'I thought of my brothers'

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. Her desire to be an army nurse was influenced by her father’s memories of the nurses who had tended to him in the First World War.

Her father served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He was wounded and struggled to hold his life together after his return. He had ongoing physical problems as a result of his shrapnel injuries. He suffered from nightmares and eventually had what was called an emotional breakdown.

In this extract Mae talks about the country's allegiance to Britain – but she also remembers her feelings when the Second World War began:


Mae Carson: We seemed to be part of Britain then. Yes. Very much, very much so.

Interviewer: What were attitudes in your house towards England and the Empire at that stage?

Mae Carson: I think probably the attitude of most people that we were part of the Empire and when Savage said where Britain goes we go I think that it was very much accepted that that was it was to be.

Interviewer: So when it became clear that war was really going to happen what were your feelings about that? I mean can you remember?

Mae Carson: Oh dread, terror.  I can remember the day war was declared and going in on the tram to work and there were big headlines, big billboards: 'It's war'. That's all it said. Great big, black.  And I thought of my brothers. That was my first thought, my brothers going to go through what my dad went through. That was mostly what was going through my head.

Mae Carson

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


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