Search our collections

Advanced Search

Topic: November 1918: Peace in Europe and influenza worldwide

Is part of topic World War I

In popular memory, the war with Germany ended in November 1918 (although it did not officially end until June 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed). Coinciding with this long-awaited event was an influenza pandemic that swept across the world and through New Zealand.

Leslie Adkin, who farmed a property in the Horowhenua near Levin, wrote about these major international events, entwined as they were with family life, in his diary entries from early November to early December 1918.

On 11 November, three days after his wife Maud gave birth to their son, Germany signed an armistice agreement. Locals marked the ‘peace’ on 13 November – ‘a lovely day for the rejoicings’ wrote Adkin. He took 10 photographs that show how people in Levin celebrated this welcome news.

At the same time, Adkin and his family were also affected by the flu that was rife in the country, and that would eventually kill over 8,500 people. The Adkins had a lucky escape: the doctor who had attended the recent birth was unable to visit Maud and their new-born son because he had contracted the virus, so their family was spared exposure (although daughter Nancy came down with ‘flu-like symptoms’, later diagnosed as measles.)

Related information