2015 Senior essays

1st Place: Anya Gipp, Queens High School

The irony of all war is its objective to achieve peace, yet surely the path to harmony is not
through destruction and killing, rather it be through tolerance and humanity; qualities which Baxter demonstrated throughout his lifetime. Most men enlisted for the war out of what they believed to be patriotism, pride and honour. Yet through the course of the war their actions became inhuman and the killing of the ‘enemy’ became synonymous with protecting the fatherland as they became swept into the military machine.

2nd Place: Jodie Llewellyn, Columba College

New Zealand’s participation in World War One catalysed an era of evolution in the
public sentiment towards New Zealand’s involvement in war. This evolution shows a
stark contrast between the modern perception of War and the enthusiasm displayed by
New Zealanders in 1915. The experiences from World War One shaped New
Zealand’s identity in the global community in that it provoked a growing Pacifist
movement and a desire to be an independent nation. It can be concluded that the
coming together of New Zealanders for the British Empire under the banner of war
would be unrealistic today.

Modern New Zealand society has evolved since World War One to have an identity
that has a far greater sense of independence. It would be unlikely that New
Zealanders, if faced with a situation where the Britain requested military aid, would
respond with same degree of patriotism-fueled enthusiasm that was shown for World
War One. New Zealanders in 1915 responded to the call for arms in World War One
with enthusiasm that is hard for a modern society to comprehend. It appeared as is
‘war fever’ had overcome New Zealanders and this ‘war fever’ was derived from the
patriotism and loyalty to Britain at the time, as well as other logistical factors that
meant New Zealand’s ties to Britain were not simply sentimental. This ‘patriotism’ is
defined by New Zealand Historian Sean Brosnahan as “dedication to the King and the
entire Empire, not simply the islands of New Zealand.” (1)  An article from the Toitu Early Settlers’ Museum Exhibition (2015) also provides evidence for the immediate
enthusiastic response to World War One, “Dunedin people were proud citizens of the
British Empire. When war was finally declared in 1914, the response was
overwhelming. Men signed up to fight and women lined up to sew.” (2) The identity that
New Zealanders had in 1915 was built on the foundations of British Imperialism and
the attachment New Zealanders had to Britain in this time.

Upon closer examination of the ideologies behind this particular public sentiment, it is
clear that New Zealand relied on Britain for a lot more than a sentimental bond. New
Zealand relied on Britain to uphold their economy, largely through the exportation
within the agricultural sector. New Zealand was selfish to some degree; they knew
that they would need protection from Britain’s navy during the actual war with enemy
forces in the Pacific. Jock Vennell (3), a New Zealand historian gives his interpretation
on New Zealand’s reliance on Britain, “With the country heavily reliant on Britain for
its economic survival, the shield of British sea power was seen to be vital to a small,
isolated South Pacific Country facing a possible threat from European and possibly
Asian nations […]”(4) It is clear from these economic and security-influenced prospects
that New Zealand was far from being independent at the time of the First World War.
A cartoon from ‘The Observer’ in August 1914 titled ‘The Magnet That Draws’ (5) is
primary evidence that is very useful in showing the views of the society in which it
was produced. It demonstrates the view that Britain acted as a ‘magnet’ to New
Zealand and had an unyielding attraction and bond with New Zealand.

New Zealanders display objection to fighting in Wars for other countries. In a ‘New
Zealand Herald’ Opinion Poll on ‘Should New Zealand join the coalition against the
Islamic State?’ (7) the following viewpoints were expressed, substantiating the
reluctance to fight on the behalf of countries such as the United States and the United

“Situation created by the US and the UK. Let them sort it out.”

“This is all about John Key and sucking up to the Americans […] Once again old men send young men to war for the sake of their egos.”

“Of course, the real reason Key wants to send troops to Iraq […] is to appease the US and ensure we are seen as reliable partners in America’s global objectives.”

