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The art of war: the First World War in paintings, photographs, posters and cartoons

By 1916 Britain, Australia and Canada had each established official war art programmes to document their country’s activities in the First World War and to use for propaganda purposes. Muirhead Bone was appointed Britain’s first official war artist in May of that year in an unprecedented act of government sponsorship for the arts. New Zealand lagged behind its allies on this issue because its wartime government considered war art unnecessary and expensive, but in April 1918 Nugent Welch was taken on as New Zealand’s divisional war artist.

Art:
Syndetics book coverArt from the First World War.
“Throughout World War I, the British government employed a diverse group of artists to produce a rich visual record of wartime events. But the art from this important collection often far exceeds this objective, giving voice to both the artist and the soldiers who are depicted. Art from the First World War contains more than fifty images chosen from among the Imperial War Museum’s impressive collection of works by war artists. Art from the First World War features some of the most well-known British artists of the twentieth century, from the brothers John and Paul Nash to William Orpen, Stanley Spencer, and John Singer Sargent, whose Gassed shows a line of wounded soldiers blinded by a mustard gas attack. On the occasion of the centenary, the Imperial War Museum is bringing this book out in a new edition.” (Syndetics summary)

Portraits:
Historically portraits of military leaders were more common then the portraits of the ordinary serviceman. The depictions of other aspects of war such as the suffering of casualties and civilians has taken much longer to develop.

Syndetics book coverThe Great War in portraits / Paul Moorhouse ; with an essay by Sebastian Faulks.
“In viewing the Great War through the portraits of those involved, Paul Moorhouse looks at the bitter-sweet nature of a conflict in which valour and selfless endeavour were qualified by disaster and suffering, and examines the notion of identity – how various individuals associated with the war were represented and perceived.” (Syndetics)

Women artists:
There were no officially commissioned women war artists in the First World War. Women artists were excluded from the front line – the fields of domesticity and social and industrial subjects were considered to be their metier. However women served as nurses, nurse aides and ambulance drivers. Many of them were accomplished informal artists and were able to record their experiences in several mediums.

 

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Left: ‘A Grenadier Guardsman’ by William Orpen, 1917. Right: ‘A bus conductress’ by Victoria Monkhouse, 1919.

Syndetics book coverBeyond the battlefield : women artists of the two World Wars
“World Wars I and II changed the globe on a scale never seen before or since, and from these terrible conflicts came an abundance of photographs, drawings, and other artworks attempting to make sense of the turbulent era. In this generously illustrated book, Catherine Speck provides a fascinating account of women artists during wartime in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and their visual responses to war, both at the front lines and on the home front. In addition to following high-profile artists such as American photographer Lee Miller, Speck recounts the experiences of nurses, voluntary aides, and ambulance drivers who found the time to create astonishing artworks in the midst of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Posters:
Posters were recognised as a powerful recruiting tool with simple slogans and strong graphic imagery designed to appeal to the working class who fuelled so much of the machinery of war. They were also used to stir up patriotic feeling, influence women to send their menfolk to the front and to take up positions in service, farms and factories. They were also used to justify the war, raise money, procure resources and to promote good standards of behaviour.

Syndetics book coverBritish posters of the First World War
“During the First World War the authorities emulated the simple slogans and strong graphic imagery of advertising posters to create a form of mass communication that was easily and instantly understood by the British public. They were aimed at the mostly illiterate working class who did more than their share to feed the machinery of war. This book looks at the art of these posters and explores the themes that emerged throughout the course of the conflict.” (Syndetics)

Photography:
Photography in the First World War was made possible by earlier developments in chemistry and in the manufacture of glass lenses, established as a practical process from the 1850s onwards.The ability of photographers to document events was limited to what they could literally see at a certain time, while the quality of their work was hampered by the limited manoeuverability of their equipment. War artists had much greater flexibility as documenters of war, particularly in the difficult conditions of the trenches.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in colour : the definitive illustrated history with over 200 remarkable full colour photographs
“Up to now, World War I has only been seen in black and white. At the time, it was the only way pictures from the front and scenes recreated for the camera could be filmed. Now, for the first time, rare archive footage in black and white from worldwide sources, including Russia, Germany, France, Italy, the USA and the Imperial War Museum, London, has been recast into colour with the greatest care and attention to detail. The results are breathtaking, bringing a remarkable immediacy and poignancy to the war which consumed the lives of 10 million soldiers and civilians.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverImages of war : World War One : a photographic record of New Zealanders at war 1914-1918
“In this photographic collection from the archives of the Waiouru Army Museum, renowned military historian Glyn Harper has selected and annotated the story of Kiwis at the front during the First World War.” (Syndetics)

Cartoons:
For many confronted with the effects or aftermath of the war’s violence, photos were too graphic for daily consumption. Caricatures and cartoons served as a release valve—allowing citizens to make fun of politicians, or the enemy, to offset the dire realities of the day. The period was a high point for illustrated magazines, and cartoons were contemporary commentaries.

