Book reflects on district’s role in WWI
By Christine McKay
The district has a lot to be proud of, author Rob McDonald said at the launch of his book, A Small Community and a Great War.
For his research, Mr McDonald read 284 letters from local boys at the battle-front, along with other historical records held in town.
“There are such treasures in this community, they’re of national importance,” he said.
“There were 1020 men from this district who served in World War I, the vast majority of them overseas.
“This district was just through its pioneering days and lot of young, single men were here, we even had 35 hockey teams around here at the time.
“They were the Dannevirke men.”
Mr McDonald, the nephew of Gill and Fred Allardice of Dannevirke, lives in the Hawke’s Bay, but is passionate about the history of our district. His previous book was Dannevirke: The Early Years.
“We’re extremely lucky in this district to have had newspapers, the Dannevirke Evening News and the Advocate, which concentrated on community,” he said.
“In my research I’ve skimmed through 60 years of newspapers, reading letters written home and I don’t think I’ve seen a better collection than Dannevirke has. My own family history is here. Donald Allardice went away to war, along with his four brothers and now his son Fred is in the audience here today. This district suffered more than the average, when it came to casualties, with 17 killed in a day at Chunuk Bair.
“The newspaper information has been tremendous because often the Dannevirke boys managed to bypass the censors and get their letters published in our newspaper.”
Tim Delaney, chairman of Dannevirke’s World War I committee said Mr McDonald’s work has set the tone for our commemorations.
“In his publication, A Small Community and a Great War- Dannevirke District and World War I, Rob has focused on the men and women who served in the Great War.
“And so our committee has also, from its inception, made a conscious and intentional effort to engage in activities, events and projects which will bring to our community awareness of the local and human side of the Great War,” Mr Delaney said.
He said one of the most important aspects of World War I is very personal in the way it has changed our concept of what it means to be human and alive in this world.
“For the men who served in the trenches and the women who served in the hospital tents, these people from this district, the great motivator was the deep sense of duty, responsibility and obligation which drove them to make the sacrifices they did. They understood what they were doing, they were doing it for the communities in which they lived.
“Rob’s work is a commemoration of what really matters, the men and women of this district who believed they were responding to a sacred call of duty and responsibility to the people they lived, worked and played amongst – their community.”
Mr Delaney said he hoped, that in the telling of their stories, we in our town and district might recapture that spirit of community.
One of the young men from the district who went to World War I was Sidney George Stanfield who enlisted as a 15-year-old and arrived in France shortly after the famous Battle of the Somme in 1916.
“He was the youngest person in New Zealand to enlist, just one of some exceptional young men who signed up from this district,” Mr McDonald said.
Copies of A Small Community and a Great War – Dannevirke District and World War I can be purchased from the Dannevirke Information Centre.
Photo caption – Author Rob McDonald from Hawke’s Bay, speaking at the launch of his book A Small Community and a Great War – Dannevirke District and World War I, at the Dannevirke Library.
Photo caption – HISTORY BUFFS: Ann Berry, of Pongaroa, and Pat Mills and Mark Redward, of Dannevirke, poring over copies of the newly minted book and archival photos.