mass-produced “Battlefield” souvenir brooches. They could also be items of ‘ Trench Art’, made by the soldier from material souvenired from the battlefield. In the Pacific, during World War Two, Perspex from the broken windscreens of aircraft was popular along with tortoiseshell and coconut shell. Brass uniforms badges and buttons were also transformed into gifts to be send home to loved ones. The more entrepreneurial would make brooches and other items that could be sold to fellow soldiers.

Below is a selection of Sweetheart Brooches sourced from our Heraldry Collection, some of which are on display in the Museum’s Medal Repository.

Click on an image to enlarge.

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WWI Somme battle souvenir sweetheart brooch. 

Belonged to 10/930 WO2 Thomas William Cross who served with the Wellington Regiment during WWI, including at the Somme. Silvered Brass and Copper.

 WWI 18th Reinforcements badge sweetheart brooch.

Sterling silver and enamel.

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WWI New Zealand Rifle Brigade sweetheart brooch.

Belonged to 23/775 Sgt Les Harris who served with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in WWI.

WWII NZ Onward badge sweetheart brooch.

Carved from bone.

Artefact of the Month: Mah Jong Set

February 6th, 2017

Mah Jong Set

National Army Museum. Mah Jong Set. 2012.12.4

This beautifully made Mah Jong set is February’s Artefact of the Month and a striking example of Prisoner of War Art. It was made by a Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) at Featherston Camp during World War Two and given to a guard. This set is one of a number in the museum’s collection and is a terrific example of the skill and artistry of the POWs held at Featherston Camp. Prisoners who did camp duties, such as clearing gorse, were usually given free afternoons to pursue hobbies like carving, which is perhaps the origin of this particular set.

Featherston was the site of a large military training camp during World War One and then in 1942 became the location for an 800-man POW Camp. The featuring of this artefact commemorates the 74th anniversary of the Featherston Camp Incident which took place on 25 February 1943. During the incident a staged protest by POWs refusing to work led to a riot in which 48 prisoners and one guard died. A plaque erected in a small memorial garden near Featherston marks the site where the riot occured.

Artefact of the Month: Fly Whisk, WWII

January 11th, 2017


Major Hardy. 2016.41.21


National Army Museum. Fly Whisk, WWII. 2016.41.7

January’s Artefact of the Month is a fly whisk belonging to Major Stewart Hardy during WWII. The handle is made out of one section of horn in which the end is carved into the head of a bird. Inlays of painted white horn and metal have been added to achieve this. The whisk is made out of animal hair, possibly horse or mule and is two tones, dark brown and white.

During WWII, Major Hardy purchased this item from the markets in Egypt. He is seen in several of his photograph albums, which are held within the Museum’s archives, holding this particular fly whisk. Throughout WWII many of our soldiers spent time in Egypt, training outside in the heat among the flies. Major Hardy obtained this item in an effort to deter the buzzing insects! It is used by flicking the whisk to swat the flies away similar to the way a horse’s tail swishes when it feels a fly land on it.

Major Stewart Hardy was born 25 March 1906 and signed up for service in 1940 with the rank of Captain. He embarked on 23 August 1940 with the 6th Field Regiment New Zealand Artillery. After the war Hardy practiced as a Barrister and Solicitor and died in in Hamilton on 10 June 1967 .

Click on an image to enlarge.
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Treasures from the Collection: Red Cross Parcel, WWII

December 20th, 2016


National Army Museum. Red Cross Parcel, WWII. 1996.1145

This Christmas you may be dreaming of the latest techno gadget, a new bike or looking forward to delicious festive treats. For some soldiers who had become Prisoner’s of War (POWs) during WWII, the coming of Christmas brought back memories of home and precious time spent with their loved ones before the war.

The British Red Cross, in conjunction with the Order of Saint John sent out special Christmas parcels to supplement the often poor camp diets and bring a bit of Christmas cheer. British Red Cross Christmas parcels such as this one could’ve contained items like canned turkey, devilled ham, cherries, tobacco, a can of jam, a can of candy and a pack of cards.

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Artefact of the Month: Christmas Box, Australian, WWI

December 7th, 2016

australian-red-cross-package1December’s Artefact of the Month is a beautifully decorated wooden box produced by the Australian Red Cross for Christmas 1917, WWI.

The rectangular box has a lid, which was originally hinged along the back edge, with a paper label printed ‘Christmas Greetings from the Australian Red Cross 1917’. The underside of the lid has a label which lists the societies the gift is from. The front side facing has a paper label with the Australian flag and the Union Jack, while the sides have labels bearing laurel wreaths.  The box is nailed together.

The Australian Red Cross sent around 395,600 food parcels and 36,300 clothing parcels abroad during WWI. The packages could contain anything from cheese, tea, sugar, corned beef, salmon or biscuits, to scarves, socks, pyjamas, blankets and jumpers. This service was facilitated through the time, labour and money contributed by thousands of Australian countrywomen and men.

