Tag Archives: wiltshire

New Zealanders in Britain during the First World War

Much of the focus in this week which marks Britain’s entry to the First World War has been on the experience of British politics, of British troops, and British people. Yet, the implications of Britain’s decision were also felt over 11,000 miles away in New Zealand. The New Zealand government followed Britain’s lead and declared war the day after, the 5th August 1914. While New Zealand’s men mainly served in the Middle East, on the Western Front, and in Samoa, many arrived in England for training and convalescence.

Thousands of soldiers of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) arrived for training at Brocton Military Camp on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. Their presence there would leave a lasting impression on the local people in the area. They became much loved. The men enjoyed a good relationship with locals in the area and enjoyed visits, concert parties, musical concerts and tea dances. Some of the rifle brigade even ended up marrying local women before heading back to New Zealand.

In June 1915 200 soldiers arrived at an army camp near the village of Chickerell in Weymouth. These wounded soldiers were the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps – and most of them were survivors of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. They’d come to Weymouth to convalesce, and by the end of the war over 105,000 had stayed and recuperated in the area. The Anzacs were welcomed by local people. The womenfolk of Chickerell organised a huge strawberries and cream tea.

Eighty-six Anzacs were never to see their homeland again and are buried in Weymouth and Melcombe Regis cemeteries. Weymouth observes Anzac Day on the 25 April every year with a service at the Anzac memorial along the esplanade.

Bulford,_England._Chalk_Kiwi_from_Postcard,_c.1918Elsewhere in England, the Ministry of Defence still maintains a chalk kiwi carved into a hillside in Wiltshire near to Bulford. The carving entertained troops after the war while they waiting for the troop ships to take them back home.
Find out more about how the war involved soldiers from other counties with the BBC’s World War One at Home collection.

Promoting World War One at Home

The launch of World War One at Home has seen a great deal of activity across the country this week. Over 220 stories were launched – the first drop of what will be a permanent record of 1400 places and their WW1 story. Thirty-eight BBC English teams, the three Nations and Cymru all delivered stories with some wonderful reaction from the audience (see activity on #WW1AtHome).

AHRC academics have been in the forefront of promotional activities with local, regional and national broadcasts, and on Thursday it was my turn to join in and offer the AHRC perspective. It began at BBC Radio Bristol, my own local station. Local or not, in the fast-paced world of live radio, I’m not sure the interviewer had fully read the brief because he didn’t seem sure who I was (not the Mayor of Bristol anyway, who was on air before me). Nevertheless, I made it clear who I was and who I represented, and all was well.

This baptism of fire was the start of a long process. A succession of interviews followed, some live and some recorded, and I was able to emphasise the wonderful work our researchers have done across the UK, how they have – yes – checked facts, but also interpreted them and given valuable insights into context, connections between stories, national themes and so on.

Local radio stations particularly liked the references to local stories: Gloucestershire, to Ivor Gurney; Teesside to the bombardment of Hartlepool; Wiltshire, to the wonderful Rex Warneford story; and Surrey and Sussex, to the equally wonderful Brighton Pavilion story. (Click ‘see more’ below for each of these local highlights). The last also made a point of introducing me as a former student of Sussex University, emphasising the overarching message of the entire project – the importance of the local!

Two hours later I emerged from my booth and from what felt like a virtual tour of England, pleased that the AHRC and its work on the project had been mentioned on nearly a dozen local radio stations, from Cornwall to Teeside, and from Gloucestershire to Cambridgeshire.
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