A database of all Westland people who served during the First World War to support commemorations of Westland's role in the war, developed by Hokitika Museum.
Westland and the First World War
More than 600 people from Westland served in the First World War, plus nurses (two of whom died when the Marquette was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea in 1915) and other non-combatants. At least 29 West Coast men were in the New Zealand Tunnellers Co., a unit which specialised in sapping and mining and who were engaged in a ‘secret war’- digging long tunnels towards the enemy front line with the aim of destroying infrastructure from below.
Memorials to those who fell are found throughout Westland but many know little about the experiences of those who fought, of the lives of those left behind and of their own personal connections to the stories.
Westland’s War – a project coordinated by Hokitika Museum
The project consists of developing a database of all Westland people who served during the First World War. This will be made publicly available to enable the sharing of information and to support the commemoration of the First World War by Hokitika Museum, community groups and individuals.
Local memorials in Westland list the names of Westland residents who died during the war and Kevin Lewis of Whangarei has compiled details of those who names appear on these memorials. Hokitika Museum has the RSA list of those who signed up in Westland, however, this does not include Westland men who were working elsewhere in the country when they signed up. Hokitika Museum also holds material which relates to the First World War including photographs, medals, post cards, soldiers’ pay books and certificates. In addition it is likely that a large amount of important material is still held locally.
At present this material is unconnected and it is difficult for the community to understand how the war affected Westland and its people. The database project aims to collate known information, add new material and make connections between names and memorials and real stories, photographs and medals. This work will mean that stories can be expanded and shared enabling people to make meaningful connections with individuals and their stories.
How will it work?
The Hokitika RSA’s enrolment list has already been entered onto an Access database and this list will become the nucleus of a database which lists all of those connected to Westland who served during the First World War.
Volunteers, such as genealogists and historians will be invited to add information and research individuals. Essentially any group or individual that has an interest in supporting the project will be welcome to share their ideas and participate in the project. Hokitika Museum staff will add in details of relevant items from the Museum collection and provide a co-ordination service.
Who can be involved?
Anyone who is interested is welcome to participate and it is hoped that genealogists will volunteer their skills while others develop them while tracing members of their families. Local school pupils or classes may also choose individuals to research.
A fact sheet will be supplied and project participants will be asked to fill in a sign-up/task sheet. Participants will agree that the information made will be publicly available, will be stored at Hokitika Museum and that no personal copyright or restrictions can be placed on the material.
How long will it take?
The project is expected to run from launch (date to be advised) until 2019 but the information would be available in perpetuity.
How will the information be used?
The core focus of the project will be the gathering and linking of information and the creation of biographical files. The resulting information will be held at Hokitika Museum on behalf of the wider community. Importantly the information will also be shared with Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph project which will ensure the recognition of the role of Westland people and help place this service in a national context.
It is further proposed that once the preliminary list of names has been compiled, it will be uploaded to Kete West Coast - http://ketewestcoast.peoplesnetworknz.info. Kete West Coast is a community online repository, supported by the National Library of New Zealand, which means that uploaded material will be accessible in perpetuity.
Within Kete West Coast a basket called WW100: Westland’s War has been created and each soldier’s name will be added to this basket. Web users can search the list on Kete West Coast and register to add relevant material themselves (images, documents, audio recordings, video, web links) or get in touch if they wish to contribute. Assistance in uploading material will be available from Westland District Library staff.
Compilation of material about Westland involvement in the First World War will mean that a chronological series of information could be given to the wider community detailing what was happening for Westlanders serving overseas and what news was filtering through to those at home.
This body of work could also be used in the following ways:
- To provide biographies of those killed to the local papers so that they are printed in chronological order, thus highlighting the flow of bad news and campaigns of particular significance to the local community.
- By historians describing Westland’s role in the First World War
- On-line exhibitions sharing Westland’s stories about the First World War
- Exhibitions. For example school pupils and community members could be invited to produce a story about an individual using a supplied template. These would then be exhibited in a special exhibition in the Carnegie Gallery.
- To create a tour of the First World War remembrance sites in Westland with information that brings each memorial or significant place alive. This would be of interest to both residents and visitors. Possibilities include an audio tour, smart phone app, brochures or a combination of technology.
- To make material from the collection which relates to the First World War available on the web via our collection management software’s ‘on-line’ function.
Please contact Hokitika for more information
Hokitika Museum, Private Bag 704, Hokitika 7842
03 755 6898