Sou­venirs re­call end of con­flict

Whanganui Chronicle - - News - Sandi Black ■ Sandi Black is the ar­chiv­ist at Whanganui Re­gional Mu­seum.

This week­end marks 100 years since the end of World War I. We have spent the last four years re­mem­ber­ing the course of that war, mark­ing the many bat­tles that were fought and hon­our­ing those who were lost.

Now we re­mem­ber the end of the war on Armistice Day, and the en­dur­ing hope that sprang up with the si­lenc­ing of the guns at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

Get­ting back to reg­u­lar life af­ter spend­ing so much time over­seas in dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent con­di­tions was not an easy tran­si­tion to make.

What we now re­fer to as post trau­matic stress dis­or­der, and treat with ther­apy and med­i­ca­tion, was then med­i­cally termed “shell shock”, a recog­nised dis­ease of sus­tained or in­tense stress, which was treated in ways that ranged from ground-break­ing psy­chi­atric care, to quack­ery, to ab­so­lute ne­glect.

Within the mil­i­tary, es­pe­cially from 1917 on­ward when so many ser­vice­men were pre­sent­ing with stress-re­lated be­hav­iours, shell shock was treated as a symp­tom of per­sonal cow­ardice.

The mil­i­tary re­sponse to trau­ma­tised men was shame, pain, torture, and some­times ex­e­cu­tion.

De­spite the hor­rors on and off the bat­tle­fields, by the end of

1918, op­ti­mism abounded and peo­ple were de­ter­mined to com­mem­o­rate the war, hop­ing that such a scale of de­struc­tion would never be wit­nessed again.

A myr­iad of Armistice me­men­tos be­came avail­able, in­clud­ing post­cards, hand­ker­chiefs, and me­mo­rial crock­ery.

Many sol­diers scav­enged their own sou­venirs and re­turned home with the en­emy weapons, flags and pieces of shrap­nel.

Oth­ers, how­ever, had more artis­tic lean­ings and cre­ated their own unique pieces to re­mem­ber what they had seen and been a part of.

The Whanganui Re­gional Mu­seum holds a num­ber of th­ese sou­venirs of war that were in­cor­po­rated into ev­ery­day life to keep the mem­ory of war alive, although the names of the sol­diers who made them are un­known.

One such piece is an ink well made from rem­nants of the war col­lected in France and Eng­land.

The base is made from teak wood that came from a tor­pe­doed ship in Southamp­ton and four bul­lets that came from France.

The hand grenade in the cen­tre also came from France and was care­fully hol­lowed out and the top re­moved to cre­ate a reser­voir for ink.

The alu­minium band around the base was sourced from the first Zep­pelin that was brought down in Es­sex, a feat man­aged by pi­lot V Robinson of the Air Squadron near the New Zealand Con­va­les­cent De­pot at Hornchurch, in Sus­sex, UK.

A match­ing pair of dec­o­ra­tive ash­trays were made from the cases of Ger­man shells. The ends of the shells were cut down to re­sem­ble mil­i­tary ser­vice caps, and each was dec­o­rated with a reg­i­men­tal badge.

One, made in May 1915, bears the reg­i­men­tal shield of the Es­sex Reg­i­ment.

The other made, made in 1917, bears the reg­i­men­tal shield of

The Buffs, the Royal East Kent Reg­i­ment.

Th­ese unique sou­venirs were kept by the sol­diers and their fam­i­lies un­til they were do­nated to the mu­seum in the 1960s, and now we use them to help tell the sto­ries of World War I and keep the mem­ory alive. Lest We For­get.


Sou­venir ink stand from World War I, in­cor­po­rat­ing com­po­nents from Eng­land and France.

Two ash­trays made from Ger­man shells and dec­o­rated with British reg­i­men­tal badges.

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