The Home Front Volume I
CHAPTER 9 — The Menace of Japan
The Menace of Japan
AT the start of the war there was suspicion of Japan rather than fear. Its war with China was remote, although the Tokyo Agreement of July 1939 wherein Britain promised to avoid any action which might obstruct the Japanese or benefit the Chinese was attacked by some Labour members as the ‘Eastern Munich’.
There was strong faith in Singapore. Few realised that the effectiveness of the naval base depended on a fleet being sent there and that by 1939 this basis of Pacific strategy had become highly improbable.1 The fall of the Netherlands and France in mid-1940 withered the last prospects of British naval protection from Singapore and made unstable their mosaic of imperial holdings around Japan; Fraser saw that he must look to America.
In July 1940 Japan’s demand that Britain close the Burma Road through the Yunnan mountains, by which supplies trickled to China, was perforce obeyed for three months in which peace with China was supposed to be attempted. The embargoes which America imposed at this stage, nominally for its own defence needs, on high quality scrap-iron and on aviation gasolene were of limited force as other grades of oil were available and could be converted to aviation fuel. There were 23 million barrels of American oil in the 37.1 million which Japan imported in 1940.2 In September the government of French Indo–China permitted Japan to establish garrisoned air bases in the north and to use the area as a corridor for troops and supplies against China, thus providing stepping-stones for later southward moves by Japan. At the same time the Tripartite Pact between Japan and the Axis proclaimed the leadership of Japan in greater East Asia, of Germany and Italy in Europe, and the three powers agreed to help each other should any be attacked by a power not yet in the war. It was designed to frighten America away from upholding the existing order in the Pacific and, although met with outward nonchalance, it hardened American attitudes towards the approach of war.3page 315
During the following year there were repeated assertions of Japanese plans for its ‘greater co-prosperity sphere’ in a vaguely defined Asian-Pacific area. New Zealand comforted itself with certainty that, if these went too far, America would check Japanese expansion, and also that Japan was bogged down in China. A succession of minor crises in Japanese-Western relations bubbled through newspaper columns with alternating hopes of peace and fear of war. In March 1941 Indo–China and Thailand accepted Japanese mediation in a border dispute, emphasising Japan’s leadership in East Asia. At about the same time America’s support of Britain was notably strengthened by its Lend-Lease Act. April brought the five-year Soviet–Japanese neutrality pact, while a Canterbury farmer, deploring his neighbours’ Home Guard apathy, pictured such delinquents ‘in the shafts of a rickshaw trotting a Japanese officer over the property from which they once derived a comfortable living.’4 In late July, when Japan obtained bases in southern Indo-China, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands government-in-exile denounced aggression and froze Japanese assets, notably checking its imports of oil. The Press on 20 August explained that the democracies’ half measures achieved a sort of balance: giving China just enough to keep it fighting, squeezing Japan hard enough to make it aware of their power, not hard enough to provoke war. In August Churchill and Roosevelt, meeting in the Atlantic, established that if America’s efforts for peaceful settlement failed, Britain would be a forthright ally. Japanese negotiators continued to discuss their differences with Cordell Hull,5 urging that America should stop helping China, encourage China into peaceful economic collaboration with Japan, and lift restrictions on shipping and commerce. America required that Japan should separate from the Axis, withdraw troops from China and Indo–China, renounce further aggression and permit equal trading rights to all nations in the Pacific. The likelihood of war persuaded New Zealand politicians, without dispute, to postpone the distraction of the election due towards the end of the year.
The see-saw of news and opinion continued between forecasts of Japan’s attack, triggered by that country’s narrowing oil supply and the expected collapse of Russia, reeling under the German advance, and confidence that Japan could be held in check by the combined strength of America, Britain and the Dutch.page 316
On Monday 8 December 1941, morning papers reported that very large Japanese convoys had been sighted in the Gulf of Siam, that in Singapore all able-bodied men could be conscripted either into the forces or to assist them at the ‘moment of actual or apprehended attack’, and that Australia was arranging to convoy its ships on vital routes.
