Sunday, 22 November 2015

Women of the Empire in 1914 -1918 WW1 - Those on the Home Front in NZ

Notice for Women of Empire Exhibition held Thames  November 2015 - photo courtesy Chris Ball 2015

Visiting the Women of Empire Exhibition being held at Thames, New Zealand for ten days during November 2015 , was an awesome experience - having an opportunity to see the costumes worn by women in that era, see the memorablia and read the stories of those women who stepped outside the square and did incredible service as doctors, nurses, farm work, running businesses . Not only did New Zealand Women fufill these rolls but in addition to, many at the same time took part in fundraising activities via town groups, the Women's Patriotic League, the Victoria League, the Navy League , NZ Branch British Red Cross Society and  Order of St. John.

This Women of Empire Exhibition at Thames was thought provoking, for those in  own family who as with many many New Zealand families, had family members away fighting - some never to return. These women as with many other women in many families took up roles that were outside their usual role.
One of the first of these fundraising and support groups was the small town of Cambridge in the Waikato, where under the auspices of Alice Rochfort, then matron of Te Waikato Sanitorium, a Women's Patriotic League was formed in 1910. One of this group's first activities was to raise £70  towards a battleship's bell.
A year later at a meeting of the Waihi Patriotic League, it was decided to form a ladies committee with the mayoress ( Mrs Newth)  being first convenor .  Those Patriotic League Groups established after the Boer AKA South African War continued on into WW1.
Waihi Railway Station where soldiers in WW1 were farewelled and welcomed home to Waihi - photo 2000 courtesy Chris Ball
The Auckland star reported in May 1915 that a Red Cross Committee headed by Mrs G R Bloomfield was being supported by Mrs Parkes and  Mrs Coleman of  Auckland City, Mrs  Eliot Davis of Parnell  ,  Mrs Oliver Nicholson of  Mount Eden, Mrs Ernest Bloomfield of Remuera, Mrs Edger of Ponsonby, Mrs J B Macfarlane  of Epsom, Mrs W R Wilson of Takapuna, Mrs Mclean of Mount Albert, Mrs Napier of Devonport and Mrs W Lloyd of Otahuhu.( Auckland Star 22/05/1915)  What then would have been a good coverage of Auckland Area.
My own great grand aunt, Edith Mary Macfarlane ,threw her energies into fundraising for the hospital ships Maheno  and Marama, along with many other women. They followed on with fundraising for medical supplies for these ships and the hospitals such as Brockenhurst in England and the Red Cross hospital at Malta -  wheelchairs, bandages, beds and equipment.  Edith was very active in the joint Red Cross / St. John Committee formed in New Zealand by Lord and Lady Liverpool in 1916
Typical of the many women left to keep things going, Edith as with her brother in law in Christchurch , enlisted other family members to assist. My paternal side great grandmother, Henrietta Stewart, sister- in- law of Edith, became involved in bandage rolling, Red Cross stalls and knitting. Other relatives in the country areas of the Auckland Province - the Hanna's of Paeroa-  were also coopted to do fundraising activities and providing comforts for the soldiers. No doubt encouraged on as with many other families by the many sons, nephews, cousins  and three nurses away serving on the war fronts. ( the nurses being Annie Moody, Ethelwyn Carruth and  Mary Ethel Mandeno)
There was plenty to do  - hampers of home comforts  for soldiers which required packing. By the end of 1915 the country areas of the then Auckland Province had become galvanised with the fundraising activities and competition of a Queen Carnival.  The grand sum of £900 was raised at Waikino at a gala and fete when Miss M Vercoe was duly crowned Queen . At today's real price value in 2015 , this would equate out at £64,410.00. The money received from the country areas of Coromandel / Hauraki  for the Patriotic Fund was plentiful, with that raised sent to Auckland.  The New Zealand Herald reported in the same article as that raised from Waikino, Paeroa  £500,Thames  £4500, Turua £560 Whitianga £300 Thames Valley Dairying Company  £1000,  £200  Waikato Farmers' Union , Karangahake Bowling Club £70.
 Tairua - a small settlement on the Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard were reported as contributing a monthly subscription to various funds that supported the sick and wounded, home comforts. With twenty five families said to be involved in bush work and logging and only able to donate a small amount, the plan was felt successful. ( NZ Herald  09/04/1915 p 6)

