Interned in New Zealand

Naval officer Felix von Luckner left Germany as Captain of the raider vessel Seeadler in December 1916.

Left: Felix von Luckner, 1930s

Canterbury Museum 19XX.2.536

Over the next 8 months, in an attempt to undermine confidence in Allied shipping routes, von Luckner and his crew scuttled 14 ships and took more than 300 prisoners. After running aground in French Polynesia, von Luckner with five of his men sailed 3,000 km to Fiji in late 1917.

There they were captured as prisoners of war. The men were taken to New Zealand and imprisoned at Motuihe Island in Auckland Harbour and Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour. Von Luckner was involved in numerous escape attempts prior to his repatriation to Germany in 1919.

Canterbury Museum 2004.55.1

WW066 180802

A Pipe to Pass the Time?

Von Luckner and his navigator, Lieutenant Carl Kircheiss, spent 109 days imprisoned in Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour.

This meerschaum pipe, with a repair by Christchurch watchmaker and jeweller George White, likely relates to the time von Luckner spent imprisoned in Canterbury.

The word Seeadler and an image of an Iron Cross (a German military award) are scratched into the surface of the pipe.

Bristol Piano ad5

What’s in a Name?

Within months of the outbreak of the War, New Zealanders began to hear reports of alleged German atrocities. Patriotic feeling towards Britain quickly merged into anti-German sentiment. Citizens were encouraged to avoid purchasing German goods, German residents in New Zealand were imprisoned and anything with a German-sounding name was subject to change. Residents of German Bay, just outside Akaroa, decided in June 1915 to change the “hateful” name of their settlement. From that point, the name reverted to the original Māori name of Takamatua. A few months earlier, The Dresden Piano Company announced it would change its name to The Bristol Piano Company.


The Bristol Piano Company Ltd advertisement

Star, 23 January 1915

Germans ATL4

German internees, in military uniforms they made themselves, pose on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. A small group of enemy aliens were also interned at Motuihe Island in Auckland Harbour.

Alexander Turnbull Library 1/2-112287-F

The Registration of Aliens

Under the Registration of Aliens Act 1917, naturalised New Zealanders and non-British subjects were required to register as aliens at their local police station.

More than 500 enemy subjects were interned in New Zealand during the War.