Across the dateline, at Hawaii at 7.50 on the morning of Sunday 7 December (1.50 am, 8 December, New Zealand time), Japanese carrier-borne aircraft surprised and bombed Pearl Harbour, where most of the United States Pacific fleet was anchored. Within hours came reports of attacks on Guam, the Philippines, Thailand, northern Malaya, Hong Kong, northern Borneo, on Wake, Midway, Nauru, Tarawa and Ocean islands, on Rangoon and Singapore. All began with air and naval strikes but, save at Singapore, Rangoon, Midway, Nauru, Ocean Island and at Pearl Harbour itself, land assaults speedily followed.
That Japan had struck was not surprising; peace in the Pacific had grown very thin. But the lightning-swift blows at so many places almost at once, and in particular the skill and audacity of the Pearl Harbour attack staggered New Zealand as it staggered America. Pearl Harbour’s strength had been extolled for months. It was the headquarters of the Pacific fleet, the emblem of America’s technological supremacy; it was 3400 miles from Tokyo and not much more than 2000 from San Francisco. Such attack, by all expectation, should have been blasted from the skies. Pan American Airways’ staff at Auckland were incredulous; not till late on Monday afternoon were successive bulletins accepted as facts, along with certainty that the raiding ships would be cut off, that Japan had sent its oldest ships and was prepared to sacrifice them. ‘Those aircraft carriers will never get back to Japan.’6
The attack was a diplomatic short-circuit, without the formality of an ultimatum, made while Japanese envoys were still talking in Washington. Cordell Hull spoke of lies and distortion, Roosevelt of infamy, while New Zealand editors dwelt on the success of surprise and treachery, with expectations of swift Allied riposte, and some criticism of American complacency. ‘Why do the nations … so furiously rage against the Japanese…. The blame rather lies with those who allowed themselves to be so thoroughly gulled, and the watchmen who slumbered’.7
The jolt of Pearl Harbour was made worse by the loss on 10 December of the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse, lately arrived at Singapore, which had steamed north page 317 to check landings on the Malay isthmus only to be sunk by land-based aircraft.8 Thereafter, a dreary cycle of attack, brief resistance and collapse was tediously repeated. Thailand yielded in a day, easing access to Burma and Malaya. British Borneo was invaded on 16 December, Wake Island was taken on the 23rd, Hong Kong yielded at Christmas, with no immediate mention of the 12 000 prisoners taken; Kuching, capital of Sarawak, was occupied on 30 December, and paratroops seized airfields in Sumatra; Manila fell on 5 January, though on Bataan peninsula MacArthur’s9 forces were stubborn.
After Pearl Harbour, for a few days, the sound of an aeroplane caused ordinary people to wonder for a moment, ‘Is it ours?’, and as the Japanese continued to strike unchecked, an astonished and almost defenceless New Zealand faced up to the idea of attack within weeks or even days. ‘Preparation without panic’ was the phrase of Jones, the Defence Minister; there were no calls for massive volunteer movements, and most people continued their routine lives until the government or civic authorities encroached upon them.
Obviously the first step was to increase home defenders; 4600 men of Territorial and National Military Reserve units were immediately summoned as fortress troops to the defended ports, to coast guarding, and other vital areas.10 For some 21 000 Territorials due to start two months’ training on 10 January, mobilisation began on 15 December ‘for the duration’, and several schools were taken over as temporary accommodation. A ballot due to be gazetted on 20 January would call up 27 104 single and childless married men for Territorial service, but to hasten military intake the Minister of Defence, on 19 December, called for volunteers to the National Military Reserve, aged between 21 and 55 years with not more than three dependent children. Previously the Reserve was for ex-servicemen only, but now the limitation was cast aside: an early start in the Reserve, urged Jones, would give men soon to be called up an opportunity for military training that would stand them in good stead when they were balloted.
