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Homefront

During World War II wartime propaganda was in full swing: recruitment posters asking men to enlist, posters urging workers to try harder, advertisements encouraging shoppers to buy particular brands of goods, and campaigns emphasising the need to conserve scarce materials appeared in newspapers and on billboards around the country.

As World War II raged in Europe and North Africa, at home New Zealand underwent a friendly invasion of American troops. Between 1942 and 1944, over 100,000 troops were stationed in New Zealand for varying periods. These men made a huge impact on New Zealand society. With them coffee houses and milk bars sprung up. Taxi drivers, florists, jewellers and hotel owners experienced a boom. A lively nightlife developed in Auckland and Wellington and Kiwi women were swept off their feet to the tunes of the American “big band” music.

War not only brought about significant changes in the role of women, but also in the way men perceived that role. Apart from nurses, women’s contribution to the Boer War and World War I were passive: caring for the family, raising funds, organising sewing and knitting bees to ensure their men had a few extra comforts in the frontline, and helping disabled soldiers convalesce.

In World War II – due to unprecedented strains on manpower for combat duties and essential industry – New Zealand saw women taking on many of the non-combatant roles in the services. Women also took up positions in the industrial workforce.

Whilst many felt there was little likelihood of an invasion back home, they still htough it would be good to be prepared so the Home Guard was formed in 1940. This was a voluntary force to support the defence of the country, who would work evenings and weekends. It was unpaid and open to all males over the age of 16 who were not already in the Armed Forces. At the height of its strength the Homeguard numbered over 124,000 men – the single largest force ever mobilised by New Zealand.