Thursday, 30 November 2017

From auditor to soldier: stories of the men who served

Can we ever have too many books on the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and World War One?

This commemorative book produced by the Office of the Auditor-General looks and feels like an oversized coffee table book. However don’t let the glossy cover or the rather staid title put you off. This is a fascinating insight into 32 ordinary New Zealand men who voluntarily enlisted in the First World War.

The brief introduction explains the job titles and order of seniority system used by the Audit Department, as well as how the New Zealand armed forces turned these auditors into soldiers. Archival photographs show the various sports teams the men and women participated in as well as a photograph of the 1921 annual picnic.

New Zealand had the highest casualty rate amongst British Empire countries and this is reflected in these biographies. Starting with their work within the Audit Department before they enlisted, each biography includes military service details, battles involved in, injuries sustained and, for those that survived, their post-war employment.

Many of the men from the Audit Department served first in the Samoan Advance Party before going off to the battles at Passchendale, Le Quesnoy, Somme, Messines and ANZAC Cove. Of the 32 men, five did not return having been either killed in action or died from disease. The 27 men who survived did so with both physical and mental wounds having also suffered measles, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

There are three local men featured: Harry Latchford Marbrook, Hastings; George Grant Smith, Waipukurau; Henry Charles Steere, Waipawa. All returned to work for the Audit Department after the war.

Not all the men led such worthy lives post war. Several of the soldiers were imprisoned for theft and fraud with one soldier imprisoned multiple times before being diagnosed with acute mental depression. Each biography is accompanied by a small photograph of the soldier as well as photographs of toy soldiers re-enacting war scenes.

So can we ever have too many books on the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and World War One? I don’t think so. Not when we have books like From auditor to soldier, personalising soldiers’ stories and telling it like it was, warts and all.

Lest we forget

Posted by The Rummaging Bibliophile

Catalogue link: From Auditor to Soldier

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