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Search For Ordinary ANZACS Continues

Nearly 100,000 men and women served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War, and for the past decade, Phil Beattie and Matt Pomeroy have been dutifully trying to track down a photograph of each and everyone in what has become a massive undertaking of remembrance.

The pair are often asked how or why The Onward Project came to be. “There are a lot of sites for remembrance for those that were killed or died or those that received bravery awards” says Pomeroy. “The Onward Project exists to honour every individual in the same way. Simply a photograph, a service number and a name. We make no judgement, from Victoria Cross recipients to deserters, every individual made their own sacrifice and we remember them equally” added Beattie.

Ten years on and the pair, under the banner of The Onward Project, have collected, collated, and indexed over 30,000 portrait photographs from a myriad of sources, painstakingly photographing period newspapers in archives and libraries around the country to travelling to distant local historical societies and museums, church halls and through appeals to the public and private photograph collectors.

“30,000 seems like a huge number, but when you realise there is still another 70,000 to find, that is when the magnitude of the job hits home” said Pomeroy.

“Many of that remaining 70,000 were just ordinary people” Mr. Beattie says. “They dutifully went to war, many late in the war to serve in the battles on the Western Front and Palestine, with many getting only as far as England, and although not physically wounded or killed, their experiences would often take it’s toll later in civilian life.”

A recent submission received by The Onward Project of 50093 Trooper Maurice Keith Laird, who embarked for service in the Middle East late in 1917. Courtesy of the family collection.
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“These ordinary ANZAC’s are the most difficult to find photographs of, their service often going unrecorded in the newspapers of the day, and they seldom appear on the photographic honour boards dotted around New Zealand as they had not been wounded or made the ultimate of sacrifices” says Pomeroy. “These are the photographs tucked away in cupboards and boxes that are treasured by family, and these are the photographs we are desperate to get access too”.

“What keeps us pushing on” says Beattie, “is the feedback we get from people who discover the project’s volumes in libraries around the nation, often those of a younger generation, seeing the face of a Great-Grandfather or Great-Uncle for the first time.”

Having already published five volumes of portrait photos containing some 20,000 individuals, the pair is close to finalizing a sixth volume and is hoping for more submissions to fill the final few spaces.

If you or someone you know has a photograph you would like to submit, this can be done online at www.onwardproject.co.nz

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