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

2nd May 1945

2nd May 1945

May 2nd, 2016

New Zealanders in Florence  (NAM DA 9746)

New Zealanders in Florence (NAM DA 9746)

On this day in history the 2nd New Zealand Division captured Trieste and the Germans surrendered Italy.

The closing stages of the war in Europe saw the New Zealand Division attacking up the north-eastern edge of Italy, finally into the city of Trieste. It was here that the New Zealanders found themselves involved in one of the first confrontations of the ‘Cold War’ with the Yugoslav partisans determined to stay and claim Trieste and the surrounding area as their own.

Tension between the New Zealand and Yugoslavian partisan forces began very quickly and even resulted in the tragic death of a kiwi soldier when partisans opened fire during negotiations between New Zealand and German forces. The threat of violence increased as a Yugoslav demand for the Allies’ withdrawal was stoutly refused by the New Zealand Commander Freyberg. As a result, when VE Day (7th May 1945) was announced there was little jubilation amongst the New Zealand troops who were still standing at arms and facing a very uncertain peace.

Thankfully, a month after VE Day the Yugoslavs agreed to withdraw and the Allies assumed control of Trieste. The threat of hostilities gone, the New Zealanders spent their last few weeks in the area peacefully and pleasantly.

Artefact of the Week: WWI Turkish POW Hand Crafted Purse

April 7th, 2016

Handcrafted beaded purse  made by a POW from the Ottoman  forces (Turkish).

Handcrafted beaded purse made by a POW from the Ottoman forces (Turkish).

During the World War I campaigns in Sinai and Palestine, prisoners from the Ottoman forces (Turkish) were captured and held in camps or hospitals until the end of the desert battles. 

A popular item of their handicraft was beaded objects which would often take the form of animals – with snakes, lizards and frogs being the most produced. These items would be traded for cigarettes, food or medicines and found their way back to New Zealand at the end of the war. 

This intricately crafted purse was thought to have been brought back to New Zealand by 12594 Trooper Arthur Douglas Fabian, New Zealand Mounted Rifles.

Museum Benefits From Energetic Intern

February 17th, 2016

Natalie immerses herself in Education fun at NAM

Natalie immerses herself in Education fun at NAM

Kia ora! I’m Natalie, a student of Museum & Heritage Studies at Victoria University.
I have a background in anthropology and used to work as an archaeological technician in my home state of Illinois in the United States of America. Before getting confused by a Santa that wears board shorts in December or listening to the call of the bugle at all times of the day, I spent three years teaching English and cultural studies in Fukuoka, Japan.
To me, museums are akin to the feeling I imagine every companion of The Doctor feels when walking into the tardis for the first time. There is so much more inside than you can fathom from simply looking at the outer façade. From the objects in the exhibitions, to all the individuals who take care of and research each artefact, there are millions of stories floating around the place, waiting only for you to stop and experience them.
I am currently on placement, here, at the National Army Museum. It’s really exciting to be working with the education and marketing departments particularly because I love hearing all the interesting bits of New Zealand history. You can find me helping with the tours of visiting school groups and assisting in the creation of a new program about the role of animals in the army. Animals have been really important to the troops for a variety of reasons. While I can’t give away any secrets about the program, there is something fun that I can share with you.
Just a bit of information that came scurrying across in my research.
RATS! Of course, if you’ve walked around the museum, you know that rats have been a huge problem for troops in the field. Just have a look a look at the trench exhibits of WWI and you can see these little pests eating soldier’s rations and climbing over everything, which meant they left poop every where! Ugh! GROSS! Rats also have a pretty bad wrap for spreading diseases.  So imagine my surprise when a National Geographic article popped out of the google search on a particular breed of rat that is being trained to find landmines. The African Giant Pouched Rat has a stronger sense of smell than even man’s best friend, and most common service animal, the dog. With their strong olfactory senses, light weight and agility, these once huge pests could actually save lives!  It’s a concept that is slowly being adapted by armies around the world. Pretty neat, huh? If you have an interest in animals and want to learn more about how they have been used in the army, you should definitely check out all the other stories being told about horses, dogs, even donkeys here at the museum. Just keep a sharp eye, as they can be easy to miss!

New Intern for the National Army Museum

February 16th, 2016

Shiloh on the Centurion Tank outside NAM

Shiloh on the Centurion Tank outside NAM

The Museum is excited to have intern Shiloh Dobie working with the exhibitions team for 3 months. Shiloh started before Christmas and has been utilising her expertise working as an Exhibitions Designer, a Display Artist and a Graphic Designer where required. Shiloh has trained and works as a Freelance Spatial Designer and is also a Territorial Force soldier so is well suited to our museum.
Shiloh assisted with the installation of the latest ‘Balls, Bullets and Boots‘ WWI exhibition and has also been working on a WWI exhibition design project as well as assisting with some remodeling of the Kidz HQ trench. She will be with us here in Waiouru until mid-March.
You can keep up with her adventures on her blog – see some of the projects she has been working on, as well as a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ insight to the Museum and some of it’s hidden artefacts.

Artefact of the Week: Souvenir from Egypt

June 11th, 2015

WWI era embroidered silk cloth of Queen Alexandra’s 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Mounted Rifles

This week’s artefact is an embroidered silk cloth ‘souvenir of Egypt’ sent home during World War I. This type of cloth was a very popular souvenir during the war.

The cloth of Queen Alexandra’s 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Mounted Rifles, is attributed to 11/1815 Trooper Harold George Hanman and is machine embroidered in chain stitch. It includes a special embroidered message “To Mother With best love” and “From Harold” and was sent home to his mother.

The World War I era rectangular red sateen cloth has a narrow has a narrow white, gold and blue machine laced border.

