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

Recent Acquisitions


WWII Scrapbook Reveals Connection to Wellington ‘Trammies’


A scrapbook containing ephemera and correspondence collected in connection with the Wellington Tramwaymen’s Overseas Comfort Committee.

An interesting scrapbook from World War II illustrating a connection with Wellington Tramways has recently been donated to the National Army Museum. Although the creator of the scrapbook is unknown, Archivist Dolores Ho has been busy ‘putting the puzzle pieces together’ to understand the curious story it tells.

The newly obtained scrapbook contains references to the role of Wellington Tramwaymen’s Overseas Comforts Committee, its secretary Mr Alf A. Burns and his wife Mrs Burns. The assortment of ephemera and correspondence from men of the Wellington Tramway who served overseas, is thought to have been collected through the regular communication committee members maintained with their former colleagues away on active service. Included are many portrait photos of men taken before their departure. A total 187 men were recorded to have served overseas. One clipping from the New Zealand Free Lance dated November 1st 1944 states that over four and a half years the Comforts Committee had sent a total of, “1,406 parcels, 932 letters, and 11,895 periodicals,” to the ‘trammies’ serving overseas.


ANZAC Spirit Lives On

Ostrich Egg dating back to the Boer War

Ostrich Egg dating back to the Boer War

A special donation of a hand painted ostrich egg dating back to the Boer War was recently accepted by the National Army Museum in Waiouru. The donation was a special ‘ANZAC Centenary Gift to the people of New Zealand from Australia’s Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East’.  The gift was to commemorate the long standing close relationship between the two countries, and in recognition of the Centenary Year of ANZAC. Rear Admiral Trevor Jones of the Australian Navy presented the gift to the ‘New Zealand People’ via the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra on 25 April 2015.

Rear Admiral Jones’ research uncovered some interesting information about this Boer War artefact dating from 1900. It was either painted or commissioned by Trooper Nicholls shortly after his arrival in South Africa. It is in the form of an Ostrich Egg painted with a depiction of the Screw Steamship the SS Monowai and scroll denoting the passage to South Africa of the 4th Contingent of the NZ Rough Riders to the Boer War. Trooper Nicholls served for just over a year in the Boer War. Tragically, he passed away and was buried at sea on 2 March 1909 while on passage back to family in England. This artefact has therefore likely been held in family and other collections in England since then.


The Man With The Donkey

The original watercolour painting 'The Man With The Donkey' by Horace Moore-Jones.

The original watercolour painting ‘The Man With The Donkey’ by Horace Moore-Jones.

The original watercolour and famous painting, “The Man with the Donkey” is now on display at the National Army Museum’s Medal Repository. The iconic painting by Horace Moore-Jones, often wrongly referred to as ‘Simpson and his Donkey’,  helps depict the World War I story of the brave medics who used donkeys to help carry the wounded to safety through the gullies and ravines at Gallipoli.

In the words of Private Roland Chadwick of the NZ Medical Corps, “A stretcher bearer was the name given to those who carried the wounded from where they lay to the first aid posts dotted about the hills. Some stretcher bearers used donkeys to aid in carrying their loads in Gallipoli; while others worked in pairs with stretchers or whatever they could find to complete the task.”

Two of the New Zealand medics amongst the first group of stretcher bearers were William ‘Bill’ Henry, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on landing day at Gallipoli, and Richard ‘Dick’ Henderson who was later awarded the Military Medal on the first day of the Somme for rescuing wounded. It is believed that both Henry and Henderson were the ‘models’ for the Sapper Moore-Jones painting.


Matron “Momma” Lewis

Carved box gifted to Matron Edith Lewis by the staff of the Hospital Ship Maunganui in WWII

Carved box gifted to Matron Edith Lewis by the staff of the Hospital Ship Maunganui in WWII

Amongst the many heroes of the wars were the nurses who endured hardship and gave devoted care to the war sick and wounded often displaying great courage for the benefit of others. Matron Edith Mary Lewis (later Rudd) is being remembered at the National Army Museum with the recent donation of a special carved box given to the Matron during World War II.

