National Army Museum Newsletter – August, 2009

August Despatches

Died of Wounds, Passchendaele

Died of Wounds, PasschendaeleIt appears Pukekohe farmer William Ellis was a bit of a rogue. His WWI 'Conduct Sheet' on his Service Record provides a few clues to his character. He received 10 days detention for being 'absent without leave'; 14 days 'Field Punishment' for drunkenness; and a further reprimand for again being 'absent without leave' from an evening roll call.

However, 'rough edges' have never stopped a good soldier and after the Gallipoli Campaign, Ellis arrived in France, was promoted to Lance Corporal. Wounded in action on 23 August, a month later he was back with his unit preparing for the October push - Passchendaele.

The 4th of October opened to a steady drizzle. A strong westerly wind chilled the men to the bone as they waited for their orders. William Ellis was with 1st Battalion, which from the outset was faced with heavy fighting. At some point in the day, William was hit badly in the chest. He was taken to the No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station but the wounds were too severe and five days later he succumbed to his injuries. He is buried at the Nine Elms British Cemetery in Belgium.

Along with William's WWI Memorial Plaque, the National Army Museum holds an Edison Bell Record Cylinder with a recording of William's last message to his mother, made prior to his departure on 13 June 1915.

Stories like William's will be commemorated when the National Army Museum hosts the popular exhibition, "Passchendaele – The Belgians Have Not Forgotten." On show from 24th August to 27th September, all the way from Belgium.

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Strathern's Heroics

trathern's Heroics
Private John Strathern's medal group,
457122 5 Inf Bgde, 23rd Battalion, 2NZEF

During a daylight advance on April 21st 1945, Private John Strathern was a runner for a forward Platoon. Under the fire of heavy machine guns and armour piercing high explosives, one of the platoon's support tanks was knocked out and the advance halted.

But instead of withdrawing Private Strathern stayed to attend to a wounded comrade. Then, entirely on his own initiative, alone and with complete disregard for his own safety, he rushed forward some 150 yards to a ditch where his platoon had previously been engaged. Here he single handedly captured four enemy who were manning the position.

Later that same day Private Strathern was also responsible for the destruction of an enemy 150mm self propelled gun. He observed the gun in a camouflaged position some 600 yards away, and successfully directed the fire of a supporting 17 pounder gun on to it.

Private Strathern's heroics saw him awarded a Military Medal for his bravery and courage, his medals are held in the National Army Museum collection.

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Hands On History Proves Popular With Schools

The last 12 months have been record-making for the National Army Museum Education service, with a record number of schools through the doors. More than 5,000 pupils from over 175 schools made visits in the 12 months to June 2009.

Education Officer Mark Hays says, "The most popular programmes continue to be 'Remembrance', 'Gallipoli' and 'Rations'. In our Remembrance sessions we often link the schools local war heroes and memorials with an in-depth look into why we remember. We had an influx of schools around ANZAC Day with many studying this aspect of our history and choosing our Gallipoli programme to support their classroom activities and assessment. But by far the most popular is Rations where students get an insight into Army life in the field by cooking and eating an authentic soldier's ration pack."

Also available to families over the school holidays and during weekends is the Kids HQ, an interactive centre where kids can enjoy hands on activities, dress-up in soldier's uniforms, re-enact battles in the trench and tunnel, or simply play with the toys and puzzles.

For more information about our Education Service click here.

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Boer War Gallery Refurbishment

The National Army Museum staff are currently hard at work on the refurbishment of our Boer War Gallery which will include new layout, interpretative panels, and artefacts. The refurbishment is scheduled to be completed by the end of August.

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New Facility for Researchers

The Kippenberger Military Archive and Research Centre has recently opened a new research room. This new resource provides military researchers, library patrons and small school groups a larger space for research activities. Meanwhile the Research Library's facilities now include a scanner, photocopier, internet computers and CD ROMs as well as access to a remarkable collection of books. These include historical and contemporary resources such as official and unofficial histories, unit histories, biographies, campaign studies, weapons and medals reference books, to name just a few.

For more information about our research facilities click here.

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Le Quesnoy Veteran Honoured

Le Quesnoy Veteran Honoured
From left Museum Curator Windsor Jones,
Mrs Joan Clouston and Museum Director Col (Rtd) Ray Seymour next to the Le Quesnoy Banner presented to the NZ Rifle Brigade 1918.

Major-General Sir Harold Barrowclough's daughter Mrs Joan Clouston recently made the journey to Waiouru specially to see the exhibition "the Last 100 Days – Victory & Home."

Major-General Sir Barrowclough, one of New Zealand's most famous and distinguished soldiers commanded an infantry company in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade during World War I, winning both the Military Cross and DSO for his efforts.

In arguably one of the most dramatic episodes in New Zealand military history, his battalion liberated the medieval walled town of Le Quesnoy, a German machine-gun stronghold, just days before the end of WWI.

Given the task of capturing the town, Barrowclough's battalion began the day with a barrage of artillery and mortar fire. After much difficult fighting they were able to isolate the town, but the German machine guns still posed a near insurmountable threat.

Because Le Quesnoy dominated the roads needed to get the artillery forward, it was decided to assault the town. After initially joking at the suggestion of using ladders, Barrowclough realised it might in fact be the only way to breach the defences.

This remarkable story along with many others is part of the Museum's popular exhibition, "The Last 100 Days – Victory & Home" on display until June 2010.

For more information about the Le Quesnoy Banner click here.

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Book Launch: National Army Museum and Gerald Hensley

Book Launch: National Army Museum and Gerald HensleyThe National Army Museum Literary Award Fund has supported Mr Gerald Hensley over the last three years in producing a fascinating and profound study into the other side of the story of New Zealand's role in WWII. "Beyond the Battlefield – NZ and its Allies 1939-1945" examines a key part of New Zealand's history during which time under the immense pressure of fighting a war on both sides of the world, the country moved from being a quiet and faraway outpost in the Commonwealth to a strong, independent nation playing an influential role in the shaping of the United Nations.

The book is being published on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war on September 3 and is being supported by a series of free lectures throughout New Zealand during September. For more details about the fund, Gerald's new book and the free lecture series click here.

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