What were the domestic effects, if any, wrought by this nearer war, breaking three weeks before Christmas? There was at once a page 318 rush, speedily checked by the government, of private motorists to buy petrol with all available coupons; there was also a rush, checked by the limits of retail supply and the discretion of grocers, to buy sugar and tea. Then, on 16 December, came restrictions on train travel, and heavy reductions in petrol for public and commercial use, which cut transport services in all directions and gradually reached far into daily life. There was also, for about 10 days, a check in pre-Christmas routines, almost a wondering whether everything would continue as usual, induced by the news, the trench-digging, and the military stand-to.
With minor adjustments, New Zealand had been set for a normal Christmas, with heavy bookings for trains and holiday resorts. Apart from mobilisation, and cancellation of leave and travel, the season passed largely as planned. Shops were well stocked with gifts and general goods. For about ten days after Pearl Harbour there was a marked flattening of trade, but by 18 December shopkeepers were saying that tension was easing, people were adjusting; by Monday the 22nd a Wellington manager believed that even an enemy landing at Waikanae beach would not stop the city celebrating Christmas in the time-honoured fashion,11 and on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day most of the main dailies reported a brisk season with returns as high as or higher than the previous year’s. Lack of overseas goods, page 319 which had long caused irritation, was now accepted, making shopping easier. Unable to travel, people spent more freely on gifts and provisions, with a ‘Let’s have a decent Christmas while we can’ feeling. As yet petrol was the only thing rationed. Most items of the usual cheer, such as hams, nuts, raisins and chocolates, were plentiful, though canned fruit, especially popular as a holiday luxury when most households did not have refrigerators, was scarce. Christmas cakes were as abundant as ever,12 though wine and spirits were not, and there was a shortage of bottles of beer.13 High prices for fowl food and fewer small producers had lessened the supply and raised the cost of poultry.14
For various reasons, including a late, cold spring and the demands of military camps, vegetables were scarce and dear. Even potatoes were selling at £46 a ton wholesale instead of the £12 to £14 usual at this season, retailing at 6d and 7d a lb—which put the humble potato into the rank of luxury foods. The Price Tribunal ordered growers to charge no more than £20 a ton and brought the retail price down to 3½d a lb or lower.15
On Christmas Eve, though in most places shops were open till 10 pm, there was no last-minute rush. Streets were darkened, few soldiers were about as leave was restricted, and there were very few cars or taxis, while trams and buses were crammed; Auckland’s crowds were smaller than usual, and went home earlier; they were a little subdued and the boisterous hilarity customary among the young people was missing. At Wellington the Post noticed less frivolity, more sense of family reunion, a feeling that pleasure and ease were slipping behind, and that heedless expense was not only unwise but not in the best form. At Christchurch, where Christmas Day was usually welcomed by a cheery gathering in Cathedral Square, the streets emptied soon after the cinemas, and when the Post Office clock struck midnight the only sign of festivity was one ‘cheerful gentleman’ singing Silent Night. Dunedin, perhaps helped by its twilight, perhaps by a southern sense of security, had large and happy crowds shopping till 10 pm, and 10 trams left the city at midnight. Though coloured lights and festoons were missed, there was much gaiety in the streets, even after the shops closed, with fireworks exploding, and with squeakers and other noisy instruments, as at other Christmas Eves; the spirit, especially of younger page 320 people, ‘was happy and often boisterous—perhaps a reaction from so much grimness during the year.’16
Christmas holidays, focal point of much family life, were eroded by lack of petrol, restriction of train travel, and, in some industries, by work continuing. On 11 December Fraser strongly urged people to stay at home, cancelling holiday arrangements; after 13 December all petrol for private cars was stopped indefinitely and people were asked to conserve what was in their car tanks ‘for themselves or the country’ in the emergency.17 From 20 December till after New Year, all excursion and extra trains for distances of more than 100 miles were cancelled. People with bookings on normal trains had to apply again for reservations, giving reasons for their journeys. Trains were, of course, the main method of travel, and record bookings had been made, some for as far ahead as Easter 1942. Fifteen trains had been expected to leave Auckland on Christmas Eve, eight of them for Wellington, and the cancellation affected 50 000 seats from Auckland alone. There had been heavy bookings at resorts such as Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, Queenstown, Milford Track, Rotorua, Wairakei, Waikaremoana, Wanganui River, the Chateau, the Hermitage and Stewart Island, which were now out of range for most.18 Some of the time and money usually devoted to holidays went into shopping; drapers in mid-January reported that women were stocking up on household linen and all kinds of clothing except hats and summer frocks.19
