Holding on to Home in WW1
One book. Two authors. More than eighty extraordinary Te Papa objects. Which were their favourites?
Authors Kirstie Ross and Kate Hunter have selected some of the most compelling objects featured in their book Holding on to Home: New Zealand Stories and Objects of the First World War published by Te Papa Press.
Find out more about Holding on to Home: New Zealand Stories and Objects of the First World War.
Visit Te Papa’s Collections Online to see all of the Te Papa objects in Holding on to Home. Which one is your favourite?
William’s uniform – untouched for a century
One hundred years later, William Phillipps’ uniform tunic is still stained by the bloody bandages he handled in his work at an Egyptian hospital and on the troopship home, and there is still sand in his pockets. Did he hang it in his wardrobe when he got home, never checking the pockets, or thinking to clean it? Did he forget, or just not want to remember?
Military uniform, Jacket, Service Dress, Other Ranks, 1912 Pattern, 1914-1915, Wellington, by Abraham Levy. Gift of W J Phillipps, 1955. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH017461)
Beetles from the Dardanelles
For us, a tray of beetles was one of the most unexpected war objects we found! Looking for ways to fill in time on the Gallipoli peninsula, two amateur insect collectors – William Henry and Harry Browne – searched for different species. They packaged up their unusual collection and sent it home to the Dominion Museum.
WWI was the wristwatch war. Uniform understandings of time were essential to the enormous offensives of the war and international standardisation of time had only just been achieved in 1912. Wristwatches also became very popular farewell gifts for soldiers: they were small, useful and could be engraved on the back.
Wrist watch, 1914-1918, maker unknown. Gift of Mrs M Parsonage, date unknown. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH003314)
Harry’s cigarette case
Smoking was hugely important to soldiers: it filled in the hours, provided a distraction, and calmed nerves. Harry Whishaw survived Gallipoli, and clearly thought it a feat worth marking. He didn’t survive the war, however, and neither did his sister, who was a military nurse at Featherston Military Camp. He was killed in action at Armentieres in 1916, and she died of influenza in the pandemic of November 1918.
Cigarette case, 1914, United Kingdom, by William Neale & Sons Ltd. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH007701)
Chicken wishbone doll: Wishing for soldiers’ comfort?
This soldier doll is made from a chicken wish bone and is only 95mm tall. Greymouth sisters Dorothy and Frances Broad made and sold many dolls like this to raise funds for soldiers' comforts and tobacco. To make these intricate and detailed little soldiers, the pair must have been very patient and extremely dextrous. These are qualities we envy!
Gift of the Abraham family in memory of Dorothy Broad, 2009
Christie Doll: Dolly walker
France De Lisle’s ‘Christie’ doll, a Christmas gift in 1919, does not seem to be connected to the war. But walking doll Christie’s facial features reveal one way the conflict affected children. American- or Australian-made Christie makes do with painted on eyes. Her unblinking gaze was due perhaps to ongoing import restrictions placed on high quality German-made dolls, famous for their hyper-real eyes.
Gift of Frances de Lisle, 1986
Home-made hat pins: patriotism and grief
Dorothy Broad made these hat pins from buttons she removed from the tunic of her fiancée, Wyville, who did not survive the war. This transformed mass-produced, standard issue buttons into very personal pieces of mourning jewellery. It was seeing the hat pins for the first time that started us thinking about what war objects were – and what they could be.
Hat pins made from officer’s rank insignia and a New Zealand Army button, about 1919, New Zealand, by Dorothy Broad. Gift of Marianne Abraham, 2010. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH016804 and GH016800)
Royal Doulton’s soldier figurines
A far cry from shepherdesses or ballerinas, Royal Doulton’s soldier figurines were produced throughout the 1920s and 1930s. They literally brought the war into people’s lounge rooms.
A feather-trimmed wedding hat: Souvenir of service
In June 1918, Martha Cranstoun married Percy Heenan, just after Percy was discharged from the army. She wore this hat decorated with ostrich feathers. Percy had sent them to Martha from South Africa in 1916 on his way to the Western Front. It’s very touching, we think, the way that the exotic trim on Martha’s hat links the end of one chapter in their life to the start of another.
Woman’s hat trimmed with ostrich feathers, Circa 1919, New Zealand, maker unknown. Gift of the McCredie family, 2012. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH017583)
An unknown Wellington baker made this splendid cake to celebrate the opening of the carillon in Buckle St, Wellington in 1932. We can’t quite imagine how they cut such a cake, but it may be the only example of a national war memorial being eaten.
Carillon cake, 1932, maker unknown. Te Papa (B.026464)
Soldier’s identity tag: All that remains
During the war, the return of dead soldiers’ personal effects, no matter how few or small, was very important to the army, and for grieving families who had no bodies to bury. This is the back of the identity disc that the army sent home to Morris Brown’s parents in Taranaki after he was killed on Gallipoli. We don’t know who added the piece of paua but its lovely addition personalises one of the most common of military items.
Visit Te Papa Press to find out more about Holding on to Home: New Zealand Stories and Objects of the First World War by Kate Hunter and Kirstie Ross.