New Zealand Wars
J. Elder Moultray (1865 – 1922)
An Urgent Despatch. (1898) 72 x 92.5 cm. Oil on Canvas.
Death of Sgt-Maj Maxwell at Nukumaru. (1898) 69 x 98 cm. Oil on Canvas.
J Elder Moultray did not have first-hand accounts of the minor skirmishes he painted some 20 odd years after the events. He relied on, and believed, ex-troopers’ eyewitness accounts, often visiting the landscapes with the participants. Moultray arrived in New Zealand from Scotland at the age of 18, having been schooled at the conservative Edinburgh School of Art with an emphasis on landscapes and painting in a style of Romantic Realism.
Moultray absolutely believed in the soldier as hero and was influenced by the rhetoric in the newspapers that the Hauhau were the perpetrators in the New Zealand Wars. Utilising symbolism, Moultray would portray the Māori as antagonistic and shadowy figures. An Urgent Despatch shows such a figure hiding in the grass. Moultray’s antipathy towards Māori may have been influenced by an earlier experience where he had been physically jostled and subjected to ‘venomous looks’ when mistaken for a government surveyor on a railway trip to Whanganui.
In 1898, Moultray sent an article to the Otago Daily Times and Witness explaining his historical works. An Urgent Despatch illustrated the arrival of news of the battle of Nukumaru (1865) at one of the detached posts established to keep open the lines of communication with Whanganui. The Hauhau had enacted a surprise attack when the infantry were tired and busy setting up camp, causing much damage and consternation. The trooper depicted as the despatch bearer was one of the calvary corps that had arrived to change the course of the battle from possible defeat.
An Urgent Despatch by John MoultrayAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
Death of Sergeant-Major Maxwell described the ‘tragic end’ of Maxwell during a skirmish in front of Tauranga-a-hika pa between the Hauhau, and the Whanganui and Kai-iwi cavalry corps in December 1868. Troopers had approached the quiet pa and galloped past the palisade, only to be fired upon by Māori who had remained hidden in pits. Maxwell was shot immediately but stayed in his saddle for a further 100 yards from the stockade before he fell.
Death of Sergeant Major Maxwell at Tauranga 9 - Nukumaru Dec 28th 1866 by John MoultrayAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
World War One - British Dominions
Horace Moore-Jones - New Zealand (1868 –1922)
Gallipoli 1915 (ANZAC Cove Looking Towards Achi Baba). (1915) 43 x 58 cm. Watercolour.
Moore-Jones was an artist and art teacher before the war. In 1914, when in his mid-40s, Moore-Jones enlisted in the British section of the NZ Expeditionary Force. He was posted to the 1st Field Company of Engineers and was part of the allied landing at Anzac Cove in 1915. Moore-Jones was subsequently attached to Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood’s ANZAC Printing Section to make topographical pencil and watercolour sketches of the landscape and plans of Allied and Turkish positions. He also made informal picturesque studies of the landscape around Imbros (Gökçeada). Moore’s work of The Man with the Donkey became an iconic image of World War One.
ANZAC Cove, Looking Towards Achi Baba by Horace Moore-JonesAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
Jones' sketches of the harsh terrain, made under hazardous conditions, were an invaluable aid for planning operations and defence, and were used to illustrate official dispatches.
Norman Wilkinson – Britain (1878 – 1971)
Troops Landing on C Beach, 7Aug1915. (c. 1915) 63 x 79 cm. Watercolour.
A British artist and illustrator, Wilkinson served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the amphibious landing of troops at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, August 1915. In his book, The Dardanelles; Colour Sketches from Gallipoli, Wilkinson alluded to the lack of pictorial records of the war. This discrepancy was recognised by the British Government in 1916 after a number of artists who had served on the Western Front exhibited works based on their experiences.
The work shown here depicts the successful landing at C Beach at Suvla Bay, which Wilkinson described: “A beautiful sandy shore, sloping at sufficiently steep an angle to allow the motor-lighters to beach without difficulty, facilitated the landing. The troops, dashing forward, were able to penetrate inland and drive the small bodies of Turks out of their trenches.”
Unfortunately, the landing was mismanaged and instead of taking advantage of the light opposition, they stopped on the beach, missing the opportunity to scale the hills and drive further inland.
Troops Landing on C Beach, August 7th by Norman WilkinsonAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
This work depicts the successful landing at C Beach at Suvla Bay.
Frank Crozier – Australia (1883 – 1948)
Crozier was a soldier with the Australian Imperial Force serving in the 22nd Battalion in Egypt and the Gallipoli Peninsula. He had been approached to contribute to the Anzac Book, a collection of short stories and illustrations for the troops by Charles Bean. Bean was impressed with the accuracy of Crozier’s notes and sketches of the battlefield and requested some arrangement be made for the eventual paintings to be acquired by the Australian National Gallery.
