Date: 13/AUG/2018

Time: 1800(VFP) / 1830(Public) / 1900(Start)

Location: Housman Books, 5 Caledonian Road, N1


New Zealand’s ‘comfortable’ official memory of its Mediterranean Military Ventures.

Starting in the 1940s the New Zealand government deliberately began shaping a ‘comfortable’ historical/commemorative version of the Second World War for its citizens and veterans. It wanted a united population that only saw inspired leadership, common good and a small idealistic nation entering the world stage. In doing so, it justified military disasters, the non-democratic Mediterranean regimes the major allies were willing to support with the help of New Zealand regular troops and servicemen on loan to British special forces. But the state also hid efforts where it had sought to imbue popular democracy in one of those countries, why? Similarly, the official version neglected an iconic New Zealand officer/writer who is now presented as being the embodiment of the New Zealand national identity.

This presentation seeks to offer answers to these questions as well as illustrating the strategies applied by New Zealand decision-makers in shaping an official version of the war.

Speaker: Dr Martyn Brown is an Honorary Research Fellow with the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland, Brisbane. He has also held an honorary position at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

He has published academic papers and newspaper articles on the wartime New Zealand-Greek relationship. Recently he researched, wrote and co-produced a radio documentary/podcast on the mass Greek political mutiny of April 1944. He is in London to carry out more historical research.

  • David Marchesi 16/07/2018, 10:43

    “to imbue popular democracy” ?? shouldn’t that read “to suppress…” ?? Puzzled.Otherwise, no surprise, as the NZ and Oz Establishments were/are virtual doubles of the Great English/British Establishment, tried master of propaganda.

  • Martyn Brown 16/07/2018, 20:02

    David Marchesi, what can you tell us about the NZ/Australian stance over Greek elections immediately after the end of the second world war or perhaps the New Zealand attitude and actions over the British treatment of Greek troops in the Middle East and Italy from 1942 onwards (including their political agitation)? Or the NZ popular and government response to the Greek Dekemvriana in late 1944? If, in your response you cannot provide any empirically based intelligent comments then perhaps you should attend.

  • David Marchesi 20/07/2018, 12:27

    I would have liked to attend the lecture, and am pleased to hear that New Zealanders were apparently not happy with the UK’s effective suppression of ELAS etc. at the time. My memory of Australia (not New Zealand) c. 1950 was of a burgeoning anti-Communism which would have regarded the Greek communists as enemies. My perception of this general background I would find difficult to abandon, but,I repeat, if there was strong opposition to Churchill and co. in New Zealand (and perhaps Australia ?) at the time , I am glad to hear of it. I wonder what people in NZ thought of the Greek Colonels 67-74 ?

  • Martyn Brown 25/07/2018, 07:55

    Churchill’s language about re-entering Greece in late 1944 (especially the revelations of his telegrams in the US press)always make him the pointed target for criticism. But it was the British Labour govt (elected in 1945)that still essentially pursued his Greek policy . This especially angered the NZ Labour govt- there was a diplomatic slanging match between them and London authorities. Roosevelt had also supported the Greek King George II throughout the war, much to the annoyance of his political advisers.

    Like a lot of western liberal democracies the Communist bogey was cause to harass citizens and ruin lives during the cold war. I do not think one can just consider “communists”. I always point to the official Australian trade visits made to the PR China during the Cold War as an example of the hypocrisy of right wing / conservative govts who harass at home but smilingly support business and conservative farming bodies to travel behind the iron/bamboo curtain.
    Historiography shows complexity and inconsistency. Hence while there was anger from the Southern Pacific dominions about Greece, attitudes and actions over the reimposition of European dominance on colonies was , I believe, far less forthright. Just because there was “colonialism” it does not mean it lacks complexity that should be examined. It is the same for the Greek side eg EAM/ELAS split in 1945 and the resistance govt representatives who came to the Middle East in 1944 publicly abandoned thousands of leftist Greek service personnel who had demonstrated for a new political system in post-war Greece.

    You will find many leftist Greeks who migrated to Melbourne, Australia following the Greek Civil War. The same is for Sydney.

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