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This is a quick update on my forthcoming book, Dead Letters: Censorship and subversion in New Zealand , to be published by Otago University Press: In , from deep within the West Coast bush, a miner on the run from the military wrote a letter to his sweetheart. Two months later he was in jail. Like millions of others, his letter had been steamed open by a team of censors shrouded in secrecy.

Using their confiscated mail as a starting point, Dead Letters: Censorship and subversion in New Zealand — reveals the remarkable stories of people caught in the web of wartime surveillance. Among them was a feisty German-born socialist, a Norwegian watersider, an affectionate Irish nationalist, a love-struck miner, an aspiring Maxim Gorky, a cross-dressing doctor, a nameless rural labourer, an avid letter writer with a hatred of war, and two mystical dairy farmers with a poetic bent.

Military censorship within New Zealand meant that their letters were stopped, confiscated and filed away, sealed and unread for over years. Until now. Intimate and engaging, this dramatic narrative weaves together the personal and political, bringing to light the reality of wartime censorship. In an age of growing state power, new forms of surveillance and control, and fragility of the right to privacy, Dead Letters is a startling reminder that we have been here before.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has helped me throughout my research on this work. I could not have done it without your input, so again, thank you very much. The typesetting of Dead Letters has been completed by the capable team at OUP, and will be going to print in December. The Index is the final piece of work, which is being done now. The book will then be launched in March , initially in Wellington. Labels: anti-war , antiwork , aotearoa issues , class , direct action , economics , feminism , history from below , my research , Philip Josephs , police state , radical history , strike action , WW Thursday, September 27, Slow down, comrades!

Labels: antiwork , class , direct action , economics , IWW , my research , protest , radical history. Bell Hill, Dunedin. They helped build the iconic Timeball Station. All of this forced labour was cheap and convenient. But its use was as much about ideology as it was pragmatic.

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Forced labour was a way to instil labour-discipline, just as prison training incentives today try to instil labour-discipline and readiness for the labour market upon release. The idle and disorderly threatened such values, and whether inside a prison or not, had to be contained. Between and the number of people imprisoned rose from 3, to 4, In a time of increased mobility and unemployment, this itinerant prison force was overwhelmingly made up of people charged with vagrancy and other crimes of social control.

By the s, when prisons came under centralised administration, the state met the challenge of inadequate space by forcing prisoners to build the very walls around them. By the late nineteenth century, the focus of building prisons meant there was often little prison labour to spare for other work. Despite this, working hours of 7.

Prisoners were put to work for local corporations and harbour boards at Invercargill, Timaru and Whanganui. In , unfree labour built the breakwater at Ngamotu — the work gangs of prisoners transferred to New Plymouth for the job were marched to work under armed guard, and waited out the tides and bad weather locked behind bars in a cave at the base of one of the Sugarloaf Islands. Locked in cold and filthy conditions, eighteen prisoners died. During the First World War, resisters and conscientious objectors were herded into labour camps across the country and forced to build roads and bridges, or confined to state farms such as Weraroa, where generations of farmers before and since were taught the agricultural skills essential to the settler economy.

Germans and other enemy aliens interned on Matiu Somes Island were forced to labour, violating the Hague Convention, while in Northland over Dalmatians were forced into swamp drainage, railway construction and road-building, despite their willingness to serve in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

A Job to Do New Zealand Soldiers of 'The Div' Write About Their World War Two by John Gordon

On 25 February , a group of about staged a sit-down strike and refused to work. In the melee that followed, thirty-one Japanese were killed instantly, seventeen died later, and about seventy-four were wounded. Japanese prisoner of war making chimneys for state houses. Less known is that some of the timber they used, felled from the great forests owned by the state, were planted and maintained by prison labour.

Unfree labour created valuable state assets. Even the cherished dairy industry was tainted by prison labour. By the s, close to 27, acres of land had been cleared in the central North Island alone. Underpinning it all was a gendered division of labour.

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It was women who did the invisible work that made the public work possible. Women made and mended clothes, washed laundry, sewed mattresses, repaired boots, scrubbed floors, baked bread, and completed a vast array of domestic duties. Prisoners planting trees on the Hanmer Plains. Christchurch City Libraries, PhotoCD 1, IMG Such widespread use of prison labour disrupts the narrative of New Zealand exceptionalism, of the classless, hard-working settler escaping the drudgery of industrialism. Disruptive, too, were some of the incarcerated workers forced to labour for the state. Officials in the s and s were dismayed by the number of prisoners in irons or solitary confinement for refusing to work.

Seafarers and soldiers were especially unruly. Lieutenant Colonel C. Gold, commander of the 65th Regiment, complained in that many of his men preferred to be in gaol, where their subversion of discipline was more appealing than having to serve in the military. In Kaingaroa, Paparua and Waikeria, First World War inmates went on hunger strike, refused to work or initiated go-slows to improve their plight.

At the time of writing, Waikeria was again in the spotlight for its disturbing conditions and confinement of inmates to their cells for up to twenty-two hours a day. Because Dalmatians had worked in wet and difficult conditions as gumdiggers, Cullen believed they would be happy to do forced labour on behalf of the state. He was wrong. It has been said that the essence of imprisonment is organised compulsory work.

It has also been said that capitalism is the subordination of all aspects of life to waged work. Enclosure is the ongoing process of divorcing people from their relationship with the land , from the commons, and from independent means of sustaining life. Enclosing bodies between prison walls is the ultimate expression of that process. In particular, it meant to make land productive and profitable by enclosing it.


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Enclosure and the violence of forced labour permeates the streets we walk every day and the public spaces we take for granted. It is a violence inseparable from colonisation and the dispossession that makes prisons and prison labour in New Zealand possible. And the use of unfree prison labour was there from the beginning. First published by Overland Literary Journal , May Labels: antiwork , colonisation , conscientious objection , economics , history from below , my research , police state , radical history , settler colonialism , strike action , unfree labour , violence.

A Job to Do: New Zealand Soldiers of 'The Div' Write About Their World War Two

Older Posts Home. Remaining detached from the Division the NZ Salvage units establishment was increased to a strength of 1 Officer and 45 Other Ranks, its transport assets were also increase to include one car and five trucks and given the tactical situation ammunition allocation per man was increased from 20 rounds of. August would find the NZ Salvage Unit in Syria and under the command of the 9th Army and operating as Army Troops rather than a Divisional unit as initially intended.

The main point of the submission was that the NZ Salvage Unit since its formation had always been employed as Arny troops outside of the Division. Also given the reinforcement situation its personnel could be better employed within the main NZOC Divisional organisation. The Salvage units contribution to the war effort in the Middle East alongside the other Dominion Salvage Units provided an essential function, collecting, sorting and dispatching battlefield salvage, captured allied and enemy equipment to Workshops and Salvage Depots for repair, recycling and redistribution fighting units.

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It is unfortunate that this crucial administrative war work carried out by one of New Zealand forgotten Ordnance units have been forgotten and it is hoped that future research into this unit will expand on their story. Desert Salvage. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

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Be the first to write a review About this product. How did they spend their time and how did they see their lives as servicemen, from training at home and sailing off to war, to setting up camp, relaxing off-duty, fighting in hostile environments and possibly being taken prisoner? This anthology is a personal selection of material describing the experiences of these men, with the great majority of the collection written from within its ranks. Colloquially known to its members as 'The Div', it was by far the major part of New Zealand's Second Expeditionary Force, making it our main contribution to the war.

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Naturally it had a distinctly New Zealand character, and despite being caught in several difficult situations in its early years - and not necessarily of its own doing - it gained an international reputation for courage, reliability and achievement. In this book John Gordon presents a lively and illuminating selection of the published words of members of 'The Div' or those with close associations. The chosen extracts are drawn from memoirs, fiction, verse, news reports and magazine articles penned by soldiers of all ranks.

The result is a compilation of the written views and experiences of over 80 insiders, creating an intimate glimpse of life and war within 'The Div'. From the declaration of war to the return home, this is a sample of the experiences of well over , New Zealand men who served in the Division: how they coped with discipline and disaster, sacrifice and success. They write with the same frankness, humour, wry cynicism and understatement that they used to cope with the challenges of their war. Additional Product Features Dewey Edition.