A splendid send-off – Hawke’s Bay goes to war

One hundred years ago this week, Hawke’s Bay’s first contingent of men were mobilised for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

When the King declared war on behalf of the British Empire on 4 August, New Zealand put its mobilisation plans into action. Men volunteered in their hundreds. Women marshalled in matters of ‘practical patriotism’ – raising funds for the expeditionary force and in equipping men for the front.

The first thirty seven – 10 August

On 6 August Prime Minister William Massey offered troops for Imperial service and the Defence Force made its first call for volunteers. The government promised to have the entire expeditionary force of 8500 men and 3800 horses on its way to Europe in three weeks. Recruiting began on 8 August. Within a week more than 14,000 volunteers had stepped forward. The Hawke’s Bay men accepted into the first draft departed in groups according to the requirements of the unit they were joining. Whether it was a handful of men, or a hundred, thousands of well-wishers turned out for each departure, and sent them on their way with speeches, brass bands, and a chorus of God Save the King.

Some of the first to leave Hawke’s Bay were 37 men who had answered an early call for ambulance brigade members, a machine gun section and railway engineers. A public notice was put up on the evening of the 8th for volunteers; men were selected and fitted out on the 9th, and departed for Wellington on the morning of the 10th. Over 3000 people gave these first volunteers[1] an enthusiastic send-off from the railway stations in Napier and Hastings.

Hastings all agog – 11 August

The earliest dated photographs in the museum’s collection capturing the departure of troops from Hawke’s Bay are three photographs taken at Hastings Railway station on 11 August.

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(a)

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(b)

Troops leaving Hastings for Awapuni, 11 August 1914, gifted by Stan Wright. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m74/72, 4923(b)

The Daily Telegraph for 11 August notes the departure of one group of men from Hastings on that day. “Hastings was all agog” the paper said “to see one of the first large groups of men to leave Hastings”, the departure of a draft of 25 Mounted Rifles, B Squadron, 9th (Wellington) and their horses, for Awapuni (via Dannevirke), commanded by Lieutenant [Augustine] Georgetti.

These men were to join the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, formed on 8 August, and which concentrated at Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North (alongside other units) from the 12 August.

Napier Contingent Day – 15 August

Napier Contingent Day ribbon. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, [74627]

Napier Contingent Day ribbon. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, [74627]

On a meeting at the Napier Council Chambers on 10 August a ‘Contingent Day’, was proposed for the 15 August to raise funds for the expeditionary force. 250 women were given boxes and badges and let loose upon the pockets of the generous Napier public. Some ladies, the paper noted, started solicitations before breakfast, and they worked till 9.30pm that night, canvassing the streets. Hotel-keepers provided complimentary teas to all collectors. At Taradale, the post mistress, Mrs Hazel took charge, and had twenty girls on horseback scouring the countryside.

These satin badges, of which the museum has half a dozen, were given out to each patriotic purchaser, for a minimum donation of 5s. By noon, 2000 had been distributed and demands were coming in from collectors for more. Napier Contingent Day raised £351 18s 6d in all.   Hawke’s Bay people undertook all manner of concerts, parades and events to raise funds.

Practical patriotism – 16 August

After the declaration of war, and the confirmation New Zealand would send men to fight, the women of Hawke’s Bay banded together in local Ladies’ Expedition Equipment Committees, to consider how to quickly supply the men of Hawke’s Bay with all they would need for the front.[2] At the suggestion of Lady Godley (wife of General Sir Alexander Godley, Commander of the NZEF) the wives and mothers of the men of the 9th Regiment focused their attention on the supply of vests, hold-alls and ‘housewives’. The various branches of the Girls’ Friendly Society of Hawke’s Bay made and contributed 50 pairs of sox, 50 suits of flannel pyjamas and 50 flannel shirts.

Donated goods were collected at drill halls, and citizens were encouraged to make public subscriptions to enable the purchase of materials. Mobilisation commanders directed, and expected that local men be fitted out locally before their transfer to the concentration camps.

