Book Review: Just to let you know I’m still alive, by Glenn Reddiex

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Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

Glenn Reddiex is a Deltiologist, Genealogist and a First World War historian. He has served with the Royal New Zealand Navy and in later years with the Joint Information Services Agency in the New Zealand Defence Force.

The Great War claimed an estimated 18,500 New Zealand lives, with many of those who survived the war continuing to suffer with health problems including psychological and physiological issues.

This book is an insight and snapshot of how important communication was during these years. Often postcards and letters were all relatives had as reminders of what their loved ones had experienced as many never made it back home. Letters from home were precious, often tucked in close to the body in their khaki pockets and packs reminding them of the safety and security of home and the people that they held dear.

Postcards became a very important part of communication. They came in various forms. Beautiful hand embroidered silk attached to postcards with messages to convey to their family back in New Zealand that they dearly missed. This part of the book felt quite personal to me. My Mother’s uncle sent one of these cards. Mum’s card said “A Kiss from France” – she was only a very small child at the time. As a child I had no idea of its significance, but now as an adult I do; John Reeves Aldred never returned. A sad reminder to our family of a much loved member lost forever buried far away from home. Later in the war it became popular to send photographs of regiments or of soldiers on leave in the U.K. in full uniform mounted on postcards which were then sent home to their loved ones in New Zealand.

Many believed the First World War would be over by Christmas, that first year, but the days turned into weeks, months and years as the war continued. “Our boys” were comforted by reminders of familiar sights, sounds and symbols of their beloved homeland. It wasn’t long before New Zealand publishers were producing original works by New Zealand artists and photographers for the local market. The exchange of postcards illustrated with patriotic symbols of the British Empire and the Dominion of New Zealand. Flags, ferns, and verse were common features. They became very precious to the recipients and became very collectable. Thanks to that, this book was able to be produced.

I found this book a fascinating read. It takes us into an important part of New Zealand history. The figure of an estimated 18,500 soldiers lives lost to me is a staggering figure, especially when you think that New Zealand had a population of less than 1 million people.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Just to let you know I’m still alive: Postcards from New Zealanders during the First World War
by Glenn Reddiex
Published by Grantham House Publishing
ISBN 9781869341275

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