“Their nerves were shot to shreds – our own weren’t too steady either.” Attitudes Towards Psychological Casualties in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 1939 to 1945.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Public memory of psychological casualties from the Great War and the Second World War has recalled men who were shunned and scorned by society and their peers. Using letters and diaries written contemporaneously within the two World Wars, and newspapers and official documents from the inter-war period, this paper examines the attitudes of Second World War New Zealand soldiers to those in their midst who were mentally injured by their experiences and unable to continue their duties. This research indicates that there was more compassion and sympathy from government agencies, the public and comrades of shell shock and anxiety neurosis victims, than has been indicated in existing historiography. The onset of shell shock during the Great War of 1914 to 1918, and how it entered the public sphere, influenced the attitudes of the men who, a generation later, were again going into battle. Social changes in New Zealand, both before and during the Second World War, are investigated to determine how they influenced the attitudes of the men of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force during World War Two in comparison to those of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force of the Great War.