Author(s): Glyn Harper
The Great War of 1914-18 saw over 100,000 young New Zealanders embark for overseas service, to fight a war on foreign soil, amidst comrades they had never met. The conditions that greeted these men are, today, hard to imagine - fields of mud, swarms of insects, swirling sandstorms, the boom of artillery, the stench of death. Letters from the Battlefield is a remarkable collection of correspondence from some thirty five young New Zealand soldiers. Notes hastily scribbled in the trenches, thoughts penned while recuperating in hospital, letters written to the loved ones of fallen friends. The words of these men take you closer to the reality of war than any official history can. They tell of survival at sea, two men clinging to a piece of wood for hours in freezing cold water until mercifully rescued; of the sickening realisation that you have been gassed, knowing that it could mean the loss of your sight - or your life; of the utter exhaustion of men forced to march, dig trenches, fight, then dig in again. Above all, the letters reflect the humour and courage of the New Zealand soldier. Together with Glyn Harper's insightful commentary on the battles and military action of the period, they offer a unique perspective on the First World War.