War and work encroached on many holidays. The Territorial and National Military Reservists, hastily packed into fortress areas and training camps, made gaps in many homes. All police leave was cancelled on 9 December, and on 17 December hurriedly prepared regulations decreed that in all industries and undertakings concerned with the war effort and maintaining essential supplies, holidays should not begin before Christmas Day and should end on Sunday 4 January. Some had even less time off: the Colonial Ammunition Company agreed to work on, except for Christmas Day;20 the railway workshops, which normally gave their men annual leave at Christmas, closed only for Christmas Day and Boxing Day;21 girls on an Army mattress order worked well publicised overtime (nearly 12 hours a day) on Boxing Day and the day after.22page 321
Coal was chronically short for many reasons, including unseasonably cold weather, and now a reserve of 80 000 tons was wanted. Normally, mines would have closed between Friday 19 December and Tuesday 6 January. (The extra Monday was to be taken in lieu of King’s Birthday worked the previous year). At the government’s request, miners in the Waikato, the Grey and the Buller agreed to work on Saturday 20th, and on 22 to 24 December, and to resume on 5 January,23 although actually very few in the Waikato came to work on Christmas Eve,24 while the Denniston mine near Westport kept the normal holidays,25 as did the Kano and Hikurangi mines in Northland.26
There was no immediate check to racing and to some this seemed inconsistent. For instance, soon after Pearl Harbour a newspaper correspondent deplored that racing broadcasts continued unabated, ‘before and after news announcements, every half-hour and hour’; no wonder there was a complacent attitude everywhere; the continual cry from Cabinet ministers for increased production was simply ‘a repetitive bleat’ in these circumstances.27 On 15 December the Minister of Internal Affairs, with full agreement from the New Zealand Racing Conference,28 announced that while Christmas and New Year meetings would not be affected, there would in future be no racing on working days. Racing and trotting meetings then totalled 320 days a year; on Saturdays, racing 134, trotting 50; public holidays, racing 30, trotting 8; working days, racing 76, trotting 22.29 There was no call, however, for a complete recreational blackout, for in a long war some recreation would be needed. Meanwhile, though the Commissioner of Transport had rather apologetically included horse-floats in the general petrol cut-off after 13 December, horses, unlike people, were not restricted on trains.30 In Minhinnick’s cartoon, a horse sneered while a guard looking like Peter Fraser turned away a family with suitcases: ‘Sorry, sir, wartime emergency, no body allowed to travel more than 100 miles except racehorses.’31 But a trotting official probably spoke for many in saying that it was necessary to consider depression and the lowering of morale; people would ‘want somewhere to go’.32 Four meetings were page 322 abandoned for such reasons as military occupation of race courses,33 while bad weather and lack of petrol cut racing crowds although, for instance, hundreds of cars appeared at Ellerslie,34 Totalisator returns, compared with the last year’s, fell at nine of the eleven gallop meetings (Greymouth and Hawke’s Bay were the exceptions), and five of the seven trots (Westport and again Greymouth having increases). The combined tally was £935,964, down by £377,538 from the record £1,313,502 of the Christmas before, and by £258,350 from the 1939–40 score.35
It was a gloomy holiday. The news was disastrous and the weather so remarkably cold and stormy that it made cancellations and early returns to work easier: a Wellington cartoonist suggested that the petrol restriction had saved many people from a very uncomfortable Christmas in fly-away tents.36 There remained the quiet pleasures of visiting friends by bus, working at odd jobs such as the shelter trench, and going to films. Cinemas offered cheerful diversion and were well filled. Apart from Burma Convoy (‘heroes on death’s highroad, dodging bombs and bullets’), there was very little war about; at Wellington for instance there was Bob Hope in Nothing but the Truth, Sonja Henie in Sun Valley Serenade, with Glen Miller’s band; Deanna Durbin in It Started with Eve; the Marx Brothers in The Big Store; a new star, Red Skelton, in Whistling in the Dark; Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and Walt Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon.37 By 10 January there was not a serious film showing. The fare then included a ventriloquist’s dummy in Look Who’s Laughing, Great Guns with Laurel and Hardy, In the Navy (Bud Abbott and Lou Costello), Quiet Wedding, and Ziegfeld Girl, a ‘Pageant of Stars’ including Judy Garland totally pre-war in its lavishness, spectacle and sparkle.
