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Problems of 2 NZEF



We found the returned or escaped prisoners of war ‘problem children’, to the extent that something in them made them desperately anxious to go on serving, to go back to their units, and to page 231 carry on from the point where they had left. But it was clear to all those concerned in any way with the reception of one-time prisoners of war that the majority were in no fit state to resume work, and required above all a period of rest, preferably in New Zealand. It was difficult to persuade them to agree to this, especially as quite a lot of them seemed to be physically fit and were not conscious of the mental strains that were apparent to observers. The official policy of 2 NZEF was that all prisoners of war who came back to us, either as the result of an official exchange or by escaping, should go back to New Zealand for a spell; but the policy was never strictly enforced.

Very few members of the force knew anything about the prisoner-of-war portions of the Geneva Convention. They had a vague idea that all they were compelled to say when captured was to give their name and rank, but beyond this were ignorant of their rights and obligations. No one had ever expected that we would have such a large number of prisoners of war, otherwise a knowledge of the convention would have formed part of normal training. Since the war a new convention has been produced, and without a doubt should be explained to every member of an expeditionary force, at least in so far as concerns the portions relating to prisoners of war.