WW100 – New Zealand's First World War Centenary Programme ran from 2014 to 2019

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Life, Love and War 100 Years Ago Today

09 April 2013

Excerpts from New Zealand diaries written a century ago are now appearing on the most modern of communication media, Twitter.

Coordinated by the First World War Centenary Programme Office, the Life 100 Years Ago (www.twitter.com/life100yearsago) project features excerpts from diaries and other media. Together they form a unique insight into New Zealanders and the events affecting them 100 years ago. The source material continues through the First World War — on the homefront and on the battlefields.

While there will be many official and international commemorations during the centenary period (2014–2018), some of the most meaningful are anticipated to be those organised at a local level.

“We’re here to help communities develop their own special First World War centenary commemorations that tell New Zealand’s stories of the war”, says Andrew Matheson, Director of the First World War Centenary Programme Office.

Life 100 Years Ago is one way of bringing local voices together to tell a national story. We hope many other sources will be added to the project, and generate a greater understanding of our history.”

Life 100 Years Ago currently features diaries of George Leslie Adkin and his uncle, Herbert Denton. Both were educated in Wellington then settled in Horowhenua. Adkin’s diary tells of life and love in New Zealand during the war, while Denton went to war with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Denton’s diary is unusual because when he was in the army his diary was kept by a William Stewart in New Zealand.

Another diarist featured, Frederick Welch, was born in Taita in Lower Hutt, and established a labour, land and estate agency in the Wairarapa. As well as being a keen sportsman, he was an avid gardener and the diaries record his horticultural forays. The newspaper headline feed provides a wider context of life in New Zealand and abroad.

The diaries and newspaper headlines are sourced from Te Papa, Kete Horowhenua, the Wairarapa Archive and the National Library of New Zealand.

The Life 100 Years Ago Twitter feed will also be featured in ‘The Bulldog and the Battlecruiser’ online exhibition created by Auckland War Memorial Museum and the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. This website follows the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand (a gift by New Zealand to Britain) around the world in 1913. The arrival of HMS New Zealand in Wellington on 12 April is featured in all the diaries — an estimated 500,000 New Zealanders, nearly half of the population at the time, inspected the vessel during its 10-week tour.

If you would like to contribute to the Life 100 Years Ago project with a diary, letters, or photos, visit http://ww100.govt.nz/life-100-years-ago/join-in to learn more.