This evidence shows the huge disparity between the response of New Zealanders to
fight for Britain in World War I and the response of New Zealanders to the prospect
of contributing forces to fight for other countries. John Key’s desire to contribute New Zealand soldiers to conflict in the Middle East has been interpreted by the New
Zealand public as an act to please the United States and further New Zealand’s
relations with them. Most importantly, his attitude in wanting to contribute soldiers
has been condemned, showing the modern attitude that prevents us from being treated
submissively by other nations.

To closer examine the evolution of New Zealand’s identity, it is important to consider
the direct results of New Zealand’s commitment to the British Empire in World War
One and the hints of independence New Zealand gained from this. The desire to be
independent is subsumed within a wider belief in the protection of our men, the men
of New Zealand. This protectiveness is however, another aspect of this newfound
identity of New Zealand and appears in the form of a modern pacifist movement. The
concept of Pacifism that was born after the soldiers in World War One returned home
with experiences of death and mass destruction that were shocking to a young country
that had not had any concept of what the casualties of war could be. This Pacifist
movement is a collective group of New Zealanders who are united in their objection
to the violence and physical destruction of human life in conflict involving military
intervention. The most significant and defining act in the modern Pacifist movement
was the 2008 ‘Waihopai Peace Protests’. (9) In this act of pacifist activism, three peace
activists entered the Government Communications Security Bureau base at Waihopai
and damaged the spherical cover in protest of the ‘US War against terrorism’ that is
known to include violent military intervention in the Middle East. The ultimate
evidence of the evolution in ideologies surrounding pacifism and its heightened status
in a modern context is the fact that in court, the men claimed that they were acting for
the greater good of humanity and that the US military controls the Waihopai that
contributes to war and torture in Iraq. The jury acquitted the men on all counts,
demonstrating that their defence of acting on their pacifist views was accepted and
understood by this jury. In contrast, had these men committed such an act at the time
prior to World War I, they would have likely received much harsher consequences
from the justice system and also public condemnation.

The effects of the experiences of World War I are compounded by the weakening of
New Zealand’s bond with Britain. At the end of World War II, it was clear that
Britain no longer had the power to defend New Zealand in the Pacific. With the
knowledge that New Zealand could not rely on Britain for security during times of
conflict, it was clear that the bond between the two nations was rapidly diminishing.
New Zealand’s economic ties to Britain were heavily impacted in the 1970s (9) when
Britain cut off meat and dairy exports. This blow to the New Zealand economy
solidified the public sentiment of New Zealanders that wanted to further themselves
from Britain.

The factors that influenced the evolving public sentiment can be seen through various
responses of the New Zealand public over time. New Zealand responded to World
War II with the scars of World War I still fresh in their minds. Sean Brosnahan, an
experienced historian and the curator of Toitu Early Settlers’ Museum acknowledged
that the response to World War II was still driven by a sense of duty to serve Britain,
but also emphasised how the men “did so knowing that this would mean death and
destruction on an immense scale […] There was less enthusiasm and more quiet
determination.” (1)

The Anti-Nuclear movement in New Zealand of the early 1970s to the mid 1980s was
a bold stance that saw New Zealanders expressing independent views despite the
pressures of more dominant countries. David Lange, the Prime Minister of the time,
declared at the Oxford Union Debate in 1985, that “Nuclear Weapons are Morally
Indefensible” (10) and was adamant that no Nuclear Ships would be allowed into New
Zealand Harbours. Lange discounted New Zealand’s relations with the United States
and the United Kingdom in declaring New Zealand a ‘Nuclear-Free zone’. New
Zealanders displayed an independent mentality again during the 1981 Springbok
Tour. The unyielding drive to uphold the principles of racial equality made New
Zealand appear isolated in their views, however this isolation only defined New
Zealand’s identity as an independent nation.

The treatment of the Conscientious Objectors of World War I is recognised as a
shocking breach of human rights and in the context of a modern ‘pacifist’ society,
Conscientious Objectors can be seen to be ‘glorified’ for their anti-war actions.
Professor Brooking states, “Whether fighting in a uniform or refusing to put it on,
both were acts of bravery” (11) demonstrating the modern admiration for the pacifist actions of Conscientious Objectors in World War I.

