New Zealand Home Front – 1939-45 History
Leading into WW2 New Zealand was unprepared – her Armed Forces had been run down after WW1 and at the outbreak of the war had to immediately start to rebuild her Army and Airforce in particular.
The Army sent troops from New Zealand initially to fight in a European war – although they ended up in the Greece, Crete, the desert and eventually – in Italy. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 1941 – the Government became concerned of a threat of invasion and so started to prepare in earnest.
They started a concerted effort to recruit members of the public – both male and female – into building up numbers in a variety of roles – from Home Guard, Emergency Protection Services, Land Armies and Fire, Ambulance and Medical Services - for example. Those men who may have not passed as “A1” and fit for front line service in the Armed Services – where encouraged to enlist in the Home Guard or EPS along with WW1 Veterans or older members of the community too old for frontline service. Teenage Boys too while awaiting call up – also joined.
Women dug ditches, produced ammunition or weapons, drove trucks, worked on farms and generally filled the gaps left by men overseas or in other services at home. They also “joined” up and served in the Armed Forces at home in a variety of roles. At its peak close to 250,000 men and women actively participated in the “defence” of New Zealand. As American Troops started to arrive in NZ before heading into the Pacific to fight the Japanese and the threat of invasion reduced – the Government started to reduce the service sizes and so numbers of NZ citizens needed in these services reduced. By 1945 the country was secure and for example the Home Guard had ceased to exist. Although a lot of the infrastructure still existed and some still exists today.