Blog Archives

New Zealand’s bloodiest campaign, Steven Loveridge

New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign
Ian McGibbon
Bateman, $80.00,
ISBN 9781869539269

Efforts to explain and/or convey WWI’s Western Front have endured for a century. Libraries could be stocked with military histories investigating the operation of armies, the performance of commanders and the fortunes (often the misfortunes) of this critical centre of the war. Social and cultural studies contemplating subjects ranging from soldiers’ experiences, interpretations rendered in memoirs and monuments, and the wider legacies etched on belligerent societies, have flourished as avenues of inquiry. Popular cultural representations have likewise worked in establishing and transmitting a sense of the subject – the humour within Blackadder’s irreverent summation (“the mud, the noise, the endless … poetry”), for example, hinges on evoking accepted and shared touchstones with the audience.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Powerful peace, Robert Sullivan

Te Whiti o Rongomai and the Resistance of Parihaka Danny Keenan Huia, $45.00, ISBN 9781775501954 This account of the non-violent resistance movement founded by the prophets Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi at the Taranaki settlement of Parihaka begins

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Posted in History, Maori, Non-fiction, Review and War

Imaging war, Stella Ramage

Behind the Twisted Wire: New Zealand Artists in World War I Jennifer Haworth Wily Publications, $50.00, ISBN 9781927167212 Recently, I had the privilege of watching the magnificently restored WWI propaganda film, Battle of the Somme (1916). Shot by official cinematographers

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Posted in Art, Non-fiction, Review and War

Memory and amnesia, Giovanni Tiso

To the Memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials Jock Phillips Potton and Burton, $60.00, ISBN 9780947503024 Think of it as a road guide to New Zealand of sorts, one that maps your route both spatially and chronologically: for almost every town

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Behind bars, Roger Robinson

The Prison Diary of A C Barrington: Dissent and Conformity in Wartime New Zealand John Pratt (with an introduction by John Barrington) Otago University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927322314 When did you last think about being in prison? Not the theory

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Mud, blood and misconception, Damien Fenton

First Day of the Somme: The Complete Account of Britain’s Worst-ever Military Disaster  Andrew Macdonald, HarperCollins, $40.00, ISBN 9781775540403 Experience of a Lifetime: People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War  John Crawford, David Littlewood and James Watson (eds)

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With the Second Division, Tony Simpson

A Bloody Road Home: World War Two and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division Christopher Pugsley Penguin, $70.00 ISBN 9780143571896 It might seem strange that we have had to wait seven decades from the conclusion of WWII for a comprehensive history

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Rescuing an heroic figure, Jane Westaway

Petals & Bullets: Dorothy Morris, New Zealand Nurse in the Spanish Civil War
Mark Derby
Potton and Burton, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927213766

In the preface to Mark Derby’s new book, Spanish War historian Angela Jackson writes of the challenge in recounting the lives of so-called “do-gooders”. Such figures – often female – aren’t sexy. They tend to live beyond the public eye, the corridors of power and the celebrity-mad media. Thus, they leave behind precious little of the source material biographers and historians rely on. Derby notes a related difficulty – that of making a dedicated life “appear interesting” – even though his subject is Dorothy Morris, a Christchurch nurse who worked in Spain during the Civil War, caring for horribly injured civilians and soldiers, as well as starving and traumatised children and refugees.

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Posted in Biography, History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Mingling the sacred and the profane, Martin Edmond

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing
Harry Ricketts and Gavin McLean (eds)
Penguin Books, $65.00, ISBN 9780143573098

Oddly enough – or perhaps not – when this book arrived at my door I remembered one of the more arcane customs recorded in Te Rangi Hiroa’s The Coming of the Māori: “Warriors before setting out on a military campaign,” he writes, “each in turn bit (ngau) the cross beam (paepae) of the latrine.” These were cliff-side toilets in hill forts and the cross beam was what you held onto while you shat into the void below. There was a strong tapu upon it, to prevent the theft of faecal matter for the purposes of sorcery; and the ceremony of the biting of the bar was attended by a tohunga chanting karakia considered protective of Te Hokowhitu a Tu as they went off to make war.

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Voices from the past, Jock Phillips

Remembering Gallipoli: Interviews with New Zealand Gallipoli Veterans
Christopher Pugsley and Charles Ferrall (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00
ISBN 9780864739919

Amid the flood of printed words that have marked the centenary of New Zealand’s Gallipoli experience, Remembering Gallipoli comes with, in every sense, the most history. The interviews on which the book is based were initially conducted in 1982 by four women, members of a media company, Bluestockings, as background research for Television New Zealand. There were 130 soldiers and one nurse interviewed, all in their late 80s or 90s. Chris Pugsley and Maurice Shadbolt then re-interviewed 21 (or 26 as Pugsley writes elsewhere) on camera. Extracts were used in the powerful 1984 documentary Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story and drawn on for Pugsley’s magnificent book in the same year with the same name. Shadbolt chose 12 of the subjects to tell their stories in his stirring Voices of Gallipoli (1988), a book which was a revelation to many, including Helen Clark, who read it on the plane flying to Gallipoli in 2000 when she conceived of a project to record the memories of WWII veterans.

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