The stories of three New Zealanders who made it home from the First World War are the focus of WW100’s latest campaign Finding Our Way Back.
“As the centenary of the First World War draws to a close, we remember all those service personnel whose lives were changed forever,” says Matthew Tonks, Senior Digital Advisor with the WW100 First World War Centenary Programme.
Nurse Edith McLeod survived the sinking of the SS Marquette, while soldiers Harry Lamb and David Falconer were both seriously injured on the Western Front.
Lamb returned with a prosthetic arm and his grandson Nigel Herring remembers that people called him ‘Harry Hook’ or ‘Harry Hookum’ behind his back.
“Harry is a great example of the Kiwi can-do attitude,” says Nigel. “He started with next to nothing. Everything he achieved was done by hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness. How many other one-armed gum diggers were out there?”
After digging for kauri gum in Northland, Lamb became a successful farmer, despite the difficulty of clearing and ploughing land and milking cows with a prosthetic limb. Today, Lamb Road in Pukenui bears his name.
Just under 10% of New Zealand’s population served in the First World War. For those who survived, their journeys back took many different routes. The trauma they experienced affected both them and their families in untold ways. To support the returning soldiers and nurses, the government set up a programme of training, loans, land settlements, pensions and rehabilitation schemes.
Edith McLeod served right through until 1919 and is believed to be the only woman to take up land under the Discharged Soldiers’ Settler Scheme. David Falconer survived a gunshot wound to the head, but was deeply traumatised by his war experience. In 1919, he took his own life. The coroner ruled his death as “self-inflicted, while mentally depressed.”
These people and their stories are an important part of our history, and shaped who we are.
For more information on the impact of the First World War on New Zealand see ww100.govt.nz/findingourwayback
David Falconer’s story references depression and suicide.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
For more information and to arrange interviews contact:
Hannah Leahy, Senior Communications Advisor WW100
[email protected] or phone 027 628 4815