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

The Puketutu Bugle


The Puketutu Bugle

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Brass bugle, made in Paris, dated 1839 found near the site of the British Army Camp that was involved in the Battle of Puketutu on 8 May 1845.
The bugle was found on a farm just outside of Okaihau, Northland. As an aside, the man who found the Bugle was Arthur MacKereth (1892-1986) who served as a Company Sergeant Major with the Maori Pioneer Battalion in World War I.
The British Forces involved in the Battle of Puketutu consisted of 200 men from the British 58th, 96th and 99th Regiments as well as several marines and were led by Lieutenant Colonel William Hulme and his second in command Major Cyprian Bridge.
The Battle of Puketutu was the first time British troops had fought inland from the Bay of Islands. Due to local skirmishes in the area, Puketutu Pa was not fully completed at the time of the battle, whilst most of the pa was fortified with double or triple layer palisades around it, the rear was incomplete and vulnerable. As a way of countering this weakness, Te Ruki Kawiti and 140 of his men decided to wait in ambush in the bushes outside the pa so that when Colonel Hulme and his men attacked, they could take them by surprise. This proved effective and combined with the subsequent attack of Hone Heke and his men from the pa, resulted in Hulme calling off the attack. As he had no artillery, Hulme may have thought a frontal assault on the Pa was unwise following this fierce fighting. As the pa had no long term strategic value for Heke, he abandoned it following the battle and allowed Hulme and his men to occupy it.
This battle would prove important in the history of the New Zealand Wars as this was the first time Māori had engaged the British on the open ground and after witnessing their skill at this approach, Kawiti would change the approach as to how they would attack the British in future conflicts (most notably at Okaihau the following month).

Artefact of the Month: WW2 Italian Fascist Mothers Medal

Friday, June 1st, 2018

A World War II Italian Fascist Mothers Medal is June’s Artefact of the Month.

1990.161. WWII Italian Fascist Mothers Medal. National Army Museum, Te Mata Toa.

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.  

1990.161. WWII Italian Fascist Mothers Medal. National Army Museum, Te Mata Toa.

1990.161. WWII Italian Fascist Mothers Medal. National Army Museum, Te Mata Toa.

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. 



Artefact of the Month: Major John William Fletcher (MBE) and his Whistle

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. 

2007.786; Major John William Fletcher’s (MBE) Whistle, National Army Museum Te Mata Moa.


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.

2007.786; Major John William Fletcher’s (MBE) Whistle, National Army Museum Te Mata Moa.

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.

2007.786; Major John William Fletcher’s (MBE) Whistle, National Army Museum Te Mata Moa.

2007.786; Major John William Fletcher’s (MBE) Whistle, National Army Museum Te Mata Moa.

2007.786; Major John William Fletcher’s (MBE) Whistle, National Army Museum Te Mata Moa.

Written by Loran McNamara, Assistant Curator of Social History and Accoutrements

Artefact of the Month: Albert’s Melodeon

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.

2018.91.2; Albert Victor Samuel Dick holding his melodeon. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.

2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. 

National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. 

National Army Museum Te Mata Toa


2018.91.1; Melodeon Case, A V S Dick, WWI. 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.

2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. 

National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. 

National Army Museum Te Mata Toa


2018.91.1; Melodeon, A V S Dick, WWI. 

National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

Artefact of the Month: Ruth’s Soldier Doll

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.

2017.250.1; Doll, R M Miller, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

2017.250.1; Doll, R M Miller, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.

2017.250.1; Doll, R M Miller, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

2017.250.1; Doll, R M Miller, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

2017.250.1; Doll, R M Miller, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.



Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Gunner was adopted in Afghanistan by the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team and is a big white ‘wolf-like’ dog with a shaggy coat that is perfectly suited to the harsh rugged hills of Afghanistan.

May 2008, Afghanistan, NZPRT 11. The KT1 dog Gunner, with Major Syd Dewes.

Gunner is powerful, tough and full of energy and loves the snow, even when temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees. He mostly sleeps outside and will only use the kennel that was built for him when it rains. He’s grateful for the occasional bone thrown his way and scoffs every scrap of leftovers.

Gunner in the snow

Gunner is loyal, fiercely protective of the Kiwi base and enthusiastically welcomes home soldiers when they return form daily patrols.

Major Syd Dewes had such a soft spot for Gunner that when he got home from deployment, one of the first things he did, was go out shopping for worming and flea tablets so he could send them to the remote Kiwi patrol base in Nayak, where Gunner serves as a guard, a pet and a mascot.

May 2008, Afghanistan, NZPRT 11. The KT1 dog Gunner, with Major Syd Dewes.


