Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Otautau's Military History

The Military Exhibition at the Otautau Museum this month has inspired me to put together a list of those who served in WWI and WWII. So to accomplish this, I've been doing a bit of research lately on Cenotaph, the Auckland War Museum's Database of military service personnel.

I started with the names listed on the Otautau War Memorial. Due to the space constraints of the monument, the list only contains last names and first initials. By using the Cenotaph database and also the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, I have collected more detailed information, like their full names and occupations, as well as some photographs. Quite a few of the soldiers were killed in action at Passchendaele, Belgium, and a small number at Gallipoli, Turkey. It is quite difficult to imagine these young men, many just farmers, away for a few months and then suddenly under seige in a major military campaign. However this list of those who lost their lives represents only a fraction of those who served.

Using a library book called Southland Soldiers and their Next of Kin, I've come up with an extended list of people who served in WWI and returned home. The list is about 9 pages long so far. I am working my way through the names, gathering more information from Cenotaph. I can emphatically say that Otautau, Aparima, Fairfax, Isla Bank and Scott's Gap gave their fair share of young men to WWI. The list is exhaustive, and it must've caused quite a labour drain with so many men, mostly farmers and labourers, away at war. But I was also interested to learn that there were two women who served their country as well. Both were nurses from Otautau.

I haven't been as lucky to find more information on WWII veterans who returned. If anyone has any sources or ideas, let me know.

What little I have collected will be available at the museum. It's been a very interesting project to work on but certainly deserves more indepth research. I'm sure my methods are not as thorough as they should be and worry that some names have been missed.

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