Born in 1882, Matron Edith Lewis had an outstanding career serving as a nursing sister in both wars, first in Egypt in World War I and later at aged 59 for four years as Matron on the Hospital Ship Maunganui in World War II. Her career spanned over 30 years, with well over 9,000 sick and wounded and hundreds of medical, nursing and orderly staff coming under her influence during this time.

Find out why she was referred to as “Momma of the black dressing gown” and MORE.


The Wartime Poetry of William John Kennedy

Bill Kennedy's WWII poetry book and letters from Reg Wingate

Bill Kennedy’s WWII poetry book and letters from Reg Wingate

A  remarkable story of two soldiers brought together by a special book of poetry was uncovered with a recent donation of the World War II poetry collection of William John Kennedy.

William John Kennedy (Bill) was a pig farmer from Tauranga who enlisted at the break of war and fought in Crete. He had taken with him a small leather bound exercise book which he wrote poetry in. His book was left behind when he was evacuated from Crete and picked up by English soldier Reg Wingate who was a POW.

Throughout the remaining years of war, Wingate kept Kennedy’s book of poems hidden. After the war back in England, Wingate wrote a letter to Bill telling him how special his book of poetry had become and that he couldn’t bear to part with it. He had the book transcribed and the copy sent to Bill. 35 years later when diagnosed with terminal cancer Wingate returned the book to Bill.

Recently Bill’s daughters donated Bill’s book together with Wingate’s letters and their remarkable story to the National Army Museum archives.


World War I History Preserved

The Old Contemptibles Assoication Wellington flag, finial and Certificate of Dispensation.

The Old Contemptibles Assoication Wellington flag, finial and Certificate of Dispensation.

In the interests of history being honoured, remembered and preserved, St Mark’s Church Basin Reserve in Wellington presented to the National Army Museum a unique World War I flag and Finial.

The flag and finial is that of The Old Contemptibles Association in Wellington. This was a post war veterans association for those who had been members of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium between 5th August and 22nd November 1914 – ‘that mighty Force that stood for England…..stood fast while England girt her armour on’ – that withstood the German onslaught at Mons, The Marne, The Aisne and Ypres, that kept the enemy from the Channel Ports.

The Old Contemptibles was the nickname the British Expeditionary Force adopted for themselves 100 years ago after the German Kaiser Welhelm II gave the order to crush Britain’s “contemptible little army”.

Read More


Women and the War Effort

During World War Two, over 75,000 women volunteered for work to assist the war effort and this effort was co-ordinated by the Women’s War Auxiliary Service (WWSA). Formed in 1940, the WWSA kept a registry of all women and organised voluntary workers as required.

In 1941 a Hospital Division of the WWSA was formed with the idea of bringing women from New Zealand to serve with the 2 New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in Egypt.

The women of the WWSA Hospital Division took on a variety of roles in and around hospitals from working in the wards to laundry and clerical duties. It was decided that nursing orderlies be used together with clerks. The requirement for those working in the nursing section was that they must have 60 hours hospital training, whilst those in the clerical section was that they must be highly qualified and be able to show a high standard of efficiency. Matron-in-Chief, Miss Nutsey insisted that they be referred to as ‘nurses’ however many referred to the women as Voluntary Aides (VAs).

One of the Northam girls was Second Lieutenant Martha Denman Grigg. Martha attested in 1941 aged 30 and worked in admin for the WWSA in Egypt and Italy. She was Mentioned in Despatches for distinguished service. The National Army Museum was lucky enough to recently receive a number of her personal items including her medal group which is currently in preparation for mounting to go into the museum’s Medal Repository.

Read more


Japanese Invasion Money

This collection of paper money, officially called Southern Development Bank Notes are examples of a special currency issued by the Japanese Military Authority after the conquest of various Asian countries during World War II.

In an attempt to proclaim independence from the Western world, Japan produced this replacement currency to be used in the various areas they occupied which by the end of the war included: the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, North Borneo, Sarawak (now Malaysia), Singapore, Brunei, the Dutch East indies (now Indonesia) and some areas of Oceania (New Guinea and the Solomon and Gilbert Islands).

Read More

WWII Nurses Cape

This red winter weight nurses cape belonged to Sister Sarah Jane Greenall Gibb known as Sally. Sally trained in Christchurch and qualified as a nurse in 1939 at the age of 27. She worked in 3 New Zealand General Hospital and 1 New Zealand General Hospital in the Middle East during World War II as a charge sister.