Monday, February 12th, 2018

Freda the dog was a mascot for the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at Brocton Camp near Cannock Chase in Staffordshire during World War One. Although we know that she was a mascot to the brigade, much of Freda’s history is shrouded in mystery and is difficult to verify. There are two stories as to how Freda came to be a mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

One story is that Captain Christopher Magnay was presented with a puppy in the local area, to which he brought back to Brocton Camp. Cannock Chase is a hunting area, so it is possible that Freda came from a local family who had hunting dogs.

Another story was that Sergeant Ashby came by a puppy. According to this version, Sergeant Ashby became friends with a local family, the Wrights. The Wrights ran a soldier’s club at the St John’s Institute and had a young daughter, Freda. In this version, it was the Wrights’ daughter whom Sergeant Ashby named the puppy after.

Although we are unable to confirm who first brought Freda back to Brocton camp, we have been able to confirm that Captain Magnay was her handler.

The Commanding Officer of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Brigadier General Fulton took a shining to Freda and declared her the unit’s mascot. He also put Freda on regimental strength rations, which meant she got fed for her work as a mascot.

Not only is her arrival story unclear, but there is even conjecture over what type of dog she was. There are no known photographs of Freda, but it is presumed she was a Harlequin Great Dane, because she was a very large dog. Because she had black spots and white fur, many assumed that she was a Dalmatian.


A model of what Freda would have looked like  

According to military reports and letters home, Freda could be seen alongside the soldiers during their marches and was always keen to be a part of the ceremonial parades. Freda gave the New Zealand Rifle brigade soldiers much love and affection, and was a friendly distraction to the horrors of World War One.

In 1918, at the end of the war, Freda died and was buried at Brocton Camp near Cannock Chase. Her gravestone was battered by the weather and vandals over the years that followed. During the 1960s and 1970s, Freda’s headstone was restored twice thanks to the efforts of retired serviceman Fred Smith, the British Legion and Friends of Cannock Chase.


Freda’s early grave, with original headstone


In 2001 a new headstone was made for Freda and a commemoration service was held. This was attended by over 70 locals with their dogs. Freda had now become an important personality for the Cannock Chase region.


Freda’s new headstone


In 2010 the Armistice commemoration was held at Freda’s grave and working dogs and their owners were invited to honour animals who served in the war.

Her collar was donated to the Army museum and over the past few years, many visitors have arrived form England hoping to catch a glimpse of a much treasured artefact.

Freda’s collar

Freda’s mascot duties still continue today, but for a different group. Freda is now the symbol of the Cannock Chase region for good dog-owner behaviour, and she even has her own Facebook page!


Monday, February 12th, 2018

When in England, her (soon-to-be) owner, Driver Percy (Ike) Lowndes, picked up the dog in Towbridge, and taught her to perform some impressive tricks. Floss could skip a jumping rope, play the piano, count to five, sit at a table and order from a waiter, and more importantly, she knew when to take cover during a Zeppelin raid.

Floss performing

She quickly became the much-loved mascot of the World War I Army rugby team when they were touring England in 1917.

Floss and her team

At the end of the war, Ike Lowndes ignored a quarantine ban and snuck Floss home with him back to New Zealand. However, once back, Floss had to spend nine months quarantined on Somes Island before she was free to roam.

After her release, Floss performed for charities throughout the north Island and lived with Ike on a  rehabilitation farm near Gisborne, where she had several puppies.

Floss was 17 when she died in 1935, and Ike couldn’t bear to part with his beloved dog, so he had her stuffed and placed in a glass case at his home in Eastbourne. She was later given tothe Wellington RSA followed by the Auckland RSA. Unfortunately, little Floss has since been lost. 


Monday, February 12th, 2018

Caesar was an English bulldog that became the mascot of A Company, 4th Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade during World War I and before the troops embarked overseas, he led the grand parade down Queen Street in Auckland, as they marched to the wharves.

Caesar was also a trained Red Cross dog, and once on the battlefields of the Western Front in 1916, he was used to help stretcher bearers find wounded soldiers, especially at night. 

Unfortunately, when the brave little dog was out on the battlefield, he was killed in action and now his story has been immortalised in Patricia Stroud’s book Caesar the Anzac Dog.

Caesar the ANZAC dog. (name spelt incorrectly as ‘Ceaser’)


Artefact of the Month: Walking Stick, WWI

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.

1983.799; Walking Stick, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.

1983.799; Walking Stick, WWI. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.


Photo from WWI Photograph Album – France, Belgium and England. 2001.445.1: view:


Photo from WWI Photograph Album – France, Belgium and England. 2001.445.1: View:

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.

1999.929; Attempting to free a field gun stuck in mud near Flanders. National Army Museum Te Mata Toa

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.


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