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Chance of a lifetime for WW 1 history buffs

August 11, 2014

Chance of a lifetime for WW 1 history buffs

A gathering of some of the world’s most reputed First World War specialists at Massey’s Wellington campus this month is the chance of a lifetime for New Zealanders of all ages with an interest in war history.

The Experience of a Lifetime – People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War conference, from August 22-24, has attracted prominent war historians from Britain, the United States and Australia, including one of Britain’s most respected military advisors and media commentators, Professor Sir Hew Strachan.

Sir Hew wrote in a newspaper column in The Guardian last year that World War 1 commemorations should be more about education than remembrance following reports that six out of ten people from the UK said they didn’t understand what the war was about. He also stressed the need for UK to coordinate its commemorative efforts more closely with its Commonwealth partners.

The conference is part of the Centenary History of New Zealand and the First World War project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. It is a joint venture with Massey University, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association.

A highlight will be the launch by the Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating (MNNZ), of a revised edition of No Better Death: The Great War Diaries and Letters of William G. Malone (edited by John Crawford, Exisle Publishing). Lieutenant-Colonel Malone was commanding officer of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli.

Massey University Professor of War Studies Glyn Harper, who is one of the conference organisers as well as a presenter, says the diverse programme also includes portrayals of key military leaders and their strategies; first hand accounts of soldiers’ experiences; the role of nurses; the place of Indian and Fijian soldiers; and the plight of veterans in the post-war period.

“With the heightened awareness in New Zealand this year as we mark the 100th year since the outbreak of the First World War, this international gathering is a great chance for anyone with an interest in war history to gain new insights, whether they’re high school students or teachers, university students or reseachers, people with a professional interest, or amateur historians of any age,” says Professor Harper.

“This even is the chance of a lifetime to meet and hear from top international World War One researchers. A hundred years on, we are still finding new material and perspectives on the most catastrophic event to shape our nation.”

Professor Harper will be talking about his latest book, titled Johnny Enzed: The New Zealand Soldier in the First World War, based on firsthand accounts of soldiers’ experiences.

Around ten per cent of New Zealand’s male population served in what came to be known as ‘The Great War’, and ‘The War to End All Wars’. More than 18,000 New Zealanders died and nearly all were buried in foreign fields, while over 40,000 New Zealanders were wounded.

Registrations are still open for the conference, to be held in the theatrette of the Museum building on the University’s Wellington campus. Click here for more information, or email Tessa Lyons for day rates for attendance.

Sir Hew is also giving public talks in Wellington, Auckland and Palmerston North:

• Te Papa, Wellington: 25 August - Commemoration or Celebration? How should we approach the centenary of the First World War?
• Te Manawu, Palmerston North: 27 August - Ideas of War 1914
• Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland: 29 August - The First World War: 100 Years On


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