(Compiled by Dennis B. Horne)
On the 15th of October 1940 a cable was sent from Church headquarters to President Matthew Cowley. The cable instructed him to send all missionaries home on the next possible ship leaving the country. For almost fourteen months, New Zealand had been at war.
government allowed sixty-five missionaries from out of the country to labor
there. This number included President and Sister Cowley and their daughter, so
the most we could ever have in the mission at any one time was sixty-two
missionaries. After war was declared, we received fewer and fewer new
missionaries, and almost monthly one or two elders would return home.
Consequently, the missionary work was gradually being curtailed. Fortunately,
there was excellent local priesthood leadership in the thirteen districts and
eighty-four branches of the mission.
During the months after New Zealand went to war, all sorts of defense measures were taken. The missionaries laboring at the mission home became air raid wardens and we were instructed what to do in case of a raid.
All of the
harbors of New Zealand were mined so that ships were not able to come and go
unless they were assisted by a pilot boat. As a result, the number of ships coming
from around the world greatly decreased and when a ship did come to either
Auckland or Wellington, it would generally come at night and always
unannounced. However, we were reasonably certain (or maybe hopeful) that at
least one ship would make it in each month from either Canada or America with
V. Haslam and I were the secretaries of the mission at the time the cable to President
Cowley arrived. We went to the post office, reached in our postal box and
retrieved a large, fat envelope containing the cable. We caught the tram up
Queen Street and rushed back to the mission home. We gave President Cowley the
cable and then went into our office. The other elders around the mission home
came in and we stood there discussing our future. After about ten minutes,
President Cowley, accompanied by Sister Cowley, came in. He was visibly shaken
and announced in a loud voice that we were all going home. The cable contained
184 words and stated that all Zion Elders were to return home at the earliest
also directed that the mission president's wife and family should decide
whether they would stay with the presi dent or return home with the elders. I
will never forget Sister Cowley when he turned to her and said, "What do
you want to do?" I think it was her greatest moment, even though she had
always been a wonderful and excellent mission mother and mission president's
wife. She immediately, without any hesitation, said, "I wouldn't leave you
now for anything. If you ever needed me, you will need me now." She
wouldn't even think of the possibility of leaving him alone there in New
Zealand. He was delighted with her attitude and loyalty.
began our preparations to leave. Elder Haslam and I were instructed to obtain
the necessary permits to leave the country. We also had to get other permits to
take money out of the country. We bought tickets on the SS Mariposa, a Matson
ocean liner that had just left New Zealand and was on its way to Australia. It
was due back in Auckland on Tuesday, October 22, and we had instructions to be
the various statistical and financial reports that we sent to Salt Lake each
month, Elder Haslam and I were sure that we wouldn't be able to get all of the
office work done in time to board the ship. We explained this to President
Cowley. He granted us permission to stay one extra month in order to help him
train local members to take over the duties of the office. At the same time,
the missionaries, Elders Barry T. Wride and Warren S. Ottley, who published the
magazine TeKarere for the mission, got permission to stay also. Of course, we
thought we were extra clever in maneuvering the president into giving us an
extra month to stay.
That afternoon I went to the Matson Line office and
purchased thirty tickets. I next got thirty permits for the missionaries to
leave the country and take out money. The next morning in the newspaper we
noticed that there would be no more ships leaving New Zealand for three and
maybe up to six months. With that information, the mission president withdrew
from us the privilege of staying on an extra month.
week, Elder Haslam and I, having the bulk of the work to do, labored almost
night and day to get all the reports up to date. We then had to explain them to
President Cowley so he could train local members to help him in the management
of the financial and statistical affairs of the mission. It was difficult to
locate all the other elders in those first two or three days, but we succeeded
and they were all in Auckland by Saturday night.
a day of sober activities. President Cowley held a special priesthood meeting
with all of the missionaries plus some of the local priesthood leaders. A few
priesthood leaders from outside the mission also came to be with us on that
Sunday. A special Sunday School meeting was held in the afternoon. Then in the
evening a big meeting was held down town in one of the theaters. All of the
missionaries had an opportunity to speak briefly and it was a great day for all
of us. Incidentally, Elder Ottley and I took care of a baptismal service for
five or six persons on that day also.
Haslam and I managed only three to four hours sleep each night during that last
week. On the last night, we didn't go to bed at all. When daylight came we were
sad. I will never forget President Cowley as he talked to each of us and gave
us our releases. He was broken hearted because he thoroughly enjoyed his
association with the missionaries.
Haslam and I and the staff elders, were the last to leave the mission home.
President Cowley was vacuuming the floor to keep busy. I think he must have
vacuumed for two hours, and he was too busy doing that to be able to go to the
dock to see us off. However, Sister Cowley and Jewell, their daughter, as well
as a large group of the Saints from throughout the whole mission were there to
see us leave.
When the SS
Mariposa docked, there were thirty-three elders from Australia on board.
Thirty-four of us who were leaving New Zealand joined them. We sailed to Samoa
where we spent a whole day in Pago Pago. I think the sixty-seven of us elders
completely destroyed the morale of the Samoan mission that day.
ship left, the missionaries from Samoa as well as those from Tonga who had been
able to secure passage into Pago Pago joined our group. When we left Samoa, we
had a total of ninety missionaries on board. We had gathered all of the
missionaries from that part of the world except the few who may have been in
arrived in San Francisco, we were each welcomed personally by President David
0. McKay, then a counselor in the First Presidency. He was in charge of
reassigning the missionaries to their respective missions.
missionaries who had served twenty-two months or longer were honorably released
to return home. Those who had not been out that long were reassigned to the
California mission or to the Northwestern States mission where they finished
out their time of service.
evacuation of ninety missionaries from the South Pacific was handled in an
orderly manner. Ships had been traveling monthly from the United States to
Australia and back, but since the beginning of the war, they carried very few
passengers. The only real problem we had was that instead of eating three and
four desserts at every meal like missionaries usually did, we were asked to cut
down to just one so that they wouldn't run out entirely before our journey was
through. This was a great hardship on some of the missionaries.