The Ministry for Culture and Heritage commissioned a number of works on the Centenary of the Great War. Fearless is an amazing collection and distillation of the vast amount of information on the part played by New Zealand airmen.
The whole story of aviation in New Zealand has never been told previously. Here we have the background which looks at aviation development in New Zealand; we see the vision of Henry Wigram who was asking for support from the Government as early as 1909. Funding was always going to be a problem as there was no navy, and sea was seen as more important to New Zealand’s defenses than air. The whole idea of military aviation was in its early stages, but already there were some who saw the advantages.
Fearless is not a dry history about the planes and their parts. Rather, it combines the military and political scene with the stories of individuals. We learn the stories of the early pioneers, the political activists, the daring adventurers. It is here – in the stories of the passion and persistence of some of these young men who were determined to fly into war -that I found the greatest interest. Their stories are detailed, lively and often humorous.
The illustrations bring the text to life and add faces to the names, the planes and the events. The photograph of RAF officers paying tribute at the burial of Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron), taken at Keith Park’s Bertangle airfield, summed up the depth of this book. Park’s leadership in the Great War gave him a superb platform for his important role in World War 2. His is one of the many stories covered in this wonderful book.
New Zealanders played a very important part in the Great War on land and sea. After reading Fearless, I also appreciate their role in the air. It has taken 100 years for this publication to emerge. But it was worth the wait.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
Fearless: The extraordinary untold story of New Zealand’s Great War airmen
by Adam R. A. Claasen
Published by Massey University Bookshop