Tinned Central rabbit was sent off to troops

Examining  some of the items on display at the Central Stories museum are (from left) Jessica...
Examining some of the items on display at the Central Stories museum are (from left) Jessica Michelle (10), Rose Gibson (11) and Briana Boereboom (11), all of St Mary's School in Milton. Photo by Leith Huffadine.

Across New Zealand, communities did their bit to support soldiers during World War 1.  Socks were knitted, equipment sent, food packaged, and Central Otago capitalised on its population of pest rabbits.


Preserved rabbit meat, processed in factories in Alexandra, was sent to soldiers overseas when supplies of mutton and beef ran low.

That is just one of the facts collected as part of an exhibition on WW1, showing at Central Stories, in Alexandra.

Central Stories general manager Rachael Welfare said ''Their War: Our Story - A Call to Arms'', which was opened on Friday with more than 150 people present, focused on what Central Otago was like before and during the early stages of the war.

''Everyone knows about WW1 but can never connect back to where they live locally - [it is] always events that happened overseas. We wanted to bring it home and tell the stories and what happened here, putting that real local spin on it.''

During the exhibition opening, guest speaker historian Keith Scott addressed those present, and the Alexandra-Clyde RSA Choir sang.

Facts such as an estimate by Mr Scott that 10% of available men in Central Otago volunteered for the war, double the national average, are among the displays.

The show, running until mid-October, is the first of the museum's commemorative exhibitions over the next four years as a part of the WW100 programme, a nationwide initiative marking the centenary of WW1, as war was declared on August 4, 1914.

Comprising local objects from the period, interactive displays and information boards, what was happening in the region, send-offs for soldiers, and how local people and councils responded to the declaration of war were explained, Miss Welfare said.

Funding for the exhibition was provided by the Lottery World War I Commemorations, Environment and Heritage Committee, and the Central Lakes Trust.

A second large show next year would focus on the Gallipoli campaign.

The museum planned to run one major exhibition a year during the commemorations, alongside a permanent display for the period.

Last week, Cromwell Community Arts also held its first WW1 commemorative event.

Secretary Peter Mead said the group's arts focus allowed it to take a different approach.

''The focus was music, and all the music we sang was particular to 1914, and particularly what was happening at the time.''

Fine Thyme Chorus sang the music to a gathering of about 70 people at the Cromwell Presbyterian Church, and made ''an absolutely magnificent job of doing so'', Mr Mead said.

The songs, obtained from the Hocken Library in Dunedin, were written during the time war was declared and displayed huge enthusiasm for it, patriotism, and support for the British Empire, he said.


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