NZ Army Memorabilia
Explore the stories behind our NZ war history and discover some of the fascinating army memorabilia and military artefacts on display and in the archives at the National Army Museum.
- Trade Tokens and the Story of Jarvey the Pawnbroker
- Booth’s Sash & the Battle of Gate Pa
- Promising World War One Surgeon
- Boer War Binoculars
- The Gallipoli Turtle
- The Many Meanings of Museum Objects
- Trench Art
- Cigarette Silks
- The Story of William’s £1 Note
- The ANZAC Biscuit
- Known Unto God
- Plate Propaganda
- Wartime Propaganda
- Care of the Collection
- Malone and the Kiwi Lemon Squeezer Hat
- My Favourite Thing
- A Reluctant Hero
Paper promissory notes and letters of credit circulated alongside a large variety of coinages brought in by passing ships, and when they weren’t available, the old barter system was implemented, which was often a highly dubious way of trying to conduct business.
This ‘uncertainty’ saw the introduction of Penny (Trade) Tokens, which were issued in New Zealand from 1857 to 1881 by various commercial houses. Forty-eight retailers such as merchants, grocers, drapers and milliners issued their own penny and half-penny tokens.
This copper One Penny Token (pictured), minted by an unknown British Mint (circa 1860), was issued by William Andrew Jarvey, a Pawnbroker based in Hobart. Jarvey later came to New Zealand for the Otago goldrush leaving his wife and children behind. READ FULL STORY to learn how Jarvey ended up being the first criminal to be executed in the Province of Otago, New Zealand.
Gate Pa, situated at the entrance toTauranga Harbour, was targeted in an effort to cut off reinforcements and food supplies. The battle was fiercely fought with a British bombardment of shells, mortars and rockets. Artillery included 110 Pounder Armstrong guns and 24 Pounder howitzers and despite the heavy shelling, Gate Pa withstood the pounding.
When the confident British stormed the Pa they found the Maori warriors emerging from underground bunkers and within 10 minutes the storming party retreated leaving behind 100 dead and wounded.
Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Booth lead the storming party during the attack on Gate Pa wearing a distinctive red woven sash which forms part of the New Zealand Wars display at the National Army Museum.
When World War One broke out Dr Martin was a renowned Palmerston North surgeon. He had travelled to Britain for a medical conference and was there when war was declared. He signed up the following day at the War Office in Whitehall. As a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps Dr Martin spent 8 months serving in France and Belgium. After a stint back in New Zealand he later returned to France with the New Zealand Medical Corps serving in the front line on the Somme.
He showed exceptional bravery and frequently placed himself at risk while tending to the injured. It was inevitable that he would be wounded and so it was at Flers on 17 September 1916. Dr Martin died later that day in hospital. He was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions.
These are currently on display in the Harnessed: New Zealand’s War Horses exhibition.
Read on and find out the tragic story.
By Chris Rapley, Assistant Curator Social History and Accoutrements
A great example in the National Army Museum is a railway spike from the infamous Thailand Burma Railway of World War II. The Thailand Burma Railway, often referred to as ‘The Death Railway’, was a Japanese project where Prisoners of War (POWs) and labourers were forced to construct a 420 kilometre track in appalling conditions. The estimated 60,000 POWs and 100,000 Asian labourers who worked on the railway were treated savagely by their Japanese masters. It is estimated that a quarter of the POWs and an even greater proportion of the labourers died during the construction – literally worked to death.
By Chris Rapley, Assistant Curator Social History & Accoutrements
Trench Art is a difficult art form to define, but loosely speaking it refers to pieces of art made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians during time of conflict, often using war material. Pieces of Trench Art can cover many kinds of different materials, such as objects made from bullets or embroidered cloths created by recuperating soldiers.
Trench Art can also have a multitude of meanings or origins, for example a carving made by a Prisoner of War as a way to fight boredom or a sculptured piece of shrapnel signifying a lucky escape for a soldier in the front line.
The art form received its name from World War I, a conflict characterised by trench warfare, but Trench Art actually seems to have been around since the beginning of conflict and it continues today in current war zones.