Since August 1941 the private petrol ration had been at its lowest since the start of the war but Japan’s entry made matters worse. The 8 December rush on supplies was quickly followed by the 13 December cut-off and it was not until March 1942 that coupons again became redeemable.38 From 16 December 1941 commercial rations were cut: for public passenger and goods services, including local body and government cars, by one-third, for private trucks by page 323 half. Licences for rental and business cars—except for doctors, nurses, veterinarians, ambulances, fire brigades, police, traffic and vehicle inspectors—were cancelled, though allowances were made for cars directly connected with war businesses. Taxis working one shift got 75 gallons a month, those on double shift 120 gallons.
An immediate and lasting effect was the crowding of public transport, as motorists took to the trams and buses while the number of buses was reduced. Travelling was plagued by uncertainty and waiting, let alone discomfort. The problem was acute at workers’ peak hours, and it promoted at least one strike.39
Some municipal services, such as refuse collection, were curtailed. Auckland, as an urgent temporary measure on 17 December, ceased weekly collections in outer suburbs such as Remuera and Epsom for three weeks only,40 but smaller and more spacious towns like Wanganui put the service onto a monthly basis.41
Commercial concerns sought various solutions. On 17 December in Auckland an advertisement for a leading department store asked customers to carry small parcels. Some laundries and dry cleaners arranged depots to replace deliveries42 but others, with careful organising and co-operation from customers, continued to run vans.43 Advertisements appeared stating that certain products were still available on order but agents could no longer call.44
Butchers had long been anxious to escape from ‘wasteful and worrying’ house deliveries which cost about £9 a week, and some had already done so: by November 1941 in Auckland, 20 out of 150 shops were doing cash-and-carry trade, and in Wellington the proportion was thought to be higher.45 A good deal of meat was delivered by boys on push-bikes and this continued meanwhile, nor was there any suggestion of zoning customers, but vans now came only on certain days, not every day,46 and there was steady guidance towards the cash-and-carry system. By June 1942, ‘with minimum fuss and complaint’, about 70 per cent of Auckland’s meat deliveries had ceased and they were further reduced after August.47
The most notable cut in delivery was that of bread; house-to-house delivery, with bakers competing for custom, was common although many people bought it at grocers, dairies and cake shops. page 324 In December and early January bakers in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wanganui, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Thames48 arranged to send their bread to shops only, saving both petrol and manpower, and other towns followed. In his diary G. H. Scholefield on 9 February noted that the distribution of bread through small local stores ‘induces a procession of husbands each time a tramcar stops, and tends to create custom to the shop which would not otherwise get it.’ There were a few grumbles, as at Christchurch,49 although 70 per cent of Christchurch’s bread was already sold through shops;50 a few shopkeepers murmured that a troublesome and profitless trade had been foisted on them,51 but generally the change was quietly accepted. In country districts deliveries were reduced— as at Geraldine to twice a week, saving 100 gallons a month—and farmers put bread boxes at their gates to save time and manpower.52 Auckland retained private bread deliveries, of which it had more than most places, until May,53 running a mixed delivery to both shops and houses, but easing out overlapping runs and reducing varieties of bread. Some large Auckland bakeries had been turning out up to 40 sorts and sizes of loaf, but now people had to take what was available. ‘Tastes in bread—one might call them fashions—vary greatly,’ stated an article in the New Zealand Herald on 21 February, ‘When the loaf is more or less standardised, public taste will be much simpler.’54
Several bakers were still delivering their wares to each shop, but public taste was to be trimmed much further in a few months, when after the loss of the Netherlands East Indies, the need to save tyres and manpower brought in bread zoning on the basis of one bakery for any one shop.
