Kiwi as

It is 11th hour of 11th day of the 11th month of 2018.

100 years ago at this time the Armistice to end World War One (the war to end all wars) was signed in a railway carriage in a forest clearing outside Compiegne.

Site of Armistice signing

The carriage was preserved, with the table and the original chairs used by the various generals when signing the treaty. In 1940, Hitler staged a triumphant ceremony when the French surrendered to him, using the same railway carriage (at that stage a memorial in the forest clearing).  Hitler sat in General Foch’s seat, generally made the French eat humble-pie and took the railway carriage to Germany in triumph! Fortunately things changed five years later, but sadly, the original carriage was mostly destroyed in a fire. The museum in the forest houses an identical carriage from the same railway company, and it is set out as it was when the WWI treaty was signed.

One of 1205 graves of unknown Kiwi soldiers at the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

But before the 11th of November signing, some 16 million had perished in four and a quarter years of conflict, 16,697 of them from New Zealand.  Add another 1000 or so that died within 5 years of the end of the war and the 507 that died during training and the total is over 18,000.

So, today, we honour these keen individuals who inspire and sacrificed.

Compared to today’s globe-trotting style with many of us having travelled overseas, 1914 was very different. People did not travel much internally, let alone beyond our shores.  NZ History says:

Places thousands of miles from home with exotic-sounding names such as Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the Somme etched themselves in national memory during the First World War.

The war took approximately 100,000 New Zealanders overseas, many for the first time. Some anticipated a great adventure but found the reality very different. Being so far from home made these New Zealanders very aware of who they were and where they were from. In battle, they were able to compare themselves with men from other nations. Out of this, many have argued, came a sense of a separate identity, and many New Zealand soldiers began to refer to themselves as ‘Kiwis’.

Ormond Burton, a decorated veteran of Gallipoli and the Western Front, summed up a popular and enduring view of the significance of the war on New Zealand society, stating ‘somewhere between the landing at Anzac and the end of the battle of the Somme, New Zealand very definitely became a nationEnd quote.

The Great War Exhibition in Wellington (highly recommended) highlights a number of words and phrases that have entered our vocabulary as a result of World War One. I regret not making a note of them all.

Online one can find lists of such words and phrases and they include: ‘Up against the wall’,  ‘Shoot down in flames’,  ‘Push Up the Daisies’, ‘Over the top’, ‘Pipsqueak’, ‘Give her the gun’, ‘Hush-hush’, ‘Break new ground’, ‘Camouflage’ and many others.

Near and dear to us is, of course, ‘ANZAC’, coined by a New Zealand soldier, Sergeant Keith Little, who tired of repeating the Australian New Zealand Army Corps in military documents and correspondence.

And, to bring us back in a neat circle, the phrase “At the eleventh hour” has its origins in a forest clearing in France.


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.

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