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Sound: Marines and military police in New Zealand

Audio file

Hear Ena Ryan talk about US military police and prostitutes in Wellington during the Second World War.


They [the Marines] were very harshly treated indeed by their military police. They really behaved pretty well, all things considered, but if they didn’t behave well they were for it. These military police – I think they were called ‘snow drops’ because of their white helmets – patrolled the town in twos and they had long batons – which I seem to remember were called hickory boughs – and if an American got out of step in any way they cracked him across the shins and as he doubled up and bent forward, they belted into his temple and whether they killed him or not didn’t really seem to matter. For one week in Wellington everybody was talking about some luckless gob who’d got into trouble outside the Hotel Cecil – that used to be down near the station – and the police had just cracked him across the temple and people said there were teeth all over the pavement, and I think he was killed. But you see they had unlimited manpower, their attitude to the men was different from the New Zealand Army’s attitude to the men.

The town seemed to not belong to us any more. It was an American town and there appeared an army of prostitutes; they’d apparently come over from Sydney, long-legged rangy women, not young, dressed not too ostentatiously with a great deal of makeup on and peroxidey hair, but with a sort of aggressive self-confidence. I was sitting in a tram once and looking at the Queen Bee of the prostitutes, her name was Freda – she was a peroxidey blonde and she always used to wear mauve, which is an awful colour to wear – and I was very rudely, I suppose, staring at her and she turned on me and stared me down, I was terrified she was going to fly at me. I suppose a lot of people were shocked at the prostitutes, the hookers, but really I don’t feel that the people who are not going into battle have got any right whatsoever to criticise the doings of the people who are going into battle. Anyhow there were far more shocking things going on, the prostitutes were a very minor affair.


Radio New Zealand Sound Archives
Reference: Spectrum 534, CDR735
Sound files may not be reused without permission from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero.

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Sound: Marines and military police in New Zealand, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated