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Victory at Villers-Bretonneux: Why a French Town Will Never Forget the ANZACS

By Peter Fitzsimons


Victory at Villers.jpg

Arriving at Villers-Bretonneux just in time, the Australians are able to hold off the Germans, launching a vicious counterattack that hurls the Germans back for the first time.

And then, on Anzac Day 1918, when the town falls after all to the British defenders, it is again the Australians who are called on to save the day, the town, and the entire battle.



New Zealand Society at War 1914-1918

Edited by: Steven Loveridge


Why did New Zealand churches, sporting clubs, trade unions, iwi and other social elements respond to the First World War as they did?  What might the experiences of politicians, newspaper editors, businessmen, professors and children add to our understanding of the war? What, ultimately, was the relationship between the war and the New Zealand society that entered and endured it?

Collecting the expertise of nineteen specialists, New Zealand Society at War 1914-1918 addresses the context and wider significance of how parts of the social fabric responded to the Great War. Together their investigations offer a pioneering survey of New Zealand society towards and through 1914-1918. 



New Zealand's Western Front Campaign

BY: Ian McGibbon


Between August 1914 and November 1918, 74,000 New Zealanders fought on the Western Front. It was to prove the most costly of all the campaigns in which New Zealand military personnel have taken part. 

This overview of New Zealanders’ experiences on the Western Front was written by leading military historian, Ian McGibbon, from Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Although a number of books have appeared about particular battles that took place on the Western Front, this is the first major account of New Zealand's whole Western Front campaign since the publication of the official history in 1921. It provides a comprehensive, balanced and accessible account of the nature of the battles in which New Zealand took part, assesses the performance of New Zealand troops and provides the reader with a clear picture of what it was like to be a soldier in a campaign that demanded huge sacrifices.



Allenby's Gunners: Artillery in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns 1916-1918

BY: Alan H. Smith


Alan Smith’s ‘Allenby’s Gunners’ tells the story of artillery in the highly successful World War I Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Following Gallipoli and the reconstitution of the AIF, a shortage of Australian gunners saw British Territorial artillery allotted to the Australian light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Rifle brigades. It was a relationship that would prove highly successful and ‘Allenby’s Gunners’ provides a detailed and colourful description of the artillery war, cavalry and infantry operations from the first battles of Romani and Rafa, through the tough actions at Gaza, the Palestine desert, Jordan Valley and Amman to the capture of Jerusalem. The story concludes with the superb victory at Megiddo and the taking of Damascus until the theatre armistice of October 1918.
Smith covers the trials and triumphs of the gunners as they honed their art in one of the most difficult battlefield environments of the war. The desert proved hostile and unrelenting, testing the gunners, their weapons and their animals in the harsh conditions. The gunners’ adversary, the wily and skillful Ottoman artillerymen, endured the same horrendous conditions and proved a tough and courageous foe.
The light horsemen and gunners also owed much to the intrepid airmen of the AFC and RFC whose tactical and offensive bombing and counter-battery work from mid-1917 would prove instrumental in securing victory. This is an aspect of the campaign that is seamlessly woven throughout as the action unfolds.
The Sinai and Palestine campaigns generally followed a pattern of heavy losses and setbacks for an initial period before Allied forces eventually prevailed. This is a highly descriptive volume that tells an oft-neglected story and fills a gap in the record of a campaign in which Australians played a significant role. 



After the War: The RSA in New Zealand

BY: Stephen Clarke

PUBLISHED BY: Penguin Books, 2016.

Kiwi soldiers fought for us in two world wars and other conflicts since. They put up with constant danger, discomfort, boredom, fear and pain. But what happened to them when they returned home? Who made sure they got a fair deal? The RSA! This is the story of an iconic by little-understood institution, from its beginnings during World War One right through to the twenty-first century. Wounded soldiers returning from the Gallipoli campaign saw a need to welcome and provide care for returning soldiers, as well as to honour those who would never return. And so the RSA was formed in 1916. Welcome, support and remembrance have always been at its heart. This book tells the RSA story, of its service in the community and place in New Zealand society for 100 years, and how it is changing to go on into the future.



