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Compelling new book on life at home during the First World War

A rewarding journey comes to fruition for historians and authors Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge with the publication of a new book which gives fresh insights into New Zealand life during the First World War.

Cover of New Zealand’s First World War Heritage.

Published to commemorate 100 years since the war to end all wars, New Zealand’s First World War Heritage reveals the previously untold story of the impact of the war on people throughout New Zealand.

“Our concept to use heritage sites to tell the story of the country’s home-front experience was relatively simple, but the reality presented us with some challenges,” says Imelda Bargas.

“We wanted to reflect the range of New Zealanders’ experiences both during and after the war,” Tim Shoebridge said. “To do this we had to get to grips with how the First World War enacted on New Zealand soil, and then find relevant heritage sites to tell those stories.”

Senior historians at Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH), the pair pored over books, old newspapers and through countless archival files to gather the required information.

“Our selection process was guided by our research, but it was equally influenced by visiting the places themselves,” Imelda Bargas said. “Seeing these historic sites and meeting the people who care for them on a daily basis was tremendously rewarding.”

Both found new stories and heritage sites on their well-trodden home turf of Christchurch (Imelda Bargas) and Hawkes Bay and Auckland (Tim Shoebridge), and in their adopted home of Wellington.

For Imelda Bargas visiting Christchurch towards the latter stages of the project was especially poignant.

“The Christchurch earthquakes occurred while we were still in the early planning phase and we wondered when, or if, we would be able to visit the sites we wanted to see,” she said.

“When we finally made the trip we discovered even after the loss of so many of its heritage buildings the city still had some great First World War Heritage stories to share.”

Two of Tim Shoebridge’s great-grandfathers served on the Western Front with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

"My generation was the last to grow-up knowing their forebears who served in the war,” he says. “It may be a 100 years ago now, but it’s not so remote in time when you think that many of those soldiers’ children and grandchildren are still alive.

“Learning more about their wartime experiences has enriched my understanding of their lives.  I hope the book will help readers to make new discoveries about their own relatives’ wartime service.”

While both are indebted to many people, particularly family and friends, the research and fact-finding missions were ably assisted by colleagues at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, property owners and managers up and down the country, local councils, and Department of Conservation and Heritage New Zealand staff.

“One of the many surprises was just how many First World War sites still remain today,” says Tim Shoebridge.

Imelda Bargas agrees saying: “We hope our book will open the eyes of New Zealanders to the stories and places all around them.”

Published by Exisle Publishing New Zealand’s First World War Heritage features sites across the length and breadth of the country, from Northland to Stewart Island. With more than 250 pages of words, maps and photographs the book is expected to have wide appeal and is available in book shops now.

The book is officially launched in Wellington today by the Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage Hon Maggie Barry ONZM.

Media contact

Christine Seymour

Senior Communications Adviser

Manutū Taonga, Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Phone 496 6176, mobile 021 596 726

Email: Christine.seymour@mch.govt.nz.


Updated on 23rd July 2015