'Mr Jones' wives': World War II war brides of New Zealand servicemen
|Title||'Mr Jones' wives': World War II war brides of New Zealand servicemen|
|Author||Gabrielle Ann Fortune|
|Publisher||The University of Auckland|
|Topic||War brides, Italian war brides, Italian immigrants to New Zealand, women immigrants|
This PhD thesis for The University of Auckland examines the war bride influx into New Zealand during and after World War II. Women (and children) originating from thirty-five countries arrived between 1942 and 1952 under the repatriation of dependents scheme – about 4000 adults and 1000 children. Approximately 150 were Italian. Official government archives, shipping records, newspapers, personal letters and diaries, and sixty interviews form the basis for the research. The chapters cover origins and backgrounds of brides, meeting servicemen, family reactions, marriage and the journey by ship, settlement, food and customs in New Zealand. The thesis is about all war brides and the context reflects that breath of the topic. Pages that specifically reference Italian women include: 52-55, 85, 89, 105, 129-135, 155, 163, 203-204, 211, 213-214, 220-221. There are examples and stories covering official government actions, and personal experiences of trying to buy coffee beans and olive oil – the latter only available at a chemist shop in a 50ml bottle in those days! The thesis can be found at The University of Auckland and Auckland War Memoria Museum.
Dr Fortune also wrote Bride ship, Brothel Ship: Conflicting Images of War Brides arriving in New Zealand in the 1940s, published in the book Restaging War: Non-Combatants and the Impact of War in the Western World, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009, pp 61-86, and If the Army thought a soldier needed a wife they would issue him with one: Marriage policy and its implementation during World War II, NZSA Bulletin of New Zealand Studies, Birkbeck, University of London, 2010, pp 35-52.
Bride ship, Brothel Ship: Conflicting Images of War Brides arriving in New Zealand in the 1940s, chapter 3 of Restaging War: Non-Combatants and the Impact of War in the Western World includes discussion and examples of Italian war brides – see particularly an interesting cartoon (p.73), poem, and extracts from archival sources. The author says: "In this chapter I address the history of immigration regulations of New Zealand’s government, prejudice and perceptions of Italian women by the Defence Department, the general public and new in-laws. But I also discuss these experiences as they relate to all war brides coming to New Zealand – illustrates that prejudice against war brides was not exclusive to any one national group and extended across the whole cohort including British women".
"If the Army thought a soldier needed a wife they would issue him with one: Marriage policy and its implementation during World War II talks about the legal right of service personnel to marry on active service and examines the War Bride phenomenon from New Zealand’s Government and Crown Law Office perspective," continues Dr Fortune, "It is the published version of a paper delivered at a New Zealand Studies Conference in Florence. Page 43 of my article includes the following paragraph that is particularly relevant to the story from the Italian perspective".
Extract from page 43 of Bulletin of New Zealand Studies (2010):
“It was the case that irrespective of the military authorities’ approval, all marriages were deemed to be legal [by the NZ government] so long as the ceremony was properly registered (Archives New Zealand, WAII IDA 6/9/30). Servicemen were kept in the dark on this issue. Officials bluffed, implying that they could prevent marriages, whilst knowing that they could not do so indefinitely, and slowed the process by presenting intending grooms with a series of obstacles. Requiring couples to obtain official [NZ Defence Department] permission became a complicated and slow business, but non-compliance always carried the threat that allowances would not be paid to dependents. Both parties to a proposed marriage were vetted. The necessity of having a legal marriage contract was emphasised, but the opportunities for legal ceremonies to take place were curtailed. Chaplains, church and synagogue officials in Cairo, cooperated with the [NZ] authorities in agreeing to only marry those with official permission. This strategy was less successful in Italy as Brigadier Stevens [NZ Defence Force commander] lamented, “no ban of ours would stop the Roman Catholic Church giving its blessing to the desire of two people with no impediment to enter on the sacrament of marriage”. And indeed Defence knew that the only absolute impediment to marriage was an existing legally-binding marriage. (Major-General W.G. Stevens, Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-46, Problems of 2 NZEF (Wellington: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1958), p.225).”
Digital Archive of Documents on Italian Immigration in New Zealand acknowledges and thanks Dr Gabrielle Fortune for the material provided for this entry in the archive.
Other resources about Italian war brides in this archive:
In Love and War: Kiwi Soldiers' Romantic Encounters in Wartime Italy
Faces of Auckland: War bride loves kiwi life
La presenza italiana in Nuova Zelanda (1875-1950)
Interview with Meme Churton
A war bride’s tale