A sense of adventure

A sense of adventure

This hook provides examples of why people chose to enlist in the First World War. 

3 Excerpts from young men in the war

An Awfully Big Adventure: New Zealand World War One Veterans Tell Their Stories by Jane Tolerton (Penguin New Zealand, 2013), pages 8–9,

From www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/dougie-harle

A Man’s Country? The Image of the Pakeha Male – A History by Jock Phillips (Penguin Australia, 1996, revised version), page 163


Young men enlisted in the First World War for a wide range of reasons, such as patriotism; peer pressure; naivety; or a desire for adventure, employment, or escape. Like all who travel, they carried their idiosyncrasies, illusions, and ideals with them. 

The experiences of those who fought were as varied as the reasons for choosing to enlist. Many soldiers experienced intense feelings of camaraderie during the war; others felt isolated and alone. For some soldiers, the death of their friends added fuel to their hatred of the “enemy”; for others, it merely revealed the futility of war. Many soldiers fought for each other more than for the “greater cause” of King and country. 

Comradeship played an important role in helping servicemen and -women endure the horrors, and sometimes boredom, of war. Friends and brothers who had enlisted together often ended up fighting side by side; others were thrown together by war. The dependence soldiers had on each other meant that many formed close bonds that were hard to replicate once they returned home. 

“One of the positive things that emerged from the war was the feeling of comradeship, supporting one another through the bitter and difficult times, and sharing such humour and fun as we could find or made for ourselves. When we returned home (from the war) we really missed our mates, and felt as if we were living in a vacuum.” 

The Twilight Hour: A Personal Account of World War I, by William Taylor (Morrinsville, New Zealand: self-published by William Taylor and edited by J. H. Sutherland, 1978), page 110 

If the First World War was a forger of incredible friendships, it was also a destroyer. Of the three young friends in the second excerpt above, Ken Luke was the only one to survive the war. 

Possible discussion questions 

How would you and your friends respond if you were all old enough to enlist in a conflict situation? How and why might your responses have been different if you had all lived in New Zealand 100 years ago? 

Why did some returned soldiers remember the First World War with nostalgia, despite its horrors? 

How universal do you think the experience of camaraderie among soldiers was? Why do we seldom see accounts of soldiers who struggled to form strong bonds with their fellow soldiers? 

How have New Zealand concepts of manhood changed and/or stayed the same since 1915? 

  • FC
  • Print.
  • Share.