"The Living Death": The Repatriation Experience of New Zealand's Disabled Great War Servicemen
The New Zealand government committed over 100,000 men to active service during the Great War of which around 40,000 returned injured. Due to the severity of their disabilities many wounded servicemen required ongoing medical care and were unable to return to their former employment. New Zealand introduced a variety of repatriation initiatives during the 1920s and 1930s to aid the Great War’s struggling wounded soldiers and restore them to their traditional masculine role as independent wage-earners and useful citizens. ‘The Living Death’ uses a variety of qualitative sources including state-based documents, newspapers, journals and oral history as well as a quantitative sample from military personnel files. Using these sources this thesis explores the medical treatment, pensioning and employment assistance offered by state and society to disabled soldiers in order to elucidate how New Zealand’s wounded ex-servicemen experienced and negotiated the cultural issues of disability, masculinity and citizenship in the post-war period. I argue that these men were identified as a class apart from other disabled persons in the immediate aftermath of the war, but that this identity began to fade once the economic conditions worsened, war memory faded and as some wounded ex-servicemen failed to complete a successful transition into civilian life.