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Prisoners of War

Page 9 – Repatriation

Attention was given to the problem of repatriating POWs long before 1945. A New Zealand repatriation unit was established in the United Kingdom under the command of Major-General Howard Kippenberger in late 1944. With its headquarters at Westgate in Kent, this unit had wings at Folkestone, Cliftonville and Broadstairs, and a hospital at Haine, to receive 2NZEF POWs, who were expected to arrive from the continent in an orderly sequence. Separate arrangements were made for air force and naval POWs, with the former going to a camp at Brighton.

The first draft of about 500 POWs left for New Zealand at the end of May 1945, and by the end of August more than 4000 were home.

In the Far East, the repatriation of New Zealand POWs was assisted by the despatch to Singapore of a flight of RNZAF transport aircraft, specially fitted with bunks, as soon as the war ended. Most of New Zealand's surviving POWs of the Japanese were home within two months of Japan's capitulation.

After the war

Following their return home, New Zealand's POWs sought to resume their civilian lives. Many found the adjustment difficult. After living cheek by jowl with other men for many years, most sought peace and quiet as they put the period of deprivation behind them (though the cumulative effects of imprisonment would compromise their health in later years).

Undaunted by their captivity, most had set out to make the best of their situation. A sense of humour, self-discipline and courage had allowed them to get through periods of crisis, and to demonstrate their moral superiority over their captors as the war progressed. Friendships made in camp would endure for the rest of their lives. Although their experience of combat had ended in an unexpected way, they had been conscious that they were engaged in a new form of confrontation with the enemy.

How to cite this page

Repatriation, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated