Family's war effort
One of New Zealand's oldest families made the ultimate sacrifice for Queen and country during WWI, a new book has revealed.
The Hansens were the first family to arrive in New Zealand alongside the earliest non-missionary settlers in 1814, before heading off to the Western Front a century later.
Manurewa historian and family member Kath Hansen spent 18 months researching and writing In The Field - Mud and Blood on the Western Front about the family's sacrifice.
Forty-two of the family's sons are known to have enlisted during the war, of which 14 died.
"I found 42 and I stopped looking after that because it was just getting a bit too much," Mrs Hansen says.
The book will be launched tomorrow with a ceremony at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall.
Arts Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson will be the guest of honour, while New Zealand Military Historical Society president Herb Farrant will officially launch the book.
Thirty-two of the soldiers, who came from across the North Island, entered the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
The other 10 served in the Australian Imperial Force.
The loss of 14 men makes the family's sacrifice double the national average for family loss during the war.
Mrs Hansen says all she knew of WWI before starting her research was the names of major battles such as The Somme, Messines and Passchendaele.
"So it has been a very steep learning curve and I may not have put it all together in the same way a military historian would have done it - but it is a family story."
The final draft of the book was checked by military historian Brigadier General John Gray so readers can be confident all facts are correct.
Content covers each soldiers' entrance into the war, their heroic deeds, tragic deaths or great escapes.
But Mrs Hansen says she found it very difficult to find real detail about what each man did during the battles.
"Their service record just does not do that.
"So I had to try and match up dates in their service record with the position of the New Zealand Division at the time.
She then had to cross check to see if they were on the frontline, in hospital or away on leave.
In The Field has been released as a precursor to the war's centenary and the Hansen's bi-centenary in New Zealand in 2014.
For this reason tomorrow Mr Finlayson will be outlining the Government's plans for 2014's centenary celebrations.
These include the development of a National War Memorial Park in Wellington around the existing National War Memorial, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in 2015.
The Lottery Grants Board has allocated $17 million to fund community events and projects marking the centenary of the war. About $10m of that money will go towards one or two large-scale commemoration projects of national significance. The balance of the money will be available for commemorative projects across the country, to recognise the fact that the war touched all New Zealanders from the largest cities to the smallest settlements.
"This book makes it clear just how much of an impact the first World War had on the families of New Zealand, and how that conflict touched the whole of this very close-knit nation," Mr Finlayson says.
To purchase the book contact Mrs Hansen via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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