Syndetics book coverWorld War I in cartoons
“Using images from a wide variety of international wartime magazines, newspapers, books, postcards, posters and prints, Mark Bryant tells the history of World War I from both sides of the conflict in an immediate and refreshing manner that brings history alive. The book contains more than 300 cartoons and caricatures, in colour and black and white, many of which are published here in book form for the first time. Artists featured include such famous names as Bruce Bairnsfather, H.M.Bateman, F.H.Townshend, Alfred Leete, E.J. Sullivan, Lucien Metivet and Louis Raemaekers, with drawings from the Bystander, London Opinion, Daily Graphic, Punch, Le Rire, Simplicissimus and Kladderadatsch amongst many others.” (Syndetics)

Art and medicine:
Drawings, portraits and photographs were used to help the four pioneering plastic surgeons of the two world wars to reconstruct the faces of disfigured servicemen and civilians.

Syndetics book coverReconstructing faces : the art and wartime surgery of Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe & Mowlem
“The two world wars played an important role in the evolution of plastic and maxillofacial surgery in the first half of the 20th century. This book is about four of the key figures involved. Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe were born in Dunedin; McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, and Henry Pickerill was foundation Dean of the University of Otago Dental School.” (Syndetics)

How the First World War shaped the future of Western art:
The First World War utterly changed the way artists looked at the world. Throughout Western art, the grim realities of industrial warfare led to a backlash against the propaganda and grandiose nationalism that had sparked the conflagration. Cynicism toward the ruling classes and disgust with war planners and profiteers led to demands for art forms that were honest and direct, less embroidered with rhetoric and euphemism.

Syndetics book coverEsprit de corps : the art of the Parisian avant-garde and the First World War, 1914-1925
“In analyzing the changes in modern art between the outbreak of World War I and the Paris Exposition des Arts Dcoratifs of 1925, Kenneth Silver shows that the Parisian avant-garde was deeply involved in French society and its dominant values and relationships. He radically reinterprets masterpieces of modern art, from Matisse and Picasso to Léger and Le Corbusier, demonstrating how their creators all refer, consciously or not, to the Great War and its aftermath.” (Syndetics)

New Science Fiction and Fantasy for August

Another selection of the best new Science Fiction and Fantasy novels received this month. There is an almost limitless variety of themes for your reading enjoyment. Included is the short story collection by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski titled Sword of Destiny.

Syndetics book coverCorsair / James L. Cambias.
“In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT, where Schwartz is sneaking into classes, and have a brief affair. David is amoral and out for himself, and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating. Nearly ten years later, David is setting himself to become a billionaire by working in the shadows and Elizabeth works in intelligence preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth’s economy, shipments from space are dropped down the gravity well into the oceans. David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGreen glowing skull / Gavin Corbett.
“After fleeing his dying parents and the drudgery of work in Dublin for the Manhattan of his imagination, a place of dark old concert halls and mellow front parlours quieted by the hiss of the phonograph cylinder, Rickard Velily hopes to be reborn as an Irish tenor, and to one day be reunited with the love of his life. At the very peculiar Cha Bum Kun Club, a masonic style refuge for immigrants who can’t quite cut it in New York City, Rickard meets Denny and Clive, and a plan is hatched: to revive the ballards of another time for a hip young city in thrall to technology and money. But that is without reckoning on meddlesome sprites, the phantoms of the past and more malign forces who plot to subjugate the human race.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArtemis awakening / Jane Lindskold.
“The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All technology was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay but there was always the possibility of danger so that visitors could brag that they had “bested” the environment. The Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of the advanced technology and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Vagrant / Peter Newman.
“The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape. As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defenses of a once great civilization are crumbling into dust. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe long Utopia / Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.
“2045-2059. After the cataclysmic upheavals of Step Day and the Yellowstone eruption humanity is spreading further into the Long Earth, and society, on a battered Datum Earth and beyond, continues to evolve. An elderly and cantankerous AI, Lobsang lives in disguise with Agnes, in an exotic, far-distant world and he’s convinced they’re leading a normal life in New Springfield, they even adopt a child, but it seems they have been guided there for a reason. As rumours of strange sightings and hauntings proliferate, it becomes clear that something is very awry with this particular world. Millions of steps away, Joshua is on a personal journey of discovery: learning about the father he never knew and a secret family history. But then he receives a summons from New Springfield. Lobsang now understands the enormity of what’s taking place beneath the surface of his earth, a threat to all the worlds of the Long Earth. To counter this threat will require the combined efforts of humankind, machine and the super-intelligent Next. And some must make the ultimate sacrifice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPoseidon’s wake / Alastair Reynolds.
“This story takes two extraordinary characters and follows them as they, independently, begin to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of our universe. Their missions are dangerous, and they are all venturing into the unknown and if they can uncover the secret to faster-than-light travel then new worlds will be at our fingertips. But innovation and progress are not always embraced by everyone. There is a saboteur at work. Different factions disagree about the best way to move forward and the mysterious Watchkeepers are ever-present.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAurora / Kim Stanley Robinson.
“Generations after leaving earth, a starship draws near to the planet that may serve as a new home world for those on board. But the journey has brought unexpected changes and their best laid plans may not be enough to survive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSword of destiny / Andrzej Sapkowski ; translated by David French.
“Tthis collection of short stories follows the adventures of Geralt, a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realise that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil or simple naivety.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA quantum mythology / Gavin G. Smith.
“In the far future, many years after the Loss of the Earth, humanity has changed. Strength is the only way to survive. And the most vicious man alive has a new con in mind. Here and now, a man with unnatural powers hunts down a killer with impossible abilities. Infused with a barely understood alien technology, the two are merely pawns in a bigger game. In the distant past, the last tribes of Northern Britain face an unimaginable enemy. Demons risen from the sea, absorbing and twisting everything they touch. But there are some among the tribes who have power, who will fight. And all of these times are coming together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverChildren of time / Adrian Tchaikovsky.
“The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age, a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare. Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Fragmented Perspectives – Recent History Picks for August

