The First War Cry - 16 June 1883
“Only ten weeks have passed since we landed here, and oh! how blessed the result of our few weeks’ work!” These opening remarks reveal the unrestrained delight of those involved in producing the first edition of The War Cry, dated 16 June 1883, from Dunedin, New Zealand.
This weekly publication would join Salvation Army War Crys printed and read worldwide.
“Why do we need a War Cry?”, the article on page one, column one continues, “To help us publish Salvation. This is our life business. We’re Salvation people, saved ourselves, and seeking the Salvation of all around us. We intend filling the WAR CRY with Salvation News, and that alone. Comrades help us.”
The column is signed G.A.P. Captain George Arthur Pollard, was just 20 and a Salvationist for two years when he was sent by General William Booth to start the Salvation Army in New Zealand, accompanied by Lieutenant Edward (Ted) Wright.
With the first service held in Dunedin on 1st April 1883, Pollard proudly injected his enthusiasm and commitment for the salvation of souls through the printed word in this first edition of the New Zealand War Cry.
Prior to The Salvation Army’s arrival an established group of “devout, evangelically minded Christians saw plenty of scope for the work of the Army in New Zealand.” [i] They had the initiative and skills to plan and organise the publication of the first War Cry within 10 weeks of the Army’s arrival.
The War Cry’s first editor was Alexander Byers Matthews. Born into a Presbyterian family in Belfast in 1835, he was drawn to New Zealand in 1862 by the lure of gold at Gabriel’s Gully, Lawrence. Cornish miners introduced him to Methodism, where he met and married Rachel Frazer in 1866. Alexander worked as a teacher and headmaster, before joining the large accounting firm of Guthrie and Lanarch.
The Matthews were no longer in their youth and had five children, when Alexander at one of the Army’s first meetings in Dunedin felt compelled to join. He resigned his accountant’s position, and with Rachel became the first New Zealand Salvation Army’s uniformed soldiers. Commissioned as the first officers, by Pollard, with the rank of Staff Captain on 15 May 1883, Alexander Matthews edited the first The War Cry a month later, while also holding the position of First Secretary of the New Zealand Division (under administration from Melbourne) and was a close advisor to Pollard.
Under Matthew’s skilled leadership, The War Cry’s first edition of four pages, in newspaper format, and no images, included reflections on the Christian life and articles written by the Booths. There were reports on corps, the life, and times of the Army around the world and words to Army songs, to well-known tunes. In this War Cry, as currently, we read of events coming up for Army leaders, and interestingly where to obtain tickets.
The banner reads, ‘The New Zealand War Cry and Official Gazette of The Salvation Army, The Rev. William Booth General’ and five thousand copies were sold at the price of one penny.
Alexander Matthews quirky way with words, are evidenced in ‘Our New Zealand War Cry’, an acronym, and a report on his flying visit to Christchurch, both published on p.4 of the first War Cry.
Staff Captain Matthews remained the editor until 1888 when he was transferred to Melbourne and became the editor of the Australian War Cry. He continued to work in Territorial Headquarters, Melbourne until his death in 1912.
The printers, Fraser Brothers, noted on the right-hand lower corner of page 4, were based in a premises in Bath St, Dunedin. This street ran adjacent to Moray Place, where the Salvation Army had its headquarters. This firm followed the Army to its new headquarters in Christchurch in early 1884. The South Island being the obvious base for a headquarters as two thirds of New Zealand’s population lived there.
In The War Cry 1 August 1885, a list was provided of officers in charge of various Departments in the New Zealand Division. The high regard the Army had for the Frasers merited the mention of their Printing Department and the only non-officer Mr. T.E Fraser.
Mr. T.E. Fraser’s support of the Army’s work was acknowledged when he laid the first stone at the stone laying ceremony of Sydenham’s Corps new hall, The War Cry 21 September 1889. He donated £2 and 2s, and “expressed himself in entire sympathy with the object and work for which the barracks was to be erected.” [ii] While several years had passed since the first War Cry was published, this acknowledges the strong relationship between the printing firm and the Army. Years of hard work have resulted in The War Cry emerging into a significant and vital part of Army life that the creators Alexander Matthews and Pollard would be proud of.
[i] Cyril Bradwell, Fight the Good Fight The Story of The salvation Army in New Zealand 1883-1983, A.W & A.H Reed Ltd, Wellington, 1982, p3
[ii] The War Cry, 21 September 1889, p3