In Tripp, L.0.H. 1923. The War Effort of New Zealand. Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited p 184 photo courtesy NZETC  under creative commons

The New Zealand Herald reported   a  Red Cross shop opened by  July 1916 and continued with until 1918:
During this time the shop cleared the remarkable sum of £12,000, credit for which is given to the splendid support given by country members. The branches at Kokukoku, Mangonui, Kaitaia, Awanui, Warkworth, Parua Bay. Tairua, Hirini, Puhoi, Te Puke, Ohaeawai, Manurewa, Orini, and Paeroa gave great assistance in making up garments and their help in other" ways was invaluable. The total number of garments sent away  is over 70,000, apart from bandages and other' smaller articles. The approximate amount of money received has been £20,000, which-has gone in buying material for making up and in donations. To  the British Red Cross a donation of £50 a month was given." ( Auckland Star 19/07/1919 p 9( supplement) )  Noted is the contributions from Tairua and Paeroa.
photo courtesy Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150527-44-6
The Paeroa Ladies Committee, Paeroa Patriotic Committee and  The Paeroa District War Relief Association. The new Paeroa  District War Relief Association was formed in August 1916 with President, W. J. Towers; Secretary, A. H. Wilson; Treasurer, R. W. Evans., mata North, Mrs Alexander/; Paeroa Central, Capt. Gill Inglis; Western side of railway (including Puke and Junction Roads), J. W. Graves Northern side of the railway from Station Road, and including the whole area of Thames Road to Komata Stream, J. L. Hanna; Southern side of river, F. A. Balcke; from Thames Road, extending to the eastern boundary of the Borough, Mrs H. Bush. Another eleven elected were L. Cassrels  J. Cochrane, J. Couper, D. W. Dunlop, Mrs D. J. Evans, Mrs Frogley, M. J. Harris, Nurse Odgers, W. J. Potter, W. Turner, Mrs A. H. Wilson.
Throughout the war the women of Paeroa kept the soldiers of the 6th Hauraki supplied with parcels of home comforts. There was a 6th Hauraki Comfort Committee with many women of the area involved -Mesdames Porritt, Poland, Dean, Usher, Taylor, Lamb, Conolly, Cassrels, Quick, Hanna and Misses Hackett, McWatters, D. McWatters, E. Thorp.

James Blyth Macfarlane
James Blyth Macfarlane writing to his father James Buchanan and mother Edith Macfarlane in 1917 from the war front  asked if something could be done for the  Auckland Regiment based on the support received by the 6th Hauraki  men from the Paeroa 6th Hauraki Comfort Committee.

—"I was wondering if you could do anything in the way of getting funds sent out to the. Auckland regiment. You see it is this way. Each battalion has a fund drawn chiefly from canteen profits, which seem to be getting less and less lately. Owing to the extreme cold, we have been providing extra soups and beef tea for the men on duty at night in the front line', out of battalion funds, which funds will not last very long as things are now. This tea and stuff is really necessary now at present, as the snow has been on the ground for a fortnight, and it is so cold, that breath freezes as it conies out, and drops off in large chunks. Up to the present, Auckland has done practically nothing in the money line for the men representing them out here. Certainly they have done very .much good work in connection with the wounded, but the men who are still fighting, are in need of comforts, just as much, if not more and the best way to do this is by sending money to the battalion, which provides the soups and other things most required. I think we out here know better than anyone, what things are best, and most welcome, to the men. The Hauraki people have been in the habit of sending periodical cheques for their men, which have been paid into the battalion funds. We other company commanders feel it is not right for the Hauraki people to provide for the whole battalion: Major A., who is at present in command, and also the Padre, are writing to various people on this matter. The army ration although very good is only sufficient for three meals. All men admit that the rations are marvellously good for war  conditions. Any funds are to be spent on extra vegetables, and also dried soups mentioned before. I do not think the average person realises the conditions under which the men are at present working. If they did, I think they would give willingly, The men are splendid, always cold and always cheerful, and worth giving, too. I might mention that officers reap no benefit whatever out of this, as we pay for everything we get." ( letter and in  Ohinemuri Gazette, 04/04/1917 p3)

The volunteer support by the many many women at home did not halt with war's end but continued. There were memorials erected, sick and injured soldiers nursed and support of families in the back blocks. That is another story also a huge part of the past NZ History as was the war time support.