New guide book to NZ battlefields invaluable

  • Helen Clark
Arts, Culture and Heritage

The newly published guide to New Zealand battlefields in France and Belgium would prove an invaluable guide for visitors to a region where New Zealanders played a significant military role in World War One, Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark said today.

Helen Clark officially launched New Zealand Battlefields and Memorials of the Western Front, published by Oxford University Press, at a Parliamentary reception this evening.

“The First World War was a savage and terrible conflict which claimed the lives of 18,166 New Zealanders. More than 12,000 New Zealanders died on the battlefields of France and Belgium, making it our costliest theatre of war

“I congratulate Ministry of Culture and Heritage historian Ian McGibbon for the fine job he has done in compiling New Zealand Battlefields. It is liberally sprinkled with maps and photographs showing the areas where so many New Zealanders fought, died and are buried. Dr McGibbon’s descriptions of key episodes and the personalities involved is concise and highly readable.

“This book is packed with useful information for New Zealanders and others making pilgrimages to the war cemeteries in Belgium and France.

“Thanks are also due to the New Zealand/France Friendship Fund and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their assistance in producing New Zealand Battlefields.

“Today is an appropriate time to release the battlefields guide, as it is almost eighty-three years to the day since the liberation of the French town of Le Quesnoy by New Zealand troops. This was one of the most famous First World War actions involving New Zealanders, and an event which helped to forge an enduring bond between France and New Zealand.

“Less than a month ago, Lawrence ‘Curly’ Blyth, one of those Kiwi soldiers who stormed Le Quesnoy ramparts on 4 November 1918, died. With just one New Zealand-born veteran of the First World War now alive, books such as New Zealand Battlefields play a valuable role in informing twenty-first century New Zealanders about this conflict.

“I look forward to the publication of further battlefields guides, and am confident they will maintain the high standards set by Dr McGibbon’s excellent book,” Helen Clark said.