ANZAC bookplates

They served their country: a selection of New Zealand bookplates - some with Australian connections - associated with World War I

Ian Thwaites, Auckland, New Zealand

At the October 2014 meeting of Auckland Ex Libris Society I gave a screen presentation of 35 bookplates with World War I associations. Subsequently these items were shown for two months at Kinder House in Parnell (Auckland) and it is planned that they will also feature in our forthcoming  bookplate exhibition at the Takapuna Public Library on Auckland’s North Shore. Without doubt a similar and larger selection of Australian war-related ex libris could be made and so this is not any way submitted in competition, as it were!

Hilda Wiseman of Auckand was the best known and most prolific New Zealand bookplate artist during the 1930s–1960s and not surprisingly, she fashioned a large number of these plates – 15 in all. In this selection, no other artist has contributed more than one design. Predominantly, and perhaps not unexpectedly, the professions are best represented among plate owners –architects, accountants, teachers and most prolifically, seven from various medical fields.

Now that we are well into the digital age, many countries make available the complete records of WWI personnel. In New Zealand these can be downloaded from Archives New Zealand on their excellent website ‘Archway’. The service records of the bookplate owners make interesting reading, for example, that describing Dunedin resident and later medical practitioner and maritime historian, Morris Netterville Watt (Figure 1), who was listed at ‘5ft 10 inches, 123 lb, but sparely built for height’. Fellow Dunedin resident, schoolteacher David Forsyth, was 5ft 8 inches and 132lb – both being fairly typical of the relatively slight builds of those days. Morris and David commissioned Hilda Wiseman for their plates. David Forsyth was later a Gold Star Badge holder, NZ Returned Services Association (Fig. 2).

These personnel records are also poignant reminders of the length of  time which so many served –  Lt Col Tracy Russell Inglis (also known as Tracy Russell Tracy-Inglis) served for 4 years and 232 days on New Zealand hospital ships. Glasgow-born but Melbourne-trained, Dr Tracy-Inglis was once cross country champion of Victoria. After WWI he made a huge contribution in Auckland as Medical Superintendent of St Helen’s Hospital, 1906–36 (Fig. 3, line drawing by Charles Palmer). Sergeant Ashley Cook completed 4 years and 62 days before his final discharge on 27.2.1919 ‘on nomination of length of period of service’! (Fig. 4, linocut by Hilda Wiseman).  At the other end of the scale was Hilda’s neighbour Fred Wallis, young and fortunate enough to  be asked to serve only 68 days (in New Zealand) at the end of hostilities (Fig. 5). And many were so young when they enlisted. Farm hand Ross McKenzie was only just 19, and farmer Ashley Cook enlisted on 29 December 1914, the day after his 21st birthday.

There are some really attractive designs, including two with ornithological emphasis. FIrstly, the line drawing by Lowell Fooks for Ross McKenzie (Fig. 6), severely wounded at the Somme, September 1916,  who after the war found a life long absorption in bird watching and study, especially of the waders which can be readily found in the South Auckland region. His service record also provides an all too typical example of the long periods of convalescence needed in British hospitals before the wounded servicemen were fit for the long sea voyage home. Then we have a lapwing, the central feature of Hilda Wiseman’s linocut for Thomas Ward, originally from Presteigne, Radnorshire, who served for over 3 years with Auckland Infantry Regiment and who was wounded at Passchendaele, October 1917 (Fig. 7, two-colour linocut by Hilda Wiseman).

Many service personnel from the Dominion had strong British connections. Warwick Smeeton MM enlisted with King Edward VII’s Regiment and the Royal Field Artillery. His linocut by Hilda Wiseman depicts a bear, the symbol of Warwickshire (Fig. 8). After service on the Hospital Ship Marama with NZ Army Nursing Corps (1915–17), Annie Pattrick of Christchurch was appointed matron of the Babies of the Empire Society’s Mothercraft Training Centre (subsequently named Cromwell House) in London, 1918–20. She was, after the war, one of the shining lights of the Plunket Society, which so successfully ministered to the needs of infant health in New Zealand. Fittingly, Hilda’s linocut pictures the beautiful Greek lamp which was presented by the Plunket Nurses of New Zealand to Annie on her retirement (Fig. 9).

