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Battlefield souvenirs support fellow returned servicemen: Nelson Provincial Museum

April Collection News 📣
With the war in the Ukraine dominating our news, it’s hard to imagine why – more than 100 years ago – an injured New Zealand soldier would covet, collect, and transport hundreds of battlefield objects in France and bring them home to Nelson. Yet Lieutenant (later Captain) James Faulkner Balck did just that – and it was for a worthy cause.
Learn more in our latest Museum News story: https://www.nelsonmuseum.co.nz/news/battlefield-souvenirs-support-fellow-returned-servicemen

Battlefield souvenirs support fellow returned servicemen

With the war in the Ukraine dominating our news, it’s hard to imagine why – more than 100 years ago – an injured New Zealand soldier would covet, collect, and transport hundreds of battlefield objects in France and bring them home to Nelson. Yet Lieutenant (later Captain) James Faulkner Balck did just that – and it was for a worthy cause.

In the months following his repatriation, Balck’s collection of more than 120 items was displayed at Tasman shows and at the Nelson ‘Alphabetical Bazaar’, held as part of the Red Cross Fete in April-May 1917.

Balck’s collection was displayed in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ of the bazaar alongside a series of Alexander Wilkie’s effigies, which he had carved to raise funds for Māori and Pākeha soldiers on the Western Front.

All up, the Bazaar managed to raise more than £12,500 in cash for the Red Cross Fund, which provided for the recovery of sick and wounded soldiers.

While we don’t know where many of these items are today, two German flare pistols from Balck’s collection now belong to the Nelson Provincial Museum.

Shae Trewin, Nelson Provincial Museum Collections Leader, came across them when reviewing the museum’s firearms collection, following the recent changes to the Firearms Act, and their story intrigued her.

“While we know why Balck collected the war mementos, how he obtained them – considering his presumed traumatic injury and hasty evacuation from the battlefield – is a bit of a mystery,” said Trewin.

To piece together the mystery, we need to go back to the beginning.

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