Skip to main content

'Nobody consulted us'

Audio file

Joyce Harrison remembers the war at home

Joyce Harrison was born in Wellington in 1927. During the war her family, the Mortons, also spent time in their bach at Paekākāriki on the Kāpiti Coast, north of the city. This was one of the coastal areas where American troops were based.

In this extract Joyce recalls finding that their property had been taken over by the Marines, and why the small community was wary of being too friendly with these visitors:


Joyce Harrison: We went out there and we found all this scrub and stuff had disappeared off the section. And we found that right on the edge of the bank – because we were on a high sandbank, the section is above the sea – and they had – the Marines, at that stage – had put in a gun emplacement. There wasn’t any gun, to my disappointment. They’d pinched the firewood, driftwood from next door, the chap next door and put a little screen up with that, a kind of a hut over the top, then they’d put greenery, all our greenery on top. And I think that there was a camouflage net that was woven in among it. I imagine that they wove greenery in among it for covering, that sort of thing, for the gun emplacements. Needless to say before very long the chap next door took his firewood back and the whole thing collapsed. But they never put a gun there, so it was evidently just a precaution because it was of course facing straight out onto the Tasman. But we were rather amused at the sort of futility of all this business and rather skinned our section. It was amazing how much stuff they took. There was a lot of mangi-mangi growing on the section, which was springy. We used to use it for mattresses before we had the bach, and in a tent.

Interviewer: So you mean they just stripped all the greenery off your section for this?

Joyce Harrison: Yes, yes, masses of greenery. It was a 1/4-acre section. But they didn’t clean the whole section, but a whole big area was all skinned.

Interviewer: What was your parents’ reaction?

Joyce Harrison: Well they were pretty annoyed, because nobody consulted us. But then they didn’t at that stage. You know, the Marines could do anything. Once they were there they were quite entitled, apparently. You know, given a free hand to do what they liked. They careered around in their trucks round Paekok. They used to offer me brown cartons, cardboard cartons of ice cream, which I wasn’t allowed to take. Drooling over this ice cream.

Interviewer: Why were you not allowed to take it?

Joyce Harrison: Oh, well I think they thought, although I was too young to be lured, I mean I don’t think I was of much interest to them. But everybody was very nervous about the Marines. Because well for one thing the girl next door, something had happened to her and she had to go away. Living next door – the people next door. They had a daughter, who was I suppose perhaps in her 20s. And she mysteriously disappeared at one stage. And there was so much ostracism and bad feeling about this – that she’d fallen – that the parents had to move, quite elderly parents, they had to leave the district. They just felt they couldn’t bear the opprobrium.

Interviewer: So she’d got pregnant?

Joyce Harrison: Mmm, evidently. Well, yes she had. Yes, yes. I don’t think anybody ever said the word. But you know, we knew. It was extraordinary. There were very mixed feelings about them because they used to be invited to people’s homes and they used to take tins of peaches and things that we never saw. I mean it paid to be friendly with the Marines, but not too friendly, you know?

Joyce Harrison

Joyce Harrison at Paekākāriki about 1940, and at home in 2007.


Sound file: Interviewed by Alison Parr, 28 June 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: Joyce Harrison collection; Alison Parr

How to cite this page

'Nobody consulted us', URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated