Adventure and aftermath
This hook contrasts a patriotic speech by the 1914 Mayor of Auckland, extolling the glories of war, with the grim realities recorded as a diary entry by a soldier at the front in 1916.
“... Believe me, you boys are making history. You are going to help write the greatest page that has ever yet been
written in the world’s great drama. This war is the greatest conflict known to men, and in a hundred years from now it will be counted the highest honour that a man can claim that he came from stock that fought in the great world war of 1914 in the cause of priceless freedom. Come Back With Honour and Glory.”
“Went to Delville wood souvenir hunting. The ground has been absolutely ploughed with shells & dead men (theirs & ours) are everywhere. Pieces of men lay about the ground, an arm here, a leg and head there, it is a horrible sight. Some have even been blown up & pieces still remain on the trees. Accoutrément, German and ours, is lying about thick & I managed to get a few little souvenirs. Fritz still shells this place now and again, he started today and cleared us out. Weather is not too good, showerly.”
The Mayor of Auckland’s speech exhorts the young men heading off to war to “come back with honour and glory”. His reference to “the great world war of 1914” reflects both the patriotism and the optimism of the time; most people believed the war would be over by Christmas.
Clarence Hankins’ 1916 diary entry shows that the men were lucky if they came back at all. Of the 104,000 men and women who joined the war effort overseas, nearly one in five did not return.
Delville Wood, where Hankins went souvenir collecting, was a strategic battleground in the wider Somme offensive of 1916. More than 2,000 New Zealanders are buried on the former Somme battlefield.
Possible discussion questions
- What was the purpose of the mayor’s speech?
- To what extent do you think the mayor’s speech reflects his naivety? Was he deliberately misleading the soldiers about the greatness of the war they were about to join, or do you think he genuinely believed it? How do you think his view of the First World War changed over time?
- Which parts of each text are fact, and which are opinion?