By 1917, soldiers and loved ones had begun to lose faith in the ongoing war. Those on the Western Front were living in cold, wet trenches, and those at home were doing what they could to keep the home fires burning. New Zealand would experience the deadliest day in its military history when 845 lives were lost at the Belgian town of Passchendaele.
As the war continued its persistent trudge into 1917, New Zealanders began to grow weary of this Great War that seemed to have no end in sight. Those on the Western Front were living in cold, wet trenches, and would experience the deadliest day in New Zealand’s military history when 845 lives were lost at the Belgian town of Passchendaele.
Alongside the horrors of the Western Front, we tell the story of mother of ten Ellen Knight. Like many mothers, wives, sisters and daughters she experienced the war from New Zealand shores, relying on letters from loved ones and news reports to stay informed. However, Ellen’s story was grimmer than most – she had lost three sons by the war’s end.
$1.00 A mother mourns – Ellen Knight
Ellen Knight of Dannevirke, mother of ten, saw three of her boys killed during the First World War: Herbert, shot dead by a sniper at Gallipoli in 1915; George, killed at Passchendaele in 1917; and William Douglas, her eldest, felled by a shell in France in 1918.
$1.00 From Egypt to Jerusalem
Beginning with the Battle of Rafah in January and ending at the Battle of Jerusalem in December, 1917 saw New Zealand mounted soldiers help capture the Sinai Peninsula from Ottoman forces before pushing into Ottoman Syria.
$1.00 Sling Camp
George Knight would arrive at Sling Camp, Salisbury Plain, England in January 1917, one of around 4,000 troops at the camp at any given time. While training new recruits was its primary purpose, Sling also served as a recovery and reconditioning stop for soldiers returning to the front.
$2.20 The Battle of Messines
Tasked with removing the Germans from Messines Ridge in Belgium to clear the way for the later assault on Passchendaele, New Zealand soldiers would initially achieve most objectives with minimal losses. German guns would recover, however, and as the New Zealanders were relieved on 9 June many would be killed on their way back from the front.
$2.70 SS Port Kembla
A merchant ship carrying war supplies, the SS Port Kembla, was sunk by a German mine just 17 kilometres off Farewell Spit in September 1917. Reports suggested an engine room explosion was responsible, ensuring that New Zealanders were unaware of how close the war had come to their shores.
$1.00 Technology of war
Tanks made their first failed appearance on the battlefield in September 1916, but by the time this tank was photographed during the Battle of Messines in 1917, refinements in design were beginning to have some impact. By the end of 1917 tanks were being deployed in great numbers.
$1.00 Plastic surgery
During the war New Zealander Harold Gillies, pictured far right, would become a pioneer in facial reconstruction, successfully lobbying for the creation of a specialist facial plastic surgery hospital, The Queen’s Hospital, which opened in Kent in 1917.
The deadliest day in New Zealand’s military history, 12 October 1917 saw 845 lives lost at the Belgian village of Passchendaele. Post-war the Tyne Cot Cemetery would memorialise these fallen troops close to where they perished, alongside other sites at Buttes, Polygon Wood and Messines.
$2.20 Social change at home
The temperance movement, conscientious objection, mining unrest and shipping strikes all had their day during the First World War. Arguably none had a greater impact on the population at home than six o’clock closing, introduced by temperance supporters as a wartime measure to “retain productivity”.
$2.70 A changing workforce
This photo shows the changing nature of New Zealand’s clerical workforce during the late war years. Nearly 60,000 men had left for overseas by 1917, and the country looked to women to fill varied commercial and professional roles left empty, or to ‘keep them warm’ until the men returned.
First day cover
All ten stamps are available on a collectable First day cover as a part of this issue. The design features a war painting titled Observation Post, Winter by William Barnes Wollen.
The set of two miniature sheets in the issue feature letters from members of the Knight family written during the war – Ellen and her sons would write back and forth constantly in a bid to stay connected. The miniature sheet with four stamps features a newspaper clipping reporting on the Battle of Messines, and the miniature sheet with six stamps features a newspaper clipping reporting on Passchendaele.
Miniature sheet first day covers
The two-miniature sheet first day covers feature paintings of landscapes from the First World War. The First Day cover with four stamps features The Battle of Polygon Wood by George Edmund Butler, and the First Day cover with six stamps features Cemetery by Nugent Welch.
The story of Ellen Knight and New Zealand’s role in the First World War throughout 1917 is told in greater detail in the commemorative book. The book is the fourth in a series of five and expands in depth on the story behind each stamp in this issue as well as supplying a more detailed glimpse of life during the War in 1917.
This commemorative book edition tells the story of Ellen Knight and follows the paths of some of her children abroad and back home. Ellen’s son George tells of his time in Sling camp in letters back to his mother describing it as “this other last place on earth”, he later writes to his mother to tell her he has been promoted to company commander after the Battle of Broodseinde. His sister meanwhile had joined the workforce back home as had many women.
The emerging technology of war, the development of plastic surgery and the sinking of a supply ship in New Zealand waters are also explored and expanded on in this commemorative book. This unique collectable contains twelve miniature sheets that will not be available individually. There are still limited numbers of the 1914 For King & Empire commemorative book, the 1915 The Spirit of Anzac commemorative book and the 1916 Courage and Commitment commemorative book, there’s still time to collect the full set!
|Date of issue:||5 April 2017|
|Number of stamps:||10 gummed stamps|
|Denominations:||6 x $1.00, 2 x $2.20, 2 x $2.70|
|Stamps designed by:||Strategy Creative, Wellington, New Zealand|
|Printer and process:||Southern Colour Print by offset lithography|
|Number of colours:||Four process colours|
|Stamp size and format:||36.95mm x 37.5mm (horizontal)|
|Paper type:||Tullis Russell 104 gsm 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 4 April 2018. First day covers will remain on sale until 5 June 2017.|