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Franklin at War

Defending the homeland

The men of Franklin’s Home Guard had a busy war, as the country prepared the best it could to defend itself. From all walks of life, people rallied to the call, leaving farms, market gardens and businesses to take part in training and the laying of traps to slow any advancing invader. The service began in August of 1940 and when Japan entered the war, joining the Home Guard became compulsory for men not already in the armed forces and those between 46 and 50 years of age.

Things were very rustic when the first local units of the Home Guard were set up. Numerous country areas were clustered into platoons based at Pukekohe, Waiuku, Tuakau, Drury, Mangatawhiri, and Papakura. Training centres were set up at Papakura, Waiuku and Tuakau for instruction in signalling and the use of Lewis and Bren guns and French mortars. On the ground though, most of the Home Guard ‘troops’ had no weapons. A piece of wood, vaguely shaped like a rifle had to suffice for drills. As one member of the Home Guard recalls; “The ‘rifles’ were likely to break if dropped. We did eventually get some real rifles and practised dismantling, putting them together and fi ring.” But many of those were obsolete and instructions came that they were not to be fi red. In October 1942, 40,000 American .300 rifles arrived in the country and were issued to sections in areas considered most likely to be attacked.

Home Guard drills and exercises took the men away after work and weekends and the women folk stepped in to keep farms running. Sometimes field training was timed around milking times.

Much effort went into setting up swivel mechanisms to swing large logs into position to block bridges on key routes. Camouflage areas were set up to hide tanks, to ambush any Japanese who landed at Waiuku. Looking back, such defensive systems, like the log block set up on an end of Tuakau Bridge would have been no obstacle to the invading Japanese. Neither would the tank traps and road blocks, but the Home Guard were dedicated to defending their homes, the best they were able.

The experiences of WW1 veterans came into play during Home Guard manoeuvres. Scrambling through bush, across paddocks and swamps and on night exercises, those returned soldiers often lead the way, initiating the younger men, who would go on to join the armed forces. The fear of the Japanese invasion was very real and blackouts were observed nationwide. There was huge relief in New Zealand when the Japanese suffered resounding defeats at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

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elocal Digital Edition – April 2020 (#229)

elocal Digital Edition
April 2020 (#229)

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