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The Lusitania Medal and Propaganda War

Proof of premeditated murder or merely publicity hoopla? This medallion may seem innocuous at first glance but in fact it was a propaganda tool used by both the Germans and the Allies during the First World War.

The sinking of RMS Lusitania was a significant event in WWI. The German torpedoing of the passenger liner in the Irish Sea on 7 May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives, caused outrage amongst the allied nations and was a factor in prompting America to enter the war. Germans argued that the ship was fair-game as it was carrying war munitions and was travelling in a declared “war zone”; they had even issued warnings to passengers beforehand not to travel on the Lusitania.

In August 1915, a few months after the sinking of the Lusitania, a medal was designed by the German artist, Karl Goetz, as a satirical attack on the Cunard Line for trying to continue business as usual during wartime. One side shows a skeleton selling tickets with the words “Business above all”; the other side depicts the ship sinking with the deck laden with guns with the words “No Contraband!”. The date was incorrectly added as 5 May 1915 which Goetz later put down to an error in a newspaper story.

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This small mistake led to further controversy. News of the medal was picked up by the British Foreign Office who, believing it in their interests to keep US citizens aware of German actions and attitudes, sent photographs to the Americans. In the US, the story was widely promulgated, including the false report that the medal was awarded to the U-boat crew, and, due to the incorrect date on this medal, conspiracy theories were put forward that the sinking was premeditated.

The British Propaganda Office saw that the situation could be used for their own purposes and generated a reproduction medal in 1916 which was sold with a propaganda leaflet to develop anti-German feeling. It was estimated 250,000 were sold. This medallion is one of the British reproductions.

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poppies

5000 Poppies NZ Exhibition

 

The stunning hand-crafted work of the 5000 Poppies NZ is on display at the Navy Museum.

As part of the 100 year commemorations of the Gallipoli landing, a large group of crafters, known as 5000 Poppies NZ, got together and started to create red poppies.   (more…)

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Remembering River Plate

Remembering River Plate

National Flag
National Flag

“When I consider the Battle of the River Plate some 75 years on, there are many stories that come to mind.”

Rear Admiral Jack Steer, Chief of Navy

(more…)

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Battle Ensign

Battle Ensign

Bob and his great nephew Jonathan Bentin at the 73rd birthday celebration for the Royal New Zealand Navy, September 2014
Bob Batt and his great nephew Jonathan Bentin

 

“We weren’t thinking of ourselves. We were all one on the ship. We all had our jobs to do. Nobody panicked.”

(more…)

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Firing Tube

Firing Tube

WOCH Steven Bourke with his new Symbol of Command  - The Tokotoku
WOCH Steven Bourke with his new Symbol of Command – The Tokotoku

 

“Down in the magazine it was impossible to tell whether each great shudder and muffled crash was an enemy hit or a snarl of the Achilles guns. Loading and firing, loading and firing. What was it like in the turret? All that mattered was getting the gun loaded and fired.”

 

(more…)

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Shrapnel

Shrapnel

Enrique Rodolfo Dick
Enrique Rodolfo Dick

“On the morning after the battle”, my father said, “sailors they left their battle posts to breathe, and found items they would keep as souvenirs of that day of fire and steel. Steel is what they collected, pieces of shrapnel with strange appearance, that had left traces of the impacts of the artillery.” 

(more…)

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Signal

Signal

Tom and Wendy Hickmott
Tom and Wendy Hickmott

“Four days after the battle Graf Spee left the harbour. Nobody knew what to expect. It is said that approximately 200,000 people gathered along the coastline to watch what might ensue. Would there be another naval battle just off the coast of Montevideo?”

(more…)

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Prism side

Prism

Lisa Eastman
Lisa Eastman

 

 

“This prism is from one of the gun sights on the Graf Spee, presented to my father after the war.” 

(more…)

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Eagle large

Eagle

Lieutenant Commander Karl Vetter
Lieutenant Commander Karl Vetter

 

 

“Once seated the gentlemen ordered a couple of beers and began to spin “dits” about the battle. Then out the corner of his eye, Stoker Evans noticed some German sailors doing the same thing at another table.”