On 16 August, the main contingent of Napier men assembled in full force at the drill hall to be presented with the war kits that had been assembled by the women of Napier. Lieutenant Colonel Hislop, officer commanding the 9th Regiment (infantry) made a speech of thanks, “on behalf of the Napier boys going to the front I have to most heartily thank the ladies of this town for equipping them”.

Au Revoir, God speed, and a safe return – 17 August

On the morning of Monday 17 August 1914 the main contingent left Hawke’s Bay.

From Napier, 112 men, including 33 from Gisborne, met at the Drill Hall, where the the Rev J A Asher, conducted a short service, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer. The volunteers, headed by a band, were then marched to the railway station via the Marine Parade, Hastings, Emerson and Munroe streets, all of which were thronged with spectators. The museum holds two photographs of a large contingent of men parading along Marine Parade, on what may be this occasion.

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (a)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (a)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (b)

First draft of the NZEF, Napier, August 1914, gifted by Neville Harston. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m76/30, 5241 (b)

Mayor J Vigor Brown and Lieutenant-Colonel Hislop spoke to the 112 contingenters and a crowd of 7,000 enthusiastic spectators from the balcony of the Terminus Hotel.

The papers reported:

“A most enthusiastic send-off was given to the local volunteers for active service this morning, many thousands of residents of all ages cheering the men on in their noble response to the great call from the Motherland for some of her stalwart sons.

Everyone appeared to be excited and patriotic in the extreme. Flags fluttered everywhere. Ladies wore ties of red, white and blue.

Some of the crowd were gathered together in small knots, only too evidently related to some member of the departing warriors, and in such groups were to be seen many saddened faces and moistened eyes. It was a scene of intense enthusiasm, dampened only by the stern realty of what was before the brave lads who had so nobly responded to the call.[3]

In Hastings, the town despatched 48 members of B Company 9th Hawke’s Bay Regiment (old Hastings Rifles) and nine mounted rifles on the same special military train as the Napier and Gisborne men. Crowds began to assemble on the railway platform from 9am, and the paper notes that,

“by the time the men, headed by the Union Jack, wheeled into Station street to the inspiriting strains of the Hastings Band, something like 4000 persons had gathered on the platform, on the verandah roofs, tops of railway carriages, trees, and every available spot, to watch the lads’ departure.”

“When all were aboard, the train, whistling “hip hip hurrah! steamed out over exploding fog signals, amidst waving of handkerchiefs and sustained cheering, the Salvation Army Band playing ‘God Be With you till we meet again’”

These scenes of departure were repeated again and again from 1914 to 1918 as reinforcements were mobilised for the front. In my next post I’ll be writing about the next stage of the journey, and the experience of Hawke’s Bay men, at Awapuni, and other camps, as they prepared to depart for the war.

Can you help?

Piecing together the story of the departure of the first contingent of Hawke’s Bay men is a challenge, and my research is very much a work in progress. If you have information to share please get in touch.

I’m particularly keen to find out if there are any more photographs of the departure of Hawke’s Bay men in 1914 out there? Or better yet, letters, or diaries written by Hawke’s Bay men and women which shed light on daily life and activities in the early months of the war.

Did any of your ancestors depart as part of these first contingents of Hawke’s Bay men?

Eloise Wallace

Curator of Social History



[1] The Napier recruits for the Field Ambulance Corps were BH Dyson; JH Ward; WH Wrathall; C Page; CB Angrove; JC Twomey; JA Campbell; ES Flood; FN McGee; C Collins and B Trim. The Hastings Ambulance contingent were Corporal McGuirk, Privates P Henderson, A Ford, R McKeown, V Portas, C Halse, R Chadwick, C Money, E Cruickshanks, J broad, G McNaughton, C Heald, WH Temperley, Duncan and Grant. The machine gun section members were H McCutcheon; WR Proffitt, S McConnochie, P McLean and JW Rowney, all of Napier. Napier railway staff, Sergeants Hammond and Mullaney, Sappers Hatwell, Woodville, Johnson, Marriott and Greenslade all left for Wellington to join the railway contingent. The Daily Telegraph, Monday 10 August 1014

[2] A public call was made for items such as strong pocket knives, strong cord, double or single blankets, dubbing for boots, empty pillowslips, underclothing, shirts, socks, towels, soap, brush and comb, shaving material, cleaning material for arms, needles pins and strong thread, forks, spoons, plates and pannikins.

