Guidebooks for New Zealand Soldiers in London
Guidebook given to New Zealand troops before leave in London.
Over the course of the First World War, leave was an important part of maintaining troops’ welfare, offering valuable time away from the frontline. The global mobilisations of the war meant that leave was also an opportunity for troops to explore the sights near to where they were stationed. This included London, the centre of the British Empire, where approximately 60,000 New Zealand soldiers came on leave once they arrived on the Western Front from 1916. Blighty, provided with the compliments of the New Zealand YMCA, was just one of the guidebooks used by the troops to navigate the city. Guidebooks, like guided tours, enabled the soldiers to access a knowable version of the city, miniaturising its magnitude. Blighty marked out a particular London for the visiting soldiers. Its prime aim was to instil in the tourist the historic significance of the sights; the map included in the guide shows the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St Paul’s Cathedral among the main locations that were necessary to visit to truly ‘know’ London. Along with the historic sights was information on where the troops should stay and Blighty particularly emphasised the Shakespeare Hut, where the troops should congregate for the best guides to the city. While the establishment of soldiers’ clubs and residences like the Shakepeare Hut, from which the men could engage in authentic metropolitan living, could be seen as attempts to create ‘home’ for the white Dominion men while in London, their primary purpose was to offer an affordable way of staying in the city and making the most of leave.