Created By: Radical Wellington Walking Tour
On the corner of Manners, Lombard, and Victoria, used to stand the New Zealand Post Office building, and during the Second World War, it was the Allied Services Club, the location that sparked the Battle of Manners Street: a three hour mass brawl between American servicemen and New Zealanders.
Much of the detail of this event is lost to history and rumour, as a persisting national-wide media blackout sought to suppress news of disruption against American allies. This suppression of information most likely led to the exaggerated rumours that have seen this event persist in historical memory, but it is commonly understood that the cultural clashes between American servicemen and New Zealand civilians led to these kinds of scuffles.
The igniting incident, however, is said to have been sparked when southern American Marines protested the presence of Maori soldiers and attempted to prevent their entrance into the Club. The event (described variously as a stoush, or fracas, or skirmish) led to widespread brawling, a spontaneous eruption of violence that serves, if nothing else, to represent an igniting friction between clashing politics: an imported belief in racial segregation in a country that did not impose the same racist structures.
Want to learn more?
NZHistory provides a compelling overview of the historical moment when US forces mingled with the New Zealand population during the Second World War.
Alexander Turnbull Library. Manners Street, Wellington, [ca 1930] Reference Number: 1/2-048949-G.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Walking Radical Wellington