In the service of one’s country, Mary Varnham

Le Quesnoy 1918: New Zealand’s Last Battle
Christopher Pugsley
Oratia, $45.00,
ISBN 9780947506490

My father served on the Western Front, having signed up at the age of 17 or thereabouts. He came from a lonely farm in the Akatarawa Valley, so joining a bunch of other young men and sailing to the other side of the world must have seemed alluring and exciting. The use of the word “serve” is interesting, though. I’m sure he had no intention to serve anyone or anything other than himself. It was a great escape. Few of the estimated 74,000 New Zealanders who, like my father, found themselves stumbling through oozing mud, running across open ground under fire, or clambering for miles through torturous forest undergrowth, would have seen this as something they had wanted or expected to do.

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