`The ‘Last Post’ sounded, and as the echoes sobbed through the cathedral, we standing, were comforted by the thought that, though those asleep in that distant land could no longer hear the earthly bugle call, the call of God sounded for them.'
The College in 1918-1919
The 36th session of Auckland University College (AUC) began on 4 March 1918. However, in a break from tradition, the College Council announced that there would be two terms rather than three. It was hoped that the new Science building, adjoining Choral Hall,1 would be finished by the start of term two in early July and that this arrangement would minimise disruption to students. Until then, classes were to be held in the Old Grammar School building and in the ‘old college buildings’ which had been scheduled for demolition since 1915 and given a thorough send-off by students in late 1917.2
Student enrolments at AUC increased in 1918 to 568, 65 more than in 1917 and the first overall rise since before the war.3 Student numbers were also up at Auckland Training College (ATC) with 141 trainee teachers enrolled in 1918, including four returned soldiers, two of whom had completed their first year of study prior to military service.4 These increases and the return of some servicemen highlighted the lack of accommodation at both institutions and the need to plan for the post-war period. In May, the AUC Council approved several regulations relating to the remission of fees for returned service personnel.5 The Training College also amended their regulations to accommodate returning pupil teachers, probationers and college students.6
During 1918, however, it was the ongoing departure of male students and staff for military service rather than their return which continued to cause disruption at both institutions. In March, the AUC Registrar appealed to the First Auckland Military Service Board to exempt staff member Thomas Lancaster from military service, noting that without him it would be impossible to continue the work of the ‘biological department’.7 In May, the AUC Council made a similar appeal on behalf of Frederick Bamford, director of the School of Architecture.8 Both men were granted exemptions although Lancaster’s related more to his health than his teaching position.9 An aside in the AUC student magazine Kiwi that `in order to muster a sufficient number of male supporters, the University is running a baby show’10 reveals much about the war’s effect on the demographics of the student population.
The fate of current and former students and staff on active service continued to be reported in the AUC and ATC student magazines, with both Kiwi and Manuka including notes on their whereabouts and a roll of honour. Manuka also included an extensive memorial to former ATC Principal Herbert Milnes, who died at Passchendaele, and obituaries of students who died during 1917.
In early April, the AUC Council decided to make Anzac Day a University holiday.11 ATC did not officially declare a holiday but many students, wearing sprigs of rosemary, attended a memorial service at St Matthews Church. They also packed parcels for their ‘comrades in arms’ and held a handball tournament.12
Other student activities at ATC included well-attended peripatetic parties or route marches around Auckland. In March, a large party took the ferry to Northcote and walked to Takapuna beach for a picnic lunch and ‘a most delightful swim’. They continued on to ‘Edgecliff’, the home of their Acting Principal Herbert Cousins, on the cliffs above Cheltenham beach. There they had ice-creams, enjoyed the gardens and spent a ‘restful evening singing’.13
The Commerce Students’ Society at AUC had a successful year, hosting a session on writing business letters, a mock shareholders’ meeting and a lecture on ‘The Strategy of the Western Front’ by Professor Joseph P. Grossmann.14 This well-attended public lecture was one of several given by AUC staff that year. In June, Physics lecturer Mr W. S. Vernon provided a ‘demonstration of the application of electricity to industry’15 and in late October Professor John C. Johnson, drawing on his experience with the Army Medical Corps, gave a talk on ‘House flies and Public Health’.16
‘It is worthy of record that both students and members of the staff found many fields of useful service during the dreadful visitation, and … acquitted themselves most creditably.’
The ‘dreadful visitation’
The end of the war in November 1918 was overshadowed by the influenza pandemic which in Auckland was at its peak. Most residents heeded the acting Chief Medical Officer’s advice not to congregate to celebrate the Armistice.17 At AUC, classes had finished although many students were still sitting degree exams.18 The half-yearly music exams scheduled for mid-November were postponed until further notice.19 The Training College closed for the last five weeks of term which meant ‘a good deal of the year’s work was left incomplete, and several examinations had to be omitted’.20 Several popular end-of-year social activities were also cancelled.