New Zealand currently has defined stance on the world stage. New Zealand was
granted a seat on the UN Security Council for 2015 and 2016, an ultimate display of
the representation of New Zealand as a nation with an independent and valuable
voice. New Zealand has been entitled with this position because of our confidence in
expressing views that show our independent thinking and genuine understanding of
what is best for our own country and other small independent nations around the
world. New Zealand is not a nation that is easily manipulated or reliant on other
nations and is defiant in upholding principles. New Zealanders’ display of patriotism
in the past revolved around loyalties to the British Empire. With the realisation of the
consequences of being so deeply tied to other nations, New Zealanders’ displays of
patriotism in today are based on loyalty to our own country. With the understanding
of the tragic consequences of war and a determined pacifist movement, New
Zealanders can be seen to oppose involvement in conflict. This opposition is seen as
the most patriotic thing they can do for New Zealand.

World War I holds significance in the development of New Zealand’s identity in the
way it prompted a united desire for peace that has evolved to a modern objection to
war. This united desire for peace is a defining aspect of New Zealand’s identity as an
independent nation and it can be concluded that it is impossible to distinguish
between the theme of Pacifism and New Zealand’s identity in the 21st Century.

1. Interview with Sean Brosnahan, Curator of Toitu Early Settlers Museum (conducted on 12th June 2015)
2. Toitu Museum ‘The Great War Exhibition’, accessed on 28/05/15 and 05/05/15
3′.The Forgotten General- New Zealand’s WW1 Commander Major- General Sir Andrew
Russell’, Jock Vennell, Allen & Unwin, Wellington, 2011, (Return of the Soldier Pages
4. ‘New Zealand and the First World War’, Damien Fenton, Caroline Lord, Gavin McLean,
Tim Shoebridge, Penguin NZ, 2013 (Chapters 1,2,5 Pages, 1,10,11,12,13)
5. PapersPast: ‘The Magnet that Draws’, August 1914- Observer, Volume XXXIV”
6. ‘The Call of The Empire, The Call of War’, The Telegraph, Patrick Bishop”
7. “‘Should NZ join the Coalition Against the Islamic State?’, The New Zealand Herald, ‘Your Views’, 08/10/14- 26/02/15″                                                                                                   9. Economic history of NZ in 19th and 20th Centuries, John Singleton
10. Great NZ Arguments, The Oxford Union Debate 1985, David Lange
http://publicaddress.net/great-new-zealand-argument/nuclear-weapons-are-morallyindefensible/                                                                                                                     11.http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/323316/men9conscience!(Men of
Conscience,Bruce Munroe)

3rd Place: Lucy Paton, Waitaki Girls’ High School

It is never easy to swim against the tide of popular public opinion. With the inevitable
propaganda machine going full steam ahead, as it does when getting a country stirred up to enter a war, those that have the authority to take a country into war will use anything in their power to justify their decision. There are times when it takes the most courage to say no, especially to those who are in positions of authority. In an era where it was seen as good and honourable to die for one’s country in war, going against what was viewed as public duty and saying “no” to war, was not only difficult, but highly disapproved of. However, there were those who refused to take part in war, to instead use all the peaceful options available to bring about resolutions in an attempt to preserve life, as they knew that death, destruction and debilitation are the inevitable outcomes of war. Even though one side may claim otherwise, there are never any winners in war.

Since mankind first walked on this earth there has been conflict resulting in wars, and sadly, this continues to be the case today. Wars occur for many reasons; whether it be over religion, politics, revenge, ethnic ‘cleansing’, resources or border disputes, these can be the catalysts for wars around the world. War can also be financially profitable for countries who supply armaments, often to both sides, showing that profit can be placed above human life. Throughout the different ages of society, serving your country in war has been seen as the right thing to, as it is seen as being ‘patriotic’ to fight for the country you belong to, however, when the consequences of war are so detrimental, it is essential that war is avoided. If one has a love of their country, and mankind, then it is patroitic and just to do everything in one’s power to keep their country out of war. When there is something to gain, it is all too easy for a country to choose going into war over peace.

