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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 4 (August 1, 1933)

The Greatest Feat in New Zealand

page 21

The Greatest Feat in New Zealand

The following paper was awarded the £5 cash prize in the Magazine's recent competition on the subject: “What has been the Greatest Feat in New Zealand?”

(Rly. Publicity photo.) The Cenotaph, Wellington, New Zealand.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
The Cenotaph, Wellington, New Zealand.

Impossible” would have been the unhesitating and almost unanimous answer if, say, the London “Times” had asked in July, 1914: “Can New Zealand, the furthest outpost of the British Empire, with a total adult population of under one million, organise, equip, and despatch half-way round the world, a fighting force of 100,000 men in the event of a big European war involving the Empire.”

Yet history has proved entirely wrong those who would have answered thus. The feat Was accomplished: accomplished in spite of difficulties and obstacles that appeared almost insuperable; not merely accomplished, but carried out so efficiently that to New Zealand belongs the proud distinction of having been the only country represented in the Great War which was able systematically and regularly to supply reinforcements sufficient to maintain its Division at fighting strength to the very last day of the war. But more than this: thanks to the splendid spirit, discipline and general behaviour of the New Zealand men and women who went overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, the name, New Zealander, stands to-day honoured and respected throughout the world.

Surely this is the greatest feat in New Zealand's brief history! Think of it! An Expeditionary Force of 100,000 men, with a full complement of doctors, nurses, chaplains, etc., and two splendidly equipped hospital ships! Consider the problems of transportation both on the railways in New Zealand and by ships overseas. Consider also the thousand and one details of organisation involved, including even such minor, but very essential items, as the collection and despatch of sand-bags for trench making on Gallipoli, and sheep-skin waistcoats for the soldiers at Salonika and elsewhere: all now matters of history, forgotten by most people, but at the time matters of the utmost moment, and each one claiming and receiving its full share of attention.

Remember also the hitherto undreamed of financial operations rendered necessary by the war, and the marvellous response of the people of New Zealand in connection with the raising of the requisite war loans, patriotic funds, etc. Most of these operations were carried out without precedent to guide those in authority. Arrangements made perhaps months in advance had sometimes to be scrapped in a few hours, and yet the business in hand—the winning of the war—had to be pressed on at all costs. But with steadfastness, courage and fixity of purpose, New Zealand did its part manfully and well.