Anzac reflections – books from our closed stack

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.

PoppyTo 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

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.

David Low : Kiwi cartoonist on Hitler’s blacklist : a New Zealand Cartoon Archive Trust exhibition presented in association with the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand / proudly supported by Brierley Investments Limited in association with The British Council ; assistance also generously provided by Adam Foundation. (1995)
Sir David Low was a New Zealand-born cartoonist who moved to London in 1919 .There he made his career and and earned fame for his Colonel Blimp depictions and his merciless satirising the personalities and policies of Hitler, Mussolini,and Stalin. In later years he discovered he was listed in Hitler’s famous Black Book and would have been arrested if the Germans had won the war.

19 Battalion and Armoured Regiment /by D.W. Sinclair. (1954)
After the war the histories of all regiments were meticulously recorded. The 19th Battalion as formed as a combination tank and infantry unit in 1939. it went on to fight with distinction in Greece, Palestine and the Middle East before becoming a fully armoured unit and as part of the 4th Armoured Brigade participating in the liberation of Italy. Monte Cassino, a name forever engraved on the hearts of New Zealanders, was one of their key battles. The library holds many such histories. If you would like to know what war was like for your father or grandfather, try starting with one of these.

On the fringe of hell : New Zealanders and military discipline in the first world war / Christopher Pugsley. (1991)
The story of the discipline meted out to New Zealand forces during World War I. The New Zealand Division was known as one of the finest serving in France, but part of the price paid for this was the execution of its men. By the author of “Gallipoli”, this details the circumstances of those deaths.(Summary from

Report on experience. John Mulgan (1947)
Report on Experience is a compelling memoir written by a quietly heroic author. This brilliantly written work provides insight both into the mind of the author and the prevailing attitudes of wartime Britain and Europe. Mulgan traces the Allies path to World War II and the widespread reluctance of the population to accept the reality of hostilities. A determined man, he was appalled first by the inaction of his peers and superiors, then by the weak and unrealistic reactions to aggression. (Summary from

At home

The New Zealand people at war : the home front / by Nancy M. Taylor. (1986)
This is another Official War history and depicts how civilians kept the country running during wartime, coping with shortages, rationing and the need to make do and mend.Women took over many roles formerly performed by men. All contended with the burden of constant worry over relatives serving overseas and the possibility of invasion by the Japanese.

War brides : they followed their hearts to New Zealand / Val Wood. (1991)
This book focuses on a group often overlooked – the many women who left their home countries to join Kiwi husbands in New Zealand. The author’s mother was one of these women.