Some politicians and military commanders put their troops into unwinnable situations.
Sending others into the ravages of war is made easy when those who give the orders to attack often do so at a distance, safe from bullets and mortars. History attests to the costly mistakes that many have made when sending soldiers into battle. An example of this very situation was in the Crimean War and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem – The Charge of the Light Brigade is about such a campaign. In the second verse – “Someone had blundered, Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” Someone in a position of authority had sent the Light Brigade into a doomed campaign, resulting in huge loss of life.

On a number of occasions, New Zealand has been obliged to enter into warfare because of
the political allies it had, sending New Zealand troops to war. Examples from New Zealand’s involvement in wars and failed campaigns are well documented. In World War One there was the Gallipoli Campaign, where not only the training and preparation for the New Zealand soldiers was inadequate for the conditions they would face, but also because of a landing at Ari Burnu that was so off course. The commanders failed to prepare the troops for the narrowbeach, steep cliffs, and enemy onslaught that they faced. Factors like these lead to repeated failures and high death rates among New Zealand troops. The Battle of the Somme also resulted in the huge loss of New Zealand lives, along with many other countries. World War Two and the Vietnam War contributed to the toll of New Zealander lives that have been lost in war. Ironically, World War I is also known as “The Great War” and it sits like a juxtaposition, as how can any war be great when innocent lives are lost to the ravages of warfare? Even wars that are eventually claimed as victories by one side are failures, because of the death and injury both sides endure. Inevitably victories are hollow because of the true cost in terms of human loss.

Only those who have experienced the battles first hand can truly know what it is like. Many young men who went to war could never have imagined the horrors which they would be embroiled in, and for many by the time they realised what they had gotten themselves into, it was too late, succumbing to either death, injury or a life altered because what they had been exposed to was forever etched in their minds. 1916 in New Zealand brought the introduction of the Military Service Act, meaning that conscription was used for recruitment to the military. If a man was of age and in good health, he was expected to join the military and ‘do his bit for his country’ by going to war. Of course conscription came about when volunteers fell below the numbers required. Sadly, people were simply seen as just a number – a number on a uniform when they served, and a number on a white cross when they died. The individual’s beliefs were not considered when laws of the land were implemented. Surely, when one’s life is at stake, that person should have the right to choose their own destiny.

Propaganda encourages countries and their people to push for and support wars, and in doing so, reject peace as a viable alternative. Those who refused to fight and who challenged conscription for military service were known as conscientious objectors. Exemptions from war could be applied for, but more often than not these applications were turned down if the reason was stated as being that it went against an individual’s belief that war was unethical and to fight and kill was wrong. Those who refused to fight for their country were made to suffer the consequences. Even New Zealand’s Prime Minister at the time, William Massey, said there would be “no escape for the shirker.” It was a time when many people were led to believe that those who did not fight for their country were cowards, however, this was not true. There have always been those who have stood strong against the pull of war and in doing so have endured hatred, hardship, ridicule, loss of freedom and rights, in order to stay faithful to their belief in peace at all costs. It is harsh enough being hated by those from another country, but to be hated and despised by people from your own country, community and family causes deep suffering. Those who chose not to fight in wars, the conscientious objectors, did so for many reasons. For some it was the uncompromising belief that war was wrong and that they should not fight. For others it was that they followed the steadfast religious teaching that it was a sin to take another life no matter what the circumstances. In the Holy Bible, one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt not kill.” The result of keeping true to these beliefs sometimes resulted in death. In World War 1 soldiers refusing to fight were shot by their own country’s firing squads as a deterrent to others. Those who refused to enlist were imprisoned, and subjected to hard labour and harassment. White feathers, which were the symbol of cowardice, were sometimes posted or given to those who did not go to war and to those that others perceived as not doing their ‘duty.’ This was humiliating and upsetting for anyone who received a white feather.