Fragments of perspectives from the shadowy past characterise much of this month’s picks. Stories as painfully recent as Mike Smith’s Boko Haram are included as well as those as culturally imbued as Weegee’s depictions of NYC and the colonial mission of the Pacific in Margaret Pointer’s freshly illustrated Niue 1774-1974. Fragments from these sometimes uncertain and buried histories make for exciting reading that is elucidated here especially by the nuanced and powerful voices of individuals.

Syndetics book coverThe fortunes of Francis Barber : the true story of the Jamaican slave who became Samuel Johnson’s heir / Michael Bundock.
“This compelling book chronicles a young boy’s journey from the horrors of Jamaican slavery to the heart of London’s literary world, and reveals the unlikely friendship that changed his life. […] There were thousands of black Britons in the eighteenth century, but few accounts of their lives exist. In uncovering Francis Barber’s story, this book not only provides insights into his life and Samuel Johnson’s but also opens a window onto London when slaves had yet to win their freedom.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA spy in the archives : a memoir of Cold War Russia / Sheila Fitzpatrick.
“Moscow in the 1960s was the other side of the Iron Curtain: mysterious, exotic, even dangerous. In 1966 the historian Sheila Fitzpatrick traveled to Moscow to research in the Soviet archives. […] Full of drama and colorful characters, her remarkable memoir highlights the dangers and drudgery faced by Westerners living under communism.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWe’re still here, ya bastards : how the people of New Orleans rebuilt their city / Roberta Brandes Gratz.
“The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is one of the darkest chapters in American history. […] By telling stories that are often ignored by the mainstream media, We’re Still Here Ya Bastards shows the strength and resilience of a community that continues to work to rebuild New Orleans, and reveals what Katrina couldn’t destroy: the vibrant culture, epic history, and unwavering pride of one of the greatest cities in America.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBoko Haram : inside Nigeria’s unholy war / Mike Smith.
“An insurgency in Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has left thousands dead, shaken Africa’s biggest nation and worried the world. Yet they remain a mysterious-almost unknowable-organization. Through extensive on-the-ground reporting, Smith takes readers inside the violence and provides the first in-depth account of the conflict. […] Interspersed with Nigerian history, this book delves into the roots of the unholy war being waged against the backdrop of an evolving extremist threat worldwide.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe porcelain thief : searching the Middle Kingdom for buried China / Huan Hsu.
“A journalist travels throughout mainland China and Taiwan in search of his family’s hidden treasure and comes to understand his ancestry as he never has before. […] Melding memoir, travelogue, and social and political history, The Porcelain Thief offers an intimate and unforgettable way to understand the complicated events that have defined China over the past two hundred years and provides a revealing, lively perspective on contemporary Chinese society from the point of view of a Chinese American coming to terms with his hyphenated identity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNiue 1774-1974 : 200 years of contact and change / Margaret Pointer.
“Tiny Niue lies alone in the south Pacific, a single island with formidable cliffs rising from the deep ocean. […] Yet Niue has a surprisingly rich history of contact, from the brief landings by James Cook in 1774 through to the 19th-century visits by whalers, traders, and missionaries, and into the 20th century […] Together, text and images unravel a fascinating and colorful Pacific story of Nukututaha, the island that stands alone.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDancing with the devil in the City of God : Rio de Janeiro on the brink / Juliana Barbassa.
“In the tradition of Detroit: An American Autopsy and Maximum City comes a deeply reported and beautifully written biography of the seductive and chaotic city of Rio de Janeiro […] this kaleidoscopic portrait of Rio introduces the reader to the people who make up this city of extremes, revealing their aspirations and their grit, their violence, their hungers and their splendor, and shedding light on the future of this city they are building together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Weegee guide to New York : roaming the city with its greatest tabloid photographer / researched and compiled by Philomena Mariani and Christopher George.
“Take a walk with Weegee and discover New York City through the eyes of its most unflinching chronicler. During his storied career as the quintessential New York photojournalist, Weegee explored the city’s least glamorous pockets, depicting brutal crimes, horrific accidents, tenement dwellers, street vendors, and mischievous kids. And although his perspective was often dark and cynical, he was also tremendously sentimental about his subjects’ hard lives […]” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fall of the Ottomans : the Great War in the Middle East / Eugene Rogan.
“In 1914 the Ottoman Empire was depleted of men and resources after years of war against Balkan nationalist and Italian forces. […] The Great War spelled the end of the Ottomans, unleashing powerful forces that would forever change the face of the Middle East. […] The postwar settlement led to the partition of Ottoman lands between the victorious powers, and laid the groundwork for the ongoing conflicts that continue to plague the modern Arab world.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOut of ashes : a new history of Europe in the twentieth century / Konrad H. Jarausch.
“Konrad Jarausch describes how the European nations emerged from the nineteenth century with high hopes for continued material progress and proud of their imperial command over the globe, only to become embroiled in the bloodshed of World War I […] Out of Ashes explores the paradox of the European encounter with modernity in the twentieth century, shedding new light on why it led to cataclysm, inhumanity, and self-destruction, but also social justice, democracy, and peace.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Cars and transport: recent titles

