100,000 NZ Men Studied
100,000 NZ Men Studied
A ground-breaking study of 100,000 New Zealanders is being launched at Parliament on Monday 25 March 2013 – Fit to Fight: Compulsory Military Training and National Service in New Zealand 1949-72.
“This is the first time anyone has paid any attention to the men called up under the controversial peacetime training schemes,” author Peter Cooke says. He was commissioned by the Compulsory Military Training & National Service Association (North City Branch) in 2009 to research and write an authorised history.
“Over 830 former trainees supplied the author with memories about their experiences”, the author adds. “Some were bloody angry to be called up but after the inconvenience subsided they learned tremendous life skills – in communication, self-discipline, perseverance – and how to cope with idiots. A few NCOs were beaten up for over-stepping the disciplinarian line.”
The Minister of Defence Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman and Speaker of the House Rt Hon David Carter are hosting the launch. The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones commended the work in his Foreword for the book, saying the trained men were “not found wanting in skill, courage and commitment”.
The date 25 March 2013 was chosen as an anniversary of the first law in 1845 which imposed military-training obligations on New Zealanders.
Background on the CMT/NS history Fit to
Fight, by Peter Cooke
In 2008 the CMT/NS Association (North City Branch) and Peter Cooke agreed that the absence of a formal detailed history of the Compulsory Military Training and National Service schemes from 1950-72 was unacceptable.
Peter Cooke is an independent professional military historian based in Wellington who had been published on Gallipoli, home defence, artillery and territorial service, and returned services’ organisations.
The North City Branch of the CMT/NS Association fundraised for the CMT/NS history. A contract was signed in April 2009 and discussions held with a publisher.
After the project had started the author came up with a way of involving former trainees in the history – through a simple questionnaire. This was drafted with a dozen open questions designed to elicit memories of being called up, trained, sent to a unit of the Defence Force, and posted to the reserve. The media gave good coverage of the planned history and over the next two years more than 830 questionnaires were received from trainees involved with all three services. These are to be deposited in the Alexander Turnbull Library.
The questionnaires increased the personal or human content of the story, which is backed by fully documented facts about the scheme, and the training imparted in Army, Navy and Air Force intakes.
The book concludes that around 100,000 NZ men born between 1930 and 1953 started training in two compulsory schemes from 1950-59 (CMT) and 1960-72 (National Service).
None of these men was sent to war. Around 15 died whilst in service (though this figure is expected to rise). The rest generally said it did them some good.
The book Fit to Fight, Compulsory Military Training and National Service in New Zealand 1949-72, by PDF Cooke, was published in March 2013. Other launches are in Christchurch on 4 April (CMT Association, Christchurch, at Papanui RSA) and Nelson (CMT/NS Association, Nelson Bays, at the Nelson Suburban Club) on 6 April 2013.
Fit to Fight is a large-format book of 624 pages with around 500 previously-unseen illustrations, many in full colour. It details the background debate on compulsion, the global politics that prompted it, the role of the Department of Labour in setting up and running the schemes, and the unique training given by the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Appendices list the numbers involved (including of conscientious objectors), the details of the intakes, and birth dates of men ballotted in the 1960s.
It will be available from
selected bookshops, the publisher and North City Branch of
the CMT/NS Association, PO Box 50-427, Porirua 5145. RRP is