Elegy: The First Day on the Somme

BY: Andrew Roberts

PUBLISHER: Head of Zeus


In 1916, the German army still occupied Belgium and much of northeast France, and had dug themselves deep into four hundred miles of trenches stretching from the North Sea to Switzerland. The British and French armies knew that a huge effort was needed to break through the German lines. The place chosen for the great offensive was the rolling countryside of Picardy around the River Somme. The date: July 1st. The British troops rose from their front-line trenches at 7.30am on a beautiful summer’s day, after a week-long bombardment that was supposed to destroy the German barbed wire and trenches. Before the sun went down, 57,471 of them were casualties on the worst single day in the history of the British Army. Yet the story is not just a depressing one, as there were many inspiring stories of extraordinary courage too. (From Author's website)



Gallipoli Submarine (DVD)

Documentary run time: 62 minutes ; Originally produced 2008, Australia ; re-released 2015.

One submarine, two daring missions, almost a hundred years apart. The remarkable documentary of Australia's first submarine, AE2 and her crew, from her historic role at Gallipoli, to the ambitious plans to save her from physical and historical oblivion 92 years after being sunk in Turkish waters.



Major and Mrs Holt’s Definitive Battlefield Guide to the Somme. 100th Anniversary.


PUBLISHER: PEN & SWORD MILITARY, 2016.  (7th GPS edition)

Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide to the Somme is one of the bestselling guide books to the battlefields of the Somme. This latest up-dated edition includes four recommended, timed itineraries representing one day's travelling. Every stop on route has an accompanying description and often a tale of heroic or tragic action. Memorials, private and official, sites of memorable conflict, the resting places of personalities of note are all drawn together with sympathetic and understanding commentary that gives the reader sensitivity towards the events of 1916.



Breakdown: the crisis of shell shock on the Somme, 1916



Paralysis. Stuttering. The 'shakes'. Inability to stand or walk. Temporary blindness or deafness. When strange symptoms like these began appearing in men at Casualty Clearing Stations in 1915, a debate began in army and medical circles as to what it was, what had caused it and what could be done to cure it. But the numbers were never large.

Then in July 1916 with the start of the Somme battle the incidence of shell shock rocketed. The high command of the British army began to panic. An increasingly large number of men seemed to have simply lost the will to fight. As entire battalions had to be withdrawn from the front, commanders and military doctors desperately tried to come up with explanations as to what was going wrong. 'Shell shock' - what we would now refer to as battle trauma - was sweeping the Western Front.

By the beginning of August 1916, nearly 200,000 British soldiers had been killed or wounded during the first month of fighting along the Somme. Another 300,000 would be lost before the battle was over. But the army always said it could not calculate the exact number of those suffering from shell shock. Re-assessing the official casualty figures, Taylor Downing for the first time comes up with an accurate estimate of the total numbers who were taken out of action by psychological wounds. It is a shocking figure.

Taylor Downing's revelatory new book follows units and individuals from signing up to the Pals Battalions of 1914, through to the horrors of their experiences on the Somme which led to the shell shock that, unrelated to weakness or cowardice, left the men unable to continue fighting. He shines a light on the official - and brutal - response to the epidemic, even against those officers and doctors who looked on it sympathetically. It was, they believed, a form of hysteria. It was contagious. And it had to be stopped.



The Month That Changed the World: July 1914



On 28 June 1914 the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo. Five fateful weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war.

Much time and ink has been spent over the last century trying to identify the 'guilty' person or state responsible, or attempting to explain that no one was to blame, that ‘underlying’ impersonal forces'inevitably' led to war in 1914. Unsatisfied with these explanations, Gordon Martel now goes back to the human dimension, to the contemporary diplomatic, military, and political records on order to recount the twists and turns of the crisis afresh, with the aim of establishing just how the cataclysm was unleashed.

