Entertaining the troops, “The Kiwis” concert party
The campaigns of the Western Front saw men serving in frontline combat positions in the trenches usually for a few days to a week at a time. In between, units were rotated back to ‘reserve’ positions several kilometres away from the Front, where boredom was yet another enemy to contend with.
In an attempt to keep the troops entertained, concert parties were formed by the men, with names such as “The Pierrots”, “The Tuis” and “The Kiwis.”
Bill McKeon, who served in the Wellington Infantry and had been in a concert party himself, had fond memories of “The Kiwis” and the high-quality shows they put on at Nieppe, near Armentieres in 1917, which he recalled in a radio interview with Neville Webber.
Starting the New Zealand RSA
Many men who had been invalided back to New Zealand after the Gallipoli campaign found adjusting to civilian life difficult. Those without family support found themselves with little income and in some cases were virtually homeless once they were discharged from the Army. It was not long before a group formed to improve the lot of returned serviceman. In this recording from 1966, radio broadcaster Neville Webber interviews two World War I veterans, Gilbert Lawrence and Ernie Golding, who helped form the Returned Soldiers’ Association (RSA) in Wellington in early 1916.