Governor Lord Liverpool (centre, holding telegram at his
side) reads out Britain's declaration of war outside
Parliament in Wellington on August 4, 1914. Photo from ODT
It is the beginning of the bloodiest conflict Europe has
Midnight on Tuesday, August 4, 1914 - Britain declares war on
The next day at 1pm, the Governor of New Zealand, Lord
Liverpool, delivers the news to a crowd of about 10,000
people gathered in the grounds of Parliament in Wellington.
By the end of the week, Britain has accepted New Zealand's
offer of troops for the war effort.
By the end of the month, New Zealand troops occupy German
Samoa on behalf of Britain.
And within 12 months, more than 2700 New Zealanders have died
during the Gallipoli campaign.
Europe's war is now New Zealand's war.
Today, a national ceremony commemorating the centenary of the
declaration of war on Germany begins at Parliament grounds in
Wellington at 9am.
After a reading of the 1914 announcement of war by
broadcaster Hewitt Humphrey, Prime Minister John Key and
leader of the Opposition David Cunliffe will speak.
About 9.20am, ten 105mm Howitzer guns, on the waterfront in
front of Te Papa, will unleash a 100-gun salute. In Dunedin,
commemorations start with a candlelit procession from First
Church to the Cenotaph at Queens Gardens at 5.45pm today.
A candlelit peace vigil will follow at the Cenotaph at 6pm,
organised by Dunedin Quakers, in conjunction with the
National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
Most WW1 commemorations begin next month with a service on
September 21 to mark the embarkation of Otago troops.
Dunedin Returned and Services' Association senior
vice-president Lox Kellas said the commemorations were
important to recognise the soldiers' service.
''It's a chance for people to get a better understanding of
what they went through,'' Mr Kellas said.
He urged everyone to see the ''Dunedin's Great War
1914-1918'' exhibition at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, which
opened on Friday.
Mosgiel Memorial RSA board of trustees chairman Noel Graham
said the commemorations marked an important time in New
''It heralds the beginning of the RSA organisation,'' he
''It was after [the Gallipoli campaign] that they created the
Returned Soldiers' Association.''
The Mosgiel Memorial RSA has no plans to formally mark the
beginning of the war, but it will take part in the
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said events during the next nine
months would provide a backdrop to remember the sacrifices of
the soldiers who served in World War 1.
''Regardless of the rights and wrongs [of the war], it's a
very significant centenary and we should be looking forward
to marking it with a great deal of respect,'' Mr Cull said.
''Embarkation was very significant in Dunedin at the time.''
University of Otago history Prof Tom Brooking said Otago's
troops were prominent in the war.
More than 1000 troops from Otago were among the 8500 New
Zealanders sent to Egypt for training in October 1914.
By the end of the war, 1900 Dunedin troops had died.
''It's above the national rate. It's extraordinary [the loss
of life], it really is,'' he said.
''[Otago] was the unlucky battalion, we always seemed to be
in the wrong place at the wrong time.''
Today's ceremony in Wellington is the first of several
commemorations as nations around the world formally mark the
Across the Tasman, descendants of the other half of the Anzac
legend will mark the date with an evening Last Post ceremony
at the Australian War Memorial Museum in Canberra.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mataparae will represent New
Zealand at a Commonwealth ceremony at the Glasgow Cathedral,
and MP Tony Ryall will attend a ceremony at Liege in Belgium.
A wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
in Wellington by the New Zealand Defence Force will also be