What emerges is the story of a terrible, avoidable tragedy – a mystery that can be solved only by retracing the steps taken by those who took the world down the road to war. With each passing day, we see how the personalities of leading figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Emperor Franz Joseph, Tsar Nicholas II, Sir Edward Grey, and Raymond Poincaré were central to the unfolding crisis, how their hopes and fears intersected as events unfolded, and how, in spite of increasing tensions and escalating fears, a peaceful resolution appeared to be within their grasp until the final moments.

Devoting a chapter to each day of the infamous 'July Crisis', this gripping account of the descent into the abyss of war makes clear just how little the conflict was in fact premeditated, preordained, or even predictable. Almost every day it seemed possible that the crisis could be settled as so many had been over the previous decade; almost every day a new initiative encouraged the hope that war could once again be avoided.

And yet, as the last month of peace ebbed away, the actions and reactions of the Great Powers disastrously escalated the situation.  So much so that, by the beginning of August, what might have remained a minor Balkan problem had turned into the cataclysm of the First World War. 



The ANZAC Experience: New Zealand, Australia and Empire in the First World War


PUBLISHER: ORATIA BOOKS (2016 new edition.  Originally published 2004)

Lauded as one of the best works on Australasian military history, shortlisted for the Montana Book Awards 2005, The ANZAC Experience is a gripping account of the role played by soldiers from New Zealand, Australia and Canada in the First World War.

After its opening chapters, which analyse the concept of ‘Anzac’ and the contribution of colonial forces to the South African War, the book takes up the story of how citizen armies in the First World War steadily became professional – learning the lessons of Gallipoli and applying these to the battles of the Western Front in France and Flanders.  By trial and error, the New Zealand Division and its counterparts from Australia and Canada became expert in the business of war, so that by 1918 they were the fighting elite of the British armies.

Christopher Pugsley assesses how the crucible of war shaped the identities of New Zealand, Australia and Canada forever.  Replete with historical photographs and maps, The Anzac Experience is a fine blend of social analysis and military history, revealing not only the conduct of the war and its participants but the impact their actions had on the young societies they defended.



First Day of the Somme: the complete account of Britain’s worst-ever military disaster



It took several million bullets and roughly an hour to effectively destroy General Sir Douglas Haig's grand plans for the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. By day's end, 19,240 British soldiers were dead, crumpled khaki bundles scattered across pasture studded with the scarlet of poppies and smouldering shell holes. A further 35,493 were wounded. This single sunny day remains Britain's worst-ever military disaster. Responsible were hundreds of German machine guns and scores of artillery batteries that had waited silently to deal death to the long-anticipated attack.

Reviewing the day's events fully from, for the first time, both the British and German perspectives, Andrew Macdonald explains how and why this was a disaster waiting to happen. While laying the blame for the butchery squarely on widespread British command failure, he also shows that the outcome was a triumph of German discipline, planning and tactics, with German commanders mostly outclassing their opposite numbers.

Published for the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in July 2016, this is a major contribution to World War 1 history and an epic story of courage, misery and endurance in its own right.



To the Memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials



Over 30,000 New Zealanders have died in wars since 1840. They have been remembered in more than 1000 memorials that stand in public places throughout New Zealand. Except on Anzac Day, most people pass by these monuments without really looking at them. Yet a huge amount of social energy and resources went into their creation – the largest act of artistic patronage in our history.

This beautiful book, based on over 30 years of loving research by leading historian Jock Phillips, tells the fascinating story of who erected these memorials and why, and reveals how their diverse forms say much about New Zealand identity and the tragedy of war. The account begins with the memorials to the New Zealand Wars, explores the sculpted monuments to the South African and First World wars, and the ‘living memorials’ to the Second World War, then concludes with the many imaginative artistic responses of the 2000s.

