Giving voice to thousands of dead soldiers

12:47, Aug 29 2013
Henrietta Bollinger, 20, from Wellington, looks at the diary of WWI soldier George Wallace Bollinger, her great-great uncle who was killed in 1917.

The diaries, photographs and records of thousands of New Zealand soldiers are being placed online to mark the centenary of World War I.

"Now we can all see what it was really like to experience such a watershed moment in our history," Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain said today.

"There is something for everyone, and it will be a great resource for schools."

Family members of two World War I soldiers were present as a suite of digital projects were outlined, some new and some ongoing.

Dr Judy Malone, was the widow of Ted Malone - the grandson of Lieutenant Colonel William Malone who commanded the Wellington Battalion at Gallipoli - said it was "marvellous" to see his records and diary recorded preserved online.

Malone was 56 when he was killed at the Battle of Chunuk Bair in Gallipoli in August 1915.

"He was very much older than the other battalion commanders," Dr Malone said.

"He didn't have to go to war of course, but he had this passionate interest in it. He was also extremely competent. So when he offered his services the Government jumped at it."

Dr Malone said the records and diary didn't belong just to the family, but to the people of New Zealand.

Henrietta Bollinger, great-great niece of George Wallace Bollinger, who was killed in 1917 on his second tour of duty, held his war diary today for the first time.

A Gallipoli veteran, Bollinger had returned to the war to quieten rumours of his supposed German sympathies.

"I have a copy of a typed out transcript, but that was the first time I had actually seen the artifact, which was pretty phenomenal for me," she said.

"It really hammered home that this is a person.

"It's quite a captivating story really, a young man goes off to war, then his own identity really causes his death."

Archivist David Knight said it was an honour to work with the records.

"It's the reason I became an archivist," he said.

"It's amazing to be able to touch history every day."

Projects to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of World War 1 include:

■ Archives New Zealand publishing online the regimental diaries and personnel files of every person who served in the First World War.

■ The Alexander Turnbull Library making about 28,000 pages from soldiers' diaries and private letters available online.

■ Seventy hours of oral history from World War I veterans are available online at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

■ Wartime editions of newspapers are being added to the Papers Past website.

■ War-era photographs from the Turnbull collection are being made available online.

■ Digitisation of World War I-era sheet music from the Turnbull collection.


Fairfax Media