As the stories of conscientious objectors have become known to more people, there is a
greater understanding and acceptance of an individual’s choices, beliefs and values. More
people are coming to realise that there are alternatives to war and violence. Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King are examples of such people who turned away from violence, and instead advocated through peaceful methods when successfully bringing attention and change for a cause. In New Zealand we have had our own pacifists and advocates against war likeArchibald Baxter, Mark Briggs, Henry Patton and Lawrence Kirwan. These men stuck to their principals and refused to take up arms and fight in a war they believed was wrong. During World War 1 they were arrested, imprisoned, sent to the Western Front and because these men still refused to fight they were tied to poles as punishment known as Field Punishment No.1. It was brutal and barbaric but even this failed to break their resolve to not fight.

Keeping your country out of war begins with keeping yourself out of war. Staying faithful to one’s beliefs and not bending or breaking because it is unpopular takes great courage. We can learn from the stand taken by conscientious objectors and use their example to do all we can as an individual to keep our country out of war and to influence others to do the same, for it is the most patriotic thing you can do for your country.

Highly Commended: Josh Scadden, Kings High School

Patriotism is an ideal many of us possess. Most of us are attached to our country and strongly identify ourselves as natives of that country. This devotion, in the past, has been used to manipulate us into senselessly throwing ourselves into foreign conflicts that we have no grasp of or have no reason to be involved in.

Yet it doesn’t have to be like this, patriotism can be used to keep our country alive. It can be used to keep our blood from staining the earth in the field of battle and to keep families from having to look at an empty seat at the table. In the past, our patriotism has lead us like lambs to the slaughterhouse. When the First World War rolled around, we enlisted en masse. Thousands of our sons enlisted and embarked to strange foreign lands to fight a war we had no reason to fight. Of the 9288 men leaving on the first ship on October 16th 1914, 1732 would die because of the war. 100,000 would end up serving either willingly or forcibly and 18,000 of these men and women would end up dead. Families were torn apart by this war, many of them sending upwards of 7 and 8 sons to the war, and very rarely did all of them return.

One case is that of the Hartnetts. Originally from Deloraine, Tasmania, 7 of them, who had been living in New Zealand for several years before hand, enlisted in the NZEF during WW1. Tim, William and Percy were lucky enough to return, but their brothers John, Denny, Cyril and Philip remained as rotting corpses in foreign fields. Some, such as the Bremners, only had 3 children and all of them went to war. In the case of the Bremners, the father served as well but he outlived his sons, being the only one to return from the field of duty. Overall, 8 New Zealand families lost 4 of their sons and another 55 lost 3. These are just from a small, young Pacific nation of 1million people and an army of 100,000.

Around the world there are numerous cases of families who have suffered even more. The Restoricks from Birmingham lost 8 sons with a 9th severely wounded, the Canadian Corporal G. W. Moss lost 4 brothers, a cousin, a brother-in-law at the front as well as his wife and 2 children during the Folkestone Air-Raids and the Croydon based private Thomas Smith lost his 4 brothers and father on July 15th 1916 at the Somme, while his mother and 3 sisters were killed by air raids, leaving Thomas as the only surviving family member. These families could have stayed together, if it were not for the twisted patriotism that drew their sons and countries into war. Corporal Moss could have celebrated his children as they grew up, rather than mourn as they were buried, Private Smith could have watched his siblings get married and the Restoricks could have had grandchildren. They were patriotic, they believed that they were doing what was best for their country, yet it wasn’t.

Being patriotic doesn’t mean sending your nation off to fight in a foreign country, it means doing what is needed to make your country strong, not necessarily militarily, but economically. War has a huge economic impact on the nations involved. It can destroy economies by increasing the amount of arms produced, often at the expense of other industries that are vital to keep the economy alive. War left powerful countries, crumbling under the heavy debts that war had loaded onto them. These countries took years to repay the debts they incurred, even then they still haven’t finished. During the war, many skilled workers fall victim to the conflict, leaving them incapable of working, depriving society of these skilled workers which shrinks the work force.