Bicycles, of course, were used more. After the petrol cut-off on Saturday 13 December, a Wellington dealer’s home telephone rang incessantly and by Monday orders had been taken for every machine in his shop.55 Sidney Holland was photographed cycling under a large umbrella.56 There were new parking problems which some councils met by devising bicycle stands over the gutters;57 bicycle stealing increased.58page 325
Horses re-appeared to some extent. They had not yet totally vanished from city streets, being still prominent in milk deliveries. In Wellington, for instance, the city corporation had 50 light draughthorses in its milk carts, and about a dozen on other work; a few more worked on the wharfs and hauled gravel on beaches; of the Gear Meat Company’s house-to-house high-wheeled carts, which had been a feature of Wellington life, four were still in operation.59 Now horses were occasionally hitched to cars60 and to improvised delivery vans ‘of rather unusual design’ with car wheels and tyres,61 but more often to gigs and drays that emerged from sheds and retirement.62 By 18 December, a Canterbury dray and pair were delivering beer and by New Year horse-drawn vehicles were so common in Hastings as to excite little interest, while Taranaki farmers were asked to hire out horses and gigs to keep their 22 herd testers in action.63 The Christchurch City Council bought 12 horses, at prices ranging from £25 to £30,64 to collect refuse; there were additional trips to shorten hauls65 and streets were top-dressed with grit to prevent slipping.66 But though more use could be made of existing animals, any ‘back to the horse’ movement faced severe limitations: it took four years to rear a working horse, as long as it took to build a pre-war battleship.67
There were many minor side-effects of the petrol cut. The Hamilton golf club, its motor mower laid aside, bought sheep to graze its grass.68 There was less golf, more picnics in parks, more camping in near-city reserves.69 More distant beaches were largely deserted, except where crowded excursion trains, buses or ferries spilled out their loads. A number of Agricultural and Pastoral associations cancelled their annual shows.70 There were a few minor nervous movements, mainly at Auckland. Auckland’s schools were closed on 16 December, three days early, to save petrol used by buses in the country and to let holiday-going mothers with children leave town earlier. The Mayor in fact suggested that it would be helpful if such page 326 mothers would depart promptly, easing railway traffic and, though this was less clearly expressed, achieving partial evacuation.71
Auckland’s Public Hospital promptly cleared 250 beds, ready for emergency casualties, by sending 250 patients to their own homes or to its emergency hospital at the Teachers Training College, and also temporarily emptied the Wilson Home for crippled children at Takapuna, sending 30 of them to their own homes and 30 to an orphanage at Papatoetoe.72 Wellington Hospital calculated that in a raid there would be 900 civilian casualties, of whom 20 per cent would be killed, 50 per cent hospital cases, and 30 per cent less seriously injured.73 It decided to wait until casualties actually occurred before sending its most movable patients to emergency hospitals, for which equipment was arranged and buildings were earmarked but not taken over.74 During January, Wellington Hospital admissions were much reduced, with 440 operations performed in place of the 1189 done in January 1941.75 Christchurch proposed to make room for emergency casualties by sending home all patients for whom institutional care was not essential.76 For a week, beginning on 15 December, Auckland’s city cinemas closed at 9.30 pm, starting their programmes at 7 or 7.30, while Auckland drapers and allied retailers, anticipating government orders which did not come, decided to close at 8 on Friday nights and on Christmas Eve, and at 5.30 on New Year’s Eve.77 Zookeepers at both Auckland and Wellington announced precautions: in a raid visitors would go to safety areas under trees and in steep places, while attendants would lock dangerous beasts in inner cages and, at the all-clear, patrol the grounds with nets and rifles.78
The danger of glass blasted from shop windows was well known from British experience. Complete protection with sandbags or replacing glass with boards, besides being expensive and depressing, would diminish trade. The relative merits of shutters, wire netting, surgical tape, varnish and paper strips had been published,79 but page 327 shutters were unwieldy and expensive,80 wire netting was scarce, varnish had to be thick, and miles of heavy surgical tape would be needed for the close criss-crossing of large windows. Strips of paper, though quite ineffective, were cheap and plentiful. Starting with a group of Auckland retailers in the second week of December, a rash of paper lattices appeared on windows in Auckland, Wellington and other centres, some ingeniously combined with Christmas or patriotic decorations,81 and probably largely induced by readiness to follow a fashion and to soothe customers. Mayor Allum denied their usefulness, while Semple declared that they must have some value as every town in England had them.82 Articles derived from a British ARP book83 and other British reports84 declared that paper strips were no good; so did the Southern Military Command in a circular to EPS units,85 but while Auckland shops were scraping off their papers, at Hamilton the Mayor was ordering them to remain, on the principle of better some protection than none at all.86 Most Auckland shops had shed their strips by mid-February, but still in April a few were combining them with window displays.87
