The bacillus of work : masculinity and the rehabilitation of disabled soldiers in Dunedin 1919 to 1939.
Boston, Peter J.
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts with Honours
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Dissertation
This is a work about perception and experience. It examines the way in which men disabled both by combat and disease incurred during their war service viewed themselves and their society. It is also a work about that society and how it collectively viewed the men who sacrificed the relative security and stability of civilian life for the rigours of war, and the efforts made by the state and voluntary groups in Dunedin towards their rehabilitation, or repatriation as it was more commonly termed at the time. In 1937, war service statistics compiled by the New Zealand Returned Soldiers' Association (NZRSA) found that of the 98,950 men who had served overseas with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), 77,965 had been discharged upon their return to New Zealand, and 5822 had subsequently died. According to the 1936 census, 10,057 of these surviving men lived in the Otago and Southland areas. For the same year, census data found that the combined population of the provinces was 224,069. Returned servicemen therefore accounted for approximately 5% of the total provincial populations. Given that the casualty rate amongst the NZEF was 58% during the course of the war, it is reasonable to assume that at least 6000 Otago and Southland men had received some form of medical or rehabilitative care as a consequence of their war service. The major theme this thesis addresses is whether or not disabled men attached their postwar identity to the values for which they had fought once they began to experience the long-term physical, emotional, and economic losses wrought by their war service. To develop this theme, it has been necessary to examine a complicated array of sub-questions: what disabilities did men experience and was any particular medical or economic category of disabled men especially disadvantaged; how did medical knowledge affect the treatment and experience of men's disabilities; what impact did disability have on men's economic and family lives; what role did the symbolism attached to wounding by soldiers and society have upon the readjustment of men to their civilian lives; did the concept of the 'digger spirit' of comradeship, self-sacrifice, and duty create a collective identity amongst returned servicemen in postwar society; did war foster a sense of New Zealand national identity amongst the country's combatants; finally, upon whom was the responsibility of long-term rehabilitation placed? [from Introduction]