15 March 2012

Ephemera #2: 'Lest We Forget'

Cover designed by
Warrant Officer A. E. Darling
Anzac Day is the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. The day (25 April) originally honoured the members of the combined Australia and New Zealand forces who fought at Gallipoli in the First World War, but has since come to commemorate all who served and those who have given their lives in active service.

Despite being imprisoned in Stalag 383 during the Second World War, the interned Commonwealth soldiers managed to remember the anniversary in 1944 with a dawn service, a march past with military band, and a series of sporting competitions.

The commanding German officer allowed the men to produce this souvenir programme outlining the day's events (busy prisoners are not planning their escape). The programme was printed by a local firm in Regensburg, and its inside cover is stamped 'Stalag 383 4 Geprüft', marking the programme as 'examined' by the Stalag authorities. Eighteen of the soldiers present were also veterans of the First World War.

One New Zealand prisoner, George T. Seccombe, had the presence of mind to post his copy to the Dunedin R.S.A. The envelope, stamped with the Stalag 'Geprüft' stamp and the Red Cross emblem, was kept, and remains with the programme along with a letter by Seccombe describing the day.

The Dunedin Public Library copy of the souvenir programme (part of its Troopship Journals Collection) is one of just two copies recorded as being held by any institution. The other copy is in the University of Canterbury special collections. If any readers are aware of other copies in existence, please send me an email.

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