Neutral Egypt was never meant to be a New Zealand battlefield. Kiwi troops arrived expecting a short stay before continuing to France. Mussolini had other ideas.
For the New Zealanders, the campaign became their longest and most important land engagement of the war.
Fought amidst swirling sandstorms, torrid temperatures and debilitating diseases, the North African campaign tested the resolve of soldiers and medics alike. The Kiwis were in a foreign landscape - whether sheltering in a slit trench or perching on a rocky outcrop scanning the horizon. Rommel's bold tactics and British incompetence made life even more difficult.
Nearly 3000 New Zealand who helped defeat Axis troops did not survive to tell the tale. The Desert Road features 16 men and women who did return. Their words reflect the fear and bravery, courage and compassion, humour and sadness that characterised the Second World War.
This book is destined to become a national treasure. Every day men and women who served in World War 2 die, and with them dies the priceless treasure that is their memory of the experiences they went through as young men and women serving in a war like no other. Soon we will read in the media of the death of the last surviving soldier from WW2, and the living memory of those times will be gone for good.
My father served in the Desert campaign, and like so many old soldiers he shared little of his experiences, and the more I badgered him the less he told. Sadly my father has since passed on, and his memories of his part in an event that has shaped New Zealand and the world have gone with him.
Thankfully in this book the men and women who served alongside my father and the thousands of other New Zealanders share the fear, the excitement, the discomfort and even the numbing boredom of the desert war. We can read actual accounts of what it felt like to enlist, travel across the world and experience battle, army life and recreation from men and women who were actually there.
I am glad that I happened across this book because finally I can begin to understand what happened in that hostile desert over 60 years ago, and how it changed the world. I can finally begin to understand why my father was the man he was.
Clearly and sympatheically written with photos from both official archives and private collections this book comes highly recommended.
This book relates the personal accounts of a number of kiwi service men and women who served in the North African campaign during the Second World War. Each interview is a poignant reminder of what our service personnel went through. It is the tears, the humour and the tales make this book very readable, even to those who have little interest in the war and what happened 60 years ago. This book is not only a tribute to the men and women who served, but is also a personal tribute to the author who collected material and interviewed each person whose tale is told here. To say it is a 'fascinating insight' sounds so clichéd, I am not sure I could use any other words to describe this book. Buy it, read it and remember those men and women who never returned home to tell their experiences, and for those who were too traumatised to ever speak of the war again. I am not sure whatever I write will do the book the justice it deserves. Buy it. Read it and decide for yourself.
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