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UC website dedicated to unsung Cantabrians of WWI

UC website dedicated to unsung Cantabrians of WWI

A joint project between the University of Canterbury’s School of Humanities and Creative Arts and the Disarmament and Security Centre has culminated in the launch of a new website focusing on the untold stories of World War One.

Developed by the UC Arts Digital Lab, the website –– will be launched by UC Chancellor Dr John Wood CNZM QSO and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Arts Professor Paul Millar on Monday 2 May at 2.30pm in Undercroft 101 at the University’s Ilam campus.

The website, which goes live on its launch day, is dedicated to recovering and uncovering the often unsung voices and stories of those who stood against World War One, and helped establish various anti-war organisations before, during and after the war, project coordinator UC Associate Professor of History Dr Jane Buckingham says.

“It’s important to remember that not all Canterbury people at the time had the same opinions about the war,” Dr Buckingham says.

The website has 20 stories of Canterbury women, men and their families who courageously spoke out against militarism, conscription and war because of their religious, pacifist and/or socialist convictions.

“We wanted to contribute to the WWI centenary commemorations, but to show the initiatives for peace being taken at the community level throughout Canterbury. There’s a really strong history of radicalism and resistance in Canterbury, and this is shown in the fact that there were more than 60 Cantabrians imprisoned for their anti-war beliefs at the time. It’s a little known story.”

The website covers the anti-conscription movement prior to World War One; conscription and those who objected; women supporting Conscientious Objectors; the response of the Labour movement to conscription; and the legacy of the World War One Peace movement.

“There is generally very little known about how many Canterbury men became political prisoners,” Dr Buckingham says.

“Some were incarcerated in the old Lyttelton Gaol, more than 60 in the new prison at Paparoa and more than 20 endured military detention in Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island.”

Christchurch was the birthplace of many of the peace and anti-war groups which later spread to other parts of the country, she says.

“Few know that the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council in 1917 was Ada Wells, a suffragist and outspoken critic of war. Men who later became political leaders were among those imprisoned.”

Dr Buckingham says descendants of some of the men and women highlighted on the website have already uncovered new information and photos.

The University of Canterbury will host the site for 10 years and the website will provide a resource for the community. The project is partly funded by a grant from the Lottery World War One Commemoration Fund.

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