(more…)

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Travel Pass

Travel Pass

Cdre Campbell, HMNZS Canterbury in background
Cdre Campbell, HMNZS Canterbury in background

 

 

“Suddenly cheers rang out. Every merchant ship in port sounded their horns, trains whistled and thousands of cars lining the wharf tooted. The lads were home!”

(more…)

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Life Ring

Life Ring

OEWS L Yarwood, OEWS R  Thornton-Stevens and OEWS A Hepi
OEWS L Yarwood, OEWS R Thornton-Stevens and OEWS A Hepi

“We reminisce with a distant affection on those moments in training when we were required to live up to our three core values: Courage, Commitment and Comradeship. It is moments of history like River Plate that young sailors are taught to recall in times of hardship.”

(more…)

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Commemorative Scroll

Commemorative Scroll

Brett Collis
Brett Collis

 

 

“Able Seaman Archibald Cooper Hirst Shaw was killed at the Battle of the River Plate and buried at sea. His commemorative scroll highlights the human cost of the battle.”

(more…)

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White Ensign

White Ensign

Jennifer Steven
Jennifer Steven

 

“The White Ensign had stayed in private hands since 1940 and as an important part of our heritage I felt it needed to remain safe in New Zealand. That way it could be accessible to family descendants of River Plate veterans and interested New Zealanders.”

(more…)

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Te Wakakura Newsletter

Te Wakakura Newsletter

Our e-newsletter for educators. Want to keep up to date with the goings on at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum, receive exclusive shop discounts, get classroom activity ideas, increase your Naval knowledge, or just know more about our collection? Simply sign up for Te Wakakura, our education e-newsletter and we’ll keep you up to date. (more…)

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glen mcbride

A Voice from the Past

Sub-Lt Thomas Chalmers Glen McBride was an accountant in Wellington before he joined the Fleet Air Arm (the flying branch of the Navy) in 1942. He trained in Britain and in Detroit, USA, before being commissioned in 1943. It was during that American stint that Glen McBride was able to record two messages to send home his personal greetings in time for Christmas.

The messages were recorded on Recordio-Grams – the audio equivalent to the photo-booth for on-the-spot production of voice letters, which became popular in America during WWII. A coin was inserted into the Recordio-Gram machine and the machine recorded your message onto a thin cardboard record via a telephone handset. The booth also provided you with a handy mailing envelope.

Recently received by the Museum, these Recordio-Grams have now been converted to modern audio files and we can hear Glen’s voice from 70 years ago.

“Young Linda” was Linda Butler, Glen’s fiancé. The couple married in April 1945 when Glen returned home to New Zealand on leave. However, they only had 5 weeks together before Glen had to return to his ship, the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable. Linda never saw him again.

Glen McBride was lost over Japan on 10 August 1945. He was killed just five days before the Japanese surrender and is believed to be the last New Zealander killed in action in the Second World War.

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The Bulldog and the Battlecruiser

On 12 April 1913, in unpleasant weather, Wellington turned out to witness the arrival of a special ship.  “… Grim grey, a little squat … HMS New Zealand moved in over the gale-swept harbour …punctual to the minute.’ (Dominion, 14 April 1913)

bulldog-battlecruiserThis Royal Navy battlecruiser was a gift to Britain from the New Zealand government and she was here down under to show us what our money had bought. HMS New Zealand was two months into a 10-month tour of Empire ports and it would be another 8 months before she returned to England. New Zealanders responded enthusiastically – more than one-third of the population took the opportunity to tour the ship, and hundreds of thousands more viewed her from the shore. “There was a sense of proprietorship deep in the minds of the beholders of the stranger. All looked upon her with a real personal interest. She was “Our Dreadnought.”’ (Ashburton, Guardian, 14 April, 1913) Captain Halsey, one of the youngest Royal Navy captains of the period, was charismatic and much lauded. A number of New Zealanders were included in the crew of nearly 800.  Also part of the crew was British bulldog Pelorus Jack, a naval volunteer with the rating of ‘Puppy,’ and ship’s mascot.

Visit the website www.hmsnewzealand.com 

Auckland War Memorial Museum and Torpedo Bay Navy Museum invite you to join us as we follow the battlecruiser on her world tour and gain insight into New Zealand’s world of 1913 through newspaper reports, photos, personal stories, ephemera and collection objects from HMS New Zealand.

 

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