Field Punishment No.1

The story of 14 conscientious objectors who were arrested and shipped off to WW1 against their will. This gripping telefeature is made by Lippy Pictures for TVNZ 1.

Field Punishment No. 1 brings us a story from WW1 that many people will not know. It's about 14 men who made a principled stand against war - and who ended up in the thick of it.

On the battlefields and in the military prisons of Britain and France they were stigmatised and tortured in an attempt to break their spirit. This story revolves around the experience of our most famous 'conchie' Archibald Baxter, father of James K. Baxter.

Directed by Peter Burger, it was written and produced by Donna Malane and Paula Boock of Lippy Pictures.

Donna Malane and Paula Boock share their thoughts on this remarkable film.

On why it was important to tell this story as a drama

Well of course we are primarily drama makers because we love story; drama invites people to experience events from inside a character whereas documentary focuses more on the external events.

Creating a drama based on fact is challenging because you have to find a ‘truthful’ balance between what you know happened and what you don’t know, in other words, inevitably you have to make some things up. The challenge, and it's one we don’t ever take lightly, is to find that truth.

The challenges of scripting and filming

Recreating WW1 Europe in 1917 during a high Auckland summer drought was definitely a challenge for the designer. Convincing viewers that we are on a troop ship at sea took some judicious shooting. Convincingly shooting the field punishment scenes inside a studio was a challenge but one that we believe paid off. Extras is always something NZ budgets have to compromise on, we just can’t afford the numbers of extras that ideally we would like. In a story such as this that was a real difficulty that we had to address as creatively as we could.

In terms of the script there were a number of challenges; at what stage of the story to start the narrative, the shifts back and forwards in time was something we thought hard about and what we could or should leave out. The tone of the script being true to fact and yet bearable for viewers to watch for 90 minutes. 

Field Punishment No. 1's place in our cultural history

The story of the conscientious objectors is a significant story in New Zealand’s history and one that is not well known at all. Our film does not in any way lessen the respect and honour afforded to those men who died fighting in the first world war. What it does do is honour those men who did everything they could do to stop the war.


Field Punishment No. 1 is made by Lippy Pictures for TVNZ 1

1 x 120 mins

NZ On Air funding $2,742,840

Field Punishment No 1 is well acted, superbly located and scripted, and will be a treasure for generations to come.

— Jane Clifton - reviewer Dominion Post, April 24 2014

Audience reach


Number of people aged 5+ on average who watched the film, sourced from Nielsen Television Audience Measurement.


Percentage of people aged 5+ on average who watched the film, sourced from Nielsen Television Audience Measurement.

Watch this show

This show is now off-air but is available On Demand.

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