This time we have, amongst others, books about transport over the “Northwest Frontier of India”, on the sub-continent, and about the “Middle East Run”, the route “across Europe and deep into the Middle East to Kabul”.

Teak and tide : the ebbs and eddies of the Edwin Fox : from the Ganges to Picton, New Zealand : the changing fortunes of the last surviving 19th century merchantman / Nigel Costley ; with Roderick Glassford & Don Grady.

Syndetics book coverFrom fabric wings to supersonic fighters and drones : a history of military aviation on both sides of the North-West Frontier / Brian Cloughley, Lester W. Grau & Andrew M. Roe.
“The famed, and dangerous Northwest Frontier of India was a rocky, mountainous land between Afghanistan and the settled districts of the Punjab. Military aviation above the frontier has had little real attention, except for a number of lighthearted memoirs about the challenges of flying antiquated aircraft over precipitous terrain. The Pakistani Air Force has taken over the job with more modern aircraft, but it is only since 2004 that independent American activities in the ongoing fight against militancy in northern Pakistan have drawn widespread attention to air power over the frontier. But any wider study of the utility and challenges of air power in the region would be incomplete without a detailed look at the Soviet-Afghan War. The purpose of this book is to provide a compact, yet comprehensive history of air power in this region…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Powerhouse : inside the invention of a battery to save the world / Steve LeVine.
“Journalist LeVine (The Oil and the Glory) offers an inside look at the race among industrialized nations to develop a world-changing battery technology. The main players-Japan, China, South Korea, and the lagging United States – all aim to create a powerful, affordable battery to propel electric automobiles and challenge “the provenance of the internal combustion engine.” The book lays out a history of batteries, looking primarily at the period after 1977, when Exxon released the first rechargeable lithium battery. LeVine follows a number of scientists, entrepreneurs, and managers whose contributions slowly advance the technology, but it’s only when Chicago’s Argonne National Laboratory and a hopeful, venture capital-funded startup called Envia enter the picture that the race toward innovation gains momentum…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

cover imageLondon railway atlas: 4th edition / Joe Brown.
“A cartographic masterpiece which provides detailed mapping of the myriad lines which transverse the city, including both London Underground and national railway networks. The clear and detailed large format maps show all tracks and platforms across the network. The new edition has been updated with a massive amount of new detail ideal for enthusiasts and travellers.” (Syndetics summary)

cover imageIndia’s disappearing railways : a photographic journey / Angus McDonald ; foreword by Sir Mark Tully.
“A vibrant photo-essay by Australian photographer Angus McDonald, capturing the sub-continent’s unique narrow-gauge hill railways in all their vivid colour, character and chaos.” (Syndetics summary)

B00BMRTPEM_02___SCMZZZZZZZ_The long haul pioneers : a celebration of Astran, leaders in overland transport to the Middle East for over 45 years / Ashley Coghill.
“It all started in 1964 when two friends gave up promising medical careers to embark upon a journey which few hardened truckers would have considered. In so doing, they were solely responsible for creating the first long haul overland route, across Europe and deep into the Middle East to Kabul. This book is about the company founded by one of those men, from its fledgling days as Asian Transport to the thriving Astran Cargo Services Ltd that it is today. These early long haul drivers would think nothing of a 10,000 mile round trip to Iran or the Arabian Gulf and being stranded at 6,000 feet on a mountain pass with temperatures below -40 was just all in a day’s work. The end result is a detailed, comprehensive and fascinating account of an extraordinary company.” (Product description, Amazon.co.uk)

Great minds past and present – Biography picks for June

The great news this month is that Oliver Sacks, ground-breaking neurologist and popular author, has at last published his autobiography. Sacks, who has enhanced so many lives, has had a very difficult passage through his own. His memoir gives a frank account of this, and his emergence as a happy and balanced man who found his life partner at the age of seventy seven.
And the sad news this month is that John Nash, the gifted mathematician of ‘A Beautiful Mind’ fame, died in a car crash shortly after receiving the equivalent of the Nobel prize for his work. If you haven’t read A Beautiful Mind you might like to consider it now.

