Anzac Day falls on Wednesday – a special day in the New Zealand calendar and one which is attracting increasing attention. Thousands of New Zealanders young and old visit Gallopoli, and many travel to the battlefields and war cemeteries of France, Belgium, Greece and Italy. Here at home the ranks of those attending Anzac Day services are swelling every year (even as the numbers of war veterans dwindle) – with many children taking part.
To mark this day in a literary way, we’ve scoured our stackroom shelves for a few gems you might be interested in — have a browse!
(Please note – although these books are from our closed stack, they are able to be borrowed. Ask at any reference desk at the Central Library and a librarian will retrieve them for you!)
The desert war, by Alan Moorehead. (1965)
“Alan Moorehead was sent to cover the North Africa campaign in 1940 by the Daily Express, and he followed its dramatic course all the way to 1943. The three books he subsequently wrote about his experiences – collected here as The Desert War – were swiftly acclaimed as classic accounts of the tussle between Montgomery’s Eighth Army and Rommel’s Afrika Corps, amidst the endless harsh wastes of the Western Desert. It was Moorehead who was responsible for the celebrated insight that tank battles in the desert are like battles at sea, the lumbering tanks like ships lost in a vast ocean of sand. The New Statesman could not have put it better when it described his achievement in this riveting book: ‘There is something of genius in the breadth and penetration of his vision which encompasses the whole panorama of war and then narrows it down to the particular: the soldier stubbing out his cigarette before going into action, the expression on a tank commander’s face as he is hit . . . The story of the African campaigns will go down in history as one of the great epics of mankind, largely thanks to Mr Moorehead’s account.” (Summary from globalbooksinprint.com)
The painted years / by Peter McIntyre ; illustrated by the author. (1962)
“In 1941,when the English-speaking world was still stunned by the fall of Crete, a series of paintings was reproduced in the New Zealand press and in “The Illustrated London News” that portrayed the battle in dramatic reality. The paintings were the work of the New Zealand Official War Artist, Captain Peter McIntyre, lately appointed to that position by General Freyberg. Ahead were the momentous desert battles of the New Zealand Division, a remarkable journey with the Long Range Desert Group, and the weary slog through Italy, from which campaigns came a flow of compelling war paintings” (Adapted from summary on book jacket)
Bernard Freyberg, VC : soldier of two nations / Paul Freyberg. (1991)
One of Peter Mcintyre’s portraits of General Freyberg features on the cover of this book. The charismatic soldier fought in both wars and for both Britain and New Zealand, becoming the Commander of the New Zealand Division when the Second World War began. A hero in the classical mould, he was athletic, oustandingly brave, (he won four DSOs and the VC), intelligent and humane, and always concerned for the safety and welfare of his troops. His son Paul has written a worthy biography of this great man.
The trumpet in the hall, 1930-1958, by Bernard Fergusson. (1970)
Bernard Fergusson was a soldier, an intellectual and a romantic. He arrived at Sandhurst in 1930 and was subsequently commissioned into The Black watch, by which time he realised he had found his true vocation. He was General Wavell’s ADC, served in Palestine ,Syria and Turkey before joining Orde Wingate in his arduous campaigns in Burma.The book is an affirmation of his faith in and love for an ancient institution with all its values and traditions, but by no means an uncritical one. Bernard Fergusson ended his army career in 1958 and subsequently became Governor-General of New Zealand. a distinction he shared with Bernard Freyberg.
HISTORIC TRENTHAM, 1914-1917 (1917)
This delightfully nostalgic book is a stack gem. Produced in 1917 to “give some inkling to the civilian mind of what a sodier’s life in a New Zealand training camp is like and at the same time an opportunity has been taken of writing briefly the story of Trentham camp. Very many of the heroes of Gallipoli, France, Mesopoamia and Egypt were trained at Trentham.” It contains black and white line drawings and chapter ornamentations. Bracing jingoistic verses head each chapter and are scattered throughout the book. There are many many photographs of the men and daily activities at the camp, but looking at the serried ranks of serious, steadfast soldiers in the regimental photographs it is impossible not to think of the fate that awaited so many of them.