[3] Monday 17 August 1914 Daily Telegraph


A Mother’s Boon

To celebrate Mother’s Day this year we are focusing on places of rest for women in Hawke’s Bay.

The Hastings Municipal Women’s Rest was the first purpose built rest-room for women to be constructed in New Zealand.  Prior to the construction of this brand new amenity, public bathrooms were only available for men, while women were accommodated at department stores and shops. However, under the suggestion of the Hastings Mayor at the time, George Ebbett, a committee was set up to improve and cater for the needs of mothers and the growing number of businesswomen in the Hastings region. The Hastings Women’s rest was designed in a Californian Bungalow style and cost £2500 to construct, largely funded by private contributions. On 8 September 1921 the building was officially opened and almost 100,000 women used the facility over the course of the first year.

W4 (a)Women’s Rest Rooms, Hastings, Dave Williams (d.1972), photographer, gifted by H J Williams, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, W4(a)

W4 (b)Women’s Rest Rooms, Hastings, Dave Williams (d.1972), photographer, gifted by H J Williams, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, W4(a)

The Official Handbook of Hastings – for Tourist, Sportsman and Settler, 1929, stated that the purpose of the Hasting’s Women’s rest was:

“..to serve as a retiring place where young businesswomen may spend their lunch hour and of a place of rest to mothers or women visitors to Hastings. Here they might obtain light refreshments, mothers may attend to their children, warm their babies bottles, leave their parcels, write letters, read journals and attend to their toilet.”

By 1929 there were 170 visitors to the women’s rest daily, acting not only as a comfort stop for women but also as a safe and restful place for mothers and their children. The building still operates today with a few structural changes and is home to the Heretaunga Women’s Centre.

The Napier Women’s Rest was built in 1925 as a memorial to those who served in the First World War. In the aftermath of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake it served as a central support for the northern block of Tin Town with the corrugated iron buildings knitted on to its side. A plaque on the building states that it was destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt in 1934 but historical photos show otherwise.

7866Memorial Square, Napier, Frank Duncan & Co, gifted by Mrs J Mayes, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, m98/22

3278 fTin Town, Napier, A B Hurst & Son, gifted by Dale Connelly, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 3278f

m2006.140.20(2)Architecture plan, suggestion for Mother’s Rest, Napier, James Augustus Louis Hay (b.1881, d.1948), gifted by Judd Fenwick Natusch Architects, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 6524

The visitor book for the Napier Women’s Rest from 1926-1945, which we hold in our collection, is full of comments such as: a Mother’s joy, a credit to Napier, a restful little spot, an everlasting memorial, an inspiration to other towns. We also hold in our collection the original architectural plans for this building,  titled ‘Mother’s Rest’ by architect Louis Hay who designed it in his signature domestic Prairie style. The Napier Women’s Rest has had various uses over time, mainly as a community centre, and is currently unoccupied as it requires earthquake strengthening.

The constructions of these women’s rest-rooms were an important part of New Zealand’s changing attitudes towards women and creating spaces specifically for them. More importantly over the years the local community has welcomed them and made use of the space to continue the vision as a place for women to rest.

Sarah Powell
Collection Assistant-Photography
May 2014

dots per inch

In May, we began work on an eight month project to digitise part of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust’s photograph collection. As part of this process, around 7000 images will be scanned and catalogued in preparation for the launch of an online database in 2013. 

The collection is rich in depth and breadth, spanning over 150 years of Hawke’s Bay history and covering a diverse range of subjects including portraiture, the local landscape, and local events. It also includes works by a number of prominent New Zealand photographers, including Percy and Charles Sorrell.

The aim of this project is to improve access to the collection, enabling researchers and members of the public to more easily search the collection.

An area of the collection that has recently been digitised is a group of photographs donated by the family of prominent local architect, J A Louis Hay (b.1881, d.1948).

