Book Review: The Camera in the Crowd, by Christopher Pugsley

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_camera_in_the_CrowdI was amazed to find that the first films reached New Zealand in 1896 – I knew it had been around in the early 20th century, but hadn’t realised it went that far back.

The Camera in the Crowd focuses on the 25-year period that followed film’s introduction, using footage from Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, our national film archive. (An organisation I have a great deal of admiration for after they sent me the link to a documentary my late mother appeared in about 30 years ago.)

The book talks about the early days of film and of the cameramen and theatre owners who brought the world to life for New Zealanders. When I was a young child, friends of my parents had their own home theatre and we used to enjoy going there to see movies – something we took for granted in the 1960s but which looking back was something pretty amazing for a time when not every home had a television.

Reading about the early pioneers of film was fascinating – for a start, I had no idea the Salvation Army had been heavily involved in filming New Zealand’s history.

Christopher Pugsley is a leading historian with many titles under his belt and this book is meticulously researched. It’s the type of book you will dip in and out of as the mood takes you rather than one you’ll read from start to finish. It focuses on New Zealand’s history, both at home and during our many military campaigns overseas.

Some items have a little movie camera icon next to them and that indicates the footage can be found online by going to Nga Taonga’s website and entering the title number. I urge you to take the time to look at these videos as they bring our past to life in a way the book on its own is unable to do.

While this is not a complete history of the period in time The Camera in the Crowd covers, it does feature some very interesting and important events, including royal visits and New Zealanders at war. There’s everything from whaling to sports to culture.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this book will only appeal to history buffs because it deserves a much wider audience that that. Those with an interest in early movie making will find it illuminating (pardon the pun), while those with an interest in society and how it evolved will enjoy reading the historical reports and items from newspapers of the time.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

The Camera in the Crowd
by Christopher Pugsley
Published by Oratia Books
ISBN  9780947506346

Book Review: Remembering Gallipoli, by Christopher Pugsley & Charles Farrell

Available in bookshops nationwide.cv_remembering_Gallipoli

The value of recorded oral history and the written word come together in Remembering Gallipoli: Interviews with New Zealand Gallipoli Veterans, by Christopher Pugsley and Charles Farrell.

The book is based on 131 surviving interviews made, mostly in 1982, of Gallipoli veterans as part of the research that was the backbone of the Maurice Shadbolt play Once on Chanuk Bair  This and other material have been used in other books including Men of Gallipoli, by Charles Farrell, as well as in a TVNZ documentary. There are also a number of other historians and scholars that have benefited from the material which is carefully archived in a number of places, including the National Army Museum at Waiouru.

This book has been carefully constructed, so that the memories of the men are linked to the various battles and other significant aspects of the Gallipoli campaign. Sometimes the comments from a single veteran will appear in different chapters because the individual will have memories of a number of different incidents. This allows for the whole campaign to be understood chronologically. Thus instead of an historian’s prose, the story unfolds through the words of veterans who were there, while staying in line with how the campaign developed and ended.

Authors’ notes are used to fill in detail of events, creating context for the veterans’ comments. Pugsley and Farrell also contribute to the background and context with their introduction. In particular Pugsley traces how he got involved with the history of the Gallipoli campaign while still a serving officer in the Army.

Photographs are well used in this book, very often adding to the personal perspectives of veterans’ accounts.

Much of the collective memory is harrowing, some of it humorous in a black kiwi sort of way. But the real quality of this book is that it allows us 100 years later to “ hear the voices” that were at Gallipoli.

Review by Lincoln Gould

Remembering Gallipoli: Interviews with New Zealand Gallipoli Veterans
by Christopher Pugsley and Charles Ferrall
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739919

Book Review : A Bloody Road Home: World War Two and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division, by Christopher Pugsley


Available in bookstores nationwide.

Chapter one of A Bloody Road Home leads with a quote from Keith Elliot about how he learned of the declaration of the Second World War. A Victoria Cross holder, Elliot was a farmer, soldier, and priest – in that order. I remember listening to a number of his sermons as a teenager, often in the tiny church in Rangataua. His sermons helped to cement my interest in the history of that war – because they were all about people and their experiences. If Keith Elliot’s fiery sermons were anything to go by, it is no surprise that he won a Victoria Cross.

This book, Dr Christopher Pugley’s history of the New Zealand Second Division in World War II, is about people, and their extraordinary experiences as members of the New Zealand Second Division: people that earned among the highest praises for their abilities of courage and skill as a fighting unit.

It’s the “people” angle that the Governor General, Lieutenant General, The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, singles out in his foreword when he says, “This is a story worth telling and deserves to be read by all New Zealanders”.

