LIFE ON NEW ZEALAND TROOP SHIPS: OUR BOYS EN ROUTE TO EGYPT

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This is one of two films that show the sailing of the Australian and New Zealand troopship convoy from King George’s Sound, Western Australia, on 1 November 1914, as well as activities aboard the troopships. The other film is held at the Australian War Memorial.

It includes unique footage shot onboard H.M.N.Z.T No.12 SS Waimana of wrestling sports, scenes of troops at Albany Wharf, Albany, Western Australia, and footage of the sailing of the 36 ships of the Australian and New Zealand convoy. The convoy carried the Main Bodies of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), consisting of three divisions of 26 ships, and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), made up of one division and 10 ships.

The identity of the cameraman is a mystery. He may have been a ship’s officer, but there are few sources that shed light on his identity. Regardless, his efforts resulted in historic footage being shot and shown in theatres in early 1915: this was the first glimpse the New Zealand public saw of their soldiers on overseas service during World War One, even if only on Albany Wharf.

Wellington’s Empress Theatre screened “Life on N.Z. Troopships”, subtitled “Daily routine and life of our Troops, en route to Egypt” from 16 January 1915 onwards (Evening Post, 16 January 1915, p.2). Another Wellington cinema, the People’s Picture Palace, screened “Our Boys En Route to Egypt” later in March where it was “[g]reeted with Spontaneous Applause by Crowded Houses at all Sessions” (Evening Post, 9 March 1915, p.2). It also appears to have screened as part of the “Armies of Europe at War” series which toured cinemas throughout New Zealand in late 1915; a précis of the film promised “views of ‘Our Boys’ on their way to Egypt”, and advertising for the programme promoted “War in Reality” (Dominion, 28 September 1915, p.3 & Evening Post, 7 October 1915, p.2).

Views of a wrestling bout between two older men, watched on by New Zealand soldiers and crew. Wrestling match between two young soldiers. More wrestling between the older men.

View from [troopship H.M.N.Z.T. No.12 SS Waimana] as soldiers of the Auckland Infantry Battalion form up on the Albany Wharf ready to embark; first to appear is a group of officers with chaplain (in white collar), behind them is the 3rd Auckland Battalion Band; the large man behind the band is Lt Col Arthur Plugge who is followed by his officers then the Rifle Company of 250 soldiers marching in a column of fours. Rifle Company turn to face the ship and are “stood easy” as the rest of the Battalion arrive on the wharf. Rifle company file on board ship. Wide shot pan of wharf from ship as troops wait to embark; a boiler is smoking in the background.

Views of Australian convoy ships [from bridge of Waimana] as they sail up King George’s Sound and into the Indian Ocean, including unidentified [escort] ship; A3 Orvieto; A27 Southern; two unidentified ships; A24 Benalla; unidentified ship; A12 Saldanha; unidentified ship; A2 Geelong; nine unidentified ships. Wide shot silhouette of officer on bridge of [Waimana] followed by pan across line of three ships. Views various unidentified ships. Pan line of Australian convoy ships sailing out to sea and across to anchored line of New Zealand troop ships waiting to follow (New Zealand ships painted grey, Australian ships retained their civilian colours). Views of Australian troopships. Pan of New Zealand ships, right around to show mast and rigging of [SS Waimana]. Pans New Zealand troopships as they follow Australian ships into the Indian Ocean. Pans HMAS Melbourne, escort cruiser (identified by white bands on first and fourth funnel), in foreground on last pan is heavy officer’s coat and still camera. Pan King George’s Sound coast and islands.

From notes by Chris Pugsley.

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Year 1915

Reference number F8201

Collection Film and Video Collection

Media type Moving Image

Place of Production NEW ZEALAND/AOTEAROA

Genre Actuality

Duration 0:11:10

Credits Camera: Holmes