'Something of Them Is Here Recorded': Official History in New Zealand
Official war history in New Zealand has traditionally had three main functions: to provide a record of New Zealand's activities in war that might be of use to the state in future emergencies, to meet a perceived demand among the public for accounts of New Zealand's participation in the various conflicts, and to provide a memorial to those who lost their lives on active service.1 Its evolution over the course of the twentieth century has been characterized by two significant changes: from military to civilian responsibility and from amateur to professional production arrangements, especially in terms of the preparation of manuscripts. New Zealand's experience differs substantially from that in Australia, even if similarities exist in current approaches. Whereas Australia's official war historiography is dominated by the C.E.W. Bean-inspired First World War official history, New Zealand's tradition derives from its Second World War effort, overseen in its formative stages by the lawyer-soldier H.K. Kippenberger, who, unlike Bean, authored none of the volumes himself. That project, the largest publishing effort in New Zealand's history, provides the solid foundation for continuing efforts in this field.
New Zealand's approach to official history did not get off to a good start. From 1901 the military authorities in Wellington gave attention to the possibility of writing a history of the New Zealand effort in the Boer War, and the premier and minister for defense, Richard Seddon, strongly encouraged the project until his death in 1906. Three persons, successively a regular officer, a journalist and a school teacher, attempted to prepare the history but abandoned it without achieving anything of substance.2 In July 1905 F. E. Beamish, a veteran of the war, accountant in the General Post Office, and militia officer, took up the task. He worked full-time on it for a year, and thereafter in his spare time, finally completing a 1,109-page typescript in September 1909. He complained of the lack of support he received after Seddon's death, and noted the unsympathetic approach of one of the contingent's commanding officers. This was probably Colonel A. W. Robin, who would over the next decade exercise a very limiting influence on official history in New Zealand. Beamish, deciding that the official records were ‘deplorably inadequate and practically useless’, had sought to supplement them with a wide variety of non-official material.3 The introduction of such material conflicted with Robin's narrow conception of official history as an official record. Apart from finding fault with the manuscript's literary style, Robin was clearly troubled by its contents, suggesting later, in reference to it, that ‘opinions, criticisms and copies of irresponsible letters and newspapers do not constitute a history worthy of issue by the Government’.4 He insisted that the manuscript would need to be edited before publication, and took it with him to London when he became New Zealand's representative on the Imperial General Staff. Nothing had been done before the outbreak of the First World War, ensuring that the project slipped out of sight. When the matter was reconsidered after the war, the military authorities remained unenthusiastic. In 1920 Major-General Chaytor, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), described the manuscript as ‘merely a mass of information which has not been edited and would be of little use as an official history’.5
During the First World War the government was from an early stage mindful of the likelihood of an official history being written. In 1915 Malcolm Ross, the New Zealand official war correspondent, was charged with gathering material that might be used for this purpose after the war. From the time that he arrived at the front, he was often associated with Bean both at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He might well have become the Bean of New Zealand official war historiography too. With his literary skills, his personal observations of the New Zealanders at the front, and the body of material he had prepared relating to their activities (though no Ross diary has come to light), Ross seemed the obvious person to write the history when the question came under active consideration at the end of the war. He also had support in high places. The commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, General Sir Alexander Godley, thought it impossible for anyone but Ross to write the official history, since he had acquired knowledge and records that would not otherwise be available. Indeed Godley knew of no one who could do it better than Ross. Prime Minister William Massey, a friend of Ross, also favored his appointment.6
Despite this high-level endorsement, Ross was excluded from any involvement in such a project. He fell victim to a military hierarchy in Wellington whose approach was heavily influenced by a narrow conception of official history. Robin, now the Commandant of the forces in New Zealand, focused on official history's lesson-imparting aspect. It was, he suggested, a work prepared for the military student, dealing ‘with facts, figures, and tactics from the point of view of the historian, by whom soldiers are considered collectively as an armed force whose object is to destroy the enemy’, and nothing more than ‘an exact statistical and chronological record of all events connected with the War, both in the Dominion and Overseas’.7 He envisaged the strategic and tactical lessons being worked out by the Imperial General Staff at the War Office. In Robin's opinion, Ross had several major drawbacks as an official historian: he would need a high remuneration (bound to be a negative influence on a cost-conscious minister), his journalist style would not be appropriate for this form of publication, and he lacked technical knowledge of military routines and tactics.8 Godley's point about Ross having gathered the necessary resources for the purpose was easily countered: under the terms of his contract, all the material in Ross's possession was the property of the New Zealand government (and he was duly ordered to hand it over). Colonel Hugh Stewart, a Scotsman who had taken up the position of professor of classics at Canterbury University College in 1913 and who had joined the NZEF and risen to command an infantry battalion in France, was regarded in Wellington as a more appropriate author of this work.9 In the event, the official history project never got off the ground.