The book probably won’t be read by all New Zealanders, but there will be many who will search through it and learn about what their fathers, mothers, grandparents, even great-grandparents did in that war. This is because Pugsley’s book tells the story through the voices of hundreds of named soldiers and nurses from Generals to Privates, matrons to nurses. This is one of the most appealing aspects of the book and will help families across the country to better understand what their family members went through.

A Bloody Road Home begins with the establishment of the “Special Force” of 6,600 men that formed the basis for the first echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (the 1st NZEF went to Gallipoli and Europe in the First World War). The tale then tracks recruitment, training and arriving in Egypt. The battles in Greece, Crete, and the long slog across and back the North African littoral, and across again, chasing and being chased by the German and Italian armies; across the Mediterranean, through Anzio to Italy, and then very tough fighting up the Italian peninsula; fighting over many famous rivers, to historic cities such as Florence, Venice and finally Trieste.

This was not the type of guided tour that many of us make today, although many New Zealanders visit the sites of the battles that are covered in such detail in the book. Each battle was a step closer to getting home, but as Pugsley’s title for his work confirms, it was a pretty “bloody road”.

The book is of 555 pages, plus a very extensive glossary, notes, bibliography and index. Pugsley cleverly assembles quotes from those of first hand experience of each battle or particular aspect of the story. Each one is embedded with his own carefully researched account of a battle. His narrative is not only clear and concise but is strengthened by his personal experience and understanding of military matters being a former senior officer in the New Zealand Army

It is not known exactly how many served in the 2nd Division, while 104,988 men and women served in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force . However, we do know that the 2nd Division suffered 6,581 dead, 15,108 wounded and 7,586 prisoners of war.
My uncle was one was one of those who lost his life as a prisoner of war. It is through Dr Pugley’s prodigious and professional research and skill in storytelling that my family knows a little more about his history. Many other families will be able to learn more from this book.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould

A Bloody Road Home: World War Two and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division
by Christopher Pugsley
Published by Penguin NZ
ISBN 9780143571896

How We Remember Them, New Zealanders and the First World War, Edited by Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts

Now available in bookshops.cv_how_we_remember

In Featherston where I live, a debate is underway as to how best to site and build a memorial to remember the tens of thousands of First World War soldiers who were trained in the camp near the village and tramped over the Rimutaka Hill, to ship out to the First World War. (The march is pictured below).

Recently I was approached by a friend’s granddaughter and her friend, both local high school students, for help with a history project based on two local soldiers, trained in the camp, each of whom died in Flanders. I have a lot of books on the war.

These current events are just two of what will be hundreds of acts of remembrance during the WW1 commemorations – but they are local and close to the students and villagers engaged, even if they themselves have no direct connections to the war through forebears. But each is different from the other.

It is the many different facets of remembrance that makes How We Remember, so interesting and worth reading. Editors Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts commissioned an eclectic group of writers – playwrights, mainstream authors, journalists, broadcasters and historians to write 20 essays.

The essays, all well written, take many different narrative forms of remembrance which together form a kaleidoscope of multiple reflection on New Zealander’s collective and individual experiences of the war and its aftermath. The book manages to reflect many of New Zealand’s social structures and mores of the time and the effects thereon by the war.marching_over_the_rimutaka+hill

It is difficult to single out any of the essays, because they are all worth reading. However, in order to demonstrate the diversity of experiences, it is worth noting Christopher Pugsley’s tears when he first visited Gallipoli – a place that he has been so instrumental in implanting a sense of respect and nationhood into modern New Zealanders. This contrasts with Paul Diamond’s history of the much honoured, then disgraced and then posthumously rehabilitated gay mayor of Whanganui, Charles Mackay and his blackmailer Walter D’Arcy Cresswell. Jane Tolerton reveals difficulties behind the recording of veteran’s personal histories, exploding perhaps the myth “they didn’t want to talk about it”. And James R Broughton and Monty Souter reflect on the Maori experience of WW1 which includes pride and glory, but also prejudice and injustice.

I have grown up, like so many New Zealanders, with the dictum that New Zealand forged a sense of nationhood within the First World War battles in Gallipoli and the Western Front that lives on. Many who fought though, while from New Zealand, were born in other 1200px-Flag_of_New_Zealandcountries, particularly Britain. Jane Tolerton writes, that questions were asked of veterans as to ”whether they felt more like New Zealanders, as opposed to British, after Gallipoli. They gave us the clear response that they were New Zealanders already, and proud of it – but also proud of being British”.

The students of Featherston got top marks for their “memorials” of two soldiers. The debate on how best to remember the Featherston camp and those who marched from there to war, will eventually be resolved. And many readers of this book will either have there own personal memories broadened by these essays or gain a fascinating insight into what all this WW1 commemorative stuff is all about.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould, CEO, Booksellers NZ

How We Remember Them, New Zealanders and the First World War
Edited by Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN 9780864739353