Syndetics book coverThe bird market of Paris : a memoir / Nikki Moustaki.
“An avian expert and author shares a true story of her remarkable grandfather and their shared passion for birds. After his death she fulfils his wish for her to go to Paris and visit the market and this leads to an astonishing redemption.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverBorn with teeth : a memoir / Kate Mulgrew.
“At 22, Kate Mulgrew gave birth to a daughter. Having already signed the adoption papers, she was allowed only a fleeting glimpse of her child. Three days later, she returned to work as the star of a popular soap opera. Twenty years later, she went in search of the daughter she had given away. We know Mulgrew for the strong women she’s played–Captain Janeway on Star Trek; “Red” on Orange Is the New Black. Now, in her memoir, we meet the most inspiring and lovable character of all: herself.” (Summary from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverEisenhower : in war and peace / Jean Edward Smith.
“In his magisterial bestseller FDR, Jean Edward Smith gave us a fresh, modern look at one of the most indelible figures in American history. Now this peerless biographer returns with a new life of Dwight D. Eisenhower that is as full, rich, and revealing as anything ever written about America’s thirty-fourth president.” (Summary from Amazon.co.uk)

Syndetics book coverThe book of wanderings : a mother-daughter pilgrimage / Kimberly Meyer.
“To a mother and daughter on an illuminating pilgrimage, this is what the desert said: Carry only what you need. Burn what can’t be saved. Leave the remnants as an offering. When Kimberly Meyer gave birth to her first daughter, Ellie, during her senior year of college, the bohemian life of exploration she had once imagined for herself was lost in the responsibilities of single motherhood. For years, both mother and daughter were haunted by how Ellie came into being-Kimberly through a restless ache for the world beyond, Ellie through a fear of abandonment.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverOn the move : a life / Oliver Sacks.
“Few people can claim to have made such a profound impact on the public understanding of the brain and its inner workings. In this book, Oliver Sacks describes his time at Oxford University, his time spent in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early nineteen sixties, before moving on to chart his progression from young doctor to his public role as a neurologist and author. Here we see Sacks’s private passions – among them, motorcycling, weightlifting, travel, and botany – placed alongside his professional life. He will also explore his most formative relationships with those thinkers who have influenced his own work.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA curious friendship : the story of a bluestocking and a bright young thing / Anna Thomasson.
“The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith’s world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverOne life : my mother’s story / Kate Grenville.
“Nance was a week short of her sixth birthday when she and Frank were roused out of bed in the dark and lifted into the buggy, squashed in with bedding, the cooking pots rattling around in the back, and her mother shouting back towards the house: Goodbye, Rothsay, I hope I never see you again! When Kate Grenville’s mother died she left behind many fragments of memoir. These were the starting point for One Life , the story of a woman whose life spanned a century of tumult and change.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPicnic in Provence : a memoir with recipes / Elizabeth Bard.
“The bestselling author of Lunch in Paris takes us on another delicious journey, this time to the heart of Provence. Ten years ago, New Yorker Elizabeth Bard followed a handsome Frenchman up a spiral staircase to a love nest in the heart of Paris. Now, with a baby on the way and the world’s flakiest croissant around the corner, Elizabeth is sure she’s found her “forever place.” But life has other plans. On a last romantic jaunt before the baby arrives, the couple take a trip to the tiny Provencal village of Céreste.” (Global Books summary)

Syndetics book coverA beautiful mind : the life of mathematical genius and Nobel laureate John Nash / Sylvia Nasar.
“The true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who — thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community — emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim.” (adapted from Global Books summary)

Large scale ANZAC display at the Central Library

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For the past year, in the lead up to the Centenary of the Gallipoli landings, Wellington City librarians have been producing a series of contributions highlighting various aspects of our collection where you can find resources related to this major historical event. Our latest addition, inspired by a recent blog post http://bit.ly/1DNZ48J about Charlotte Le Gallais, one of the nurses who went to Gallipoli on the Maheno hospital ship, is a large scale exhibition about her story, highlighting the various online resources available for history and ancestry research. Come to the Central Library and discover her fascinating story.

You can also contribute your family stories in our “Scrapbook of Memories” kept by the display. For more resources on WW1, browse our series at www.wcl.govt.nz/ww100

 

Gathering at Gallipoli

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Since our troops landed there on 25 April 1915, Gallipoli has been a destination of great significance for New Zealanders of all ages. The trek to Gallipoli is even more meaningful this year, as we mark the centenary of those landings.

Some 2000 New Zealanders and 8000 Australians will gather at the Dawn Service on Gallipoli Peninsula to remember the soldiers of our two countries who fought together there as ‘ANZACs’. We will reflect on the passing of 100 years since the 25 April landing at Anzac Cove and the birth of ‘the Anzac spirit’. And for all Kiwis it will be a time to reflect on what the bitter Gallipoli campaign meant for our developing identity as a nation.

For many of those gathering at the commemorative site, it will also be a deeply personal experience. As we camp out under the stars on the eve of the Dawn Service, we will be thinking of relatives who fought at the Dardanelles – like my great-uncle Jack, of the 16th (Waikato) Company, 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, who took part in the landing on 25 April 1915.

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Graves or memorials to most of the approximately 2700 New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli are in 24 cemeteries dotted around the peninsula. Besides attending the Dawn Service, some visitors will have time to explore the significant cemeteries, battlefields and other sites.

Many of the travel guides (like those published by Lonely Planet) have basic information about places of historical importance on the peninsula, but the library also has several more detailed guidebooks. These are essential reading for those visiting Gallipoli and are full of details to help anyone interested in the campaign to gain some understanding of the place where so many young New Zealanders fought and died.

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : a guide to New Zealand battlefields and memorials / Ian McGibbon.
This 2014 revised update of the original edition published 10 years ago “is the indispensable handbook to the history and geographic features of the campaign for a modern, general readership. Easy to follow and highly illustrated, it introduces the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials, detailing the stories behind each and offering historical overviews of New Zealand’s involvement”. (from cover)

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : the battlefield guide / Mat McLachlan.
“More than 30,000 Australians visit Gallipoli every year, and the numbers are increasing each year as the centenary of the landing approaches. This practical guide book enables them to plan their trip, work out what to see and in what order, and gives the historical background to the major battles. It gives all the necessary information – both practical and historical – to appreciate what happened, and where. Detailed tours (both walking and with transport) are described, and accompanied by specially drawn maps.” (from library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverTurn right at Istanbul : a walk on the Gallipoli Peninsula / Tony Wright.
Tony Wright’s book is not a travel guide as such but an absorbing and entertaining personal story. “His account of the modern phenomenon of increasing numbers of young Australians and New Zealanders heading for Gallipoli is an Anzac ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’.” “Anyone who has ever dreamed of travelling to Turkey and taking part in the Gallipoli experience will find this book a moving, inspiring and occasionally hilarious roadmap to the heart of Australia and New Zealand in an ancient land.” (adapted from cover)

B8kU-rUCIAAfZn_Ngā Tapuwae
New Zealand has developed a set of trails at Gallipoli as part of the Ngā Tapuwae project. (Trails are also being developed on the Western Front.) The online resource includes a downloadable app with audio tours, interactive maps, personal stories, travel guides, articles and a wealth of other material that helps the user follow in the footsteps of the NZ soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. Link here

WW 1 Display in the Central Library
Drawing from my family archive, the library’s local and NZ history specialist and I have prepared a display of original letters and postcards sent from the trenches. Other interesting pieces of WW1 memorabilia include battalion insignia and a New Testament issued to the troops. Be sure to take a look at these items in the display case on the Second Floor of the Central Library.

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Here is a close-up of a postcard in the display, sent from France in December 1916.

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Reading correspondence from those terrible years is often heartwrenching and the stories and letters in this display certainly convey the pain and sadness of the war.

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Click here to listen to a Radio New Zealand interview of Michael Williams, Waikato-based composer who has been working on writing Letters From The Front, his first symphony. He matches letters from the First World War with musical movements and it will debut performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in April to coincide with Anzac Day commemorations.

World War 1 in our DVD collection

World War 1 has been the subject of many documentaries focusing on various military, geographic or sociological aspects, covering the war in its entirety such as the very ambitious and excellent 1960 and 2014 BBC series, or exploring one particular campaign such as Gallipoli. The number of feature films and television drama set during this turning point of human history is even greater, from John Huston’s The African Queen, Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion to the recent The Wipers Time or the screen adaptation of  Sebastian Faulks’ epic love story Birdsong. Here is a selection from our DVD shelves:

Cover imageGallipoli from above: the untold story.
“This one-hour documentary overturns many of the myths about the Gallipoli landing; that the Australians landed at dawn, on the wrong beach, with little knowledge of the Turkish defences and they were led by incompetent British officers. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. The Australians ran their own show, using aerial intelligence, emerging technology and innovative tactics to land 20,000 troops on a heavily defended and precipitous shoreline…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe great war. Volume 1, This may last a long time.
“The complete 1960s BBC documentary series on the Great War, with all 26 episodes. Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, this series features the best archive footage from one million feet of film and 20,000 photographs collected from 37 individual sources worldwide. There are interviews with war veterans and extracts from diaries, letters and reports from the war…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageWorld War I : the centenary collection. Volume 1.
“Featuring Michael Palin in The Last Day of World War One. The First World War helped define us as people and as a nation. With five superb documentaries this collection presents a unique perspective on the Great War as we commemorate its centenary. Presented in a two-disc release, the collection reflects upon, and investigates different aspects of the conflict through breath-taking dramatic reconstructions, historical interpretation and state-of-the-art graphics”…(From syndetics summary)

