The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War II
Series: Men-at-Arms * 486
Authors: Wayne Stack & Barry O’Sullivan
Illustrator: Mike Chappell
Osprey marches nearer to 500 Men-at-Arms titles with The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War II
. This book recounts the extraordinary battle history of New Zealand ground forces in WW II with erudite text and exception artwork.
New Zealand rallied to Britain’s aide in the First World War in great numbers. Despite their fathers’ dreadful losses in The War to End All Wars and strong anti-war sentiment afterwards, the egalitarian ‘Kiwis’ sent 12 percent of their population overseas to fight with Britain against Nazis, Fascists, and Imperial Japanese. Led by a General forcibly retired by medical trouble before the war, ‘Kiwis’ became a highly mobile force that, despite terrible losses, gave the unstoppable Nazi advance a portent of their ultimate defeat, subsequently becoming the pursuers of the Nazi army. Despite criticism of their often battle-wounded General by English generals, Field marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery thought so highly of the general and New Zealand troops that he demanded they accompany him to invade Normandy!
In the Pacific these Dominion troops were at first used for garrison and training duties. Yet their enthusiasm led the American commanders in the Solomons to use the Kiwis to spearhead amphibious landings.
Indeed, the contribution and fighting spirit of New Zealand troops is reflected in that the only United Kingdom combat soldier to ever twice receive the Victoria Cross is from New Zealand.
Content The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War II
does not include New Zealand air or naval units. This battle history of the 2nd and 3rd New Zealand Divisions is brought to us through 48 pages in 8 chapters:
• New Zealand's contribution
• Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC, DSO**
- Major-General Sir Harold Barrowclough
• 2nd New Zealand Division
• 3rd New Zealand Division
2nd NZ DIVISION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN3rd NZ DIVISION IN THE PACIFIC
• Egypt & Britain, January 1940-March 1941
• Greece & Crete, March-May 1941
• North Africa, 1940-43: Operation Crusader, November 1941
- Minquar Qaim, June 1942
- First El Alamein, July 1942
El Alamein, October-November 1942
- Tebaga Gap, March 1943
- Enfidaville & Takrouna, April 1943
• Italy, 1943-45: The Sangro & Orsogna, November 1943-January
- Second Cassino, February 1944
- Third Cassino, March
- Gothic Line, July 1944-April 1945
UNIFORMS & EQUIPMENT
• Vella Levalla, September 1943
- Treasury Islands, October 1943
- Green Islands, February 1944
• Uniforms: Service Dress
- denim uniform
- field service dress
- overcoats & jerkins
- miscellaneous clothing
- women's clothing
- badges & insignia
• Equipment: helmets
- web equipment
Messer’s Stack & O’Sullivan recount the organization of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, from its underfunded beginnings, into training and equipping, to deployment to neighboring islands and both Europe and North Africa. New Zealand raised two divisions, one for Europe and one for the Pacific. Kiwis, mindful of fate at the hands of British officers in The Great War, went to England’s help with a special charter stipulating that they would be commanded by New Zealand officers and could be pulled out of the line at New Zealand’s discretion. The island army also included native Maori battalions .
The book examines the NZ division composition by battalions and brigades, with the force structure and combat arms. Commanders profiled are Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC, DSO** who commanded 2nd NZ Division in the Mediterranean and Europe, during which he added more combat wounds to the many he received in WW I. He and Major-General Sir Harold Barrowclough ended the war with distinction even though Freyberg had some rough campaigns.
The authors present the battles with sufficient detail to understand the character of the NZ divisions. New Zealand troops fought in most of the major battles in the Mediterranean including Greece and Crete where they opposed panzer and elite Fallschirmjäger
operations. They battled Rommel’s Afrika Korps, against whom they fought with the legendary SAS, led a bayonet breakout through a 21st Panzer laager, and battled for Tobruk. Up through Italy they slogged, laying siege to Monte Cassino.
What lead Freyberg to withdraw his division in disgust with poor British generalship and tactics during Operation Crusader
? It is examined as is, during El Alamein, that the Kiwis so lost confidence in British tank units that they reorganized with their own organic armored brigade. Despite that Montgomery considered Freyberg his best combat general and tried to take the kiwis for the Normandy invasion. The sacrifice New Zealanders made for the United Kingdom is illuminated by comparing the number of casualties NZ soldiers suffered per 1,000 of total population compared to British and other Dominion troops.
Art, Photographs, graphics
Modelers and reenactors will appreciate the crisp and detailed watercolors by esteemed illustrator Mike Chappell. Original artwork includes 21 color portraits of NZ servicemen and women in seven categories:
1. NEW ZEALAND & UK, 1940
2. GREECE & CRETE, 1941
3. NORTH AFRICA, 1941-42
4. NORTH AFRICA, 1942-43
5. ITALY, 1943-44
6. THE PACIFIC, 1943-44
7. ITALY, 1945
These plates illustrate typical Kiwis as well as notable soldiers, including Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, Lt Charles Upham, VC, 2nd Lt Te Moananui-a-kiwa Ngarimu, VC, and Col. Denver Fountaine, DSO, MC, ED*, MiD. Of particular interest are the field-camouflaged uniform; Kiwis in US uniforms; Maori soldiers; ‘bottle-green’ jungle covering, and ‘lemon-squeezer’ hats. Additionally, a page of 22 badges and insignias rounds out the illustrations. Four pages of plate commentaries describe the artwork.
Four line art maps show the arenas the New Zealand Expeditionary Force fought in: Crete; North Africa; Italy; Solomon Islands. Two tables break down the composition of the two divisions, identifying the brigades, battalions, regiments, batteries, and coys.
Over a score of black-and-white photographs populate the book. The art director did a great job selecting appropriate images to support the text. All are ‘studio quality,’ even the front line photos are clear. These photos sample the spectrum from battle scenes, to portraits, to propaganda shots. Modelers – there are some superb inspirational images for diorama scenes within these pages!
I found this book to be extremely informative. I did not know the history of New Zealand ground forces beyond their general hard fighting reputation, earned in such battles as at Thermopylae, Cassino, and Vella Lavella. This book is a great primer for historians and modelers interested in learning more about the Kiwi ground soldier and his leaders. As such I think the authors did a remarkable job balancing information with readability in the 48-page volume. The few typos are inconsequential to me and do not detract from the overall history.
Mr. Chappell is one of my favorite artists and I would buy the book just for his depiction of Dominion troops. I appreciate the maps of each of the battle zones the New Zealand Expeditionary Force fought in.
I heartily recommend this book to historians, modelers, reenactors and anyone interested in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War II.