Anzac Day on April 25 commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women.

This year marks 100 years since since of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

World War 1 took about 100,000 New Zealanders overseas, many for the first time - almost 10 percent of the population at the time. Some anticipated an adventure. The reality was very different. More than 18,000 New Zealanders were killed and 41,000 were wounded or suffered illness.

In World War II, about 140,000 New Zealand men and women served. Of those, 11,928 were killed, the highest death rate in the Commonwealth when compared with population.

ANZAC STORIES

"IT IS SIMPLY HELL ON EARTH": BILL JENKINS

L. Corp. W. R. JenkinsBill Jenkins was 20 when he enlisted in the army in 1916, too young to do so without his parents' permission. His brother Ted was already away fighting and Bill's father Robert signed the papers, much against mother Annie's wishes.

The war was an unimaginable experience for the country boy from a tiny Wesport settlement. Bill chronicled his experiences in letters, postcards and photos home.

Most of Bill's letters were upbeat, urging his family not worry about him, but in December 1917 he wrote: "You people have no idea of what us chaps have to go through over in France - it is simply hell on earth".

Bill was killed in action on April 5, 1918, seven months before the war ended, when a shell fell on him. A friend wrote to Ted to say Bill "was very badly blown about but the boys buried the remains of Poor Old Bill".

Bill was just 22 years old.

» READ BILL'S LETTERS 

 A NARROW ESCAPE: JEANNE SINCLAIR

Jeanne Sinclair cropJeanne sailed for Europe in May 1915, as part of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service and was posted to Egypt. She survived the sinking of the Marquette, a ship that was torpedoed off the coast of Greece, killing 167 people. Of those, 32 were New Zealanders, including 10 nurses.

The survivors were left floating in the sea until, as Jeanne described,  “we were picked up at 4 in the afternoon by a French Destroyer Tirailleur and, my word, they were good to us. The sailors hauled me up the side and when I got on deck I felt such a fool as my legs were no good to me.”

Despite her narrow escape, Jeanne continued nursing in Egypt but was evacuated to New Zealand suffering from typhoid in December 1915. She returned to service the following year, this time nursing soldiers in England, including at Brockenshurst Hospital, a NZ-run military hospital.

Jeanne returned to New Zealand after the war, married and raised two children.

» READ JEANNE'S AMAZING STORY IN FULL
  

RECORDED FOR HISTORY: BERT HENSON

Bert Corporal Joseph Herbert Henson served in both World War 1 and World War 2. Bert wrote diaries throughout World War 1 and sent letters home.

From resisting the subtle advances of local “maidens” in Paris to tidying the grave of fellow signaller, Thomas Bullick, Bert’s diaries of his World War 1 experience make for emotive, informative and fascinating reading.

» SNEAK A LOOK AT BERT'S DIARIES

 

 

» SEE MORE STORIES OR LETTERS

» SEE MORE PHOTOS - WW1, WW2


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