World War Two (New Zealand involvement)
Where can I find information about New Zealand's involvement in World War Two?
Image: World War II side of memorial gates Awa-Iti Domain, Little River by SueC and ColyerS. Collection: Kete Christchurch on DigitalNZ.
Entry last updated: 27/09/19
On 5 September 1941, Prime Minister Joseph Savage announced that New Zealand would be joining World War Two. Even thought New Zealand was in the war to support Britain and the Commonwealth, it made it's own formal declaration of war on Germany. Major battles fought by the defence forces (army, navy and air force) were in Greece, Italy, North Africa, Japan and the Pacific.
New Zealand websites
These websites have the best information on New Zealand's involvement in World War 2, the battles fought and the role of the defence forces including the 28th (Māori) Battalion and women.
Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Find the section on Government and Nation and then select War and Defence.
- You will find here a link to the Second World War.
- This page has links to New Zealand's involvement, strategy, and the variousbattles fought.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.
NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Look down the page till you find the the link called New Zealand at war.
- Then go to the Second Word War.
- Explore the links to the various battles that New Zealand was involved in such as The Battle for Crete and the War in the Pacific.
- Also useful are the roles of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .govt or .ac in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.
DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources.
- Type in key words 'New Zealand World War Two' into the search box.
- You will find results grouped into images, videos, audio, newspapers, articles and stories. For example, the story VE Day in New Zealand - 9 May 1945 is a collection of images and audio on Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) celebrations in New Zealand.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g [topic word]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.
Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats, (eg articles, books, images, videos, primary sources, sets, websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.
- Go the topic set on New Zealand and the Second World War.
- Under primary sources you will find images and information aboutHMNZS Leanderand new Zealand war hero Charles Upham.
- A video on NZEF in Italy and an audio recording from Jim Godwin and his experience as a prisoner of war are some examples of the variety of content you can explore here.
Tips: Primary sources are original, first-hand experiences of people or records created by people of what they saw, heard or felt. Letters, diaries, journals, photographs, newspaper articles are some examples of primary sources.
The 28th (Māori) Battalion was made up of mainly Māori who were keen to serve New Zealand during the Second World War. The website was put together to record, remember and honor their services.
- The link Story of the 28th is about how and why the battalion was formed and battles such as the Italian campaign and Desert Fighters where these soldiers fought.
- The Interactive Map traces the movement of the battalion from the time it left New Zealand until the time of their return.
- We recommend you explore the other links to find out more about the role of the 28th during WW2.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!
NZ On Screen is a collection of free to view videos from New Zealand television and films. It has lots of series on New Zealand in war and conflict.
- Enter the search words 'Second World War' into the search box.
- You will find here a series called Memories of Service, a series of videos by filmmaker David Blyth and RSA (Returned Services Association) to preserve stories of those who went to war.
- Some of the videos like Memories of service 2 - Doris Coppell and Memories of Service 4 - Barbara Rowarth are about New Zealand women in the Second World War.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on this website. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.
New Zealand Geographic Online allows you to read all the articles from the New Zealand Geographic magazine dating back to 1989, including recent issues.
- Use the search words 'Second World War' in the search box.
- Read the article Operation Mercury: the Battle of Crete, which is about the 2nd New Zealand Division in Greece.
- The article New Zealand's Nightingales tells the story of the New Zealand Red Cross nurses in WW2.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.
There have been many books written on New Zealand's involvement in World War Two. Here are some examples - check out your local public or school library to see what they have.
- New Zealand and the Second World War: the people, the battles and the legacy by I C McGibbon.
- Flight path by David Hill.
- Here come the marines: Warkworth, 1943 by Lorraine Orman.
- A New Zealand response to challenge: the war at home by Ruth Naumann.