Somes Island Internment Camp for enemy aliens during the First World War : an historical enquiry : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University

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Massey University
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New Zealand's history undoubtedly contains many unusual situations that await reassessment, and it is only natural that some of these situations will show the country,or its government, or its people in a less than pleasant light. This country prides itself on its fair-mindedness, concern for others and a wide range of positive attributes, yet the First World War prejudice that targeted New Zealand's ethnic minorities of "enemy origin" - with its epicenter based on Somes Island - places considerable pressure on those beliefs. New Zealand was, of course, not alone in its response to the effects of that war nor to the planned anti-German propaganda campaign which occurred at that time. Matiu/Somes Island, located on Wellington's doorstep, is largely ignored on a daily basis by thousands of people. Some aspects of its history seem relatively well-known, for example, its long career as quarantine station for both humans and livestock. Even the internment camp on the island in World War Two is increasingly well-known and well-documented. On the other hand, New Zealand's first prisoner of war internment camp for so-called "enemy aliens" remained a mystery until now. Beneath this largely forgotten camp, however, there lies an enormous archival iceberg. The New Zealand Government solved a potential local and international problem in 1919, by shipping most of it back to Europe. At the same time it also shipped out out of sight a significant aspect of the country's social history.
Prisoners of war, New Zealand, Matiu/Somes Island, History