What was the Battle of Manners Street (1943)?


The Battle of Manners Street refers to a riot involving American servicemen and New Zealand servicemen and civilians outside the Allied Services Club in Manners Street, Wellington, New Zealand in 1943 (Refer to World War II).

The club was a social centre, open to all military personnel.

Refer to Zoot Suit Riots (1943), Battle of Brisbane (1942), and Townsville Mutiny (1942).


In 1942-1944 there were anywhere between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen stationed in New Zealand, most camped around major urban centres of the country. Many of the American servicemen were coming from major American urban centres to New Zealand, which in 1943 was an isolated country with only 1.6 million inhabitants.


Some American servicemen in the Services Club objected to Māori soldiers also using the Club, and on 03 April 1943 began stopping Māori soldiers from entering. Many New Zealand soldiers in the area, both white (Pākehā) and Māori, combined in opposition. The stand off escalated when Americans took off their belts to attack those who wanted to let the Māori in. Fights broke out and at one point at least a thousand men were involved in the subsequent fracas, which was broken up by civil and military police. The major brawl lasted from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, with some brawls lasting for perhaps another two hours. Dozens of people were injured. The fighting spread to the ANA (Army, Navy and Air Force) Club in Willis Street and to Cuba Street. At the time, hotel bars closed at 6:00 pm, the six o’clock swill, and inebriated patrons were then ejected into the streets.

News of the riot was censored at the time, hence much of the mythology about the event, including the claim that two Americans were killed.

It was twenty years before the finding of the Court of Inquiry was released.

Other Riots

Around the same time as the Battle of Manners Street a similar riot between American and New Zealand service men was taking place in Auckland and one month later during the Mayfair Cabaret, in Cuba Street, Wellington, on 12 May 1945 another riot took place. Later in October a group of American servicemen and Maori civilians came to blows at Ōtaki in October 1943.


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