By Martin Johnston

The medals of New Zealand's official World War I photographer will be displayed in Waiouru, after a Kiwi museum bought them at a British auction.

The National Army Museum snapped up the service medals of Captain Henry Armytage "Movie" Sanders after they were found in an attic.

Spink auction house put the medals - the 1914-20 British War Medal and the 1914-19 Victory Medal - up for sale for a couple who live in Devon, England. The woman's late father had collected World War I medals, buying them at local auctions and secondhand shops; the woman found them all stored in a trunk in his attic.

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The Army Museum paid about £1400 ($2649) for the medals, £100 less than it was willing to pay. The cost including auction fees and commission was $3364.

Henry Armytage Sanders was New Zealand's official World War I photographer in Belgium and France.
Henry Armytage Sanders was New Zealand's official World War I photographer in Belgium and France.

The museum's director, Windsor Jones, said it had won the auction with a TradeMe-style auto-bid of £1500.

A charitable trust pays the costs of the museum's collections; its infrastructure costs are financed mainly by the Army and the Defence Force.

Jones said Sanders' medals would be put on display before Anzac Day - April 25 - at the museum's medal repository.

New Zealanders outside Le Quesnoy, France, in 1918, in the last days of World War I. Photo / Henry Sanders, Alexander Turnbull Library.
New Zealanders outside Le Quesnoy, France, in 1918, in the last days of World War I. Photo / Henry Sanders, Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Army Museum displays a collection of around 10,000 individual medals, including the Victoria Cross. Many were donated or are on loan from descendants of the original recipients.

Jones described the Sanders medals as "extraordinarily significant", because of the extensive collection in New Zealand - more than 1000 - of his Western Front images of Kiwi soldiers.

NZ Government official photographer at the Western Front Henry Sanders with his batman.
NZ Government official photographer at the Western Front Henry Sanders with his batman.

"Sanders also took movie footage. A lot hasn't survived. It may turn up in an archive in the UK or Pathe."

Sanders' photos range from action at the front - men with artillery or on the march and groups of enemy prisoners - to many behind-the-lines images such as of nurses, patients, boxing matches and troop inspections by VIPs.

New Zealand soldiers using a Lewis machine gun in the Messines Sector, Belgium, May 1917. Photo / Henry Sanders
New Zealand soldiers using a Lewis machine gun in the Messines Sector, Belgium, May 1917. Photo / Henry Sanders

A Briton working for French firm Pathe Freres, Sanders was hired on behalf of the New Zealand Government as official photographer and cinematographer in early 1917.

When he set to work as an honorary officer among the diggers of the New Zealand Division his background earned him some disdain.

Members of the Maori Pioneer Battalion taking a break from trench improvement work near Gommecourt, France. Photo / Henry Sanders
Members of the Maori Pioneer Battalion taking a break from trench improvement work near Gommecourt, France. Photo / Henry Sanders

"He is a regular cockney 'tout'," wrote Captain G. Cory, "not even a New Zealander and never been to New Zealand; and here he is appointed to the softest job in the whole division, given a commission in my regiment … if you please, given a motor car and driver all to himself …"

More than 1000 Western Front images taken by Henry Sanders are held in New Zealand. Photo / Henry Sanders
More than 1000 Western Front images taken by Henry Sanders are held in New Zealand. Photo / Henry Sanders

"... I have had no time to show him round," Cory wrote in a letter to his father, cited by historian Christopher Pugsley. "I sent my batman with him one day … Poor old 'Movie' as we call him, was up close to the line soon after our last big fight to take photographs and got caught in a shelled area or in a barrage. He had his wits nearly scared away and instead of taking pictures he sat in a shell hole all day."