Our Research Report - By Sinead Burns, Lara Sell, Sofia Schollum
For our Blog post we are reporting on our research focus - What were the government’s policies (New Zealand) towards pacifists in World War One?
During World War 1 and many other wars in general, there has been a wide expectation that all men had an obligation to fight.
Introduced in 1912, the Defence Amendment Act stated that appropriate punishment would follow any objection to conscription. The punishment would include formal prosecution. As World War one progressed, pacifist movements grew amongst indigenous, Christian and socialist groups. This went against the Military Service Act in 1916, which was extended to Maori in 1917. Reception of objectors was hostile and objectors’ actions were interpreted as serious offences against the nation and the British Empire.
Pacifists were sent to prison camps following November 1916. The more active and uncooperative pacifists were ‘made examples of’ and subject to solitary confinement, quarry work and punishments such as beatings and food deprivation. Some were even sent to Western Front conflict zones and were made to fight otherwise facing further punishment. The British Government in 1917 condemned New Zealand for sending conscientious objectors to war and so in 1917 prisoners were no longer deported to war but they were not released and formal sentences remained. After the war there was no longer a need to fight and conscription ceased, however known objectors to the war were denied their voting rights and prevented from working in governmental positions for 10 years after the war.