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Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945

Of all the official histories published by all the nations which participated in the Second World War, those of New Zealand must win the award for greatest detail and most ink per soldier. For 2nd New Zealand Division, for example, the government published a set of eight division-level volumes plus eleven separate battalion histories.

Fortunately, these are well-researched and well-written books. Also, because there is so much information about the operations of other Allied units, as well as enemy forces, the NZ volumes are able to offer considerable detail above and beyond the perspective of the Kiwi units themselves. It's not unusual to draw a blank on the operations of a specific UK unit in Playfair's official British history, but to find the pertinent facts in the NZ series. This is especially true in the volume on the NZ-led battle on Crete.

Although the originals are long out of print, secondhand copies of many volumes remain fairly easy to find. On the other hand, some of the rarer volumes, such as Gillespie's The Pacific (history of 3rd New Zealand Division), are much more difficult to acquire and can command quite high prices. The Battery Press recently undertook a reprint program and brought out three of the NZ officials (Crete, volume one of Italy, and The Royal New Zealand Air Force) in very nice new editions, but it's unclear when or if Dick Gardner will be continuing that program.

In sum, the NZ series amounts to dozens and dozens of books and includes separate volumes on signals, dental services, chaplains, social issues, POWs, and many other peripheral topics. Here is a list of the most important "military" titles in the official history series.

The main volumes: These are the division-level books about 2nd New Zealand Division (eight titles) and 3rd New Zealand Division (one title).

McClymont, W. G. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: To Greece. Wellington: War History Branch, 1959

Davin, Daniel M. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: Crete. Wellington NZ: War History Branch, 1953

Murphy, W. E. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: The Relief of Tobruk. Wellington: War History Branch, 1961

Scoullar, Lt Col J. L. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: The Battle of Egypt: The Summer of 1942. Wellington: War History Branch, 1955

Walker, Ronald. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: Alam Halfa and El Alamein. Wellington: War History Branch, 1967

Stevens, W. G. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: Bardia to Enfidaville. Wellington: War History Branch, 1962

Phillips, N. C. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: Italy, vol 1: The Sangro to Cassino. Wellington: War History Branch, 1957

Kay, Robin. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: Italy, vol 2: From Cassino to Trieste. Wellington, NZ: Historical Publications Branch, 1967

Gillespie, Oliver A. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: The Pacific. Wellington: War History Branch, 1952

Navy and Air Force: The Kiwi war effort was not limited to ground forces.

Waters, Sydney D. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: The Royal New Zealand Navy. Wellington: Historical Branch, 1956

Ross, J. M. S. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: The Royal New Zealand Air Force. Wellington: War History Branch, 1955

Thompson, H. L. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force, volume 1: European Theatre - September 1939 - December 1942. Wellington: War History Branch, 1953

Thompson, H. L. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force, volume 2: European Theatre - January 1943 - May 1945. Wellington: War History Branch, 1955

Thompson, H. L. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force, volume 3: Mediterranean and Middle East - South-East Asia. Wellington: War History Branch, 1959

Unit Histories: In addition to the "operational" accounts, the government produced many detailed unit histories. Of these the most important are probably the battalion histories for the components of 2nd New Zealand Division, but there are many others.

Cody, J. F. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: Maori Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1965

Dawson, W. D. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: 18 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. Wellington: War History Branch, 1961

Sinclair, D. W. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 19 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. Wellington: War History Branch, 1954

Pringle, D. J. C. and W. A. Glue. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. Wellington: War History Branch, 1957

Cody, J. F. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945: 21 Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1953

Henderson, Jim. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 22 Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1958

Ross, Angus. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 23 Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1959

Phillips, F. L. & Gilmour, H R. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 24 Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch,

Puttick, Edward. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 25 Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1960

Norton, F. D. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 26th Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1952.

Kay, Robin. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion. Wellington: War History Branch, 1958

Murphy, W. E. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-45: 2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery. Wellington: War History Branch, 1966

Reviewed 5 March 2000
Copyright © 2000 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone
 

 

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