World War I soldiers from Bluff identified

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 11:57 03/04/2014
Southland Times photo
NEIL RATLEY/Fairfax NZ
Military history buff James Watson holds a 100-year-old photograph of a group of men from Bluff before they shipped out to war in 1914.

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The group of men gather for a photograph ahead of a big adventure.

Their uniforms smartly pressed and proudly worn.

It is the start of a journey that will take them from blustery Bluff to the distant deserts of North Africa and then the shores of Gallipoli.

All the faces captured on film at the training ground of Tahuna Park in Dunedin 100 years ago are gone. Some falling on distant battlefields while the rest have passed away with the onslaught of time.

However, thanks to a clean up of the Bluff Memorial RSA and the dedication of several Southland historians, the men from Bluff who made the ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten.

The 1914 photograph of the men was discovered when members of the RSA were sorting through memorabilia accumulated during the years, ahead of the 100 year anniversary of World War I.

Bluff Memorial RSA secretary Father Hamish Wyatt said the photograph was a national treasure and the RSA wanted to use an enlarged version of it as part of a display featuring medals and other memorabilia for the World War I centenary celebrations.

However, to complete the process of getting the precious photograph from a dusty print to the centrepiece of a display, the RSA is calling for help from the public.

"We need to find some funding and donations to make sure the sacrifices these men and others through various wars are remembered," he said.

When the photograph was found, it was a faded sheet of sepia faces preparing to go to war. To put names to the faces, Wyatt called upon the knowledge and passion of military history buff James Watson.

Watson, along with historians Dr Aaron Fox and Bryce Horrell, worked to identify all the Bluff men in the Tahuna photograph.

There was some information on the back of the photograph but water damage had wiped almost all of it away, Watson said.

It was important the men in the photograph lived on through history and all Southland soldiers who served in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 and beyond were honoured, he said.

Anyone who could help with donations to establish the display should contact the Bluff Memorial RSA. Ensuring the preservation of Southland's history was well worth the price, Watson said.

 

KIA MATE TOA An online project to commemorate Southland's role in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915, and to honour the memory of all who served.

The New Zealand War Memorial at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, commemorates that New Zealand soldiers came to Gallipoli from the ‘Uttermost Ends of the Earth'.

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This is most true of all for the men from Southland who served at ANZAC Cove and Cape Helles in 1915.

A team of local historians, including Dr Aaron Fox and Bryce Horrell, are seeking the help of the families of our Gallipoli veterans.

They are looking to families of Gallipoli veterans for photographs, letters, and diaries which can be copied and made available on the website – "a one-stop-shop for students studying Gallipoli".

The website kiamatetoa.com will include the Southland at Gallipoli Database: a free to use listing of all of the officers, non-commissioned officers and men who served in Egypt and at Gallipoli with the 8th (Southland) Company between August 1914 and December 1915. If you can help, please visit kiamatetoa.com. 

 

- The Southland Times

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