15 Mar 2015

War Report - 15 March 2015

From New Zealand in World War I, 8:53 pm on 15 March 2015

By early 1915 the garrison on Samoa was being relieved so that men like Leonard Leary could be sent overseas. Leary describes the replacements and his own next move which was to England to join the artillery at Woolwich.

By 1915 songs were beginning to emerge which actually reflected the events of the war, like The Old Contemptibles which commemorates the original British Expeditionary Force, wiped out by the end of 1914. The phrase "conscientious objector" was now being heard more often and one man who refused to serve, Duncan McCormack explains his attitude.

In these early days, before conscription, there was growing pressure on young men to volunteer and in March 1915, as training for the new rugby season was about to begin, some senior club teams had to withdraw from the competitions as so many players had joined up. One Dunedin club was taken to task for still fielding a team – back came the response from the club secretary pointing out that of last year's senior team, four men were already overseas and two were about to leave, one was up country for his health and six were married men. It's fair to say that the horrors of war were yet to come.

The troops were certainly away from home but only occasionally would a telegram arrive bearing bad news. In January 1915 four men died on active service, in February seven died and in March there were also seven, but in April after the Anzac landings 271 New Zealand soldiers would be killed.

Music extracts:

Artist: John McCormack
Song: There's a Long Long Trail A Winding
Composer: King/Elliott
Album: Oh, It's a Lovely War Vol 2
Label: CD41 486309

Artist: Robert Carr
Song: The Old Contemptibles
Composer: Carr
Album: Oh, It's a Lovely War Vol 2
Label: CD41 486309

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes