5 August 1914: war is announced!
One hundred years ago today (4 August England, 5 August NZ time) on the steps of parliament on 5 August 1914, His Excellency the Governor of New Zealand announced that war had been declared. This date marks the beginning of New Zealand’s four-year WWI centenary, opened with a national ceremony at parliament.
Reports at the time exuded a certain sense of celebration and festivity. Most thought the war would be a short affair, over by Christmas. Many young men viewed the prospect of fighting with excitement.
[Image credit: Politicians and a crowd, outside Parliament Buildings, upon the declaration of war with Germany, August 1914. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-048457-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.]
“New Zealand was eminently prepared. Aware that military planners expected war to break out about 1916, in 1909 British Major General Alexander Godley, the commandant of the NZ Military Forces, decided to set up territorial groups and compulsory military training. He brought out some talented staff from England, and had a good eye for local talent. Godley initiated a two-week annual training camp, and by 1914, troops were training at Brigade strength.
So when the call came from Britain, New Zealand was ready with a trained force. Defence Minister James Allen worked with Godley to organise a well equipped force (with the latest artillery from England), and brought in compulsory conscription.” – Bill O’Byrne ‘A nation poised for action’, Manawatu Standard, April 24, 2014.