NZ troopship magazines from the First World War
Magazines were produced during the First World War by the troops onboard ships travelling to and from war. They provide unique insights into life on the troopships and can be viewed online.
Troopship magazines captured history in the making
By the 19th century there was a vast oceanic communication system in place including the production of news publications at sea. At the beginning of the First World War, every troopship leaving for or returning from conflict was producing a shipboard newspaper. These periodicals provided entertainment for long and monotonous journeys and also reported the stories of the sometimes hundreds of passengers and crew. This material has a richness of insight and absence of propaganda that cannot be found in official histories.
A wide range of production quality and content
Content and design vary immensely, ranging from a couple of handwritten sheets put together in haste, to a magazine produced by a team of talented writers and artists that are filled with essays, poetry, sketches, letters and advertisements. Articles were both humorous and serious in tone and wide-ranging in topic, from describing places the troops visited, to reminiscences of home. Also included were the 'goings on' at sea, such as the results of boxing matches, the script of a play performed on board and verses to haka and waiata.
Racial humour a sign of the times
Some of the humour in the magazines by today's standards would be considered offensive and racist, being primarily aimed at the Native contingent and Māori in general. This gives an historical representation of peoples' views at the time, many of whom would not have had much contact with Māori before the war.
A unique and valuable record of life on board troopships
The magazines provide a rich resource for anyone wanting to find out about life on board troopships during this anxious but adventurous time. Created typically by young men, most of whom had never left New Zealand, these magazines have over the years became treasured keepsakes for many of the passengers. The Museum has managed to acquire an extensive collection of these memorable anthologies. They provide an element of social context that is hard to find in a textbook.
How to access the magazines online
Auckland Museum in collaboration with Dunedin Public Libraries has digitised all known magazines and souvenir publications associated with troopship journeys from the First World War. Publications have been identified for 88 of the 111 troopships.
These digitised magazines can be accessed through Auckland Museum's Collections Online Database in full text and are fully searchable through OCR (optical character recognition).
Cite this article
NZ troopship magazines from the First World War. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 5 June 2015. Updated: 16 May 2016.