ON January 6, 1917, Southlander Stanley Hain wrote to his father.
Among the news he had to share was that he had posed for a photograph and that it “ought to be pretty good”.
The resulting image shows a dapper young man with brown eyes, dressed in a military uniform and about to embark once again for war-torn Europe.
Stanley was born on May 22, 1893. He was the youngest child of James and Alice Gertrude Hain, and had three older sisters. His father, James Hain, served as headmaster at Park and South School in Invercargill.
In 1914, the Hain family lived in Leet St and Stanley worked as a clerk for the Southland Branch of the South British Fire and Marine Insurance Company. When World War 1 broke out, Stanley was one of the many young Southland men who enlisted.
By the time this photograph was taken in 1917, Stanley had reached the rank of Bombardier and had served with the New Zealand Field Artillery at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
The museum has 39 letters sent from Stanley to his family between October 1914 and June 1917. Many of his letters were sent during furloughs or hospital stays and contain the type of information one would expect; daily life, people he met, and his opinions on current politics and the war.
It can feel intrusive reading the letters someone sent home during the war, but Stanley Hain had such an expressive way of writing that the local newspaper published a series of his letters describing what he witnessed during the Battle of Messines on the Western Front.
In a letter from June 1917, Bombardier Hain relays the events of a gas attack. The event occurred while having tea and cake with
He recalls, “In two seconds the room was filled with language that would have dispersed any gas cloud, had it not been muffled up in waterproof face masks.”
On June 10, 1917, David Lilico, another Invercargill soldier serving on the Western Front, wrote to the Hain family on behalf of Stanley. In the letter, David relays Stanley had been wounded during the Battle of Messines and gives a first-hand account of the events.
He affectionately recalls Stanley had volunteered for the job usual love of adventure
On June 27, 1917, at age 24, Stanley died of his wounds. He is buried at the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.
The letters and photographs from the Hain family archive preserved at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery offer a valuable glimpse into a young Southlander’s experience of the war and are an enduring reminder of his sacrifice.
— Laura Davies, Southland Museum & Art Gallery Collections technician