Nationalism and the First World War Centenary: Post 20

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Steve Marti of the University of Delaware brings H-Nationalism another monthly update on nationalism and the commemoration of the First World War.  Please feel free to respond to this post. Interested in contributing to this series? Drop Steve a line at


In the aftermath of last July’s ceremonies commemorating the start of the Battle of the Somme, New Zealand launched a series of commemorative events to mark its own involvement in the campaign. Wearing his uniform as a Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, Prince Charles laid a wreath at the foot of the New Zealand memorial, at the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery near Longueval, France. Two replicas of a British and German First World War aircraft flew over the ceremony at Longueval to drop paper poppies on the participants, but one of the aircraft crashed during its return flight to Britain. At a national ceremony in Wellington, Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, French ambassador to New Zealand, spoke as the guest of honour and emphasized New Zealanders’ sacrifice on behalf of France. Bill English, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister, echoed Jeanblanc-Risler’s sentiments on their two nations’ shared sacrifices, and also acknowledged the service of Cook Islanders who fought as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Angela Karini and Sue Baker attended the ceremony in Wellington to honour Māori relatives who served with the New Zealand Tunnelling Company during the Battle of Arras, in April 1917.


In light of New Zealand’s centenary celebrations, British writer Hugh Sebag-Montefiore accused New Zealand soldiers of committing war crimes during the Battle of the Somme. Sebag-Montefiore also highlighted the prevalence of venereal disease among New Zealand soldiers. By coincidence, Archives New Zealand marked the 80th anniversary of Ettie Rout’s death on 17 September 1936 by devoting a few images to Rout on their Flickr page. Rout sailed to Egypt in 1915 to work as a voluntary nurse with the New Zealand forces and campaigned to provide New Zealand soldiers with prophylactic kits in order to combat rising rates of venereal disease. Rout’s reliance on medicine to combat venereal disease, rather than morality, sparked controversy in New Zealand. Defence authorities quietly implemented Rout’s suggestions in late 1917 but censored any mention of her name in the press.

The Globe and Mail published a story on the resurging popularity of Berlin in the Ontario town of Kitchener. Originally named Berlin because of its high proportion of German inhabitants, a wartime referendum decided to change the town’s name to Kitchener in honour of Britain’s recently-deceased Minister of War. The new name went into effect on September 1st 1916.