Artefact of the Month
Tuesday, July 17th, 2018
At first appearance, this helmet looks like any other one of the millions of khaki green steel helmets which are now synonymous with the World War I soldier and trench warfare in general. However, on closer inspection the large hole near the top of the helmet, which has torn through the steel and the inner lining, becomes glaringly obvious and suggests something more morbid.
What a lot of people may not realise is that the steel helmet was still an experimental item at the beginning of World War I and that for the first year of the war, including at Gallipoli, the men went into battle with no real head protection. The first British helmets didn’t arrive on the front lines until September 1915. Originally they were only issued to a battalion, each battalion was assigned 50 helmets which were to be kept in the trench stores until needed. These would remain in this fixed location and made available to be used by each battalion as they moved in and out of that area of the battlefield. Helmets remained part of trench store supplies until the summer of 1916 when production had reached 1 million units and there were enough available to start issuing them to each individual soldier. This was just as well for Alan Rout, for had he not been wearing a helmet on the morning of the 26th September 1916, it is very likely he would not have survived the shrapnel shell which tore through his helmet and lessened what would otherwise have been a fatal blow.
Alan Clifford Rout was born in Nelson on the 21st February 1891, the youngest of three sons of William and Eliza Rout. Prior to the war, Alan had attended Nelson College and had studied to be an architect. Alan was also a noted musician having studied at the Nelson School of Music during his youth. He played both the piano and the organ at various fundraising events such as the Empire Defence Fund and the Belgium Relief Fund in Nelson shortly before he left for the war and would continue to play at various community events in the years following his return.
Alan enlisted for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on the 30th November 1914 and embarked overseas for Egypt as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 3rd Reinforcements on the 14th February 1915. Lieutenant Rout went on to serve with the Canterbury Infantry Regiment at Gallipoli where he was wounded in action on the 25th June 1915 receiving multiple shrapnel wounds to his right buttock. He was evacuated to England where he was admitted to Hornchurch Hospital (Grey Towers) where he spent most of the following year recuperating. Alan was discharged from Hornchurch on the 6th June 1916 and embarked for France to rejoin his unit (now posted to the 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment) in the field the following day.
The injury that caused this impressive hole in his helmet, occurred on the 26th September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Lieutenant Rout had been charged with taking a water party up to the front lines in the area known as Fleurs and was talking to his Brigade Major when the Germans unleashed an artillery barrage overtop of their trench.
Alan Rout’s diary entry from that day reads as follows:
“An H. E. [high explosive] shrapnel burst right overhead and I got a terrific crack on my steel helmet. I was a bit dazed at first and thought the shrapnel hadn’t gone through my helmet; but when the blood began to stream down my face I knew I had a crack somewhere.”
Alan was reported as wounded in action two days later and was recorded as being dangerously ill at the Duchess of Westminster (No 1 British Red Cross Society) Hospital at Touquet, France. Alan was found to have a compound fracture to the skull and was operated on during the night of the 28th September to remove a small piece of bone and to mend a broken vein. As luck would have it, upon being evacuated to a dressing station two days earlier, Alan had passed by the tent of his brother Charles at Mametz Wood (Charles Rout had trained as a doctor and was serving with the British Army as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps). Charles was able to assess the injury and recommend that his brother was operated on as soon as possible. The surgeons were said to remark on Alan’s incredible recovery following the operation and that he had been very lucky to live, this was no doubt due to his helmet, which took much of the impact and the fortunate intervention of his brother.
Alan was then sent to England where he was admitted to No 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst, where he was declared to be unfit for duty on account of his injury and after a period of convalescence, embarked for New Zealand on the 13th November 1916. Alan Rout was officially discharged on the 15th March 1917.
However, the head injury he received during the war would impact Alan for the rest of his life. He had a permanent indentation on the top of his head which he was no doubt self-conscious of as he was known to always wear a hat when out in public. The injury also caused him to have frequent headaches and difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. As a result, Alan did not continue his career as an architect as he had intended to do before the war. Instead, he worked as a registered valuer and later took over from his father as the Managing Secretary on the Trust Board of the Cawthron Institute (a local organisation based in Nelson specialising in promoting scientific research). Alan also served as the secretary of the Nelson Rotary Club for over 25 years and as the secretary of the Nelson Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.
