'So the end has come-- I shall see you all again' : demobilising the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, November 1918 - September 1919 : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
Demobilisation as an aspect of Military History is not often mentioned. This thesis is a study of the demobilisation of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force from November 1918 until September 1919. At the time of the Armistice with Germany and the Ottoman Empire, there were over 50,000 men and a few women who needed to be repatriated to New Zealand. There was the New Zealand Division on the Western Front which was selected to form part of the occupying force in the Rhine bridgeheads until March 1919 when the final drafts were sent to Britain. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in Palestine would remain there until the last drafts boarded a vessel in August 1919. The base camps in Britain are a study of administrative history as the military infrastructure that supported the NZ Division in the field had to be closed down, the equipment returned to New Zealand or disposed of and the personnel demobilised and repatriated. This study also considers the place of the Maori Pioneer Battalion; along with the NZ Tunnelling Company were the only units of the NZEF to be repatriated as a complete unit. As well as front line units, the sick, wounded, and convalescent men needed to be returned safely to New Zealand along with a selection of war trophies, POWs and non-combatants. The vast network of camps in Britain had to be closed and evacuated. The equipment from the camps needed to be sorted and disposed of or returned to New Zealand and the Imperial Ordnance. Between November 1918 and September 1919 over 50,000 men and women were repatriated to New Zealand from Britain and Egypt. This was a massive task to co-ordinate the vessels with the drafts of men waiting anxiously to go home. The fact it was completed successfully is a testament to the planning undertaken prior to the Armistices by the Empire Military Demobilisation Committee. To keep the men occupied and prepare them for life after the war, the NZEF attempted to implement an education scheme wherever New Zealand troops were camped. Despite the best of intentions, it was singularly unsuccessful; the one real disappointment of the Demobilisation Scheme. The thesis will also comprehensively discuss the presence of ill-discipline during the demobilisation period. In Britain, France, and Egypt New Zealand troops rioted, looted and engaged in murder. This was not a unique phenomenon to the NZEF. All other Dominion and British forces had major incidents of ill-discipline.