WW100: Connecting to our memories, stories & history through oral history recordings

What was happening in World War I, 100 years ago this week? Hearing recollections of people who lived through the turbulent time is a powerful way to reconnect with that period in our history.

Microphone line up
The keys to collecting our oral histories, the humble microphone. (Image: Radio Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Christchurch) 


Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Radio Collection includes some 300-odd recordings relating to World War I. Many of those stories are now being re-broadcast in a new weekly radio series that narrates the progress of wartime, week-by-week.

Every Sunday night on Radio New Zealand National, historian and broadcaster Jim Sullivan looks at the events and personalities of 100 years ago in War Reports, as part of his two-hour Sounds Historical programme. Listen to his broadcasts so far, online here.

The archival oral history recordings provide wonderful insight into the individual experiences. The show also creates a beautifully full illustration of what the wider world was like, using music and newspaper articles from this week 100 years ago to build a snapshot of the way we were,  both here in New Zealand and in the various fields of conflict as the war unfolded.


Beachside 1925

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision staff have been admiring beachside fashion circa 1925, in anticipation of summer. This footage depicts a Motion Picture Bathing Beauty Contest held in Auckland.

The film was shot by Frank Stewart and produced by pioneer film maker Rudall Hayward.

“The first of the ‘bathing beauty’ contestants depicted appears to be Nola Casselli, who was chosen to play the role of Cecily Wake in Rewi’s Last Stand (1925). Might this contest have been a form of screen test?” – Clive Sowry. Read more, and watch the film here.






Wouldn’t it be great if swimming hats came back into fashion?



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The Port of Napier delved into its archives and located this picture of Captain McLachlan, who served as Harbourmaster from 1938-1948

Could a Captain of the Rivers of Rum be one of our ‘Mystery Voices of Gallipoli’?

A distinctive accent may be the key to matching a second of the mystery voices of Gallipoli to an identity: Hawke’s Bay navy veteran, Captain Alexander McLachlan.

 Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s ‘mystery voices of Gallipoli’ are five unnamed men interviewed by the late Napier broadcaster Laurie Swindell in January 1969. Swindell used the interviews to create a powerful radio documentary, simply called ANZAC. 

[ANZAC (1969). Archival audio from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of Copyright. To request a copy of the recording, please contact us.]

In ANZAC, the anonymous veterans recalled the brutal conditions they experienced in Gallipoli. The first speaker describes his service as an officer aboard the Saturnia, the Royal Navy vessel that transported ANZAC troops to Gallipoli in 1915. The man’s rich Scottish accent adds to the weight and emotion of his story, which describes how poorly prepared they were to receive the unexpectedly high number of casualties that had to be evacuated to hospitals in Greece and Egypt. Continue reading