History of the Roll of Honour
The Auckland University College Roll of Honour was created during the First World War to record the details of past and present Collegians who had enlisted. By War’s end, the Roll had grown to three leather-bound volumes containing information about 720 men and women.
Creating the Roll
The history of the Roll can be traced through the records of the Auckland University College Students' Association (AUCSA) and the College itself. Officially, the compilation of the Roll appears to have begun in April 1915 when the AUCSA passed a motion at its AGM 'that a complete list of members of the Student Association serving with the Expeditionary Force be compiled'.1 However, the 1916 issue of the student magazine The Kiwi suggests that an informal roll had been kept by keen AUCSA members since war broke out in 1914: “One night in the Common Room in the spring of 1914 a group of us put down the names of 50 people whom we knew were in camp. The next day there were 70 on the list, and in a week 100. This was but the nucleus of a Roll which swelled to 200, 300 and but a week ago 400”.2 As well as compiling a roll of honour, the AUCSA also decided to send letters of condolence to the families of College members who had been killed on active service.3
In June 1915, the College Council, independently of the AUCSA, resolved to 'prepare and keep up to date a list of all present and former members of the College who have volunteered for active service' with a view to including a Roll of Honour in the College Calendar and creating a permanent Roll of Honour in the 'Hall of the College'.4 The Council minutes also record that 'the Graduates Association, the Student’s Association and the Commerce Student’s Association be requested to assist the Registrar'.5
During 1916, the records of both the AUCSA and the College Council include numerous references to the compilation of a College Roll of Honour. It appears, however, that the actual hard work of compiling such a roll was being carried out by the AUCSA. In March 1916, for example, the roll tabled at a Council meeting was prepared by Leslie Comrie, the Secretary of the Students’ Association and a talented science student whose hard work and personal dedication appears to have been integral to the creation of the Roll.6
The AUCSA’s meticulous upkeep of the Roll was partly to enable it to publish an accurate Roll of Honour in The Kiwi, the first of which appeared in the October 1915 issue. In the 1916 Kiwi, the Roll of Honour and accompanying photographs and obituaries of those killed ran to 42 pages. The AUCSA also sent copies of the magazine to every man at the Front who was associated with the College and to the next of kin of the fallen.7 The magazine was a huge success but was produced at great financial cost to the Association, as was maintaining the Roll. Regardless, they decided it was an absolutely necessary expense and that the Association’s debt of gratitude to Mr Comrie and his small committee was enormous.8
Maintaining the Roll of Honour
By early 1917, maintaining the Roll was becoming too much for the AUCSA, particularly after Leslie Comrie left for military training in January. In June, the AUCSA Executive asked the College Council to take control of the Roll.9 The Council decided instead to assist with its compilation by appointing a clerical assistant, Miss Beatrice Butterfield, on an annual salary of £25, and by covering the costs of stationery, stamps and a newspaper clipping service.10 Miss Butterfield compiled the Roll for about six months, including working remotely from Featherston and Hawkes Bay following her marriage to AUC staff member and serviceman Sapper Victor R. Johns [see Miss Butterfield's letter above right]. In early 1918, she resigned 'in favour of some student on the spot'11 and was replaced by Miss Annette Milne.12 Like her predecessor, Miss Milne appears to have worked on the Roll remotely, communicating with the Registrar from `The Manse, Thames'. Her letters shed light on the work involved in compiling the Roll. Miss Milne’s letters also reveal that she kept working on the Roll until at least December 1919 and perhaps until May 1920 when the last New Zealand troops returned from overseas.13
A permanent memorial?
In 1920, the Roll of Honour was published in the College Calendar for the last time. Discussions turned to the need to erect a more lasting memorial to those who served. The AUCSA’s annual report for 1919/20 noted: 'It is understood that it is the intention of the College Council to incorporate a permanent memorial in the design of the new buildings'.14 In September 1919, the College had finally been allocated the preferred ‘Metropolitan Site’ on Princes St as a permanent home and began planning new College buildings. Although the brief for the new Arts Building, issued in 1920 by the College, did not mention a war memorial, architect Roy Lippincott, who won the design competition, noted that:
`The opportunity offered by the building for suitable memorials to the Great War – To Armies, Units, or individuals who took part therein, are unique. What could be more fitting that the dedicating of the tower as a memorial, to be built with memorial funds. Likewise the Cloister surrounding the Arts Court would form a fascinating and beautiful Hall of Fame for all time to come.'15
Sadly, it seems a permanent College war memorial was never built, nor do any parts of the ‘Old’ Arts Building (now the ClockTower) opened in 1926 appear to be dedicated to the memory of those who served in the First World War. This makes the carefully maintained set of ring-binders that is the Roll of Honour all the more signficant.16
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
- 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, p.136
- Leslie Comrie, 'Our Roll of Honour', The Kiwi: Official Organ of the Auckland University College, 11, 1916, p.5.
- AUCSA minute book 1909-1917, p.141
- AUC Council meeting minutes, Monday 21 June 1915, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- AUC Council meeting minutes, Monday 20 March 1916, folio 496, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- AUCSA minute book 1909-1917, p.158.
- Students Association Annual Report for year 1916-1917, Auckland University Students' Association further records, MSS & Archives 2014/2, Item 2/3, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- AUCSA minute book 1909-1917, p.158.
- Letter from Registrar to AUCSA, 3 July 1917; Letter from Registrar to Miss Butterfield, 4 July 1917, Auckland University College letter book 1915 -1919, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- Letter Miss Butterfield to Registrar, 29 Nov 1917, General correspondence inward - 1918, folio 44, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- The Kiwi: Official Organ of the Auckland University College, 13, 1918, p.5.
- Letter Miss Milne to Registrar, 5 Dec 1919, General correspondence inward -1919, folio 1359, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- AUCSA Annual Report 1919/20, Auckland University Students' Association further records, MSS & Archives 2014/2, Item 2/3, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- Lippincott’s Design Brief for Arts Building, Section IV, Extensions, Arts Building Competition, University of Auckland Administrative Archives.
- A.U.C. Roll of Honour, MSS & Archives E-2. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.