New Zealand prisoners of Japan WW2

Over the last year and a bit I have been working on a register of all New Zealanders (both military and civilian) who were held captive by the Japanese in the Second World War. The intention was to create something that would be useful at my work and as an online resource that might be useful to others. Currently my register has 785 names on it.

My methodology in deciding who is a New Zealander is broad. If they were born there, resided there and still have next of kin there or were married to a New Zealander, I have included their names in my list. I haven’t included all those New Zealanders who were in the “Far East” and either got away or were killed in the fighting, only those that were captured by the Japanese.

If they served in the Army, Air Force, Navy or Merchant Navy I have counted them as Military. If they were a civilian working in the Far East but then joined and served with one of the many volunteer forces in the area at the time, I have counted them as military too. If they were one of the many missionaries working in the area before capture, I have considered these as civilians.

The civilian classification is broken into 1.) New Zealanders 2.) nationality undetermined (indicated by *) 3.) British nationality (indicated by **).

The main source of information for civilian names in my register, is the card index of the “New Zealand Missing and Prisoners of War Agency”, held by Archives NZ in Wellington. I have also used online resources like the Ancestry, CWGC, Cambridge Digital Library, FEPOW family, Centre for research – Allied POW’s under the Japanese, Australian Department of Veterans Affairs – nominal roll, Hong Kong War diary, plus others. I am lucky in that where I work, I have access to the WW2 New Zealand military service files and some other resources that have helped me compile the names of NZ military held as POW by the Japanese.

Some interesting numbers from my register:

Of the 785 kiwis there were 153 women and 632 men held in captivity.

There were 119, who died while in captivity, 114 of those were men.

Of the 785 names, 351 were in the military. 98 (or 27%) of them died in captivity.

I have identified 31 kiwis who worked on the “Death Railways”. Of the 25 kiwis who worked on the Thailand/Burma Railway, 19 of them died. Of the 6 kiwis who worked on the Sumatra railway, 2 of them died.

The first kiwi death in Japanese custody was on 16 December 1941, the last was 10 August 1945.

52 captive New Zealanders served with the Federated Malay States Volunteer Force. 25 kiwis with the Australian Military Forces (14 of them died). The British forces had 22, and Hong Kong Volunteer Defence force 19. There were smaller groups of kiwis who served with the military forces of lots of other groups/countries in the area.

I don’t believe I have captured the names of all the New Zealanders who were held by the Japanese and I am sure there are some names I have listed that, for one reason or another, shouldn’t be here. I want to make this register as accurate as possible so that is why I want to put the draft register here for comment, correction or addition.

If you see any errors, names spelt wrong, names listed that shouldn’t be here, tell me. If you know of a name I have missed, let me know. There are lots of gaps in the roll, initials, names of camps missing etc, if you can fill-in any of these details please add a comment with the details and I will correct/update my master list.



2 thoughts on “New Zealand prisoners of Japan WW2

  1. Hi Chris,
    Looks like a great resource and well researched.
    ‘Why wait’, until the centenary of WW2 to start researching these subjects. It is good to see proactive subjects done now instead of later.
    Have you considered offering the list the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph team?


    • Hello Barry,
      I hope it will be useful and I will offer it to the Auckland Cenotaph team and all the service museums to try and make it as available as possible. In doing the research I have come across some really amazing stories which I hope to make available on the expanded version of this register.
      Thanks for your comments.


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