Despite his change in career path, Alan was still able to put his architectural training to use; he designed both his own house in Nelson as well as the home of one of his brothers. Alan married Hilda Isabell Ryrie in late 1928 and had four children. Alan Rout died of stomach cancer in Nelson on the 25th September 1956 aged 65 and is interred in the RSA section of Wakapuaka Cemetery.
The National Army Museum is very fortunate to have an excellent collection of Lieutenant Rout’s belongings from World War I which include not only this unique helmet, but also his diary, medal group, compass, binoculars and sword. These were very generously donated by his daughter, Mrs Helen McBride in 2017.
Brenden Shirley, Collection Technician
Friday, June 1st, 2018
A World War II Italian Fascist Mothers Medal is June’s Artefact of the Month.
Established on March 3rd 1939, during the regime of Benito Mussolini and his ‘Economic Battles‘, this medal was used as a form of public recognition for mothers who bore 5 children, with a single bow added to the ribbon for every extra child she had.
Cast from aluminium and attached to a green and blue ribbon, this medal was made specifically for Mussolini’s ‘Battle for Births‘ campaign.
Battle for Births
Established in 1927, ‘Battle for Births‘ was a demographic campaign aimed at increasing the Italian population from 40 million in 1927 to 60 million by 1950.
In order to make this idea more appealing to the public, pre-marital loans were offered to couples to pay for their weddings in order to encourage them to marry. On top of this, each new child they produced was used as commodity to cancel out part of said marital loan. Married men with 6+ children also became exempt from taxation, and were more likely to receive promotions within work, over their single, childless co-workers. For women, they received the Mothers Medal as public recognition for their contribution to the scheme if they produced more than the state’s target of 5 children per family.
Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
For many, the sound of the whistle calling out along the trenches during war time is often associated with the phrase ‘going over the top’. The expression refers to soldiers climbing out of the trenches to begin a forward attack.
This whistle belonged to Major John William Fletcher (MBE), who was born in England and initially served with the Green Howards. He later joined the Gordon Highlanders, with whom he served with in the Boer War. In 1912 he came to New Zealand to work with the Military Staff in Auckland. He served with New Zealand in World War One, but was wounded at Gallipoli on the 8th May 1915 when taking part in the Second Battle of Krithia, also known as the Daisy Patch. Major Fletcher would have likely used this whistle to instruct troops to ‘go over the top’ at Gallipoli.
Major Fletcher was invalided back to New Zealand after being wounded but remained involved in the war effort, even assisting with the re-capturing of Felix von Luckner, a German Prisoner of War in New Zealand and who attempted escape.
Whistles were used in both world wars for communicating commands to troops over the sound and confusion of the battlefield. The 1914 Infantry Training Manual describes the “rally blast”, which uses short whistle sounds to gather troops together. This call was used when troops were in “wood, bush, fog or darkness”, when other signals could not be used. The “alarm blast”, a series of long and short whistle sounds, was used to call troops out of their camp and to take up positions. Artillery also used whistles to signal a gun was about to be fired, to prevent soldiers from getting hit by the gun’s recoil.
Major Fletcher’s whistle is engraved “NZEF” (New Zealand Expeditionary Force) on the side and is stamped with “The City Patent Whistle”. It has a loop which holds a split ring, where a leather cord could be attached, so the whistle could be buttoned onto a soldier’s uniform. The whistle was silver plated, but the plating has worn away, revealing brass underneath.
Written by Loran McNamara, Assistant Curator of Social History and Accoutrements
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
This melodeon belonged to Albert Victor Samuel Dick, who served in both World War One and World War Two. We are not sure whether Albert purchased this melodeon for himself or whether it was something he acquired whilst serving with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade during WWI. We do know that he had the melodeon with him whilst in service, as the museum also received a picture of him holding the instrument in his military uniform.
The bellows on the melodeon have a blue background with white floral patterns. The manufacture’s name is unable to be read as most of the lettering has faded, but it does have “German Manufacture” in English on top of the melodeon. It comes with a wooden storage box that has a twin hook and eye fastening.
