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

World War One Shared Histories

Year 12 and 13 girls studying French from Nga Tawa Diocesan School in Marton spent a day researching and filming in the National Army Museum’s “Harnessed: New Zealand’s War Horses” exhibition.

The school is part of a special World War One centenary project titled Shared Histories, a joint initiative between the New Zealand and French Governments linking 19 New Zealand schools with 19 in France.

Nga Tawa wanted to be part of the project and were teamed up with Julesferry College in France due to their common link with horses and equestrian. The two schools aim is to study the novel and film War Horse, and to each prepare a video of their studies to exchange with each other.

Nga Tawa is home to 80 horses, and is the place to go if you want your daughter to learn to ride. Whilst Nga Tawa studied the National Army Museum’s exhibition and visited the grave of WWI horse Bess in Bulls, partner school Julesferry College plan to visit a museum in France based on the Battle of the Somme.

Each of the girls researched a WWI story and prepared a little commentary in French which was filmed by their teacher, Head of Languages, Carol Coleman.

Whilst at the museum, one of the girls who lives in a Year 13 boarding hostel called Riddford Cottage, made an interesting discovery. She found out that the Riddiford family after which her boarding cottage is named, were almost certainly the family of Capt Dick Riddiford who was awarded the Military Cross during WWI for gallantry during an attack (although wounded) on enemy trenches in 1916.

Capt Riddiford, faced with the predicament of his beloved horse Beauty being disposed of after the war had ended, paid for Beauty to get back to England and a lengthy stint in quarantine.

Tragically for Riddiford he would not accompany Beauty home to New Zealand. Whilst working as Aide-de-Camp to General Officer Commanding, New Zealand Division (Major General Sir Andrew Russell) he contracted the Spanish flu and died of pneumonia after a brief illness. He was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey.

Beauty made it back to New Zealand and was met by Riddiford’s sister and settled at “Westella” in Feilding, where it was ridden for 4 years until old age took its toll.

The story of Riddiford, a reminder of a life cut heartbreakingly short, and his horse Beauty together with his riding boots are currently on display in the exhibition which closes in June.