New Zealand Battlefields and Memorials
The author, Ian McGibbon, is a Senior Historian in the History Group, Ministry of Culture and Heritage. He was formerly the Defence Historian at the Ministry of Defence from 1971 to 1979. So he is seriously qualified to write this book. The book itself is long-awaited, because it's a guidebook with a rare specific focus - New Zealand's involvement in the Great War - and especially useful because it sets the New Zealanders' exploits against a background of what can be seen on the old battlefields today.
The book covers all the important locations where New Zealanders fought - Passchendale, of course, and also Messines, Armentieres, the Somme, Le Quesnoy and other areas. For each area the author gives details of where the New Zealanders were, and how to locate their positions against today's battlefield landmarks. There are also details of where New Zealanders are buried, and details of some of the more significant graves. The book has lots of photographs - colour and black-and-white - which accompany and illustrate the text very well indeed, and there are simple route maps to clarify the road-directions which direct the visitor around each group of sites.
The book provides a sound historical background to New Zealand actions and locates all the New Zealand Memorials, Memorials to the Missing and cemeteries which contain New Zealand Graves, with many interesting references to individual New Zealand burials.
The book is a good guide to New Zealanders visiting the battlefields, and it also gives the non-NZ reader a useful introduction to the part played by the New Zealand forces.
Considering the fact that Dr. McGibbon has had to travel, like the original New Zealanders, "from the uttermost ends of the earth" to research his book, it is understandable that he only managed two visits during the preparation. He acknowledges the help of a large number of people who have assisted him and the sum total of the expertise and specialist knowledge of the whole team is considerable. Even so, some basic errors have been allowed to remain in the finished version. Dr. McGibbon states that every British cemetery contains a Stone of Remembrance but this is not so. The general rule is that these stones are only to be found in Cemeteries which contain more than 400 burials. One of the first cemeteries to which the visitor is directed, Ypres Ramparts Cemetery, is one of the many cemeteries which have no Stone of Remembrance but no-one seems to have noticed this, even though there is a colour photograph of some of the graves there. In the second series of road directions, "turn left" is given instead of "turn right", which will cause motorists some confusion. Another set of road directions tells the driver to turn right at "Varley Farm" at the end of Wallemolenstraat but there is no such farm. The name should be Varlet Farm, as proclaimed in letters almost a foot high on the gatepost. These are errors which can easily be corrected in subsequent editions and which do not seriously spoil what is a promising and valuable book, but given the standing of the author and the number of local expert helpers involved, it is surprising to see that they have slipped through into the finished version.
All the same - it's a useful and beautifully-produced addition to the battlefield-tourer's library.
New Zealand Battlefields and Memorials of the Western Front
is published by :
Oxford University Press
PO Box 269,
For orders email@example.com
Phone 61 3 9934 9122
Fax 61 3 9934 9100
96 pages, maps, colour and black-and-white photographs
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