Cover imageWorld War 1 in colour.
“Up until now, World War 1 had always been seen as a war that happened in black & white, but that was not the reality. It was the first war to see the development of the fighter plane, the introduction of poison gas, the inventions of the tank and the wide use of machine guns and heavy artillery, which caused such mass destruction. Using rare archive footage from sources around the World, including Britain’s own Imperial War Museum, this 6 part series has been painstakingly colourised using the latest computer-aided technology to bring the first world war to colour, as experienced by those who fought and endured it. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, this landmark series brings a unique perspective to the events of 1914-1918…” (From syndetics summary)

Cover imageThe Crimson field.
“In a British base hospital near the front, a team of doctors, nurses and VADs are working together to heal the bodies and souls of the men in their care. This hospital on the coast of France is a frontier between two worlds: between the trenches and the home front, between the old rules, regulations, hierarchies, class distinctions and a new way of thinking. Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist) and starring Oona Chaplin (The Hour), Hermione Norris (Spooks), Suranne Jones (Scott and Bailey), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey), Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave) and Marianne Oldham (WPC 56) this is the story of World War One’s front line medics – their love affairs, professional triumphs, personal tragedies, fears and hopes as they fight for the future…” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)

Cover imageThe red baron.
“Baron Manfred Von Richthofen is the most feared and celebrated pilot of the German Air Force in World War I. To him and his companions, air combats are events of a sporty nature, technical callenge and honourable acting, ignoring the terrible extent of war. But after falling in love with the nurse Kate, Manfred realizes he is only used for propaganda means. Caught between his disgust for the war and the responsibility for his fighter wing, Von Richthofen sets out to fly again…” (From Syndetics summary)

Cover imageAll quiet on the Western Front.
“If a classic movie can be measured by the number of indelible images it burns into the collective imagination, then All Quiet on the Western Front’s status is undisputed. Since its release in 1930 (and Oscar win for best picture), this film’s saga of German boys avidly signing up for World War I battle–and then learning the truth of war–has been acclaimed for its intensity, artistry, and grown-up approach. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel is faithfully followed, but Milestone’s superbly composed frames make it physical. The cast is strong, with little-known Lew Ayres finding stardom in the lead…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageThe Blue Max.
“The Blue Max is highly unusual among Hollywood films, not just for being a large-scale drama set during the generally cinematically overlooked Great War, but in concentrating upon air combat as seen entirely from the German point of view. The story focuses on a lower-class officer, Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), and his obsessive quest to win a Blue Max, a medal awarded for shooting down 20 enemy aircraft. Around this are built subplots concerning a propaganda campaign by James Mason’s pragmatic general, rivalry with a fellow officer (Jeremy Kemp), and a love affair with a decadent countess (Ursula Andress). Clearly influenced by Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1958), The Blue Max is a cold, cynical drama offering a visually breathtaking portrait of a stultified society tearing itself apart during the final months of the Great War…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageFlyboys.
“World War I aviation action gets an impressive digital upgrade in Flyboys. While earlier films had the advantage of real and genuinely dangerous flight scenes (resulting, in some cases, in fatal accidents during production), Flyboys takes full (and safe) advantage of the digital revolution, with intensely photo-realistic recreations of WWI aircraft, authentic period structures, and CGI environments… many of them virtually indistinguishable from reality… Director Tony Bill manages to keep it all interesting, from the romance between a young American maverick (James Franco) and a pretty French girl (newcomer Jennifer Decker) to the exciting action in the air and an intimidating villain known only as “The Black Falcon,” whose Fokker Dr-1 triplane (one of many in the film) recalls the exploits of German “ace of aces” Manfred von Richtofen, the dreaded “Red Baron” of legend…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

Cover imageGallipoli.
“Mel Gibson and Mark Lee play two young sprinters who join in the army in search of adventure iconic representatives of the generation of young men that the newly federated Australia pitched into the slaughter of World War I. While Gallipoli does not shirk from the reality they discover, nor does it quite allow the characters’ enthusiasm for the enterprise ever to diminish, all of which helps make the climactic scenes, based on the suicidal assault enacted of the Australian Light Horse at The Nek on August 7th, 1915, among the most moving in modern cinema…” (From Amazon.co.uk review)

(more…)

Nursing our boys: a Kiwi aboard the first hospital ship

Nurses RegisterCharlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais is a distant relative of mine, who joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. Her registration details can be found in the New Zealand Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933, from the Ancestry database (available in-library only. Check out our Genealogy page for further information). She was one of fourteen nursing sisters who were selected for the first voyage of Hospital Ship No. 1 (the ‘Maheno’), which left Wellington 10 July 1915, and was bound for Gallipoli.

Here is a photograph of the ship in the 14 July 1915 issue of The New Zealand Herald, retrieved for the PapersPast database accessible from our Newspapers and History database pages. The page is full of War-related articles, a year into the 4 year campaign. (Click on the image to enlarge)New Zealand Herald, July 14, 1915 SMALL

Lottie completed her voyage, and was posted to the retired list 21 June 1916. On her return to New Zealand, she married her fiancé, Charles Gardner, with whom she had two children. Lottie died in 1956.

