'Won't You Meet Us Half-way?' The New Zealand Military Service Boards and Conscientious Objectors

dc.contributor.authorLittlewood D
dc.description.abstractThe treatment of conscientious objectors is one of the biggest blots on New Zealand’s First World War record. Many of these individuals were imprisoned and deprived of their civil rights, some were brutalised while confined in domestic army camps, and a few were even forcibly transported to the western front. Historians have identified the nine military service boards, established to determine appeals for exemption from conscription, as playing a significant enabling role in this persecution. Labelled as over-zealous and ignorant jingoists, the boards’ members are said to have been far more concerned with ridiculing conscientious objectors’ beliefs than with properly assessing their claims. This article evaluates such assertions by reference to the exemption hearings that took place during 1917. Although conscription was first implemented in November 1916 and continued until the Armistice, 1917 was the year in which government policies towards conscientious objectors came to be defined, and in which the boards formulated the approach that would guide them throughout their operations. While not denying the boards’ questioning of objectors could be provocative and unsavoury, this article suggests that matters were more nuanced than the historiography indicates. Despite the tightly worded provisions of the Military Service Act, the appeal bodies did at least try to keep many objectors out of prison by offering to recommend them for non-combatant service in the Medical Corps. Moreover, the boards focused the majority of their questioning not on delivering indignant tirades, but on implementing a measured approach that corresponded with their wider efforts to achieve an equality of sacrifice.
dc.identifier.citationBulletin of the Auckland Museum, 2020, 21
dc.publisherAuckland Museum
dc.relation.isPartOfBulletin of the Auckland Museum
dc.title'Won't You Meet Us Half-way?' The New Zealand Military Service Boards and Conscientious Objectors
dc.typeJournal article
pubs.notesNot known
pubs.organisational-group/Massey University
pubs.organisational-group/Massey University/College of Humanities and Social Sciences
pubs.organisational-group/Massey University/College of Humanities and Social Sciences/School of Humanities, Media & Creative Communication