Spectrum. 420, For King and Country.
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Jack Perkins interviews former lawyer, Leonard Poulter Leary, who was one of the first to join up at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. He recalls anti-war demonstrations were taking place at the Wellington wharves so he and other patriotic students from Victoria College went down to hold a counter-protest. They then went to the drill-hall and demanded to enlist. All the first enlistees had an army serial number that began with a number one. He describes the militaristic nature of New Zealand society at the time, with drill training at schools and regular hunting with rifles. The troop ships, the Monowai and Moeraki, got a great send off from Wellington. They didn't know where they were headed, but were escorted by three battleships because of fears of the two German raiders in the Pacific, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
He describes their arrival in Noumea as the most thrilling thing that ever happened to him. A beautiful landscape of tropical colours and a French battleship, the Montcalm was waiting in harbour to receive them.
He describes a trumpeter playing the royal salute, a French band playing 'God Save the King' and the New Zealand band playing the 'Marseillaise' to hugely enthusiastic troops.
They expected a battle to capture Samoa, but the German governor offered no resistance and there was some fraternisation with the Germans in hotels. He recalls the scare with the arrival of the German ships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Years later he found out the German chief of the civil administration went out to the ships and told Admiral von Spee on no account to attack, as there would be reprisals against the German residents of Samoa.
Eventually older men were sent from New Zealand to replace them on Samoa, so he and his brother decided to go to England to join the British Army to make sure they saw some action, as they thought the war would be over in a few weeks. He describes going to the War Office to ask for a commission and was given fifty pounds to get kitted out, including a sword and reported to Woolwich Arsenal for training with the Horse Artillery. He says any fool could learn guns in a few days but management of horses was much more involved.
He talks about the use of horses to pull guns and limbers, the trailer which carried the ammunition, how they managed horses terrified by gunfire and had to shoot many wounded animals.
He describes 'the creeping barrage' and lessons learnt on the Somme, where his brother was killed. It required precision gunnery and the New Zealanders were very proud of their creeping barrage. Eventually he became shell-shocked and he explains the symptoms he had and treatment in hospital in England.
Reference number 229033
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Documentary radio programs
Nonfiction radio programs
Perkins, Jack (b.1940), Presenter
Leary, L. P. (Leonard Poulter), 1891-1990, Interviewee
Radio New Zealand. National Programme (estab. 1964, closed 1986), Broadcaster
Date 09 Nov 1982