Both of these scenarios can lead to two very different economic crashes. In the first scenario of huge debts, particularly in countries paying reparations, hyperinflation can ensue. For example, after WWI, the newly formed German Weimar Republic had a huge amount of reparations to pay, so they printed excessive amounts of money in order to pay it off. This caused hyperinflation which is where there is an excess of money so the prices of things suddenly increase exponentially and the value of the currency decreases just as much. For example, during this time, the currency had been so devalued that it was often used as wallpaper, or if people were going to buy something, they often had to carry their money around in wheelbarrows. The other scenario, the loss of skilled workers shrinking the workforce, could cause the opposite scenario to hyperinflation, a depression. This is a situation where there isn’t enough money in circulation due to low amounts of production, in this case caused by a lack of skilled workers, the majority becoming casualties of war.

If only the ministers and leaders had been patriotic enough to realise that war wasn’t the answer to the problems they were facing, but that they could be discussed in a peaceful tribunal. Men, and their families, don’t have to fling themselves into bullets to resolve an issue. We can talk, discuss, confer with the opposing parties and come to a compromise that both groups support. War doesn’t just have an effect on the armies, it has an effect on the landscape where the war takes place. The countryside is destroyed. Beautiful rolling meadows dotted with shrubs are transformed into muddy quagmires, causing artillery shells to sink in and remain there, undetonated until an unfortunate farmer strikes it with their plough many years later, becoming another casualty of a long finished war. The citizens of a war torn country are more affected during the war itself. The fighting cuts off lines to supplies causing widespread famine and disease amongst the innocent. Their homes are destroyed and cities razed. Their families are caught in the crossfire. Not just soldiers but old men, women, children and animals who have done nothing to deserve the ultimate punishment. They lived their lives peacefully, wanting no harm to come to those around them only to have their troubles rewarded with bullets in their wives, husbands, parents, brothers, sisters and children. They are gratuitously gifted famine and disease which, when accompanied with the departure of the medical men and women who are the only ones who can save them, causes catastrophic suffering. The suffering forces them to leave, hunting for greener pastures. “Greener pastures” generally referring to the deplorable squalor that abounds in the many refugee camps that, unfortunately, are still luxurious compared to what they were experiencing in their home towns.

If only the patriots who were fighting for their people, had realised what this would do to them. Rather than create a better life for their people, it destroyed the world they did have, leaving a large vacuum rather than a new society. Rather than allow them to live their lives in peace on their traditional lands, as complete families, it destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones either through famine or by getting caught in the crossfire. Many of these families have sent young men off to war, young men that they needed to run their farms and businesses. Young men who will see things that no man should ever bear witness to. The ones that survive will witness the mutilation of their friends, the squalor of the front line and the fear of combat. They will return to their families as shadows of their former selves, incapable of performing the jobs that they need to perform. For those who die, their families will be worse emotionally than if they had returned but largely still the same in terms of their businesses. Families will go bankrupt, businesses will liquidate, homes and heirlooms will be sold. All this because the warped patriotism that was infused into these men pushed them into the front lines of war, fighting battles supposedly for their nation’s benefit. If they had been true patriots, they would have realised that a war is not what they need to make their country strong and great.

A good country isn’t defined by its military, it is defined by the people it produces, the rights it gives to its citizens, its economic stability, the living conditions its people are subjected to and the rate at which it is developing. Countries that claim to be patriotic are often lead by warmongers or people who believe in military might. These countries have historically not done well. They usually end in demise, such as Nazi Germany or the Roman Empire, countries that were lead by military men who believed in strength in military, who were destroyed by military. Other countries that do succeed despite having a belief in military might, develop a war economy. This is an economy that will collapse if the country is not at war. A notable modern example of this is the USA, who require a war to keep their economy strong. These men are seen as brave patriots, but the true brave patriots are the pacifists. Pacifists like Archibald Baxter who was brave enough to stand against the mainstream of society to keep his beliefs of peace, Mahatma Gandhi who used peaceful methods to bring independence to the Indian people and Martin Luther King Jr. who used non-violence to gain equal rights for blacks in the USA. These brave people powerfully demonstrate that pacifism, hence not going to war, is the most patriotic thing you can do for your country.