On 11 November 2018, many thousands in countries all around the world stopped to commemorate the end of World War I. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, the date marked the end of a four-year long series of national remembrance activities designed to acknowledge the war’s centenary and its lasting legacy on the country’s history and society. Included in these activities have been special commemorative events on important dates of the war, educational activities for schools, museum exhibits, conferences, books and articles, radio and television programmes, pilgrimages, new monuments and many more.
These diverse activities have been encompassed within an over-arching narrative of noble sacrifice for the nation, the protection of national values like freedom and democracy, the shaping of national identity, and the tragedy of so many promising young people lost to war. Importantly, in all of this there has been an effort to expand the official narratives of the war to include the voices of ordinary soldiers and other support personnel. For example, diaries and letters from serving personnel have been published and New Zealanders have been encouraged to participate directly in the construction of archives about their relatives who served.
These narratives from ordinary people have done a great deal to expand and diversify the voices which make up the broader narrative of the war. Yet a number of other important voices of people intimately involved in the war, and deeply affected by it, continue to remain largely unheard. [To continue, please go here…}