By 1916 the scale of the Great War had been truly realised. Few New Zealanders had been left unscathed by the Gallipoli campaign, with fathers, brothers, friends and neighbours lost. At home, volunteers for service had slowed to a trickle and the first Anzac Day was observed a year after the Gallipoli landings. As the battle moved to the Western Front, where it would remain until 1918, the courage and commitment of the servicemen were sorely tested.
With the increasing number of loved ones lost in service, by 1916 it must have felt as though there was no end in sight to the escalating conflict. The illusion of the ‘great adventure’ had been truly shattered and conscription was introduced on 1 August 1916 to counter the dwindling number of volunteers. The Post and Telegraph Department played a key role in delivering wartime communications, as well as being the bearer of sad news for many.
Abroad, the New Zealand Tunnelling Company (NZTC) made its mark in the Arras tunnels and the HMS New Zealand took part in the largest naval battle of the First World War, the Battle of Jutland. New Zealand troops continued to play a part in the Middle East and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was part of one of the bloodiest battles in human history and New Zealand’s costliest campaign of the war - the Somme.
1916 Courage & Commitment is the third instalment in New Zealand Post’s five-year programme commemorating the First World War.
Against the backdrop of the Western Front, we tell the story of Cook Islander Solomon Isaacs. Solomon left behind his life in New Zealand and his family in the Cook Islands to serve in the First World War. He was just one of many Pacific Islanders to volunteer for service, and with the Pioneer Battalion he experienced the realities and difficulties of war first-hand.
80c Serving his country - Solomon Isaacs
Solomon Isaacs served overseas for eight days short of three years as a member of the 3rd Māori Contingent, the Pioneer Battalion, the NZTC and the Rarotongan Company in Palestine, before returning to Auckland and eventually Tautu between 1920 and 1922.
80c The Pioneer Battalion
In February 1916 the 3rd Māori Reinforcements left New Zealand for Suez, Egypt. By 1917 the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion had become popularly known as the Māori Pioneer Battalion, a name that would stick until their return to New Zealand in 1919.
80c The Arras tunnels
The NZTC arrived in France on 10 March 1916 to help carry out the Empire’s war strategy underground. The NZTC made its mark in the tunnels, naming key locations after New Zealand towns and cities. These markings are still visible today.
$2.00 The first Anzac Day
25 April 1916 was New Zealand’s first Anzac Day, one year after the landings at Gallipoli. Local services like the one featured on this stamp on the church steps in Nelson were the first of many in the years to come.
$2.50 The Battle of Jutland
On 31 May 1916, the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet met the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in a clash in the North Sea known as the Battle of Jutland. The Indefatigable-class HMS New Zealand was one of 151 British vessels involved.
Conscription arrived on 1 August 1916 when the Military Service Act became law. All able-bodied Pakeha men aged between 20 and 46 were required to register for military service by 15 September – coincidentally, the first day that New Zealanders would fight at the Somme.
80c The Middle East
New Zealand troops continued to play an important role in the Middle East theatre throughout 1916 and beyond. In March the New Zealand Mounted Rifles joined the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and in the next few months pushed back Ottoman forces from the Suez Canal.
80c The Somme
In September 1916 the first major offensive involving the NZEF got under way near the River Somme in northern France. By the time New Zealand troops and artillery were withdrawn from the front line, more than half of the 15,000 NZEF troops involved had been killed or wounded.
$2.00 Away from the front
Many New Zealanders serving on the Western Front were still able to satisfy their sense of adventure and explore European soil. The NZEF soon had a permanent presence in London; its Bloomsbury Square headquarters is shown on this stamp.
$2.50 The home front
As well as being the place to enrol for military service, the local post office delivered news of deaths and injuries to anxious families. The Kaikoura Post & Telegraph office was one of many in New Zealand that played a crucial role in meeting the communication needs of war time.
First day cover
The ten stamps from this issue are available on a collectable first day cover, featuring a photograph taken from within the Arras tunnels.
The two miniature sheets in this issue (one containing six 80c stamps and one containing two $2.00 stamps and two $2.50 stamps) feature a map of the Western Front as well as newspaper clippings from 1916. The four-stamp miniature sheet features a newspaper report on the first Anzac Day while the six-stamp miniature sheet features a newspaper clipping reporting on New Zealand’s involvement at the Somme.
Miniature sheet first day covers
The two miniature sheets are incorporated in a set of two miniature sheet first day covers. The photographs on the covers complement the newspaper clippings, with the four-stamp miniature sheet first day cover featuring a photograph of the first Anzac Day in Dunedin and the six-stamp miniature sheet featuring a photograph of the New Zealand Medical Corps in Armentières, France.
The story of Solomon Isaacs’ and New Zealand’s role in the First World War throughout 1916 is told in greater detail in this unique commemorative book. The third in a series of five, this must-have collectable contains the story behind each stamp in this issue as well as further insights into New Zealand’s role in the war in 1916.
Within the pages of this commemorative book is the story of Solomon Isaacs, who left behind his life in New Zealand and his family in the Cook Islands to serve in the First World War in the 3rd Māori Reinforcements. Born in 1895 and raised in the village of Tautu on Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, Solomon signed up with the NZEF as a 19-year-old labourer living in Auckland. He served just shy of three years and returned to Auckland and eventually Tautu between 1920 and 1922.
As well as imagery of and insights into New Zealand’s war effort in 1916, this special collectable book contains 12 unique miniature sheets (not available individually). We have limited numbers of the 1914 For King & Empire commemorative book (with free case) and the 1915 The Spirit of Anzac commemorative book, so if you haven’t ordered yours, you can still collect the full set.
|Date of issue:||6 April 2016|
|Number of stamps:||10 gummed stamps|
|Stamps and first day covers designed by:||Strategy Design and Advertising, Wellington, New Zealand|
|Denominations:||6 x 80c, 2 x $2.00, 2 x $2.50|
|Printer and process:||Southern Colour Print Ltd by offset lithography|
|Number of colours:||Four process colours|
|Stamp size and format:||36.95mm x 37.5mm (horizontal)|
|Paper type:||Tullis Russell 104gsm red phosphor gummed stamp paper|
|Number of stamps per sheet:||24|
|Perforation gauge:||14.4 x 14.62|
|Period of sale:||
Unless stocks are exhausted earlier, these stamps will remain on sale until 5 April 2017, First day covers will remain on sale until 5 June 2016