WW1 Their Stories - Our History

About the exhibition

This exhibition honours the centennial of the 'war to end all wars', World War One (1914 - 1919).

By the end of the war almost 2,500 men and women from the province had served overseas. Most men were enlisted in the New Zealand armed forces, but some enrolled with the Australian and British forces, and a smaller number served as nurses and chaplains. This number does not include: those from Marlborough or northern West Coast who were part of the same military district; some of those who served in the British navy or air forces; the merchant navy; volunteers with the Red Cross; or others directly associated with the war effort. Those left behind raised funds, made up parcels, wrote letters, and kept the province running - all the time fearful of a telegraphed message bearing news of death or injury of a loved one.

Some families saw all their eligible men go overseas, with one family providing more than twenty young men. As the death toll rose the impact on the province would have been immense. Almost 500 men did not return home to their loved ones. Of those who did return many came home physically and mentally maimed. Tragically in some families no-one returned, while in other families, despite the horrors faced, all came home safely. The impact on families and businesses is still remembered with sadness by many in the region.

The extraordinary stories of these ordinary men and women make compelling reading. The contribution made by them has helped to build our nation's identity. The Nelson Provincial Museum is honouring the memories of those who served in World War One, telling the stories of many of them through this exhibition and online, as 'the war to end all wars' is remembered. The exhibition is being rolled out over a five year period and draws on the strengths of the Museum's collection; artefacts, photographs, letters and diaries illustrating 'At War' and 'At Home' themes.

This region has a proud history of service and we are pleased to be working with other regional museums, historical associations, and genealogical groups in commemorating this centennial. The combined resources of these groups, along with the generous help from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, local benefactors and businesses, the national resources of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the willingness of families to share very personal stories, and the work of many volunteer researchers, have enabled the development of this exhibition.