The North African Campaign

Page 7 – Kiwi stories

War is often thought of as constant front-line action, but in reality troops are often out of the lines, training or on leave. Listen to the experiences of New Zealand soldiers behind the frontline during the North African campaign, 1940-1943. The extracts below have been drawn from interviews in Megan Hutching's book The Desert Road: New Zealanders Remember the North African Campaign, published in 2005. Each image (other than the last) links to an audio extract and an interview transcript.

Sergeant Watt McEwan, Divisional Signals

Sergeant Watt McEwan

Watt McEwan, a sergeant with Divisional Signals, left New Zealand with the Fifth Reinforcements on board the Mauretania in 1941. In October 1942 he became the radio operator on Major-General Bernard Freyberg's communications tank. Here he describes the delights of the Burqa, the brothel district in Cairo. Listen here...

Second Lieutenant James Barclay, 27th (Machine Gun) Battalion

Second Lieutenant James Barclay

Jim Barclay fought with 27th (Machine Gun) Battalion during the North African campaign. After returning to New Zealand on furlough in February 1944, he was sent to Italy, before finally returning home in 1945. Here Jim recalls going to the pictures at the infamous Shafto's cinema at Maadi Camp. Listen here...

Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence Wright, New Zealand Medical Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Wright

Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Wright was a doctor in the New Zealand Medical Corps. After a short time at Maadi Camp near Cairo, Lawrence was posted to 2nd (NZ) General Hospital at Helwan. When the hospital moved to Gerawla, near Mersa Matruh on the Mediterranean coast, he helped set it up but was also sports officer, responsible for making a rugby field. Listen here...

Private George Mackay, 23rd Battalion

Private George Mackay

Private George Mackay went overseas in December 1942 with the Eighth Reinforcements. He joined 23rd Battalion as a Bren gunner at Tripoli early in 1943. Before joining up with his battalion, George had the opportunity to experience the Cairo nightlife. Listen here...

Eleanor Fraser, Women's War Service Auxiliary

Eleanor Fraser

Eleanor served with the Women's War Service Auxiliary (WWSA) during the Second World War. In September 1941, she and 29 other young women left New Zealand for Egypt to work as ‘Tuis’ in the New Zealand Forces Club. Read more...

How to cite this page

'Kiwi stories', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Apr-2021