The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 12 (March 1, 1940)
To Preserve Our Freedom — New Zealand's Part in the War
The battle against the powers of evil in which Britain and her friends are engaged is a species of war which has, on the enemy's side, sounded the depths of bloody massacre, cowardly, treacherous slaughter of the defenceless to a degree that could scarcely have been conceived of even, twenty-five years ago.
The daily cablegrams are more than sufficient proof of the fact that modern civilisation, with its marvels of science, has degenerated into more brutal savagery than anything in history. Wholesale extermination of inoffensive peoples, attacks upon unarmed civil populations, the destruction of hospitals, are commonplaces of the day's news. And the worst fate is planned, we may be sure of that, for our British Commonwealth and our allies.
As for our own country, we have not yet been touched by the outer circles of the all-engulfing whirlpool. Our part so far has been well done, done promptly and efficiently. Our first little army is already on the fringe of the battleground, in a position from which it can be moved into action on any front. New Zealand's task now is to maintain and strengthen that expeditionary force, and no argument is necessary to show the necessity for regular reinforcements.
New Zealand's fate, whatever befalls, will not be decided here, but at the other end of the world.
Looking out at the peaceful Newe Zealand around us, the lovely countryside, the untroubled towns and ships, the fields of sport, it seems almost impossible to create a mental vision of the present European scene. Yet that present scene may be ours unless the battle for continued freedom and the common rights of man is won by our British peoples and our French comrades in the field.
The powers of a veritable hell are loosened upon the world to-day. Chivalry, bravery, devotion to high ideals, count for nothing.
Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, there was a little war on which New Zealand in common with the other British communities embarked singing foolishly joyful martial songs. Imagine it—the chant of Jingo that the British Navy loathed—
“Sons of the Sea,
All British born,
Sailing every o-shun,
Laffin' foes to scorn”
Those were the adventures on which the young colonial, like his British elders, lightheartedly set out to conquer, in a matter of a few months. It is in a very different spirit, the soul of grim determination, that our soldiers and sailors depart to-day. The foe is not to be laughed to scorn. He is immensely powerful, enormously reinforced by all the resources of science. He is brave, inspired by a fanatic hatred. He is capable of the most atrocious deeds of cruelty and mass massacre.
Britain and France, respecting still the old rules of conduct in war, are at a disadvantage. With the enemy nothing matters but the winning of the war.
Were the seas and air free to piratical murderous warfare, New Zealand's fate would be that of Czecho-Slovakia and Poland. A land of terror, destruction, robbery, outrage and slavery.
Can we possibly picture such an end for our free land? Yet German victory would make existence impossible in New Zealand and Australia.
It may be that this comfort and safety we enjoy in New Zealand to-day lulls many people to the sense of peril. The accustomed sports go on as usual; there is a race meeting for every weekday in the year. All business as usual, the more than sufficient supplies of food, the abundant crops of every kind, are indications of content and prosperity. Yet all this is liable to be shattered unless we, like other parts of the Empire, put forth our utmost efforts in men and material.
The people are “in good heart,” to use an expression common to pakeha and Maori. The traditions of volunteering are strong in New Zealand. Father and son fought side by side on our battlefields in which the settler volunteers engaged. The Maoris have played their part well in the common cause. I know a father and his two sons who volunteered and fought together on Gallipoli. That is still the spirit of the nation; it only needs arousing.
New Zealanders should be reminded, for one thing, that the modern devices of science have conquered space and brought our country within short range of Europe, the hell-nest where all the arts of devilry are planned for the domination and enslavement of the freedom-loving peoples.page 42