Herman Rolfes’ shoulder badge, World War I
Herman Rolfes' shoulder badge, 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force 1914-1918, Maker unknown, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Gift of Miss Phyllis A Rolfes, 1966. Te Papa
Private Herman Rolfes was one of more than 18,000 New Zealanders killed in World War I. He died near Bapaume, France, in August 1918 – part of a successful Allied offensive on the Western Front. The Armistice (truce) with Germany was less than 3 months away.
A condolence letter and small canvas bag containing Rolfes' few possessions, including this badge, were sent to his mother in Kaikoura. Mrs Rolfes was a widow, and Herman was her only son. Neither she nor his sisters were ever able to visit his grave half a world away. A friend sent her a photograph of it 10 years later.
Mrs Rolfes carried her son's photo in her purse for the rest of her life. For thousands of relatives, friends, and sweethearts whose loved ones never returned, the war's lasting impact was grief.