Wartime family experience on display


A bunch of carrots on the bedroom floor may look a little out of place at Broadgreen Historic House but it’s all part of a World War One Ration Hunt as part of their “War at Home” exhibition.

The lead army toys and germ proof filters have been brought out at the museum in an effort to show what life was like for New Zealand families during the war.

Museum curator, Sally Papps, says she wanted to bring the focus of war to the people back home.

“We didn’t want to focus on the soldiers, the war affected homelife a lot too.”

She says while the men were fighting in the war the women had to “knuckle down” and make use of what food and textiles were available for their family.

Sugar, tea and coffee were rationed and eggs and meat were in huge shortage due to exports for the soldiers.

Sally says New Zealand farmers made the equivalent of 12 billion dollars through exports in today’s money.

The Langbein family, who lived in the house at the time, grew apples on the surrounding land, now Samuels Rose Garden.

Not a lot is known about the Langbein family but Sally says they form a model for exploring life in support of the war effort

Two of the six sons in the family went to war. Fred Langbein was a Sergeant and Charles Langbein became a Major.

Communications between families and their loved ones at war were limited to letters. It could be weeks before families knew anything about their members at war.

“The government subsidised the cost of sending a letter. It would take up to two months for a reply, it would have been pretty nerve-wracking.”

Often families did not get the full story of what was going on.

“There was a shift in focus on the war and heroism. Newspapers talk about heroism, not mud and trenches. They were filtered reports.”

Paula Hucklesby of the Nelson Embroiderers Guild helped to organise production of a replica lest we forget cloth. These clothes featured the names of soldiers in war.

“You paid an amount and you could have a name embroidered onto it.”

Both Langbein men came back from the war.

Sally says when men came back they had to give up a degree of confidence. Often they were bed bound and had to do menial tasks such as making rag rugs.

The exhibition runs at Broadgreen House until April 27. Adults are $5, seniors $4 and students aged 5-11 are $1. Under 5s are free.