Sharing home front stories

Woman welding during WWII. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, ref 12-066954-F.
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Two speakers will explore the lesser-known aspects of Canterbury’s World War 2 home front story in upcoming talks being hosted by Ashburton Art Gallery and Museum.

The talks coincide with the Westerfield Camp – The Army Marches In exhibition at the museum, about the Westerfield Military Camp.

It was set up in Ashburton in 1942 amidst the fear of attack, or invasion of New Zealand.

This Sunday, professor Angela Wanhalla will discuss Māori engagement in the war effort and the impact of the war on their lives, as well as the experiences of New Zealand’s ‘GI War Brides’ who married American servicemen. It runs from 1pm to 2pm.

Next month, on June 7, senior history lecturer David Littlewood will explore conscription and its extension into the industrial sphere for both men and women, including debates around meeting the country’s military and food production commitments and spreading the burdens of conscription among different groups.

Woman operating a metal lathe during WWII. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, ref 12-066948.

Ashburton Museum and Art Gallery director Shirin Khosraviani said they had a fantastic turn-out at the last Westerfield talk on Anzac Day.

‘‘We were at capacity in our learning centre and we hope to bring that many people back into our building for our next talks.’’

She said they were expanding public programming for the Westerfield Camp exhibition beyond the topic of military training camps and defence sites to include other aspects of life on the home front in Canterbury and Ashburton.

‘‘We look forward to sharing this history with the community as most people won’t know much about the home front in Hakatere Ashburton and Canterbury, particularly the topics being discussed at these talks – Māori engagement with the war effort, local women who married American servicemen and industrial conscription.’’

Shirin said it was exciting to bring the speakers to Ashburton ‘‘as we don’t usually have professors and lecturers from universities speak here.

‘‘We’re lucky that these two history academics were willing to travel here to share their expertise.’’

Group at work in a munitions factory during WWII. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. PAColl-5936-43.