Somes Island Internment Camp for 'enemy aliens'
Wellington Harbour, New Zealand
Domain name: www.somesprisonersnz.net
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Somes Island photographed from Petone, in the 1920s
Somes Island, now officially named Matiu/Somes Island to include its pre-European name, served as New Zealand's main internment camp for 'enemy aliens' in both the first and second World Wars. The purpose of this website is to allow information on these camps to be available on the Internet.
My own work has been the German-New Zealand community during the First World War, with the main work being in relation to the Somes Island internment camp that was on the island. This internment camp operated between August 1914 and December 1918, at which time it was hastily transferred to Featherston Military Camp, to allow the island to be returned to the Public Health Department.
This emergency response was a result of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic (which struck the country and the island in November 1918) and the fear that the large numbers of troops returning from the war might require large-scale quarantining. Fortunately (for the many potential new inmates) this only occurred on a limited scale, albeit that some deaths occurred among those who were quarantined in 1919.
In due course this website will contain a range of lists, details and other pieces of information that people interested in the island's internment camp history often contact me about. However, the following will do to start with in the meantime.
World War One
German-ating the Seeds of Anger: intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 - A Massey University History 'Research Exercise' on the experiences of German settlers living in the Manawatu-Rangitikei area of New Zealand during World War One. This includes the experiences of a number of men who were sent to Somes Island.
Within? A Study of New Zealand's Home
Front during the First World War
World War Two
Matters involving both camps
The Human Quarantine Years
Dark Sun: Te Rapunga & the Quest of George Dibbern - 2004 biography by Erika Grundmann, of one of only two men who managed to get interned on Somes Island in both World Wars, having been deported back to Germany with most of the internees in 1919. A very intriguing character.
The Swap - 2004 novel by Wendy Catran, on the families of Tonga-based Japanese who were brought to NZ for internment in 1941. The menfolk were interned on Somes
© Val Burr, 2007