'I thought of all the terrible six years they'd been'

Mae Carson remembers the war at home

Mae Carson was born in Wellington in 1923. She left school at 13, working at home and then as a tailor's apprentice. In 1941 she began training as a nurse at Wellington Hospital in the hope of joining the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) and travelling overseas.

During her training, in the summer of 1943, Mae met and fell in love with Dick, an American Marine. After seeing each other just a few times he left for the war in the Pacific. Mae initially received two letters from Dick but after these there was nothing. She never learnt what became of him.

In 1944 Mae graduated, but her hope of serving as a nurse overseas was not fulfilled. She continued to work at Wellington Hospital where she nursed men who had returned home with war injuries.

In this extract Mae talks about what she remembers about the war ending and what her thoughts were at the time:


Mae Carson: I was on night duty, so I was sleeping during the day. And I can remember whooping and carrying on out in the corridors and out on the courtyard. And I got up and asked what was going on. 'Oh the war's over, the war's all over'. And most of them were going to go into town and whoop it up. I went back into my room and back into bed and reflected I think… Six years… I'm perhaps not the usual run of mortals.

I thought of all the terrible six years they'd been. And I reflected on all the people who are still going to suffer. I remembered the boys that I'd nursed, and what had happened to Dick. And Europe was in a mess, a dreadful mess. What was the future going to be like? I suppose I thought all those things.

Mae Carson

Mae Carson in Wellington Hospital, 1942 and at home in 2008.


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