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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I

41 — The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

page 34

The Governor-General of New Zealand to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

9 September 1939

His Majesty's Government in New Zealand have decided to raise a special military force for service within or beyond New Zealand. Enlistment will be entirely voluntary and will be confined to men and non-commissioned officers between the ages of 21 and 35.1 In the case of officers the maximum age limits will be Subalterns, Captains 35, Majors 40, Lieutenant-Colonels 45. Medical standard requires fitness for active service in any part of the world.

Enlistments will be received from 9 a.m. on Tuesday 12 September. Preference will be given to single men not engaged in essential industries in the following order: (a) serving members of the Territorial Force; (b) members of the infantry section of the Special Reserve;2 (c) members of Class I of the National Military Reserve;3 (d) other single men with or without military training.

Enlistment will be for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter or until lawfully discharged.4 The first step in the

1 An Army Headquarters instruction of 5 Oct 1939, while maintaining the 21–35 age limit generally, left it to the discretion of Officers Commanding Districts to extend the age limit to 40 years in the case of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, specialists, and certain tradesmen specially suitable for employment overseas, on condition that they were classified as physically fit for service in any part of the world. On 11 Apr 1940 the age limit for other ranks was increased to 40 years.

2 Men who had undergone a five months' course of combined military and vocational training, after which, for the three following years, they were required to spend ten days a year in camp.

3 Men who had undergone not less than two years' Territorial training.

4 Terms of enlistment. An opinion on the legal liability of members of the Defence Forces to serve, and the duration of that liability, is given by the then Adjutant-General, Brigadier A. E. Conway, in a letter dated 21 Sep 1945 to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, an extract of which is quoted here:

Duration of Legal Liability of Members of Defence Forces to Serve

I think the position is as follows:


1. Volunteers enlisted ‘for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter or until lawfully discharged’.


2. Persons compelled to serve under the National Service Emergency Regulations, must remain, until lawfully discharged, members of the Armed Forces to which they are transferred, in the same manner as if they had voluntarily enlisted therein and taken the oath of allegiance (Regulation 17 (3)). Unless by inference the ‘duration plus twelve months’ of the volunteer is imported into this clause, there is no legal limit to the duration of a conscript's liability to serve under these Regulations.

3. Regulation 4 of Expeditionary Force Emergency Regulations 1940, provides that members of 2nd NZEF shall be enlisted ‘for service … for the duration of the present war and for twelve months thereafter’.

This provision was passed in the days of voluntary enlistment but has not been repealed….


4. The earliest limits to the duration of the legal liability of volunteers or conscripts whether in 2nd NZEF or other sections of the Defence Forces is twelve months after the duration of the war.

(Signed) A. E. Conway,


page 35 establishment of this force will be the enlistment of 6600 officers and men, and the organisation will consist of Divisional troops and one infantry brigade and will be taken into training in special camps at Papakura, Ngaruawahia, Trentham, and Burnham. Training will be for a minimum period of three months. It is hoped to have the First Echelon in training within three weeks of opening enlistment.1

1 Enlistment began on 12 Sep 1939. Prior to the general mobilisation of recruits, which began on 3 Oct, officers and NCOs provisionally selected for the First Echelon underwent special courses of instruction commencing on 27 Sep 1939.