Read More


Reverend Ryan’s Trunk

This interesting item recently came into the collection via donation from a gentleman who had previously bought it at auction. It is a trunk containing the worldly possessions of the Reverend Maurice J Ryan who served as an Army chaplain in Malaya. Little is known about Reverend Ryan, except that he was Catholic CMT chaplain at Papakura camp before being despatched to Malaya in November 1958.

Read More

Japanese Pattern 1877 Cavalry Troopers Sword

Contributed by Terrence Seymour, Assistant Curator Weapons

Amongst the recent donations to the National Army Museum is a Japanese Pattern 1877 Cavalry Troopers Sword and with it an intriguing story.

The sword was found along with a large number of other weapons buried in many caches scattered around an area at Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Japan during the New Zealand occupation of Japan at the end of World War II.

Read More

The “Colonel”

Every good team needs a good ‘boss’ and Colonel Allan Andrews (later Brigadier) was that man. He managed the 1945-46 Kiwis rugby team often referred to as the “Khaki All Blacks” and his Kiwis Tour Blazer currently forms part of our “Khaki & Black: NZ’s Rugby Supremacy in Times of War” exhibition open until August 2012.

It was therefore with much delight the National Army Museum recently accepted the donation of Brigadier Allan Andrews medal group from his three surviving daughters.

Click on No. 13 of the National Army Museum’s 1st XV and Read the story of Brigadier Allan Andrews.

Brigadier Andrews medals pictured above from left to right: CBE, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star with 8th Army bar, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War medal, NZ War service medal, Coronation Medal 1953.

Unopened Memory of War

The National Army Museum holds many simple, unassuming objects that hold great power and illuminate aspects of war normally left untold in the history books.

One such object was recently donated to the museum; a simple unopened parcel, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. The parcel dated 27 November 1945 and the red wax on the string is testimony to the fact that it has remained undistrubed since then.

As inconspicuous as the parcel might appear, however, it carries a heartbreaking story of the war time experiences of David Robertson and the people he left behind in New Zealand.

Read More

Mah Jong Set

This beautifully made Mah Jong set was recently generously donated to the National Army Museum and is a striking example of Prisoner of War Art. It was made by a Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) at Featherston Camp and given to a guard. The 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.

Read more


Wartime Musical Companion

Contributed by Assistant Curator Chris Rapley

The faithful musical companion of a remarkable New Zealand soldier recently found a new home at the National Army Museum. The Italian-made piano accordion was the treasured possession of Frank Burns and accompanied him to its place of origin when Burns fought in World War II.

He brought the accordion as a young man and quickly became a highly skilled player and won the New Zealand Accordion Championship. Burns also formed a band with some friends and played on 1ZB radio station.

Read more

Supply of Ammunition

A seal machine is not something you would expect to see in an army museum’s collection, but recently the National Army Museum received one with a fascinating history.

The machine has a sprung handle that pushes down a circular stamp to impress ‘The Colonial Ammunition Company Limited, Common Seal’ – a company that had its origins in the late stages of the 1800s.

In 1885 New Zealand was gripped by a war scare thanks to the rising tensions between Britain and Russia over Afghanistan. Defences were built at some New Zealand ports and – more importantly for our story – authorities became concerned about a shortage of small arms ammunition from Britain.

Read more


Good luck charm

Good luck charm

This colourful cross pendant was given to 31544 Lance Corporal Edgar Squire of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion by his mother as a good luck charm before he went overseas for World War One.

The swastika is a symbol used in Buddhism and in Hinduism, and became popular in the West 1880’s to 1920’s as a good luck charm/symbol until it was subverted by the Nazi’s.

Read more

Peace beads WWI

Peace beads WWI

Written by Mrs Joyce Neill 1973

“Peace Will Come Again” – Those are the words symbolised by an old bead necklace. The red, white and blue beads were threaded, in that order onto white tape. Many of these bead gifts were made by an elderly lady (neighbour of Mrs Neill nee Nichols) over fifty five years ago in 1918. She presented them to all the young girls she knew.

Read more