Two of Lottie’s four brothers served in WWI – Leddra (Leddie), who was killed in action at Gallipoli 23 July 1915, and Owen, who fought in France, and survived the war to return home.

A book was written about Lottie, and this is in our collections:

Lottie: Gallipoli Nuse coverLottie : Gallipoli nurse / text by John Lockyer ; illustrations by Alan Barnett.
“An extraordinary account of a nurse’s journey to Gallipoli aboard the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno. Her experiences include caring for the wounded and coping with the death of her brother Leddie, who was killed in action. Based on the letters of Lottie and Leddie Le Gallais and the war diary of John Duder.” (Syndetics summary)

Other titles

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses / Peter Rees.
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.” (Syndetics summary)

White Ships coverThe white ships : New Zealand’s First World War hospital ships / Gavin McLean.
“In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these ‘mercy ships’ and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries.” (Syndetics summary)

“Offspring of the battlefield” – WWI Kiwi soldiers in their own words at WCL

009100 years on from the First World War, there is no shortage of beautifully researched and written books on the subject by historians, sociologists, poets and others. Over the last few months, Wellington City Libraries has highlighted some of these books in our collection. However, our collection doesn’t stop with books written about New Zealanders in the First World War – we also hold those beloved items, original sources – items written and published by New Zealand troops, while still engaged in the war. New Zealand at the Front is one of these – words (and pictures and cartoons) from soldiers’ own pens.

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The two editions of New Zealand At the Front (1917 and 1918) were written as an ‘annual’, a yearly magazine stuffed full of poetry, short funny stories, cartoons and drawings. “Written and illustrated”, as the cover boasts, “in France by Men of the New Zealand Division”. The editor’s note introduces the contributions and the men who wrote them:

   The contributions for this book have come from Trench, Dug-out, and Billet. They are the offspring of the Battlefield. … If they have neither the quality of culture nor of genius, at least they … reflect something of the ideas, the temperament, and the life of men who, from a sense of duty, find themselves engaged in a mighty conflict in a strange environment, far from their own land.

These might be modified raptures, but the contents of the annual lived up to their introduction as a reflection of the men who wrote and drew for its pages, many of whom are identified only by initials, or various nom de plumes.

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The articles are stuffed with in-jokes and references obviously well-understood among the troops who penned them at the time, but bewildering today. Luckily, the editors seem to have anticipated some difficulties in translation, and provided a handy and tongue-in-cheek glossary for confused readers (a modern reader may wish to have a dictionary handy nevertheless!)

Other sections, and formats, are instantly recognisable. The annual contains many cartoons, often poking fun at officers or other soldiers’ quirks – the familiarity of life in close quarters visible in modern comic strips. Those familiar with the “How my boss sees me/ how my mother sees me/ how my friends see me” internet comic form can even see a distant cousin in one cartoon published in the annual, which compares, wryly, how “the padre sees us”, “higher command ‘seize’ us”, “mademoiselle sees us”, and “Mater sees us” – each sketch wildly different from the others (and proving the point that acute punning transcends time!).

013010The pre-occupations and domestic details of life behind the line loom large in the contents of the annual. From a full-colour watercolour of “Private Purripeef” displaying a haul of cans, to a story of nicknaming friends after “bulla-biff”, to a mournful piece titled “A Tragedy of the Line” – in which the tragic victim of a bombing is revealed to be a can of ‘Fray Bentos’ bully beef – tinned beef recurs as a subject at the top of many minds. Long marches are also a popular subject – a soldier identified only as ‘Rewi’ writes a tragi-comic poem about the significance of good footwear, which including the lines

Boots! Boots! Boots!

Till your latest breath

They will climb the hill to fame,

Trudge the road to Death,

Or march back the road you came.

Although many articles in the annuals are light-hearted or tongue-in-cheek, others are sombre, describing the desolation of their authors’ surroundings. A soldier named only as “Q” submits an article describing the “Red Lodge … as lovely a spot, maybe, as there is in the whole of Flanders”, which he and his companion Bob discovered in a Flemish field. Q writes “Bob said I remember, that it reminded him of a scarlet poppy on the mossy bank” – echoing the now-familiar theme of poppies marking war graves. “It is all changed now,” Q continues, describing the later destruction of the lodge. “Bob was killed on that accursed corner…” It’s possible that Q had read the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields”, published in Punch, before he wrote his 1917 piece. The image of red poppies marking a war grave or memorial is one we now all recognise.020

The editor, who hoped these annuals would provide an honest reflection of their authors, may have been more right than he knew. The two volumes of New Zealand at the Front display incredible diversity of subjects, tone, and breadth of ability, many contributions beautifully and humorously done. The diversity of the men who wrote and sent in their contributions from “Trench, Dug-out and Billet” is just as apparent as their humour, and leaves us, 100 years later, a fascinatingly direct snapshot of New Zealanders at war.

New Zealand at The Front is held in the New Zealand Reference Stack Collection, and can be requested for viewing at the Second Floor Reference Desk, Central Library.


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