It was established that incendiary bombs were likely to be used, and for over a year, smothering in sand or dowsing with a fine spray of water had been advocated; throwing water on a burning bomb, it was said, would make it explode, scattering fiery fragments. Just before Christmas news came of the simple Russian way with a bomb: dunking it rapidly in a large bucket of water. As senior firemen said, this cut across everything fire fighters had been told previously, but it worked most effectively against German magnesium thermite alloy bombs, though they could be so treated only in the first minute of burning. Extinguishing bombs thus, and also with a spray, a jet, and thrown buckets of water, along with sand smothering, was demonstrated before crowds and before the cameras of newspapers and the film unit by firemen, middle-aged women and schoolgirls; Peter Fraser in his bowler hat dropped bombs into buckets; schoolgirls plied stirrup pumps and hurled buckets of water.88 ‘Courage and plenty of water’ was the new creed, with sand in second place. A page 328 country-wide conference of fire superintendents recommended departure from British instructions and the recalling of earlier anti-water films.89
This about-face did not pass without question. The New Zealand Herald, on 12 January, after cabling its correspondent in London, quoted a Home Security pamphlet which stated clearly that a burning bomb should not have water thrown upon it like an ordinary fire: in the open it should be smothered in sand; elsewhere a stirrup pump and hose producing both a fine spray and a jet of water would put out both the bomb and its surrounding fire. Truth deplored back-yard experiments and upheld English experience,90 and Sidney Holland wanted to send to London for experienced men to take charge of air-raid precautions.91
British authorities reported that they were revising their instructions, and the Press decided that the controversy was in no way damaging to those in New Zealand who had been quick to follow suggestions derived from Russian practice. The only error had been in announcing these decisions without first checking them in London, which would have spared the public the ‘doubts of an interval in which it looked as if rash men in Wellington were defying experience in London.’92 The official line was that both water and sand equipment should be in every building.93 Sand was cheap and plentiful, while stirrup pumps and hoses were still scarce.94 Sand was still rated effective against bombs on non-inflammable surfaces and could so retard any bomb that water could be fetched from some distance to finish it. There was also the chance, with mains broken or overdrawn, that water might not be available. For this reason as well as for speed, people were urged to keep water always ready in buckets or tubs: ‘leave the bath water in the bath till next time,’ advised an Auckland EPS notice on 22 January. Business premises should have 44-gallon drums on each floor with buckets handy.95 A thin film of oil on top of the water was recommended to reduce evaporation and avoid mosquitoes.96
At the start of Japan’s war, there were preparations, practical curtailments, adjustments to thinking. But there was no sense of doom, page 329 no widespread break in values or ways of living. While many people dug shelters in their gardens, others were searching hardware stores and second-hand shops for lawnmowers.97 Peacetime pursuits continued: at New Year the 7th annual gathering of the Amuri Cob and Pony Gymkhana drew a large attendance, many in conveyances other than motor cars;98 at Ashburton’s Domain more than 9000 seedlings for display in the early spring—wall flowers, pansies, polyanthus, Iceland poppies and daisies—were being pricked out into boxes.99
There was immediate increase in the scope and urgency of the Emergency Precautions Service, already well established. In 1942, in its multiplying protective measures, thousands of average civilians prepared against attack, with trenches and shelters, steps to protect schoolchildren, evacuation plans, blacker blackouts, fire watching. These activities, a major effort, are described elsewhere in the continuing saga of the EPS. The Home Guard, battling for itself since 1940, sprang to attention, acquired weapons, uniforms, more men and an active defensive role, recognised by the Army.100
2 Feis, H., The Road to Pearl Harbor, pp. 91–3, 268n
3 Schroeder, Paul W., The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations, 1941, pp. 22–3
4 Press, 9 Apr 41, p. 12
5 Hull, Cordell (1871–1955): US Congressman 1907–21, 1923–31; Senator 1931–7; Sec State 1933–44
7 Auckland Star, 6 Jan 42, p. 4
8 News of these sinkings, described by Churchill as the most painful and heavy blow in his whole experience, was received in New Zealand with chilled disbelief.