What makes Trench Art so special is that it gives us a close insight into the everyday life of soldiers and people affected by war; it can show us what was important to them or how they sought to cope with the horrors they had to endure. Pieces of Trench Art allow us a glimpse into the minds of the people at the time, rather than being held at arms length by a memorial or an oil painting.
By Sue Stevens, Assistant Curator Textiles
A Cigarette Silk is a small piece of printed (or woven) satin (almost never silk) given away free inside yesteryear’s cigarette packets as a marketing ploy.
By Tessa Smallwood, Collection Technician
“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.”
From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.
Although it’s a myth that ANZAC biscuits were sent and eaten by troops in Gallipoli, some evidence suggests a rolled oats biscuit was sent to troops on the Western Front, although this was not widespread.
For some 90 years the headstone stood as a marker over the remains of an unnamed New Zealand soldier in a French cemetery, until that soldier was selected as the nation’s Unknown Warrior.
The Unknown Warrior, an unidentified soldier who died in World War I, symbolises every New Zealand serviceman and woman who have lost their lives during war.
By Chris Rapley
When people think of propaganda normally visions of posters and leaflets come to mind, but sometimes even tableware can be used to carry a political message.
In 2007 a beautiful decorative plate souvenired by a New Zealand soldier during World War II’s Italian campaign was generously donated to the museum.
The plate depicts a roman scene of two women donating jewellery to some seated officials, and on the back there is an Italian inscription that translates as; ‘The Roman women go without their ornaments and pleasures in their devotion to religion and love for their country’.
Contributed by Adam Moriarty, Assistant Curator Heraldry
In May of 1915, on a clear Friday morning, 1,959 civilian passengers and crew of the ocean liner Lusitania were nearing Ireland after a long passage from New York. Little did they know that U-20 (a German submarine) was patrolling the area and, believing them to be transporting military munitions, had marked them as a threat. At 2.10 that afternoon the Lusitania was struck by a torpedo. A mere 18 minutes later she was resting on the ocean floor along with 1,198 souls.
Later that year a German political satire artist depicted the event on a propaganda medallion for the amusement of the German public. The artist portrayed the tragedy as a gross oversight of the British Government for allowing a civilian liner to transport military contra-band in an advertised militarised zone. German officials in the USA had warned the passengers of the risk.
The National Army Museum has a vast collection of military artefacts and war memorabilia, and it is the staff’s job to ensure these national treasures are looked after for the benefit of future generations.
Marie Rapley is the museum’s Collections Technician and she plays a vital role in ensuring the museum’s artefacts are well cared for and housed in the best possible conditions.
The National Army Museum’s collection is divided into six areas, including heraldry, textiles, weapons, technology (including vehicles), social history, and accoutrements. Each of these areas has an Assistant Curator responsible for the items in that collection.
Marie’s job is to work on specific projects across all the collections. Over the last few years she has re-housed over 2000 artefacts, including everything from compasses to bear skin hats, and cutlery to sweetheart badges. Currently she is working with the museum’s collection of embroidered souvenirs.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 Malone was appointed to command the Wellington Infantry Battalion, and at 56 proved to be both a forceful and efficient commander. Once at Gallipoli, he immediately began to impose order and although he pushed his men hard, he also fought his superiors to provide building materials and basic comforts to his men.
By Chris Rapley, Assistant Curator Accoutrements & Social History
Nestled in a box in my store, securely cared for in a foam carved mount, is a bugle that is unremarkable in its design and construction. It is a standard military pattern – there are a few others on a shelf nearby. What makes this bugle special are the bullet holes which have torn its metal, simultaneously ruining it for further use and rendering it a truly remarkable object.
“I just did what I was trained to do. It’s what mates do for each other”
Corporal Willy Apiata, VC
In 2004 Lance Corporal (now Corporal) Apiata was part of the New Zealand Special Air Services (NZSAS) Troop on patrol in Afghanistan, which came under enemy fire, seriously wounding two of his team. Disregarding his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata carried his injured colleague to safety despite the heavy enemy fire, then re-armed himself and rejoined the fight in counter-attack.