Click on an image to enlarge.
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Artefact of the Month: Egyptian Wallet, WWII

November 28th, 2016

November’s Artefact of the Month is a souvenir Egyptian Wallet, used by Corporal Bernard Hansen during World War II. Just as we collect souvenirs on our overseas trips today, when soldiers had down time or leave, they would also collect souvenirs or mementos from their big overseas expedition. This wallet may have been purchased at a bazaar whilst Corporal Bernard Hansen was in Egypt.

The wallet is made of tan leather and has coloured Egyptian scenes impressed on both the external faces. One facing has a landscape scene with the pyramids in the background while the other has an ancient Egyptian style picture featuring a chariot in the centre surrounded by figures and hieroglyphs. The wallet folds in half and is secured with a tab which fits into a loop on the outside edge. The interior has a large cavity which runs along the length of the wallet, and there is a clear plastic fronted pocket on the left side and a flapped pocket on the right side.

81955 Cpl. Bernard Robert Hansen served with the Anti-Tank Brigade, 18th New Zealand Tank Transporter in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. At the time of his enlistment he was listed as a felt worker.

Click on an image to enlarge.
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Accomplished Historian Visits National Army Museum’s Military Archive

November 27th, 2016

garysheffield-1-2Accomplished author and well respected military historian, Professor Gary Sheffield has travelled all the way from the UK to spend a week researching the collections at the National Army Museum’s military archive. A Professor of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton, Sheffield is in Waiouru researching for a new book which he plans to publish in 2020.

Professor Sheffield is studying citizen armies of the British Empire over two generations covering both World War I and World War II. He has been examining the impacts of the citizen soldier on the British Army and the war.

Professor Sheffield has spent his week reading diaries and letters and learning about what the soldiers were thinking about their service, training, and what it was like to be in battle. He said the National Army Museum archive is “one of the best archives I have ever worked in” and thanked museum Archivist Dolores Ho for her research assistance.

For more information visit

Remembering the 28th Māori Battalion: Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama

October 26th, 2016


Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama. This mere pounamu was entrusted to the National Army Museum in 2013 by members of the 28th Māori Battalion.

On 13 March 2013, in a ceremony in Waiouru, veterans of the 28th Māori Battalion entrusted the mere pounamu Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama to the National Army Museum. The significance of this taonga on display at the Museum is brought to our attention once again in response to the recent passing of WWII veteran Nolan Raihania, one of the last remaining survivors of the 28th Battalion.

Nolan (Noel) Tariho Rimitiriu Raihania of Ngāti Porou was born on 16 November 1926 and talked of being only 16 when enlisting, stating candidly “we were all under age”.  In 2011 he was appointed an Officer to the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to Māori and was still an active member of the Gisborne RSA and the RSA adjunct before his unexpected passing on 21 October 2016.

Mr Raihania was the last President of the 28th Māori Battalion Association before it formally closed with a commemorative event held on 1 December 2012. Former New Zealand Governer-General Sir Jerry Mateparae remarked then, that the 28th Battalion made a significant contribution to Māoridom and New Zealand. Its members were regarded as some of the most courageous of soldiers and the unit received 99 honours and awards – the highest number among the 11 New Zealand infantry battalions of WWII.

“Too many paid the ultimate sacrifice but their defence of the freedoms and values that we as New Zealanders continue to enjoy are taonga to us all. The battalion’s living legacy was a new generation of Māori leaders in the years that followed the war who laid the groundwork for the renaissance of Māori culture, tīkanga and te reo that was to follow.”

Mr Raihania was remembered by hundreds who paid their respects at his tangi on Pakirikiri Marae, Tokomaru Bay on Tuesday 25 October 2016.  Mr Raihania (C Company) was one of the members of the 28th Māori Battalion who gifted this mere pounamu to the National Army Museum in 2013.

Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama

The mere pounamu Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama was carved by Fred McKenzie, a Vietnam veteran of Ngāi Tahu and the waka huia (treasure box) was carved by George Stevens also of Ngāi Tahu. The mere was named Mai I Te Ki Te Ao Marama because when divided from the large ‘parent’ rock it was translucent in colour within, and darker in tone on the outer. This was seen to symbolise a journey ‘from the world of darkness to the world of light.’

The mere was originally gifted to the 28th Māori Battalion Association by Tahu Potiki Hopkinson (a veteran of D Company) in 2000, to act as a badge of honour for incoming Presidents of the Association. The President at the time was B Company veteran, Sonny Sewell of Rotorua and the mere was presented to him during the Annual General Meeting at the National Reunion. Other Presidents who have received the mere are John Waititi, Alfred Preece, Tamati Paraone, Paora Kruger, Jim Takarangi Nolan Raihania, and Bill Pitman.

The mere travelled with the surviving 28th Battalion veterans on Hikoi Maumahara in 2001 and 2004 as they honoured those who did not return home and lie in Commonwealth War Cemeteries throughout Italy, North Africa, Greece, Crete (WWII) and Turkey, France, Malta and Belgium (WWI).


Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.

We will remember them.


Artefact of the Month: Carved Pencil Collection

October 18th, 2016

Carved Pencil Collection. 2016.7.1-4

October’s Artefact of the Month features a collection of pencil carvings created by 10/303 Private Christopher William ‘Bill’ Connell.

According to Bill’s family history, these pencils were carved in the trenches during World War One. His military record suggests that the only trenches Bill served in were those on the Gallipoli peninsula, so it is possible that these pencils may have been carved there.

The yellow pencil is carved with an image of a woman wearing a blue gown. She is holding a parasol to one side and a clutch purse on the other. Engraved below the carving are the words “ASCOT GOWN”. The teal pencil is carved with an image of a man in a grey suit and tie. The figure found upon the red pencil depicts another image of a man, possibly a waiter, in a white suit and bow tie. On the remaining section of the red pencil the words “…LASTIC DRAWING PENCIL EAGLE PENCIL Co / LONDON”, can be seen. The black-coloured pencil is carved with the likeness of a Māori Pou and the area towards the tip of the pencil features a series of carved, tāniko style patterns.

Bill Connell enlisted on 14 August 1914 spending time in both Egypt and Gallipoli during his overseas service with the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He was discharged from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on 13 May 1916 as he was no longer fit for duty on account of wounds inflicted or sickness contracted while on active service. On 11 October of the same year Bill was mentioned in the supplement to the London Gazette as being awarded a Military Medal for acts of bravery during the course of war.

Bill Connell died on 25 November 1918 in Whanganui due to influenza complications. He was 25 years-old at the time of his death and is buried at the Aramaho Cemetery in Whanganui.

Click on an image to enlarge.
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Celebrating Conservation Week 2016

September 16th, 2016




Major Pat Hibbs hosting visitors in the Waiouru Military Training Area

Conservation Week is an important time to understand the value of our environment, enjoy the connection we share with the land, flora and fauna which surround us and consider how we can preserve these treasures for generations to come. The Waiouru Military Camp is situated within the wild terrain of the Central North Island, a unique environment home to diverse land formations, animals and plant species. Waiouru Military Training Facility Commandant Major Pat Hibbs was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the values of conservation within the New Zealand Army’s largest military training area and why he feels it is so important to protect. 


Can you tell us a little bit about the Waiouru Military Training Area (WMTA) in general?

The WMTA is 63,000 hectares or approximately 152,500 acres. It consists of a number of quite distinct land forms at altitudes of 700 to 1483 metres. There are extensive areas of volcanic desert, alpine beach forest and red tussock. The swamp lands to the south act as food sources for tangata whenua and the mountain swamps are home to numerous tarns. There are species of rare, indigenous plants which are only found here and in North Canterbury. 


Why do you think conservation is important for the WMTA?

Conservation helps the Army to preserve the special nature of the area. We aim to minimise our impact on the ground and only manage introduced species to ensure native species thrive as much as possible. Pest control also helps in fostering the good relationships we share with neighbouring farms and properties.


How do you care for the rare and native plant species within the area?

Any areas identified by DOC are marked on our maps and access to these locations is restricted. We do not impact artillery or drive off tracks in these locations. The Kaimanawa Horse Management Plan is a conservational strategy which aims to find a balance between protecting both the horses and the plants.


The area is home to a large number of Kaimanawa horses. How has the population developed as a result of conservational efforts to improve their well-being?

At the moment there are around 300-400 Kaimanawa horses within the WMTA. In the almost 50 years since I first saw the horses their physical condition has improved out of sight. At one time their numbers exceeded 2000 and the land just could not support them. They looked sway backed, shagged and bloated. The herd is now very healthy, the animals look bigger and individual stallions can be seen in the off spring. The horses are quite colourful with roans, greys, blacks and browns spread around the area.


68b42ktnbyWorking so closely with the horses, do you have any first-hand experiences that you’d like to share?

I have an old stallion that I take an interest in. He was branded in 1997 so is at least 20 years old. He first came to my attention some 5 or 6 years ago as he appeared to have suffered a major shoulder dislocation. We checked on him every few days and it didn’t seem to affect his ability to forage for himself so he has survived. He seems to be looked after by the other horses and is often accompanied by two in particular. As he doesn’t move that freely, it is possible to quietly walk up to within a few metres of him. If you sit still, he will continue feeding with just a wary eye on you. Often it feels like two old fellas sharing time.


What importance does the WMTA environment hold for you personally?

The WMTA is where I, like thousands of others started my career. Standing in a trench at night doing sentry whilst the temperature drops well below zero, you cannot help but learn how to stay warm, how to learn to observe and even be fascinated by the night sky. I have been taught so much by the land and had so many growth experiences here that I feel a part of it. Growing older and journeying through the scenic beauty of the landscape time and time again, this sentiment has only become stronger and I think this is why I readily accept the need to protect it.



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