Resisting captivity: An analysis of the New Zealand POW experience during World War Two
Johnson, M. (2018). Resisting captivity: An analysis of the New Zealand POW experience during World War Two (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12114
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12114
During World War Two more than 9,000 New Zealand servicemen were captured and imprisoned. Many of these men were confronted by the challenges of disempowerment and a prolonged imprisonment. However, histories of captivity have tended to portray the prisoner-of-war (POW) experience as a continual attempt to disrupt the enemy war effort from behind the wire. More recent scholarly works have challenged this simplistic narrative. This thesis continues this work by emphasising the diversity of resistance and the use of various forms of escapism, both physical and mental, to cope with captivity. In doing so, it explores how men constructed their individual identities, refusing to be labelled as mere prisoners. More than escapees or saboteurs, POWs were active agents in shaping the spaces they inhabited. They implemented elements of their pre-war lives into their daily camp routines. Although these efforts never turned their camps into comfortable environments, they were an escape from the monotony of camp life. Combined with letters from loved ones, shaping the camps into more familiar spaces helped bridge the men’s remoteness from New Zealand. Through a detailed examination of New Zealand POW diaries, letters, memoirs, images and oral histories, this thesis uncovers an intimate depiction of captivity. The men’s individual experiences are at the forefront. In their accounts they recorded vivid accounts of life as POWs. This thesis uses these sources to explore how men came to terms with their captivity, resisted being labelled as prisoners, and coped with being imprisoned so far from home.
The University of Waikato
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