The War begins...

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Monowai 1

Monowai leaves Clyde Quay Wharf, 15 August 1914, 1/2-015217-G, John Dickie Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. 

First published in FishHead magazine, August 2014 (since re-edited)

On 4 August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. The following day a hastily convened New Zealand Parliament pledged to help defend the Empire. Out on the streets of Wellington there were spontaneous patriotic parades. Crowds of young men began arriving at the Buckle Street barracks volunteering for miltary service.

After a week of frenetic recruiting, equipping and training an Advance Force was ready. The British had requested the capture of the wireless station at Apia, and New Zealand was keen to strike the first blow against the enemy.

On the evening of 12 August they set off from the Barracks, headed by their military band, down Cuba Street to the Monowai and Moeraki waiting at King's Wharf. Crowds cheered them all the way. As the ships moved away, "a final farewell," the official war history recounts "found expression in loud cheering and singing, hakas and merry raillery, while a diversion was caused by a private falling overboard and being rescued."

But, they did not get very far. The Admiralty orders had not arrived so they had to drop anchor of Somes Island, and they were still there all the next day. The day after that they came ashore again at Clyde Quay Wharf and marched back up to the Basin Reserve for some more patriotic speeches. It was not until very early the next day that they finally sailed away. This photograph was taken then. The crowd was much smaller this time, for the departure time was unannounced. 

There were other hold-ups before they reached Apia. Royal Navy protection was not immediately available, which meant a detour to New Caledonia, then Suva, before they finally steamed into Apia harbour on 29 August. The Germans surrendered without a shot being fired. It was a promising start to the War.

Back in New Zealand, the main Expeditionary Force was beng prepared for Europe. The first ships left in mid-October, and were soon diverted to Egypt when the Ottoman Empire entered the war. Over the next four years 100,000 New Zealanders fought overseas, and 18,500 never returned. It was not the glorious adventure so many had imagined.

Monowai 2

Here is another shot of the departure. The Monowai is nearest the camera with the Moeraki on the inner harbour side of the wharf. MNZ-2234-1/4, Making New Zealand negatives and prints, Alexander Turnbull Library

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