Influenza claimed the life of Dr W.C.W. McDowell, the vice-chairman of the AUC Council, and two AUC staff members, Robert Bennett McDuff, a temporary lecturer in Civil Engineering and assistant Law lecturer Robert William McConnell.21 Sadly, 28-year-old McConnell left a wife and a three-week-old son.22
Among the ‘number of promising students’ who died was 19-year-old Israel Phillips, a debater, treasurer of the Students’ Association (AUCSA), member of the Roll of Honour Committee and secretary of the Scientific Society.23 At the time of his death, Phillips held the Gillies Scholarship, had recently won prizes for chemistry and physics and was described as ‘... one of the brainiest lads Auckland has yet produced’.24
No ATC staff or students died during the outbreak but a number of past students or ‘Old As’ did, including Hazel Rohan (nee Lane), widow of Collegian Martin Rohan, who was killed in France three months earlier. Teachers before the war, the couple left a young daughter Marjorie.25 During the pandemic some ATC staff and students helped out at Myers Park Kindergarten which served as a makeshift children’s hospital while others ‘gave their services to help children left permanently or temporarily without parents’.26
The early closure of schools in November 1918 resulted in a flurry of activity in January 1919 as students sat rescheduled Matriculation, University Scholarship, Teaching Certificate and Public Service examinations. At AUC, the Professorial Board began the year by considering the cases of 80 students whose degree exams had been affected by the pandemic.27
In late January, AUC advertised for an assistant Law lecturer to replace McConnell. The appointment of Mr P. Grey caused some controversy when an unsuccessful candidate, Arthur Sexton, claimed that as a returned serviceman and AUC graduate, he should have been appointed instead. The University considered Sexton’s claim, which was supported by the Returned Soldiers’ Repatriation Committee, but decided that while they were anxious ‘to do the upmost for returned soldiers’, Grey, a graduate of Victoria University, had been legitimately chosen as the better candidate.28
Student numbers continued to rise at AUC in 1919, with 821 students enrolled for lectures, 253 more than in 1918.29 Men made up the majority of that increase, including at least 25 returned servicemen, like AUCSA president Charles Smith, whose university studies had been interrupted by the war.30 At ATC, male student numbers also increased, although women continued to outnumber men.31
During 1918, AUCSA had lobbied for a more official roll in campus life and in early 1919 received Council approval to make membership of the Association compulsory.32 Some student clubs which had folded during the war were revived, including the Athletics Club and the Law Society. Annual events resumed, including the Inter-University Tournament, to the delight of a new generation of students who proclaimed the Easter 1919 event to be ‘one of the greatest joys of University life’. Students were also interested in current affairs, publishing in Kiwi an account of Professor Grossmann’s lecture to the Commerce Students’ Society on ‘The Industrial Situation’. Grossmann considered the causes of the ‘present widespread industrial upheaval’, the claims ‘being put forward on behalf of the wage-earners’ and the system of production and distribution.33
The increased rolls strained facilities at both institutions. Minor changes were made to the Training College building in Wellesley Street in January and February and plans for a third storey were submitted to the Education Board.34 AUC’s accommodation problems were partly relieved by the completion of the new Science building. Described as ‘finer than any other of its kind in Australasia’, the building was officially opened in June by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Sir James Allen.35 Later in the year, the passing of the Auckland University Site Act 1919 secured the desired Metropolitan site for the College and plans were started for a new Arts building.36
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
- The new Science building comprised two new wings built on each side of the existing Choral Hall which was reconfigured to create an entrance hall, two lecture theatres, part of the Physics laboratories and a corridor. The Kiwi: Official organ of the Auckland University College, 14, 1919, pp.17-18.
- Auckland Star, 27 February 1918, p.7; New Zealand Herald, 27 February 1918, p.8. All newspapers accessed via Papers Past.
- Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR), 1919, E-7, p.28, 1918, p.28 and 1916, p. 31, accessed via AtoJs Online.
- AJHR, 1919, E-2, Appendix D, p.iii.
- New Zealand Herald, 21 May 1918, p.4.
- Manuka: occasional magazine of the Auckland College of Education, 10, 1919, p.4.
- New Zealand Herald, 28 March 1918, p.9.
- New Zealand Herald, 21 May 1918, p.6.
- Auckland Star, 27 March 1918, p.4; New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1918, p.7.
- The Kiwi, 13, 1918, p.39.
- Auckland Star, 16 April 1918, p.6.
- Manuka: occasional magazine of the Auckland College of Education, 9, 1919, pp.48-49.
- Manuka, 1918, pp.48-49.
- The Kiwi, 1918, p.57; Auckland Star, 1 May 1918, p.6 and 18 September 1918, p.4.
- Auckland Star, 13 June 1918, p.4.
- New Zealand Herald, 29 October 1918, p.7.
- 'Armistice Day and the flu': nzhistory.govt.nz/war/armistice-day/armistice-day-and-flu
- Calendar, Auckland University College, University of New Zealand, Auckland, 1918, p.9.
- Auckland Star, 9 November 1918, p.12.
- Manuka, 1919, pp.3-4; AJHR, E-2, 1919, Appendix D, p.iii.
- AJHR, 1919, E-7, p.11.
- New Zealand Herald, 11 November 1918, p.6.
- The Kiwi, 14, 1919, p.15.
- Observer, 16 November 1918, p.4.
- Manuka, 1919, p.5. Marjorie Dorothea Rohan (1916- 2001) graduated from Otago University in 1943 and was a medical practitioner in Taranaki and Auckland.
- Manuka, 1919, p.4.
- New Zealand Herald, 9 January 1919, p.6.
- Auckland Star, 26 February 1919, p.4; New Zealand Herald, 29 April 1919, p.8.
- AJHR, 1920, E-7, p.29.
- The Kiwi, 1919, p.50.
- AJHR, 1920, E-2, Appendix D, p.iii.
- The Kiwi, 1919, p.11.
- ibid., pp.51, 31-32.
- Manuka, 1919, pp.2-3.
- The Kiwi, 1919, pp.11, 17-18; Auckland Star, 17 June 1919, p.6.
- AJHR, 1920, E-7, p.11.