The Tiki Times
In the National Army Museum’s Prisoner of War display there is a very special wooden wall that has been signed by many kiwis who experienced part of their war behind the wire.
Amongst the signatures is Bdr H W McCowan who spent time in camps in Libya, Italy, Germany and, finally, Poland. He finished World War II as a prisoner in Stalag E535 at Milwitz, Upper Silesia, before he was liberated by the Russians.
In this camp around 500 New Zealanders were forced to work in a coalmine that was only about 45kms from the Auschwitz concentration camp and McCowan remembered seeing the Germans marching prisoners dressed in striped pyjamas through the snow outside their camp in early January 1945.
During his time at Stalag E535 McCowan helped produce a secret, uncensored camp newspaper called the ‘Tiki Times’. McCowan was one of several columnists for the paper, which was produced under the noses of the German guards. The Tiki Times was written on 12 foolscap pages, with page 1 always identifiable by a green and red painted tiki and mere.
The paper was hand printed in pen and ink and hung on boards in the passage outside the door of Barrack One. According to its editor, Pte J Gallichan, it was always safely hidden when the Gestapo made their rounds and in case it was discovered it wore the mark of a fake German censor-stamp made within the camp.
The Tiki Times was first published in August 1944 and was published weekly for around 6 months, with 24 issues being produced in total. Gallichan said,”It relieved, in some way, the monotony and the weariness in the lives of all of us.”
The last edition was published in January 1945 when the prisoners were marched away from the advancing Russians. The march took 3 months through the sub zero temperatures of winter and of the 500 New Zealand prisoners only 300 were left at the end. Gallichan remembers of the march, “It seared a scar in our minds that will never be removed – but it took us to freedom, blue skies, and home.”
Gallichan carried all the copies of the Tiki Times with him on the march, a major task in itself, until another prisoner who ended up in hospital with a septic foot took it with him promising to look after it.
The National Army Museum has souvenir booklet copies of the Tiki Times in its collection which were compiled by Gallichan after the war.
Take a look at some of our recent military artefact acquisitions.
Check out our Blog for the stories behind some of our other interesting museum artefacts.