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'I oppose this, I wish to go'

Audio file

Ross Cooper remembers the war at home

Ross Cooper was born in Helensville in 1923. When the war began he was living and working on the family farm in Waikato. As the war progressed, Ross watched all his friends – the other young men in the district – join up and leave for war. He very much wanted to go himself. But his father, who had fought and been wounded in the First World War, appealed his conscription in court on the grounds that he needed him on the farm. Father and son went to the Huntly courthouse together and put their opposing cases, with Ross saying that he wanted to go to war. The court turned him down, and continued to do so. Because of this Ross found the farewells for other young men in the district particularly difficult.

In this extract Ross recalls opposing his father's appeal, and why he chose not to go to the public dance held in the honour of one of his friends, Russell Clarke, who left to join the air force:


Ross Cooper: I was an unsophisticated lad of 18 and I just had to stand up to it the best way I could.

Interviewer: Did you tell your father that you were going to oppose it?

Ross Cooper: Yes, yes so he knew

Interviewer: And did you argue about it?

Ross Cooper: No, no argument. I never argued with my father.

Interviewer: What did your mother think about it?

Ross Cooper: I think she would have been pleased. She [would have] thought out the implications no doubt. She would also have been conscious that some people would have given it deep thought. Why isn't he in uniform? But as I said I never had any animosity. Now there was a very difficult situation with the Clarke family. I was friends with the whole family, all their children. Now Russell, I went over to him on his final leave and shook his hand.

Interviewer: Why didn't you go to his farewell publicly?

Ross Cooper: It's a public affair, a dance and a … here's me. Although I'd have been 18/19 then, he was probably about 22. Well I’d have been in the eye of all those attending the farewell evening. 'There's his friend, hasn't done anything about it' and I was chancing ridicule. Chancing it. I don't think I got it. I didn't get it personally, openly.

Interviewer: But that's how it felt?

Ross Cooper: Yeah, that's how I felt. I felt they could very well be pointing the finger at me through not serving my country or 'dodgy', as they talked, spoke.  So I kept out of the public view largely but I did endeavour with all my closer friends of being, not at their farewells, but privately of making a point of seeing them.

Ross Cooper

Ross Cooper, 1947 and at home in 2007.


Sound file: Interviewed by Alison Parr, 21 March 2007. From the Civilian New Zealanders in the Second World War Oral History Project, Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
Original interview held in Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Not to be reproduced.

Images: Ross Cooper collection; Alison Parr

How to cite this page

'I oppose this, I wish to go', URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated