The Reality of Return: Exploring the Experiences of World War One Soldiers after Their Return to New Zealand
The focus of this thesis is the lives of New Zealand's returned Great War soldiers. This thesis explores the experiences of men who did not successfully repatriate as a counterpoint to the experiences of those who did, and argues that men's return to New Zealand and their post war lives were shaped by many factors including access to employment and good health. Many returned soldiers were able to resume their lives on return and led relatively happy and successful lives. For these men, their success seems to have come from the ability to find or resume employment, good health, family support, and financial support. For those who did not, one or more of these factors was often missing, and this could lead to short or long term struggle. The 1920s form the backdrop of this thesis, and were a time of uncertainty and anxiety for returned men and their families. The disillusionment of the 1920s was exacerbated by men's nostalgia for New Zealand which they built up during the war. Tens of thousands of men returned to New Zealand from war with dreams and hopes for the future. The horrors of war had given men an idealistic view of peaceful New Zealand, and dreams of home comforts and loved ones had sustained these men through their long absence. For those who returned to find life difficult, the idealistic view of New Zealand as a land of simplicity and happiness would have been hard to maintain. Chapter 1 demonstrates the idealisation of New Zealand and 'home' built up by soldiers and their families during the war. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 use the lenses of employment, illness – specifically tuberculosis – and alcoholism to argue that for many men and their families, the 1920s were an extension of the anxieties and separation of the Great War years. Sadly, for some, their lives were forever marred by the spectre of war and what their absence from home cost them.