Searching for a Wellington objector

LEST WE FORGET: Hannah August is researching Wellingtonians involved in the First World War for the council's October WWI centennial commemoration.
LEST WE FORGET: Hannah August is researching Wellingtonians involved in the First World War for the council's October WWI centennial commemoration.

Relatives of Wellington-born World War I conscientious objectors are being asked to come forward and share their ancestors' stories.

In the lead-up to the 100 year commemoration of World War I next year, Wellington City Council is putting on a free multi- media event, Wellington - Lest We Forget, in mid-October.

It is designed to remember the city and its people during the war years and connect people with local history. It will be showcased across Wellington's suburbs and the central city.

Historian Hannah August was given the job of profiling 10 representative Wellingtonians who were involved in World War I.

But she said she had not been able to gather information on a Wellingtonian who was vocally opposed to the war.

"Part of my brief was to make sure that we also profiled someone who wasn't involved in the war - who objected to it on religious, moral or political grounds," she said.

"Plenty of New Zealanders had been vocally opposed to the war, and particularly to the idea of conscription, which was introduced in November 1916.

"But few of the voices who were loudest belong to those who were born and bred in Wellington."

Up to 273 people were jailed because they refused to fight for various religious and social reasons. Those not imprisoned could be presented with a white feather, condemning them as cowards, August said.

"Until November, 1916, people volunteered and then stories started trickling back of the horrors of war, so that's why the Government had to introduce conscription," she said.

"If you didn't volunteer you essentially lost your civic rights for 10 years."

It was vital that the voices of those that advocated peace were represented, August said.

"As we commemorate loss of life in World War I, we acknowledge that war is never inevitable and that, historically, the voices of those that advocated for peace have sometimes been silenced. It's increasingly important that these voices are heard."

But to get those voices represented, August said she needed members of the public to come forward.

"What we're really hoping for is that someone will be able to produce some info on their Welllington-born objecting relative and a photo - this is crucial if they're to be included in the representative 10 wartime Wellingtonians.

"It's important that the knowledge of how this enormous loss of life happened doesn't get lost and one of the best ways of preserving that knowledge is reminding people that those that did lose their lives have lives just like ours today.

"If we stop keeping this memory alive it stops us from remembering how to make sure it never happens again."



If your family member was a conscientious objector during World War I, Wellington City Council wants to hear from you. 

Historian Hannah August is seeking information about the following people: Frederick John Halse, Petone; Thomas Howard Ireton, Mount Cook; Ernest and Herbert Kilby, Island Bay; Robert Ivin, Johnsonville; and Samuel Salter, Lower Hutt.

If you can help, or if one of your relatives was born and bred in Wellington, opposed to World War I and you have a photo of them, please email or phone 04 499 4444.

The Wellingtonian