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Escorting German prisoners in Wellington, 1914


One of the more unusual duties undertaken by the Railway Corps in the early weeks of the war was guarding German residents – mostly military reservists, merchant seamen or non-naturalised German subjects – who had been arrested as enemy aliens. This photograph shows railwaymen escorting 32 prisoners who arrived in Wellington by train from Auckland on 11 August 1914. More than 500 enemy subjects were to be interned in New Zealand during the war.

 According to a newspaper report:

The grim earnestness of war was brought home to the small group of people who watched the arrival of the Auckland troop train this morning, when it was seen that three of the carriages contained German prisoners, who had been arrested in the North. On the platforms of the carriages were guards with fixed bayonets, to see that no attempt was made by the captives to regain their liberty. Altogether there were 32 of them, and as they put their heads out of the windows it was observed that mostly they were young men who would be liable to serve in the army of the Fatherland. Double lines from the ranks of the railway corps were drawn up on the platform, with fixed bayonets, and under a strong escort the Germans were taken to the Alexandra Barracks, via Jervois-quay.… Accompanying the escort were a couple of officers with drawn swords, while at the rear rode two mounted police constables. The men will in all probability be interned at Somes Island, which has been appointed as a place for the detention of prisoners of war. [1]

[1] Evening Post, 11 August 1914, p. 8



Auckland Weekly News, 20 August 1914

Auckland City Libraries
Ref: AWNS-19140820-49-1

How to cite this page

Escorting German prisoners in Wellington, 1914, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated