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Graduate Defense: Noah Szajowitz
February 26 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm MST
Title: “We May Not Be Goliath But We Have David’s Sling:” Media and the Perception of the New Zealand Home Guard, 1940-1942
Program: Master of Arts in History
Advisor: Dr. Erik Hadley, History
Committee Members: Dr. David Walker, History and Dr. Raymond Krohn, History
This thesis on New Zealanders’ perception of the Home Guard uses a cultural lens focusing on New Zealand’s newspaper print media, forming a cross section of New Zealand society through the lenses of multiple newspapers across North and South Island during the war. Home Guardsmen and even those uninvolved with the organization found an eager outlet for their collective thoughts through these newspapers, encompassing both complementary and critical commentary of the organization. Additionally, the formal perspective of the New Zealand Government and its officials towards the Home Guard is displayed through New Zealand Police Gazette gazetted orders, formal Parliamentary Papers, and detailed newspaper articles that mirror both the shifting situation in the war and the government’s reaction regarding changing public opinion towards the Home Guard. Moreover, the Home Guard’s perception not only shifted over the course of the Second World War, but contrasted sharply with the organization’s reality. Key moments for the Home Guard, such as the initial difficulties with recruitment, the later impressment of rifles by the government, and the enactment of compulsory enrollment, offer insight to the realistic effectiveness of the Home Guard to defend New Zealand. Particularly concerning its perception, the usage of newspapers as a public forum shows that New Zealanders, of many varying opinions, indeed collectively influenced the direction of the Home Guard during the Second World War, as impassioned debates in New Zealand’s newspapers exploited both the Home Guard’s failures and its triumphs alike.