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New Zealand declares war on Germany

1939 New Zealand declares war on Germany

Alongside Britain and Australia, New Zealand was one of the first countries to become involved in the global conflict precipitated by Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.

In contrast to its entry into the First World War, New Zealand acted in its own right by formally declaring war on Germany on 3 September (unlike Australia, which held that the King's declaration, as in 1914, automatically extended to all his Dominions).

Officially, New Zealand's declaration of war was simultaneous with Britain's, as it was held to exist from the expiry of the British government's ultimatum to Germany to withdraw from Poland (9.30 p.m. New Zealand standard time, 11 a.m. British summer time). In fact, ministers and senior officials waited for formal advice of the expiry of the ultimatum, and Britain's declaration of war on Germany, before taking action. It was not until 11.30 p.m. that the acting Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, issued a statement confirming that New Zealand was at war:

This is not an occasion for many words; it is a dark day in the history of the world ... It is with deep regret and sadness that I make this announcement on behalf of the Government, and the people will receive it with similar feelings. That will not, however, affect the determination of both Government and people to play their part.

At 1.55 a.m. the Governor-General, Viscount Galway, cabled the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to advise that 'the existence of a state of war with Germany has accordingly been proclaimed in New Zealand'. The proclamation, and Fraser's statement, were widely reported in newspapers the following day.

Although it is Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage's insistent statement, 'Where she goes, we go', that is most often associated with this period, it was Fraser who essentially led the country throughout the war. He formally succeeded Savage as Prime Minister after the latter's death on 27 March 1940.

Image: A group of 28 (Maori) Battalion soldiers in Sora, Italy

First open-heart surgery in NZ

1958 First open-heart surgery in NZ

Pioneering heart surgeon Brian Barratt-Boyes performed the surgery using a heart-lung bypass machine. The procedure, at Green Lane Hospital in Auckland, was performed on an 11-year-old girl with a hole in her heart.

The Melrose Heart Lung machine had been developed at the Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith, London, in the early 1950s. Barratt-Boyes persuaded the Auckland Hospital Board to spend the £3000 needed to purchase the machine. When it arrived at Green Lane it needed significant alteration and a number of parts were missing. Kiwi ingenuity stepped in. Alfred Melville of the Auckland Industrial Development Laboratory manufactured the parts required and made the machine fully functional. The Melrose machine was able to bypass the patient's heart for 25 minutes.

Barratt-Boyes and his medical team at Green Lane established an international reputation for their work. He pioneered new surgical techniques to replace defective heart valves and found new ways to treat babies born with heart defects. Many of the techniques he developed became common practice worldwide.

In 1971 Barratt-Boyes received a knighthood in recognition of his services to medicine. He himself suffered from heart problems and died in 2006, shortly after undergoing heart surgery in the United States.

Image: NZ Medical Journal