The College in 1915
During 1915, New Zealand’s continued involvement in the war encroached on many aspects of campus life at Auckland University College (AUC), particularly after the Gallipoli Landings in the April.
In February, Lieutenant Eric Hardwick Tayler became the first Collegian to die on active service. By October when the 1915 issue of The Kiwi was published, there were 13 more names to record in the magazine’s first list of the war dead and a further 23 to list as wounded or missing.1 The issue also featured war-related advertisements, poems, a cartoon alluding to ‘Uncle Sam’s’ lack of interest in the conflict and the revealing quip that ‘Khaki is becoming the fashion at Coll. nowadays’ and ‘the best key to unlock the feminine heart.’2
Even public lectures given by College staff under the auspices of the YMCA Educational Committee were war-related, including ‘The Law of war on the sea’, presented by Law professor R.M. Algie in August and ‘Aspects of the War’, by History lecturer J.P. Grossmann in September.3
In 1915, the number of students attending lectures at AUC fell to 539, 126 fewer than in 1913. Numbers continued to fall as the year progressed with one staff member commenting that ‘scarcely a lecture passed without one or more resignations from students who had enlisted’.4 Many of the club reports in The Kiwi also mentioned members leaving to join the armed forces, although some clubs, including the Debating Club, noted that they had plenty of members in spite of the ‘general depression caused by the war’.5 However, it was not only students who were leaving the College for the Front; by the end of the year two staff members had enlisted, Silston Cory-Wright, lecturer of Surveying, Hydraulics and Principles of Civil Engineering and Structural Design, and Joseph Vivian Wilson, assistant lecturer in Classics.6
Campus life was also changing for the trainee teachers at the nearby Auckland Training College (ATC). Many trainees also took papers at AUC and more than 150 Collegians listed in the Roll were former or current students of the Training College. By Easter 1915, a number of senior ATC students were filling school positions left vacant by teachers who had gone to war while 20 former students were listed as serving at the Front.7
‘The best that had ever been held’
The highlight of the 1915 College year was undoubtedly the Easter Inter-University Tournament. Held in early April, the tournament was hosted by Auckland University College and attended by some 70 guests from Otago, Canterbury and Victoria who arrived by train on Good Friday in ‘a perfect deluge of rain’.8 Over the next three days, keen students took part in tennis, athletics and debating competitions, a moonlight picnic and the Tournament Dance, the proceeds of which were donated to the Belgian Relief Fund.9
It is clear, however, that the decision to hold the event in view of the ‘European crisis’ was a contentious one, with the Tournament Committee going to great lengths to justify their decision. In their report, they noted that when they made their decision ‘neither did the war touch us so closely, nor was the situation in Europe so grave’ and that it had seemed unnecessary, even foolish, to put a hold on athletics ‘the very thing to render men hardy and virile’ at a time when these were the very attributes that were needed by the ‘English race’.10 Despite their justification and the success of the event, the Tournament was not held again until 1919.11
After the Gallipoli Landings, other College social events were cancelled. In May, the Students' Association decided that ‘owing to the present National Crisis’ it was ‘inadvisable’ to hold a graduation carnival and in June the annual graduation ball was cancelled.12 Like Easter Tournament, neither event was reinstated until after the war. Instead, fundraising endeavours such as the ‘strenuous day selling sweets for the Patriotic Fund’ undertaken by members of the Ladies Common Room were the order of the day.13 While this might sound dull, it is likely that students also took part in other more lively fundraising activities, including concerts and parades such as this Labour Day parade held in aid of wounded soldiers in October.14
‘Overcrowded to excess’
At the beginning of 1915, the College took possession of Choral Hall, which they had purchased from the Choral Society some years earlier. The Hall was outfitted to accommodate the Law students, whose numbers had grown to more than 100.15 While this provided students with some relief from the overcrowded conditions in the Old Parliament Buildings, the College still desperately needed a permanent site and purpose-built buildings.
The situation was not helped by the Auckland City Council’s determination to start work on what is now Anzac Avenue. Unfortunately, the planned road ran right through the Old Parliament Buildings. The College’s lack of alternative accommodation did not seem to worry the City Council which declared that when the work reached the university a ‘right of way through the college block would be required’.16
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
- The Kiwi: Official Organ of the Auckland University College, 10, 1, 1915, p.12.
- ibid., p.22.
- Auckland Star, 18 August 1915, p.7, accessed via Papers Past; New Zealand Herald, 2 September 1915, p.5, accessed via Papers Past.
- Education: Higher Education E-7, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1916, p.31 and 1914, p. 4, accessed via AtoJs Online; Auckland Star, 20 July 1915, p.8, accessed via Papers Past.
- The Kiwi, 10, 1, 1915, p.27.
- ‘Cory-Wright, Silston - WW1 11989 – Army’, R21899685, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; 'Wilson, Joseph Vivian - WW1 24107 – Army’, R22021851, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- Manuka : occasional magazine of the Auckland College of Education, 7, 1915, pp.6, 49. NZP 378.95 M26.
- The Kiwi, p.16.
- ibid., p.18.
- ibid., p.16.
- NZUTC - minutes of meetings 1902-1932, Auckland University Students' Association further records, MSS & Archives 2014/2, item 4/1, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- AUCSA Minute Book 1909-1917, Auckland University Students' Association records, MSS & Archives E-9, item 1/1/2, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services, pp.137, 139.
- The Kiwi, p.33.
- Auckland Star, 25 October 1915, p.7, accessed via Papers Past.
- Calendar, Auckland University College, University of New Zealand, Auckland, 1915, p.19.
- New Zealand Herald, 18 May 1915, p.4, accessed via Papers Past.