Crozier was recommended but didn’t become an official war artist until 1918. He had applied to Australian War Records Section (AWRS) to work as one of ten camouflage artists in London. Unlike some other war artists who were attached to the army and given an honorary rank, Crozier’s artworks became part of his military duties as a serving soldier.
The Return by Frank CrozierAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
Crozier and his fellow Australian artists concentrated on creating images of the everyday human experience during war, like this work showing men bathing and sitting in contemplation.
L. Young – New Zealand
Portrait of a Māori Soldier. (1917) 84 x 66 cm. Pencil & Watercolour.
Portrait of a Māori Soldier depicts an unknown soldier from the Māori Battalion and information about the artist is scarce. However, this is one of two works in the GJ Moyle Trust Collection from this artist.
The Native Contingent was formed at the beginning of World War One with mixed reactions from Māori leaders, some of whom felt that this was a white’s man war and should have nothing to do with them. Although Māori were included in the contingent, they were still under the command of Pakeha officers. Originally intended to be a garrison force, the intense losses at the Gallipoli Peninsula meant they were deployed to the front in July 1915. With their small numbers (16 officers and 461 ordinary ranks) they were soon decimated and by September only 60 men were left on the peninsula. After Gallipoli, the Native Contingent was merged with the severely depleted Otago Mounted Rifles to become the Pioneer Battalion.
A decisive moment for the Battalion was the haka before Chunuk Bair, an ill-fated, intense battle of the Gallipoli Campaign.
The Pioneer Battalion was used mainly for support roles: digging trenches, building roads and other duties behind the front line. Māori experienced racism before, during and after the war, and were treated more as a labour force than part of the military.
Respect between Pakeha and Māori began to grow as they fought alongside one another through the course of the Great War. By the end of the war, the Māori Battalion had been highly decorated for their relentless tenacity in the face of the enemy.
Nugent Welch – New Zealand (1881 – 1970)
War Damaged Farm Buildings, Northern France. 59 x 67 cm. Watercolour.
A successful pre-war landscape artist, Welch enlisted for war in March 1916 and served on the Western Front with the 2nd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade.
In April 1918, Welch was appointed as New Zealand’s official war artist by Major General Russell but not given a commissioned rank. As a lover of the beauty of the landscape, Welch found the conditions of the Western Front difficult.
The majority of Welch’s work focuses on the aftermath of the battle behind the lines: the debris and ruined buildings that stood in as metaphors for the destruction of men. Welch used symbolism extensively whilst still maintaining the beauty of the landscape, even though damaged.
Welch was at the front in his official capacity of war artist at the time the war was turning mobile and he was under instruction to record official places and equipment used by the New Zealand Division. Many of his sketches were transformed to oil paintings in his London studio after the war.
War Damaged Farm Buildings, Northern France by Nugent WelchAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
George Butler – Britain (1872 – 1936)
Pont a Pierre. (1918) 41 x 51 cm. Oil.
Butler was approached by the NZEF War Records Section to be an official war artist towards the end of the war.
Unlike Welch, Butler was a civilian with no military experience. He was given some basic training, an honorary rank, and sent to the Western Front. Butler arrived as the static trench warfare of the previous years began to shift. Following the New Zealanders as they distinguished themselves at Baupaume, Solesmes and Le Quesnoy, Butler would make rough pencil sketches close to the action, later basing his paintings on these. He also returned to record the details of previous battlefields fought over in France and Belgium.
The subject of the artwork in this exhibition, Pont-a-Pierre, was a small town in France close to Le Quesnoy where the Germans captured after the battle were taken for processing as prisoners of war. Although only at the front for a few months, Butler returned to England with about 50 small paintings and continued work on 10 large memorial works.
Pont a Pierre by George ButlerAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
W. Robert Johnson – New Zealand (1890 – 1964)
Messines from the Hill. (1917) 41 x 45 cm. Watercolour.
W. Robert Johnson attended Elam School of Art alongside artists John Weeks and Francis McCracken, each of whom painted their experiences of the Western Front as non-official war artists.
Enlisting in 1915, Johnson avoided the Gallipoli campaign and went on to France with the Expeditionary Force in March 1916. Johnson’s rank as an artillery driver entailed riding a team of horses pulling wagons with guns, ammunition and equipment. The job of getting the supplies to the men at the front was dangerous and they were often targeted by the enemy to prevent them reaching their destination. Despite this, Johnson survived the war physically unharmed.
Johnson, Weeks and McCracken exhibited about 250 of their war-related watercolour sketches and large oils in 1920 in ‘The Soldiers Exhibition’ where they were able to sell their works, many of which were purchased by the Auckland City Art Gallery.
