What happened to those who didn’t join the war?

Not everyone in New Zealand wanted to take part in the First World War, and those who chose not to when called up were severely punished.

In May 1919 the government published the ‘military defaulters list‘ — those it considered had failed to perform their civic duties under conscription.  The list didn’t include conscientious objectors who had refused military service on religious grounds, but did include all other conscientious objectors.  The list also included anyone who had failed to present themselves for military service when called on to do so, and those who had deserted from the military.

Three Mathesons were among the approximately 2,300 people listed:

Matheson, Eddie Ploughman Box Company, Ohutu
Matheson, Thomas Hector Labourer care of W Hannam, Preston Rd, Greymouth
Mathieson, John Station hand care of Mr Barbour, Te Hau Station, Omahanui

Military defaulters were deprived of their civil rights for 10 years from December 1918.  They could not work for central or local government, or any public authority.  They were barred from voting or standing in national or local elections, and could not be appointed to any public body.  Any defaulter who was overseas in December 1918 was barred from returning to New Zealand for 10 years.  Defaulters were banned from changing their names without permission.

Men on the defaulters list had their civil rights restored in September 1927, more than a year earlier than originally intended.


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