Harold was a framer from New Plymouth who left New Zealand bound for Egypt in 1915, aged 26. He was discharged from service on 21 May 1916 due to appendicitis. He died in New Plymouth on 15th January 1963 aged 73 years.

Find out about our other museum artefacts and recent acquisitions.

Artefact of the Week: Japanese Aikuchi ‘Suicide’ Dagger

March 25th, 2015

Museum Artefact: WWII Japanese Aikuchi 'Suicide' Dagger

Museum Artefact: WWII Japanese Aikuchi ‘Suicide’ Dagger

This week’s aretfact is a Japanese World War Two Aikuchi ‘Suicide’ Dagger which was acquired by Lt Col McKenzie-Muirson while serving in the Pacific Islands during World War Two.

Japanese Kamikaze pilots were allowed to carry a small dagger or in Japanese known as an Aikuchi. This was meant to be used should they need to commit suicide. Aikuchi daggers were given to Japanese Navy pilots who manned suicide torpedoes in a special ceremony before setting out.
The blade inscription in Japanese reads “Go forth and conquer and your deeds will live in history”.

Lieutenant Colonel McKenzie-Muirson had served during World War One with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on Gallipoli (won the Military Cross), Ishmalia and France where he won a Bar to his Military Cross at Polygon Wood 1917. He also served on the North West Frontier with the Duke of York’s Own Lancers. He enlisted during World War Two serving with the Wellington Regiment, NZ Scottish Regiment and Commanding the 36th Battalion in the Pacific (including Mono Island). He continued to work for the Defence Department post World War Two until his retirement in 1960. His Military Cross and Bar are understood to have been gifted to the Australian War Memorial (AWM), Canberra.

Find out about our other museum artefact’s and recent acquisitions.

Artefact of the Week: World War I German Pontoon

March 16th, 2015

World War I German-made bridging pontoon

World War I German-made bridging pontoon

This week’s Museum artefact is a German made bridging pontoon used during World War I to cross the Suez Canal.

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) arrived in Egypt in December 1914 and entrained to Zeitoun Camp to start the tough training regime of long route marches, musketry drill and bayonet fighting practice.

Boredom was relived by excursions into Cairo to see the sights, both touristy; the Zoo, Botanical Gardens, theatres, the Sphinx and Pyramids, and a little seedier; the Haret el Wasser (brothel and drinking area).

This did not change the fact that the men were keen to engage the enemy and they got their first taste of action on 3 February 1915. The Kiwis were sent to the Suez Canal in response to a strong Turkish force that had trekked across the Sinai desert and luanched an attack on the canal at Ismailia in the early hours of the morning.

Inscription panel on the side of the pontoon

Inscription panel on the side of the pontoon

The Turkish troops used German-made Pontoons to cross the canal but they were repulsed by the New Zealand and Indian troops. The Turks suffered heavy losses and New Zealand had its first World War I overseas’battle’ casualty, Private William Ham, 12th (nelson) Company, Canterbury Infantry Battalion.

The pontoons were taken as ‘war trophies’ and four of them were transported to New Zealand. It appears three have suffered the ravages of time while one has been in storage at the National Army Museum and is soon to go on display at the Great War Exhibition in Wellington.

Find out more about our other museum artefacts and recent acquisitions.


WWI Soldier Private John Henry Thomson

February 10th, 2015

The WWI medals of Pte Thomson

The WWI medals of Pte Thomson

The National Army Museum is trying to find a relative of 3/453 Private John Henry Thomson of the New Zealand Medical Corps.

We know he was originally from Dunedin and after seeing action at Gallipoli and Western Front, he became very sick in April 1918 and passed away on 5th April 1918 at No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital.

If you are related to Pte Thomson please contact the Museum.

Artefact of the Month: Loyd Lindsay Challenge Cup

January 29th, 2015

Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Loyd Lindsay Challenge Cup

Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Loyd Lindsay Challenge Cup

This month’s artefact is the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry Loyd Lindsay Challenge Cup.

The competition for this cup was started in Britain by Colonel Sir James Loyd-Lindsay around 1873. It involved a team of four horsemen jumping over a series of hurdles and firing their rifles in unison. Points were awarded for speed, accuracy and style. The competition was sometimes held during A & P Shows.

The cup is a Sheffield silver trophy with ornate handles and circular black wooden base. The Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry saw service in World War I as part of the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment.

Find out about our other museum artefacts and recent acquisitions.

Artefact of the Week: Interesting Medal Group

December 4th, 2014

The medal group of Captain Alexander Cumming

The medal group of Captain Alexander Cumming

This week’s artefact is the medal group of Captain Alexander Cumming of the New Zealand Medical Corps.

Alexander was a medical student at the time of enlistment and embarked for England in late 1917 with the 30th Reinforcements, New Zealand Medical Corps. In March 1918 Alexander arrived in France and joined the No. 2 New Zealand Field Ambulance. Six months later in September he was admitted to hospital suffering from dysentery.

After his recovery Alexander was attached to the New Zealand Infantry General Base Depot and was promoted to Sergeant. He was discharged in May 1919 and after the war continued to serve with the Territorials eventually reaching the rank of Captain.

Dr Alexander Cumming was a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and practised for 39 years in Dominion Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. He was an officer and lecturer for the St John Ambulance Association for more than 30 years and also a skilled organist.

Alexanders medals are on display in the Museum’s Medal Repository and includes a Badge of a Serving Brother of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (4th type, 1948 -c. 1973).

Pictured from left are: British War Medal, Victory Medal, New Zealand War Service Medal, New Zealand Territorial Service Medal, New Zealand Long & Efficient Service Medal and the Service Medal of the Order of St John with 5 year bar.

Find out more about our other museum artefacts and recent acquisitions.

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