NEW ZEALANDERS FOR THE FRONT: OFFICIAL FAREWELL

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This film shows scenes from the official farewell to the Wellington Section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) hosted by the Governor-General Lord Liverpool on 24 September 1914 at Newtown Park, Wellington.

It also includes a short snippet showing men from the 6th Reinforcement marching from camp down Lambton Quay and on board the troopship H.M.N.Z.T. No.28 Tofua at King’s Wharf, and the ship steaming out of the harbour, on 11 August 1915.

At the official farewell 2,500 soldiers were on parade and an estimated crowd of 20,000 people viewed proceedings. The Evening Post reported that:

“[i]t was the greatest event that has yet been celebrated in the city... The whole of the city and suburban schools were closed for the day, and most of the business places observed a half-holiday, with the result that the population turned out en-masse to do honour to our soldier sons, and to wish them “God speed”, success to their arms, and a safe return.” (Evening Post, 24 September 1914, p.8)

After the farewell the troops marched to waiting troopships at King’s Wharf through city streets which “were lined by thousands of citizens en route, and the troops were vigourously cheered as they passed by.” (Evening Post, 24 September 1914, p.8). It all proved to be something of an anti-climax though, as news of a possible threat from the German Pacific Fleet delayed the sailing until a warship escort could arrive.

This delay, however, meant the men were able to see the film of their own departure  as this film, or one similar, was shown in cinemas throughout the city in the days after the planned departure. Hayward’s The King’s Theatre advertised “New Zealand’s Contingent Off to the Front” from the 28th while The Empress Theatre had it even earlier, from the 24th onwards, as:  

“[a] smart kinematographic feat was performed... which allowed the management of the Empress Theatre continuous pictures to present last evening the film ‘Farewelling the Troops,’ depicting the send-off to our Expeditionary Force yesterday afternoon.” (Evening Post, 25 September 1914, p.3)

This film is significant as it is one of the few surviving films showing the departure of troops during World War One and is representative of the large number of films that were taken and shown in local picture theatres throughout the country for every reinforcement sailing. The emphasis was on seeing ‘our boys’ go off to war and during the First World War every parade, procession or troopship sailing had a swarm of photographers in attendance, including one or more film cameramen who would race each other to get it shown at the local picture theatres.

Wide shot of Newtown Park, Ministers and Officers are gathered at bottom of steps, Wellington Infantry Battalion behind them; officials include William Massey, Prime Minister, and James Allen, Minister of Defence.  Maj Gen Sir Alexander Godley, Commander NZ Military Forces, escorts the Governor-General Lord Liverpool, followed by Massey, Allen and members of official party.  Lord Liverpool and official party inspect Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment (other members of party include  Lt Col W. J. Meldrum, Col E. W. C. Chaytor, Lt Col W. G. Braithwaite).  Pan official party preparing to make speeches across to soldiers.  

Adelaide Road, Newtown, street scene; crowds stream out of Newtown Park as trams cross each other.

Wide shot of the Wellington Infantry Battalion marching along Lambton Quay in columns of four; crowds line the footpath.  

Wide shot stores loaded on to a transport ship at King’s Wharf, Wellington.  Horses led on board ship.  Views of troop ships about to depart, soldiers cram on decks as people crowd the wharves bidding them farewell.  Medium shots of troops crowding on side of ship deck and on rigging, mostly smiling happy faces.  

Pan of a more subdued group of soldiers standing on ship deck (this is the 6th Reinforcement which sailed on 11 August 1915).  Wide shot of SS Tofua, showing bow with identification “H.M.N.Z.T. No 28”.  Soldiers on rigging.  Long shot of cruiser steaming out of Wellington Harbour, past cargo ship.  Long shot of H.M.N.Z.T. No.28 Tofua steaming out of Wellington Harbour.  

From notes by Chris Pugsley.

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Year 1914

Reference number F1820

Collection Film and Video Collection

Media type Moving Image

Place of Production NEW ZEALAND/AOTEAROA

Genre Actuality

Duration 0:02:00

Production company Department of Agriculture

Credits Camera: James McDonald