Author(s): Graeme Leather
The Home Front: North Otago 1914 -18 describes how people in New Zealand supported the war effort. After the initial patriotic fervour at the outbreak of hostilities, people who could not be combatants, especially women, eagerly set about supporting the men who were volunteering. Funds were raised, all manner of clothing items were knitted or sewn for the army, and socials were organised to farewell the men going overseas. An uneasy alliance of the two main political parties saw the formation of a coalition government, which tried to focus the country’s war effort and control prices. Increasingly harsh restrictions were imposed on people seen as ‘enemy aliens’. However, as the war dragged on, divisions appeared. The horror at the high casualty rate among New Zealand troops at Gallipoli changed the mood of the whole country. The number of men volunteering for army service declined, and the government was forced to introduce conscription. Church services were held for the fallen and to pray for victory. More funds were now needed to help the returning soldiers recover from their injuries and settle back into civilian life. Urban workers, denied pay increases, struggled with the rising cost of living, while rural areas prospered under the commandeering system introduced by the British Government. Poor townspeople, in particular, became increasingly angered that their sacrifices were not being matched by other sectors of the community, and began turning to a new political force — the Labour Party. While most of the photographs and newspaper articles were sourced in the author’s local district, hence the subtitle, similar scenes were playing out across the whole country. Anyone interested in New Zealand social history will find this book an invaluable resource.