National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
The melodeon is a type of accordion, and is also known as a one-row diatonic accordion. This melodeon features a single row of 10 buttons, so it is a one-row melodeon. Other melodeons can have two or three rows of buttons. The reeds on the melodeon can be changed by lifting the stops (the round pegs on the top of the melodeon) to change the tuning.
National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
Monday, March 5th, 2018
A soldier doll from World War I, with it’s own hand-made and personalised uniform, is March’s Artefact of the Month.
Ruth Madeleine Miller (nèe FitzGerald) was only 6 years old when her two older brothers, John and Roy, left New Zealand to serve in World War One. To help Ruth remember her brothers while they were away, Ruth’s mother made a uniform for her doll.
The doll’s uniform includes a jacket complete with epaulettes, trousers, hat and shoes. The doll’s head, arms and legs are made from bisque, which is a type of unglazed porcelain, and the body is a soft fabric.
Ruth’s brothers both served with the New Zealand Army during World War One. 2/2820 John Garrett FitzGerald was a Driver with the New Zealand Field Artillery and 3/148A Bernard Morris Roy FitzGerald (known as Roy) served with the 6th Mounted Field Ambulance. Both brothers returned home at the end of the war and ran a general store together in Urenui, Taranaki.
The doll remained with Ruth until she handed it down to her oldest daughter, Geraldine, who later moved to Canada and took the doll with her. Geraldine remembers that she and her siblings “were never allowed to play with it … but [we] always looked at it and treated it with reverence as it was supposed to remind us of the sacrifices family made when sons went to war.”
In 2016 Geraldine visited New Zealand. The doll was now over 100 years old and Geraldine thought it was time to donate the precious family heirloom to a museum; Ruth’s soldier doll is now kept in storage for preservation at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa.
By Loran McNamara, AC Accoutrements.
Thursday, September 28th, 2017
A walking stick made with debris from the well-known Cloth Hall in Ypres during WWI is September’s Artefact of the Month.
This walking stick was made by 42461 Sergeant Charles Cameron Begg, from Dunedin and was gifted to his father, Thomas Begg. The stick is made from debris from the Cloth Hall in Ypres, which had partially burnt down from being shelled during the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. A 1917 French coin and part of a German plane propeller were also used to create the walking stick. Charles likely picked up these items while either travelling to the front or on his return after assisting in the Third Battle of Ypres as part of the No 4 Field Company of the New Zealand Engineers during the Battle of Passchendaele.
The Cloth Hall in Ypres
Completed in 1304, the Cloth Hall in Ypres, known also as Ieper in Belgium took over 100 years to build. The Hall was a major commercial centre for the flourishing Flemish cloth industry at the time. In 1914 shellfire set wooden beams within the ceiling alight and the building was partially burnt down. By 1918 and as a result of continued artillery bombardment in the Ypres area throughout WWI, much of the original Cloth Hall had been reduced to rubble.
Images of the Cloth Hall in Ypres, dated 1912 (left) and later (right).
The New Zealand Engineers at Passchendaele
The New Zealand Engineers (NZE) were a specialist unit formed as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force that supported the movement and communication of the Allies during WWI. Their work included building bridges, walkways, roads and railways to support the transport of soldiers, artillery and supplies.
The No 4 Field Company began assisting with building walking and mule tracks forward of Ypres from late September 1917. The mud made it so difficult to walk or drive through that the only way to shift supplies and the wounded was to carry them by foot. German artillery targeted these supply routes, so constant repairs were needed.
On 4 October the New Zealand Division pushed forward and captured Gravenstafel spur, but there were few places of protection from enemy gun fire in this newly gained ground. Men from the 4th and 3rd Companies of the NZE pumped water out of captured German dugouts and repaired them for Allied use.
On 12 October, the NZE awaited to move forward and assist with the Passchendaele attack as they had done on the 4th, but no call came. Instead they were instructed to repair communication lines. The next day, NZE assisted with the search and transport of wounded who remained on the battlefield. On 21 October the NZE were relieved by the 3rd Divisional Canadian Engineers.
Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
A selection of sketches and cartoons by well-known New Zealand journalist, writer and cartoonist Murray Moorhead are August’s Artefact of the Month.
Murray Moorhead was born in New Plymouth in 1934 and attended New Plymouth Boys’ High School. Prior to his Compulsory Military Training (CMT), the closest links to any form of military history for Moorhead was five uncles who served in WWII and being a member of the School Cadets. Moorhead was called up for CMT in the 10th intake in 1953 at Linton Camp and was trained as an anti-tank gunner on 6-pound guns. He remained in the Territorial Army until 1967 when he retired with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Moorhead had many books and cartoons published during his lifetime and was awarded the New Zealand Military Historical Society’s Literary Award in 1987. His last book First in Arms published in 2004 told of the experiences of the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers during the Taranaki War of 1860 – 1861.
Murray Moorhead passed away in 2007 and is buried in New Plymouth.
Monday, July 31st, 2017
July’s Artefact of the Month is Lance Corporal Nimrod’s dog blanket. Nimrod was the mascot for the 2nd Battalion, New Zealand Regiment. The blanket has the 2nd Battalion crest, and Lance Corporal’s stripes on both sides.
Many animals have served alongside men and women throughout various conflicts New Zealand has been involved in. They’ve carried out various roles such as mascots, messengers and first-aid assistants, as well as transportation. In the case of war horses, they’ve even played a vital part in the battles themselves.
Animal mascots such as Nimrod are often seen as symbols of hope and good luck within a unit and they give servicemen and women a sense of normality and friendship amidst the harsh conditions of war.
Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
A Khaki Cloth Housewife attributed to 13/2823 Albert Henry Johnston MM is June’s Artefact of the Month. This object contains an assortment of needles, nails, buttons and safety pins, and a small silver tin containing adhesive plasters. A sticker on the bottom of the tin advises: ‘a piece of plaster this size placed on the heel before marching prevents blisters’.
Albert Henry Johnston embarked aboard the Maunganui on 8 January 1916 with the 9th Reinforcements, Auckland Mounted Rifles. He later served with the NZ Field Artillery and was involved in actions on the Western Front. Albert was awarded a Military Medal for acts of gallantry at the Battle of Messines when, as Acting-Bombardier in a party laying cable, his area came under heavy shellfire.
An extract from the London Gazette date 16 Aug 1917 states as follows: ‘On 7th June was in a party laying cable from cable head to Brigade Forward Station near Messines. The party had to lay through a heavy Barrage, then return, repairing breaks and relaying portions through the barraged area, as soon as the barrage lightened. This occupied from Zero + 3 hours. Subsequently Bombardier Johnston was posted to a cable head for maintenance of the line. There was heavy shelling over this area till nightfall on June 7th, lines were continually cut and repaired. Bombardier Johnston was out on the lines at the earliest opportunity and worked fearlessly through the barrage. It is largely due to his efforts that the lines were repaired in time to get some work through before being cut again. In addition the example he set was of great value.’
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
A World War One Combination Protector, given to 43523 Bombardier Charles Robert Reader, from his mother, Mary Eliza Reader is May’s Artefact of the Month.
The Combination Protector was made and patented by a Whanganui Company, Young and Collins Ltd. It consists of a leather pouch and has two steel plates stored inside, designed to prevent injury to the chest and lungs from bullets, shrapnel and bayonet charges. The Combination Protector would have a strap that hung over the neck and could either be worn on the left side of the chest or in combination with another pouch to be worn on the right side of the chest. It could also be used to store a soldier’s personal items such as a pay book, money, or diary.
Bombardier Reader left New Zealand aboard the New Zealand troopship Corinthic on 2 April 1917 as part of the 23rd Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery. He served on the Western Front. Although the Combination Protector that his Mother gave him may have prevented him from being wounded in the chest, it did not protect him from other possible injuries. A few months after arriving in Europe, his military record reports that on the 20 October 1917 Bombardier Reader was wounded in action, receiving a gun shot wound to the shoulder. He returned to London for recovery but was eventually sent home on the SS Maunganui and discharged as being no longer physically fit for active service due to his injury.
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