9 MacArthur, General of the Army Douglas, Hon GCB(’43) (1880–1964): C-in-C US Forces Philippines 1941–2; Supreme Cmdr Allied Forces SW Pac Area 1942–5; C-in-C Far East and Supreme Cmdr for the Allied Powers in Japan 1945–51; C-in-C UN Forces in Korea 1950–1
13 Ibid., 8 Dec 41, p. 6
14 Ibid., 6 Dec 41, p. 12
24 Press, 26 Dec 41, p. 4
25 Ibid., 22 Dec 41, p. 4, 6 Jan 42, p. 10
27 Press, 12 Dec 41, p. 10
29 Ibid., 16 Dec 41, p. 6. See also p. 447ff
32 Press, 16 Dec 41, p. 8
35 Press, 5 Jan 42, p. 4
37 Ibid., 22, 26 Dec 41, pp. 3, 3
38 See pp. 747–8
41 Ibid., 23 Jan 42, p. 6
42 Ibid., 20, 22 Dec 41, pp. 20, 2; Press, 22 Jan 42, p. 2
44 Press, 14 Jan 42, p. 1
47 Ibid., 6, 13 Jun 42, pp. 6, 6; Auckland Star, 22 Aug 42, p. 6
49 Press, 9, 14, 19, 23, 24, 26, 30 Jan 42, pp. 4, 8, 4, 8, 5, 8, 8
50 Ibid., 5 Jan 42, p. 6
51 Auckland Star, 23 Jan 42, p. 4; Press, 28 Jan 42, p. 4
52 Press, 16 Jan 42, p. 4
54 Ibid., 21 Feb 42, p. 6
61 Press, 11 Feb 42, p. 4
62 Auckland Star, 20 Feb 42, p. 3
65 Press, 10 Mar 42, p. 4
66 Ibid., 9 May 42, p. 6
69 Press, 14 Jan 42, p. 4
76 Press, 7 Jan 42, p. 3
78 Ibid., 2 Jan 42. p. 2; Press, 15 Jan 42, p. 6
85 Press, 30 Jan 42, p. 6
87 Ibid., 23 Apr 42, p. 8; Auckland Star, 17 Feb 42, p. 6
89 Press, 7, 8 Jan 42, pp. 6, 4
90 Truth, 14 Jan 42, p. 8
91 Press, 15 Jan 42, p. 6
92 Ibid., 16 Jan 42
94 A stirrup pump cost about £6, and by 24 December 70 had been distributed to the most hazardous top floors in Auckland, where the EPS then arranged for 2000 lighter pumps, costing about £3 2s 6d, which could be made more quickly, and offered free delivery of sand gear. NZ Herald, 24 Jan 42, p. 8
96 Ibid., 17 Jan 42, p. 8
97 Imports had been stopped about two years before. Mason and Porter of Auckland were coping with the national demand, making among other implements about 17 000 mowers a year, but beset increasingly by shortages of material and staff. NZ Herald, 26 Nov, 12 Dec 41, pp. 8, 9
98 Press, 6 Jan 42, p. 8
99 Ibid., 9 Jan 42, p. 7