Messines from Hill by Robert JohnsonAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
This work shows the Messines Ridge after the mine detonation of June 1917. There were 19 mines detonated under the German trench lines and it was estimated that 10,000 men were killed in the initial blasts. Troops then went over the top to ‘mop up’.
John Weeks – New Zealand (1886 – 1965)
World War 1, Westback Ridge, Flanders. (c. 1918) 38 x 42 cm. Watercolour.
World War 1 Devastated Landscape. (c. 1918) 59 x 79 cm. Oil on Canvas.
After attending Elam School of Arts, Weeks volunteered in early 1917 for the ambulance corps, arriving in France later in the year. He joined the No. 3 New Zealand Field Ambulance of the New Zealand Medical Corps.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum has a sketchbook which belonged to Weeks filled with small paintings of advanced dressing stations (ADS) and motorised ambulances that were used to transport the wounded from the front.
As a driver moving the dead, the dying and the wounded, these experiences influenced his work heavily. The titles and themes of his works suggest a bitterness towards the war and in 1918 he received a sentence of 28 days of field punishment no.2.
World War 1, Devastated Landscape is thought to show a view of Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium which had seen heavy fighting in September and October 1917. After the war, Weeks, like many New Zealand artists, left to go to Europe and North Africa, developing an interest the modernist styles of the time. He returned to New Zealand in 1929 and taught at Elam School of Art for over 24 years.
World War Two - New Zealand
Peter McIntyre (1910 – 1995)
The Wounded: Casualties from both sides were treated at an Advanced Dressing Station. 74 x 93 cm. Pencil.
McIntyre studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and had been in Britain for nine years before war was declared in 1939. He enlisted immediately with the 34th Anti-tank Battery which was a New Zealand unit formed in London.
In January 1941, Major General Bernard Freyberg appointed McIntyre as New Zealand’s official war artist. McIntyre, although at first instructed by Freyberg to “paint all my brigadiers”, was given a certain amount of latitude with what he chose to paint. Although McIntyre adhered to restrictions with regards to depicting the dead and injured, he was able to portray the troops and their experiences with a sensibility that encompassed some of the beauty of the surroundings, alongside the destruction. The soldiers understood the reality behind the images.
The works in this exhibition relate to the North Africa campaigns in the Western Desert after Greece and Crete fell to the Germans in June 1941.
Having experienced the war for its duration, McIntyre created a huge store of works: sketches, watercolours and oils. From Egypt, Crete, The Western Desert through to the Italian campaign, he drew and painted from first-hand experience and has left an amazingly detailed legacy to and of New Zealanders at war.
The Wounded: Casualties from both sides were treated at an Advanced Dressing Station by Peter McIntyreAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
German Prisoners Come in at Sidi Rezegh. (1941) 85 x 94 cm. Oil on Canvas.
By November 1941, the Germans (and Italians) under Rommel had succeeded in taking all of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) with the exception of the port town of Tobruk. Operation Crusader was intended to push Rommel out of North Africa and relieve the siege of Tobruk. The desert battles that took place were some of the most complicated and confused for both sides.
At the end of November, New Zealanders had fought in the battles to take Sidi Rezegh (4th Battallion) and Belhamed (6th Battalion) in a series of night attacks.
A connecting corridor to Tobruk was created with a breakout from the Tobruk garrison reaching Ed Duda. Mere days later, the Germans counterattacked from behind to overrun this area and many New Zealanders were taken prisoner.
However, Rommel’s famed Afrika Corps had been so mauled that they started their withdrawal in December, leaving thousands of imprisoned and wounded Italians and Germans.
German Prisoners Come In at Sidi Rezeagh by Peter McIntyreAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
The Long Range Desert Group Navigating in the Inner Desert South of the Great Sand Sea. 61 x 71 cm. Oil on Canvas.
McIntyre joined the Long Range Desert Group in early 1942, stationed in Kufra (now Al Khufrah), deep in the Western Desert.
The Long Range Desert Group had been formed in 1940 to carry out clandestine reconnaissance patrols and intelligence gathering missions deep behind enemy lines by Major Ralph Bagnold. They were the’brains ‘ to the SAS’s ‘brawn’, the SAS (Special Air Service) being created some 18 months later. Bagnold had approached the Kiwis in the 2nd New Zealand Division as he wanted men who were self-reliant, physically and mentally tough and able to live and fight in the seclusion of the Libyan Desert.
Launching hit-and-run tactics against remote enemy targets, the LRDG mastered the hostile environment to exploit the exposed flank of the Axis forces. In tandem with the SAS, they were responsible for attacks on enemy airfields in the difficult and complex desert war.
McIntyre travelled with them from Kufra Oasis, across the Great Sand Sea to Kharga Oasis, following the Darb-el-Arba’in, an ancient slave route into Cairo.
The Long Range Desert Group Navigating in the Inner Desert South of the Great Sand by Peter McIntyreAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
This work features huge dark, conical hills with the Long Range Desert Group in the foreground, having stopped to consult a map. McIntyre had said “the hills made him feel like a pygmy in a world of giant sugar loaves”.
Second Lieutenant Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu. (1943) 67 x 59 cm. Charcoal.
Rommel returned to capture Tobruk in June 1942 and kept going. The turning point for the Allies came at the Battle of El Alamein (October 1942) and the return journey began. Going through the old battlefields of Sollum, Fort Capuzzo and others, they pushed the Germans (especially the German 90th Light Division who had been their hardest adversaries), through Libya and into Tunisia.
In March 1943, reaching the Mareth Line, General Montgomery, as part of Operation Supercharge II, sent in the New Zealanders as his “left hook” to capture Hill 209 at Tebaga Gap. Ngarimu was a Second Lieutenant in the 28th Māori Battalion’s C Company. The commander of the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bennett, later described how Ngarimu displayed “courage and leadership of the highest order. He was first on the hill crest, personally annihilating at least two enemy machine gun posts”. He was wounded in the shoulder and one leg but refused to be evacuated and stayed on overnight. Hikurangi (as the Māori Battalion had renamed Hill 209) was attacked several times during the night, Ngarimu leading the defence with whatever he had available: machine gun, hand-to-hand combat, even stones and the position remained in New Zealand hands.
The next morning, the enemy again attacked and this was when Ngarimu was killed. In his book Peter McIntyre: War Artist, Peter McIntyre noted, “he was killed on his feet defiantly facing the enemy with his tommy-gun at his hip. As he fell, he came to rest almost on top of those of the enemy who had fallen, the number of whom testified to his outstanding courage”.
Russell Clark (1905 – 1966)
The Young Airman. 36 x 32 cm. Watercolour.
8th Brigade Outfit. 44 x 38 cm. Watercolour.
Patrol out of Matse – Army Section 37. 59 x 73 cm. Watercolour.
Untitled (Reflective Soldier). 51 x 39 cm. Watercolour.
Map Briefing. 39 x 49.5 cm. Ink & Pencil.
A Coy Going Out. 38 x 50 cm. 38 x 50 cm. Ink & Pencil.
Carrying the Wounded. 33 x 31 cm. Ink & Pencil.
In March 1942, Clark offered his services as a war artist for the Pacific region to the then Prime Minister Peter Fraser, who demurred. Six months later, Clark was called up for military service and again put forward his offer. With his background as an illustrator, muralist and commercial artist, he was assigned to the Army Education and Welfare section, illustrating books for the soldiers, avoiding becoming the signwriter to number vehicles in the mechanical transport section.
In June 1943, Clark visited various military camps at home, creating studies and portraits of the common man preparing for their roles as either soldiers, airmen or sailors at war. He depicted them working with the supporting military equipment, including construction and repair of the mechanization required to fight the war. The convalescent depots and the hospitals were also subjects of interest.
Clark was an enterprising person and once given some form of permission, made sure he got to where the action was to paint. He had been assigned to the 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific, as temporary Second Lieutenant, arriving in New Caledonia in March 1944. At this time, the fighting in New Caledonia was winding down, so Clark went to where fighting had taken place, sketching the conditions and engaging with the soldiers for their stories. Spending much of his time in the Solomon Islands, Noumea and Suva, Clark would later construct these images into paintings upon his return to New Zealand.
Clark had found the conditions in the jungles were not conducive to his artist’s equipment or processes. Pencils would melt, paper would mildew and paint tubes would burst. The constant rain meant he couldn’t work outside and the tents had severely limited lighting. Clark’s painting style was more impressionistic, factual more than heroic; he made no deep commentary about the war. Clark was interested in the men themselves, how they interacted and dealt with the situations they found themselves in. Clark also evoked the ecological battle from the opposing forces of overwhelming technology and power of the war machine to the stifling immensity of the jungle.
Clark discovered that the men, with the obligatory downtime of life at war, became interested in sketching and painting themselves. Some had training but most did not, and he was always surprised when the men sat down just to watch him paint.
In September 1944, the Army was wondering where their war artist was, and by November 1944 had insisted he return to New Zealand. As the 3rd New Zealand Division had been disbanded, he was again assigned to the Army Education and Welfare Service (AEWD) in order to complete his works. He was discharged in July 1946 with many of his works now at Archives New Zealand.
Carrying the Wounded (Untitled) by Russell ClarkAuckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira
The text for this story has been extracted from the catalogue Art of War: Companion to the Exhibition that accompanies the exhibition held at Papakura Museum from September to November 2020. The artworks are selected from the G.J. Moyle Trust Collection, which is held on deposit at Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
Text © 2020 Shelley Ashford and Papakura Museum