New Zealanders in World War One were very patriotic. This patriotism was clearly demonstrated in the numerous means by which those at home could support the war effort and the extent to which contributions were made throughout the war and indeed beyond.
When war broke out in August 1914 there was an immediate outburst of patriotism. Within a week 14,000 men had volunteered for service, but this was only one manifestation of the patriotism of New Zealanders.
The day following the declaration of war, Annette, Lady Liverpool, wife of the Governor had sent a telegram to every town in the country seeking “assistance in providing any necessaries which may be required for those portions of the citizen army which are now mobilising”. To do this she proposed a committee of ladies, usually headed by the wife of the mayor, to receive contributions, whether in money—however small the sums—or in kind. The latter would include underclothing, flannel shirts, socks, holdalls containing knife, fork, and spoon, housewives to contain needles, buttons, or contributions of materials to make these.
The total contributions made by the New Zealand public during the war were reported to Parliament in 1920…This report…cited cash donations to the value of £5,695,321 and goods to the value of £557,536. All from a total population of just over 1,000,000 people.
Lady Liverpool’s proposal was enthusiastically taken up and throughout the war these committee’s received many thousands of pounds in monetary contributions and literally tons of other material. As an example, by mid-1917 the Lady Liverpool Fund in Canterbury alone, was sending just under 7,000 parcels per month to troops overseas.
The Lady Liverpool Fund was not the only way that New Zealanders could contribute to the war effort. So many donations began to be received that Sir James Allen, the Minister of Defence established the Defence Fund. This took not only money but as important, gifts in kind, which the controllers of the Fund were able to direct to the most appropriate body for use. One of the more practical gifts in kind were horses for use by the Expeditionary Force.
By mid-1917 the Lady Liverpool Fund in Canterbury alone, was sending just under 7,000 parcels per month to troops overseas.
In mid-1915 the Governor suggested the fitting-out of a New Zealand Hospital Ship, to facilitate which he established the Hospital Ship Fund. In a short space of time the SS Maheno was fully equipped, the requisite funding being provided by the New Zealand public and soon afterwards a second ship was similarly equipped.
When the disaster resulting by Belgium being overrun by the Germans, a Belgian Relief Fund was established. This too was well supported by the public.
As ever, the Red Cross Society was predominant in the provision of medical support, for which another Fund was established. The Red Cross supported the Hospital Ships, the field ambulances and hospitals and also the work of the British parent body in France.
If all these funds were not enough there were others, such as the Wounded Soldiers Fund and the Naval Heroes Fund. The town of Nelson alone raised over £25,000 for the Wounded Soldiers Fund and in a smaller gesture the concert party of HMS Philomel raised money for this fund by concerts in Bombay in 1916 and in Wellington after the ship’s return to New Zealand in 1917. The Naval Heroes Fund was established to provide support to the distressed families of naval men who had lost their lives.
Philomel was a regular recipient of presents from the people of New Zealand. Besides clothing such as socks, mufflers, balaclavas and lightweight shirts and shorts, cases of apples, tinned fruit and delicacies such as sheep’s tongues were received. There was even a gramophone and harmonium donated and shipped to the Persian Gulf. Another example is Christmas 1916 when from the High Commissioner in London’s fund Philomel received presents to the value of £100 and tobacco to the value of £20. HMS New Zealand wasn’t forgotten as from the same source each of the 1,021 men on board received a boxed medallion commemorating the three naval battles in the North Sea and the ship’s company as a whole, tobacco to the value of £34.
The last demonstrative act of practical patriotism was in 1924. In that year the New Zealand Sheep Growers section of the Farmers Union opened an agricultural training facility at Flock House, near Bulls, in Manawatu. This was for the son’s of British seamen, both Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine, who had lost their lives during the war, as an appreciation for the work done by both services in getting their produce safely to Britain. After the war some £237,000 had been subscribed by the wool growers to alleviate the distress of widows and families, which while providng short-term relief and continuing for many years, a scheme to allow the boys to become farmers in their own right was conceived. Flock House with 1,000 acres (417 hectares) was purchased and further land which required ‘breaking-in’ was subsequently purchased. The first 25 boys arrived from Britain in June 1924 and the scheme continued until 1988, with New Zealand boys being accepted from 1927.
The total contributions made by the New Zealand public during the war were reported to Parliament in 1920. This report, excluding the sheep growers mentioned above, cited cash donations to the value of £5,695,321 and goods to the value of £557,536. All from a total population of just over 1,000,000 people.