Exhibitions tell story of Southland's war

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014
toby walton
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ
WAR FEVER: Southland Museum and Art Gallery graphic designer Toby Walton with some of the posters from the From Enlistment to Gallipoli exhibition.

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One hundred years ago the assassination of a foreign duke in a distant land catapulted New Zealand into war.

Great Britain's declaration of war on Germany was "binding on all Dominions within the British Empire including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa".

The call echoed across the far-flung corners of the empire and was heard in Southland.

More than 120,000 Kiwis enlisted - 10 per cent of the nation's population - and about 103,000 headed overseas on a big adventure to do their duty.

About 18,500 New Zealanders were killed in action or died as a result of the Great War.

They fell on exotic-sounding patches of land such as Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the Somme.

Among the fallen were young men of Southland. Some returned home and slipped quietly back into the lives they had put on hold. A century later, their stories will be told.

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery is hosting exhibitions, documentaries, programmes and events commemorating the role of the province and its people in the Great War of 1914-18.

Southland Museum history curator David Dudfield said the first exhibition, From Enlistment to Gallipoli, will open on Tuesday, coinciding with the news reaching Southland that war had been declared.

"Officially, Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, but it took a bit longer for the cables to reach this far south," Dudfield said.

Old newspapers, propaganda posters, photographs and historical collections would tell the story of how Southlanders went to war.

The second phase of the 100-year commemoration of World War I would be The Gallipoli Experience, a multisensory exhibition featuring a trench experience, Dudfield said.

It is due to open on April 25, 2015.

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