Lavishly illustrated with both contemporary and historic photographs, To the Memory will appeal to a wide variety of people – those whose relatives are named on memorials, those with an interest in war history, those fascinated by the creative arts and built heritage – and anyone who cares about New Zealand, for this is a story that goes to the heart of our identity and our place in the world.



Experience of a Lifetime: People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War



The First World War is widely conceived as a pointless conflict that destroyed a generation. Petty squabbles between emperors and elites pushed naïve young men into a nightmare of mud and blood that killed millions and left the survivors scarred and embittered.  However, the process of reinterpretation of the First World War reveals that matters were rather more nuanced and complex. Hardship and death were all too common, but there were positive experiences, too. Vast numbers of people, for example, travelled to new parts of the world and encountered new cultures, which inspired a sense of wonder and respect. Military tactics were improved, and training and education would prove useful after the Armistice.  Great military commanders of the inter-war and Second World War periods came to prominence during the First World War, and the conflict also had a formative influence on politicians, writers, artists, union leaders and businessmen. Some ethnic minorities used their participation to press for equal rights and full citizenship. This book’s 16 chapters, written by a range of leading New Zealand and international historians, explain how.




Behind the Twisted Wire: New Zealand Artists in World War I



How did New Zealand artists, both those who were specially commissioned and those who volunteered as soldiers, record their experiences in this war?  Two of the artists – Nugent Welch and George Butler – who were official war artists have left us an incredible legacy of paintings, now part of the National War Art Collection. Nugent Welch enlisted as a soldier and served for nearly two years before he was made a war artist. He was already a well-known landscape artist in Wellington and he used these skills at the Front to create some great studies of the effect of war on men and on the land.  George Butler, who had spent several years in New Zealand, was specially commissioned by the army to paint the actions of New Zealand troops in the last two months of the war. He also created some large scale studies of actions which were designed for a museum on World War I which was to be set up in Wellington. It was, however, never completed due to post-war economic problems.

A third war artist was Alfred Pearse, and although his paintings are documented, there is no record of them surviving, probably because they showed too realistically the horrors of the Western Front.

Horace Moore-Jones enrolled as a soldier and served on Gallipoli. He was soon recognised as an artist and asked to paint the landscape as maps were short. He is famous for his painting of Simpson and his donkey for which the model was a New Zealander, Dick Henderson, although Moore-Jones believed that he was painting an Australian, John Kirkpatrick Simpson. He completed this after his return to New Zealand when he was on a lecture tour for the RSA with his Gallipoli paintings.

Also included is the work of soldier artists such as Arthur Lloyd, G.E. Woolley, C. Trevithick, John Weeks, Archibald Nicoll, Francis McCrackan, Robert Johnson and W.H. Gummer, and Walter Bowring who painted the Home Front.

Supporting the text are reproductions of paintings by these various artists, many of which have not previously been seen by the New Zealand public.




DVD: The ANZACs War Horses: The 100 Years, 100 Horses ANZAC Ride

South Coast Productions, New Zealand

DVD duration: approx. 80 minutes.

Whilst this DVD captures the story of the commemorative 100 years, 100 horses ANZAC ride from Amuri to Waikari, New Zealand it also shows the horrors that were inflicted on the courageous horses.  From the disaster of Gallipoli to the inspiring Palestine Campaign and to the horrors of the Western Front, it graphically shows what our young men endured in World War One.  (From DVD cover).

Available to borrow from Palmerston North City Libraries



ANZAC Battlefield: A Gallipoli Landscape of War and Memory



Anzac Battlefield: A Gallipoli Landscape of War and Memory explores the transformation of Gallipoli's landscape in antiquity, during the famed battles of the First World War and in the present day. Drawing on archival, archaeological and cartographic material, this book unearths the deep history of the Gallipoli peninsula, setting the Gallipoli campaign in a broader cultural and historical context. The book presents the results of an original archaeological survey, the research for which was supported by the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish Governments. The survey examines materials from both sides of the battlefield, and sheds new light on the environment in which Anzac and Turkish soldiers endured the conflict. Richly illustrated with both Ottoman and Anzac archival images and maps, as well as original maps and photographs of the landscape and archaeological findings, Anzac Battlefield is an important contribution to our understanding of Gallipoli and its landscape of war and memory.