Another statistic revealed by the digital records is continuing patriotism and dedication. Consider the example of Captain Eric Francis Joseph Reeves MC, a foundation member of New Zealand Ex Libris Society, Wellington, 1930, and well known for his interest in heraldic bookplates (Fig. 10, his own design). Eric served with the NZ Rifle Brigade, was wounded in France in 1917, returned to the front after convalescence in NZ and in late 1918 was wounded and gassed. In WWII he enlisted at the age of 45 and served for a  time as Commandant, Dannevirke Military Camp. Well known Auckland general practitioner Thomas Harold Pettit (1889–1961) enlisted in England in August 1917 and served on the western front in 1918 as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Fig. 11, linocut  by Hilda Wiseman, 1935). In 1945-6 he was officer commanding British Hospital Ship Oranje and in 1947, Senior Medical Officer, New Zealand Forces in Japan.

Some famous and talented artists contributed plates for ex servicemen. The design for James, later Sir James Elliott (Fig. 12), of the NZ Medical Corps, was executed by John Hutton, who left New Zealand in 1935, later to become famous for his glass engravings on the West Screen of Coventry Cathedral. E Mervyn Taylor’s wood-engraved bookplates are justly prized, and among over 50 designs is one for Edward C Simpson (Fig. 13), who served in France before coming to New Zealand in 1921 where he enjoyed a long career as a journalist, music critic and a founding figure in the chamber music movement. The artist Adele Younghusband supplied a somewhat crowded line drawing for her brother Geoffrey Roche (Fig. 14), severely wounded in France while serving with New Zealand Field Artillery. Schoolteacher Roche, despite lifelong effects from his wounds, made a strong contribution as a historian, particularly with Waikato and Papakura historical societies.

There are several plates with Australian associations. Newspaper editor and historian C W Vennell joined  HMAS Australia and served in the Royal Australian Navy for 5 years before settling in New Zealand in 1925. His plate shows the battle cruiser’s formidable guns and was drawn in 1927 by celebrated New Zealand Herald bobo2207ist Gordon Minhinnick (Fig. 15). During WWII ‘Pip’ Vennell was in charge of military intelligence work for the Waikato and King Country military districts. The Rev Hadden Kingston Vickery came to Auckland in 1928 from Newcastle, NSW and was for 22 years Port Chaplain in Auckland for the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen. Significantly, he was largely responsible for organizing the dawn ANZAC Day services at the Cenotaph in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. His daughter Shirley Vickery (1921–2004) taught speech training in Tasmania before retiring to Exeter, near Launceston (Fig. 16). Yet another Australian connection is Noel Wood of Adelaide who drew the plate for Lieutenant G N Morris, 4 Battalion, H Company, NZ Rifle Brigade. This rather unusual plate depicts a centaur, book in hand, laughing satirically at the world as he hurries away into the forest. Stipendiary magistrate Guy Norman Morris (1866–1949) was an authority on the writings of Katherine Mansfield.

Lt Col Arthur Robert Percy Hughes QSO JP GCLJ KMlJ (1900–1992)  was a major figure in the Heraldry Society (New Zealand Branch ) and for some years an influential member of Auckland Ex Libris Society. Born at Wycombe, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, he moved as a teenager to Toowoomba and served with the Australian Imperial Forces in the last years of WWI. In the 1930s he lived in Ceylon and his subsequent military career included service with the Ceylon Defence Force and Indian and New Zealand armies. During WWII, while imprisoned in Changi Gaol in Singapore, he was responsible for both Australian and New Zealand prisoners of war.  His powerful bookplate design (Fig. 17) was drawn in 1944 by fellow prisoner Vaughan Murray Griffin (1903–92) an official Australian war artist to Malaya and the Middle East. The plate symbolizes living, hedged in by bayonets and barbed wire – bonds which could be broken however when the prisoners entered the kingdom of the mind.

Many memorials abound in Australia and New Zealand to remind us of the sacrifices made during both World Wars. In 1929 Hilda Wiseman produced a line drawn image  of the newly opened Auckland War Memorial Museum for her uncle, Sir James Gunson, who played a major role in directing the effort towards completion of the building (Fig. 18). Also included in my selection is a 1953 bookplate for the Wellington College Library by art master D J Ramage (Fig. 19), gaining its inspiration from the image of St George, the central figure of the beautiful stained glass window, supplied by Kelly & Co, Finsbury, London and installed in the schools War Memorial Hall in March 1928.

Ian Thwaites. Best wishes to all New Australian Bookplate Society members. March 2015