World War II

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The University Archives holds a number of Massey Agricultural College photographs and records dating from the period of the Second World War. This issue of Spotlight focusses on some of the photos we hold.

Massey, like many other institutions in New Zealand, experienced great upheaval during the War. The War slowed the growth of the College by drawing away many of its staff and most of the students into the army or top priority production activities.  Many of the College staff who remained, served the War effort locally in some or other way.  Massey’s Principal, Prof. Geoffrey Peren, for instance was appointed as the commander of a territorial regiment, B Squadron, Manawatū Mounted Rifles (Mechanised). The College also directed its research activities towards the war effort.

The Massey Agricultural College campus saw a transformation during the War years. An Army Staff Training College was established on the Massey Agricultural College campus in 1941. A number of pre-fabricated wooden huts were erected on the Oval (see photos below) and an Army Staff Officers’ Hostel was built adjacent to the Refectory to quarter Army officers – this hostel would later became known as McHardy Hall.

In terms of student enrolment numbers, the War was one of the low points in Massey's history. Student numbers began falling after 1940. By 1942 there were only 48 students enrolled at the College. Things began improving again over the course of 1943. Student numbers increased thanks to, among other things, the introduction of a number of rehabilitation courses for returning service men. This was the year in which Massey took possession of the Staff Officers’ Hostel after the Army Department vacated it. The following year the College also acquired Craiglockhart, which would serve as its first women’s hostel.

Like the Great Depression, World War II contributed to Massey remaining a very small institution which was only able to develop into a multi-faculty University many years later.

WWII Manawatu Mounted Rifles officers, c1940_thumb.jpg
Officers of the Manawatū Mounted Rifles, c.1940.
Prof. Peren is seated in the centre of the front row.

WWII Group outside Refectory, 1939-1945_thumb.jpg
Army Staff College group outside the Refectory, 1939-1945.

WWII Massey Campus - 31 May 1943_thumb.jpg
Massey Agricultural College campus, 31 May 1943.
Note the huts on the Oval and the Officers' Mess being built next to the Refectory.

WWII Manawatu Mounted Rifles officers, c_1941-1942_thumb.jpg
Officers of the Manawatū Mounted Rifles, c.1941-1942.

WWII Group, 1939-1945_thumb.jpg
Army group, 1939-1945.

WWII Massey Campus - 31 May 1943 2_thumb.jpg
Massey Agricultural College, 31 May 1943.
Another view of the College. Wharerata is visible to the left.

WWII Staff College Group, 1939-1945 2_thumb.jpg
Army Staff College group outside the Main Building, 1941-1945.

WWII Returned Servicemen Group_thumb.jpg
Prof. Peren with a group of Returned Servicemen, c.1940s.
Prof. Peren is seated in the front row, fourth from right.

WWII Massey aerial photo - Nov 1945_thumb.jpg
The College as it was in November 1945.

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