War and remembrance

Page 4 – They shall grow not old…

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

This is the fourth stanza from Laurence Binyon's poem For the Fallen. Referred to as the Ode of Remembrance, it was first published in The Times of London in September 1914 and has been incorporated into the ritual of remembrance in many countries.

Many memorials to those killed in the First World War contain epitaphs such as ‘they liveth for evermore’ or ‘lest we forget’. How well have succeeding generations lived up to these expectations? We know about the feats of some soldiers whose deeds were acknowledged with medals and other accolades. But little is known about the vast majority of servicemen and women whose names appear on our memorials. This activity investigates the life of someone from your community who served in the armed forces.

Information and guides for anyone researching New Zealand's First World War experience can be found here 

1. Start with a local memorial such as a school honours board or cenotaph, or perhaps you already know of a family member who served. Select a name and either as an individual or in pairs carry out an inquiry into that person’s life. There are several very useful websites that students can go to if they want to find out more about someone who died during military service.

This excellent database enables you to search for personal records on those who served in the New Zealand forces during wartime. Some entries include photos as well as links to military personnel files at Archives New Zealand. These documents are currently being digitised and some are available online.

This site allows you to investigate the place where the selected person is buried or – as is the case for many of our dead with no known grave – where their names are comemmorated on a memorial.

This site has more than two million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals covering the years 1839 to 1945 and from all regions of New Zealand. I have found this to be a veritable goldmine of information in a lot of my own research. It is searchable by date, region or title as well as specific words and phrases. It offers a glimpse into how news of the war and in particular its impact on the local community was received and communicated at the time. Papers of the time frequently listed the exploits of those from their area as well as updates on casualties.

A good example of the value of this site came when I was researching the story of Reginald Deck from Motueka for a school visit to the National War Memorial. Deck, I discovered, was married two weeks before he sailed for Egypt. He was killed at Gallipoli. I found his widow's death certificate and it appeared that she never remarried and lived until the early 1950s. This offered another insight into the impact of the war on family and loved ones.

2. If you are looking at ex-students you could use your findings to create a school database. This could:

  • map the places where people served or were killed and/or buried,
  • be used to create graphs showing the dates of deaths or the ages of those killed
How to cite this page

'They shall grow not old…', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/war-and-remembrance/they-shall-not-grow-old, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 6-Aug-2014

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