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The Second World War at home

Page 1 – Introduction

Civilian New Zealanders remember

Civilian New Zealanders were relatively lucky in the Second World War. They were spared the death and destruction on home soil that millions endured in Britain, Europe, Asia, the Pacific and, briefly, Australia. They also escaped the tyranny of occupation. But for most, life changed. Families and relationships were disrupted, government directives controlled people’s lives and, for many, there was the constant threat of terrible loss.

When the Second World War began in September 1939, just over 1,630,000 people lived in New Zealand. Although, over the next six years, 140,000 left for overseas service, nearly one and half million people remained at home. Many of them felt they were embarking into 'the great unknown'. That uncertainty would continue for six years.

How to cite this page

The Second World War at home, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated