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Dissent - a Different Type of Courage

Dissent, a powerful new temporary exhibition about opposition to the First World War in New Zealand, opens on Friday 21st July at The Great War Exhibition.

This painting by Bob Kerr shows Archibald Baxter enduring field punishment no. 1 or 'the crucifixion', as it was known is courtesy of The Great War Exhibition.

In 1914, most New Zealanders supported our country’s involvement in the war. There were only a small minority of dissenters. However, as the casualty lists grew and the death toll was reported in local newspapers, New Zealanders felt the effect of this prolonged and brutal conflict. Some soldiers became disillusioned, writing home to warn others not to enlist. Conscription was introduced (1916) and opposition grew. Waikato iwi leaders refused to support the war, and several MPs of the newly-formed Labour Party spoke out. Over 32,000 men indicated they were not willing to serve in the military. Nearly 300 were imprisoned. Of these, 14 men were forcibly dispatched to the war, with four subjected to the notorious Field Punishment No. 1.

Dissent, a ten-minute audio-visual show produced by Story Inc., and funded by the Lottery Grants Board, gives The Great War Exhibition a chance to tell the stories of a different type of courage. The courage to oppose the war. The exhibition includes a replica of the Peace Action Wellington sculpture that was placed on Wellington’s waterfront on Anzac Day 2016.

Rua Kenana Hepetipa and his son Whatu, handcuffed, image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-028072-F

General Manager, Dave Clearwater, says, “Our temporary exhibitions give us the opportunity to tell some of the lesser-known stories surrounding the Great War.”

Dissent will run until October 2017.

Relevant Quotes from Dissent:

During the war Te Puea Herangi of Tainui reminded Waikato iwi of the words of King Tawhiao (c1822-1894) (quoted in Te Reo, in the exhibition):

“The killing of men must stop; the destruction of land must stop. I shall bury my patu in the earth and it shall not rise again ... Waikato, lie down. Do not allow blood to flow from this time on.”

Mark Briggs, conscientious objector, transported to the Front, March 5, 1918, Somewhere in France:

“I was dragged on my back... I sustained a huge flesh wound about a foot long and nine inches wide on the right back hip and thigh. The track crossed the edge of an old shell crater which was full of water…. The MP asked ‘Are you going to walk now? …’ I replied ‘… I wasn't going to walk there…’  He immediately threw me into the shell hole, and dragged me through the water... The MP said ‘drown yourself now, you bastard, if you want to die for your cause.’”

Private Alexander May, 1918:

“Dear Don,

Just a few lines in answer to your letter which I got a while ago, and to tell you to use your block and don't leave NZ, swing the lead or take to the bush, but don't come across here…”


Updated on 31st August 2017