"The snowy splendor of Mt Egmont"


Karl Strack's Story

thinking of home is the only happiness you get.

Stuck in the same muddy clothes for weeks on end and surrounded by flies and fallen soldiers, war was horrible for the men on the front line. They relied on their happy memories of home to remind them of their lives and families waiting for them in New Zealand.

Karl Justus Strack wrote letters about his fond memories of his hometown, Hawera, to his family, and told them about the hymn book he carried everywhere. When his memorial was published in the local newspaper, they included these beautiful passages he’d written.

A hymn book may seem like something most people would take for granted, but for Karl, it was an important reminder of his love of music and his time at Sunday School.

When a close friend of Karl’s, Lily Hulbert, donated the hymn board the memorial mentions, to the local church, it was designed with the peaks of Mt Egmont, (Taranaki) because he wrote that that was the last bit of New Zealand he saw as he sailed away, never to return again.

For Karl, reciting the hymns he had learnt his whole life and reflecting about the past in letters would take him away from the war and to a place he remembered being surrounded by happiness and love.



Research Support

You have been given the newspaper that tells of Karl's memorial plaque being unveiled, by one Miss Lilly Hulburt from Motueka.  You are now tasked with discovering more of the story behind Karl Justus Strack. How much of his story can you piece together?  The suggestions below will help you on your research journey. The How We Find It Fact Sheet will also be a helpful tool in helping you discover the pieces of Karl's puzzle.

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You're in luck. Karl served in the New Zealand Army so his records will be able to be found online at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph. This is your most important search.  Collect as much information as you can. Once you've found Karl's Serial Number move to Archway and search for his service documents there.



At the bottom of the newspaper article that describes the unveiling of Karl Strack's Hymn Board is a letter from Karl home describing the last time he would ever see New Zealand. Karl loved music - the article also relates a story of him playing an organ while at the front in a Catholic Cathedral that had been completely destroyed. Can you find the words to the hymn "Day is Dying in the West" - the words at the base of Karl's Hymn Board?

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WHy does the hymn board say 'somewherE in france'?

If you read the letter also included in this kit Samuel Atkinson lists his address as "Somewhere in France but Nowhere Exciting".  'Somewhere' was often used by soldiers when they communicated with home because they weren't allowed to give their exact location. Lily Hulbert chose to put 'somewhere' on Karl's Hymn Board for a different reason though. Karl has no known grave - his body was never found. Use CWGC to see how his name is remembered in France.  


Discover more pieces of Karl's Story.

What happened to Lily Hulbert? 

Karl's family tells us that Lily and Karl were not formally engaged but that they had 'an understanding'. Lily donated the Hymn Board to Karl's Methodist Church in Hawera but did not attend the opening.  We know that Lily was from Motueka in the the South Island. What happened to Lily? Did she ever resolve her grief at losing the man she had promised herself she would marry? Use Papers Past and search for 'Lily Hulbert' to unravel Lily's sory.

what was the Connection between karl strack and Hawera District High School

Our first discovery was of a striking photo of Karl that we found at Nelson Boys' College despite there being no record of his attending there. His family were based in Hawera which is why the Hymn Board was donated to the Hawera Methodist Church. Karl was clearly a smart young man and he won a scholarship to Wellington College where he is remembered on their Roll of Honour. What was his connection to Hawera District School (also known as Hawera Main School and Hawera Public School)? Use Papers Past to search for 'Hawera School'.  What connection do you notice in the articles you find?

What do the mean by a "shadow rested on all such families"?

The New Zealand Division had drawn up a September 1916 list of "Men of Enemy Extraction" and Karl and his brother George were both called into the Base Depot and charged with having German Ancestry. Anti-German feeling was rife in New Zealand. Find out what role Matiu-Soames Island and Motuihe Island played in the lives of Germans in the First World War.

Solve the Unsolvable Mystery.


How was Karl connected to Nelson College?  We know that the Hulbert Family was a Tasman family and that they had been close with the Strack family for many years. Was there some connection between the Hulberts and Nelson Boys College that meant that this beautiful (previously unseen by his family) photo was deposited there for safekeeping? There were no rules for who was included on a Roll of Honour - local committees and councils made up their own criteria.  Karl does not appear on the Roll of Honour at Nelson Boys' College but his photo was obviously left by someone for safekeeping. We wonder if someone investigating Karl's story can find out who?


Search Further


K J Strack's Memorial is connected with the story of Karl Justus Strack who attended Hawera School and Wellington College. The original newspaper is held by Papers Past: National Library of New Zealand #HNS19180826.2.55.1.This story is told with the permission of Carol-Ann Strack Torrie on behalf of the Strack Family.


Find documents connected with the life of Karl Justus Strack here

A Hymn Board in memory of K J Strack

K J Strack's Hymn Board, given by his "intended" Lily Hubert, still hangs in the Wesley Methodist Church in Hawera. The sterling silver Mt Taranaki is still polished and kept shining.

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Wellington College

Karl Strack's photo was discovered by the Walking with an Anzac Team on a visit to Nelson Boys' College Scriptorium. There was no evidence of Karl attending Nelson College and his name was not on their Roll of Honour.  The reason behind his photo being held here was revealed after a conversation with Karl's relative, Carol-Ann. After Karl's death Lily Hubert (the woman who donated the hymn board in Karl's name had taught at Nelson Boys' College. It was perhaps her that left his photo here for safekeeping in the hope that he could be remembered by the school along with others connected to the College.

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Karl Justus Strack 

Karl's handwritten Service Records can be found on Archway here   

Research starting points for Karl's story.


Have you found a new piece to the Karl Justus Strack puzzle? Drop us a line below:

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“My little hymn-book accompanies me in all my journeys.”

Karl Strack's letter home