Available to borrow from Palmerston North City Libraries



Into Touch: Rugby Internationals Killed in the Great War




Many thousands of men died during the Great War. They came from every place and class. The very cream of the Nation joined up thinking it a great adventure but, all too often, never returned. This book is dedicated to the memory of an elite few of such men – the Rugby Internationals who fell in The Great War. Among the hundreds of thousands who served and died for their country were one hundred and thirty Rugby Internationals.

To place the loss of these men in perspective, it is important to appreciate that Rugby Union was, arguably, bigger in its day than soccer is today. It attracted men from every walk of life. Many became national icons just as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are now. These were men whose names were common currency in almost every household in Britain; men who were widely admired and emulated.

Yet their physical strength, fitness, prowess and courage made these heroes no less vulnerable to enemy bullets, shells and mines than their less celebrated comrades-in-arms. One hundred years on, the Author decided that any player who perished, whether he had won a single cap for his country or a hundred, would be included within this book.

Into Touch encapsulated the magnitude of a generation's sacrifice. Thanks to the Author's research into these players' service for their country, both on the playing field and battlefield, it will fascinate all with an interest in The Great War and, most particularly, those with a love for The Glorious Game and its history.

Available to borrow from Palmerston North City Libraries



Voices from the Front: An Oral History of the Great War



In Voices from the Front, oral historian Peter Hart brings together accounts from across the conflict, from soldiers, sailors and airmen, from officers and privates alike. In the course of his research, he talked to men who saw their friends die in front of them, who were seriously wounded themselves, men who refused to fight on principle and those whose indomitable spirit carried them through thick and thin. Sometimes they were there at crucial turning points in the war - going over the top in the slaughter of the Somme in 1916 or punching through the German lines to victory in 1918 - and sometimes they sweated, toiled and suffered on a forgotten front, thousands of miles from home. (From book jacket)

Available to borrow from Palmerston North City Libraries



Triumph on the Western Front: Diary of a Despatch Rider with the ANZACs 1915-1919



Share the experiences of a Despatch Rider during World War 1 by reading his own words written as a diary during his years on the Western Front. Oswald Harcourt Davis joined the Royal Engineers in 1916 and arrived in Abbeville, Somme, France in July that year. He was attached to the ANZACs and dished out a Triumph motorcycle to carry pigeons and vital messages at a time when communications were limited and risky. Read in fascinating detail his journeys around the Somme and Ypres Salient areas and the difficulties he had to face. Ever facing the danger of being “bumped” and “knocked” he rose to duty’s call and made sure the pigeons got through. He cheated death on several occasions and admits he was scared and on the brink of cowardice, yet he was brave enough for decoration. He was awarded the Military Medal at Messines.

Oswald H Davis is no newcomer to the literary world; as a poet and novelist he has written twelve books all of which have been published. Being a prolific writer he wrote various articles for the Daily Mail, The Times, Punch, Country Life and the Birmingham Post. In his diary he mentions the many articles that the Daily Mail printed and the fact that he was paid 30 shillings for each contribution.  Oswald wanted to capture the language of the soldiers in the trenches and preserve an in-depth eye-witness account of what was said and what actually happened.

His war diary, Triumph on the Western Front, is the last piece of his literature to be published. He takes the reader on a vivid trip from wartime Britain in July 1915 to his voluntary recruitment where he is sent to the Somme and Flanders for the duration of the war. He finishes with a post-war trip to occupied Germany before demobilisation in February 1919. (From compiler’s website)

Available to borrow from Palmerston North City Libraries