Portrait of J A Louis Hay as a member of a Highland Pipe Band, circa 1900.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 8746

Born in Akaroa, Louis Hay settled in Napier in the early 1890s. It was here that he began his career as an architect, undertaking his apprenticeship with a firm owned by Charles Tilleard Natusch. In 1904 he moved to Invercargill, but returned to Napier in 1906 to establish his own architectural practice. His practice gained momentum and the 1930s were a very busy time for him. However, due to ill health he did very little work after 1940.

Consisting of over 90 images, the Louis Hay collection provides an important record of the buildings and structures that he designed throughout his career. Among the many buildings that are represented within the collection is Parker’s Chambers on Herschell Street, Napier. Originally completed in 1929, the building was damaged as a result of the Hawke’s Bay earthquake in February 1931 and was subsequently reconditioned, with the Herschell Street façade being reduced from three storeys to two. A series of photographs in the collection records the changing appearance of the building between 1929 and the early 1930s, including the process of reconditioning the facade.

Parker’s Chambers, Herschell Street, Napier, 1929-30 and 1931-32.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 8795 and 8794

The Frank Moodie Collection is another significant group of photographs. Francis Lizar Moodie was an architect from Auckland. He started a partnership with his former teacher and fellow architect Arthur Pollard Wilson (b.1851, d.1937) in 1910 and by the 1920’s the firm had become Wilson, Moodie and Gillespie.

The collection was donated by an Auckland resident and records in comprehensive detail the buildings damaged in the 1931 earthquake and the destruction that touched the entire Hawke’s Bay region. Moodie’s photographs tend to be taken from a more structural view point; many of them have notes on the back about how the building was constructed. After cataloguing nearly 150 images attributed to Moodie it is possible to see trends in those buildings that survived the quake and the ones that did not. 

While the earthquake is one of the most well documented events of our local history, Moodie’s collection is significant in that it includes images of Hastings and wider Hawke’s Bay, as far south as Te Aute and Waipukurau, giving a wide ranging overview of the damage to the region.

Te Aute College,
In the centre of the image is the College Hall, which was part of the Fergusson block.
Just visible at the right is the Jellicoe (northern) wing.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 7253 d

The Tavistock Hotel on Ruataniwha Street in Waipukurau after the Hawke’s Bay earthquake on the 3rd of February 1931, it still stands today.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 7254 b

In contrast to the quintessentially Hawke’s Bay images featured in the collection there are many images whose subject matter lies beyond the district boundaries, often recording events of national historical significance. Settlers and immigrants that participated in events outside Hawke’s Bay have contributed photographs from other regions and these provide a national context to the collection. Many of these early documentarians later settled in the province of Hawke’s Bay and became regional identities.

One such local identity was Dr William Isaac Spencer (b. 1831, d.1897), a contemporary of William Colenso and Augustus Hamilton. Within the larger Spencer Family collection of archival material and objects generously donated by the family is a significant photographic collection. Whilst most of this material portrays the family’s later Napier life, there is a small collection of material relating to the New Zealand Wars. Spencer was an assistant surgeon for the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and was involved in military campaigns in Waikato and Whanganui.

As an amateur photographer he captured many images from this period, typically of landscapes and encampment life. In fact, many of his images appear to shy away from scenes of conflict and its aftermath, or the gritty reality of his work as a surgeon. Instead, his images are often taken from the margin, in moments of stillness and calm, skirting climactic events. Images of camp life appear idealized and are set either against idyllic bush scenes or dramatic landscapes. Few of the images include people.

Spencer’s photographs of this period are largely albumen prints. Albumen paper was the most affordable and widely used photographic material in the second half of the 19th century. These prints use the albumen of egg whites to bind chemicals to a paper surface. As such they are extremely fragile and subject to deterioration.

Rangiriri Redoubt, November 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 41

British Camp at Meremere, November 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer. Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 13

Ngaruawahia, December 1863, Photographer: Dr William Isaac Spencer.
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 5597 – 35

We are excited that the digitization of these photographs will make them accessible to a wider audience. The scanning will also help preserve the images by reducing handling.

Emma Knowles
Frances Oliver
Kimberley Stephenson

September 2013