The books that did eventually appear were popular histories, and they reflected a different approach to the recording of New Zealand's participation in the war. During 1917 Clutha Mackenzie, the blind editor of the weekly magazine Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., had proposed the writing of a history that was based on the experiences of the soldiers themselves, as revealed in their diaries and letters in particular. He was concerned that nothing had been done to capture ‘as far as humanly possible in literature, the spirit, the manliness and the glory of it all’.10 Characteristically, Robin was unenthusiastic about this idea, believing that only the narrowly constrained official history should be undertaken by a government department. But he bent to the wind when it became apparent that the Minister of Defence, Sir James Allen, was attracted by the suggestion of a popular history. Early in 1918 Robin proposed what he called a soldier's history of the conflict in addition to the official history. This would be ‘a supplementary work of a popular nature’, whose ‘main object would be to provide an intimate human record of the War from the point of view of the soldier himself’.11 The Cabinet approved a history along these lines in May 1918. The task of producing it seemed tailor-made for Ross, but again there was a strong determination among the military authorities in Wellington that he should not be employed for this purpose. From an early stage Robin saw Stewart as a suitable author, and Ross was completely excluded from the preparation of the popular history, which eventually extended to four volumes.12
The first author appointed, in late 1918, was in fact Colonel Fred Waite, who was charged with producing a volume on Gallipoli. From January 1919 he also oversaw the whole Popular History project.13 A farmer before enlisting in 1NZEF in 1914, he had no formal historical training; indeed he came to Allen's notice because of a short description of New Zealand's Gallipoli involvement that he sent to the Base Records in Wellington in response to a call for the deposit of such historical material. For second opinions on Waite's capacity to undertake the Gallipoli history, Allen circulated this account to various people, including the Governor-General, Lord Liverpool, who pointed to its grammatical errors, and the editor of the Christchurch Press, W. H. Tripp, who warned that more was required of an historian than an aptitude for descriptive writing.14 After some hesitation, Stewart accepted the government's invitation to write the history of the New Zealand Division's role in France, while Colonel C. G. Powles undertook that for the Sinai-Palestine campaign, taking over a manuscript already produced by Major A. H. Wilkie (but regarded as too dry by the military authorities).15 Like Waite, Powles had no training in history, let alone university education; he was an efficient regular staff officer. A volume of short essays by a variety of authors on aspects of New Zealand's war effort completed the series. This was edited by Lieutenant H.T.B. Drew, a journalist in civilian life, who was brought back from France to take charge of the New Zealand Historical War Record Office established in the Defence Department in Wellington in December 1918, mainly to supply information for the preparation of the British Official History. (1NZEF's New Zealand War Records Section in London had since 1917 been performing a similar function.) The government did not approve Drew's suggestion for a general volume on New Zealand's war effort.
A notable feature of the First World War volumes is the speed with which they were produced. The authors' contracts varied between seven months for Drew and fourteen months for Stewart. Starting work in late January 1919, Stewart had drafted four chapters (covering the period up to Messines) by the end of April, and four months later had completed a draft of the whole history.16 Even he recognized the limitations of his work, advising Allen,
It has been at once a labor of love and yet or perhaps just because of that a rather heart breaking task to an at all critically conscientious writer. It is so easy to write balderdash and so extraordinarily difficult to get truth. In dealing with every battle one is faced with inconsistencies, obscurities, lacunae … In the end I had to jettison to some extent the high ideals with which I set out.17
All four volumes were published within five years of the inception of the project.18 Confusingly, given the military hierarchy's conception of official history already noted, their title pages stated that they were the ‘Official History’. Though not forming part of this series, an official medical history was also published in 1924.19 These accounts were supplemented by a range of regimental histories, which were prepared under the supervision of commitiees of unit members. The military authorities in Wellington kept control of the process, with a Regimental History Committee of five senior officers scrutinizing each manuscript with the power to order revisions and alterations.20
Although not particularly accessible to the reader, especially Stewart's history, the popular histories have dominated the historiography of New Zealand's First World War effort ever since they appeared. The long out of print France and Sinai-Palestine volumes remain the standard works on New Zealand's involvement in those campaigns nearly eighty years later, and it was only in 1984 that Waite's Gallipoli was superseded by Christopher Pugsley's Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story. The lack of attention to the First World War, in contrast to the position in Australia, is perhaps a reflection of a lesser sense of nationalism in New Zealand and the lesser resources available, given the very limited numbers of professional historians interested in military history in New Zealand.
In examining the process by which the First World War histories appeared, several points stand out: first, it is clear that the military authorities assumed that a competent staff officer was quite capable of writing history, and especially official history in the Robin conception of the term. Second, a premium was placed upon personal experience of the war. Third, there was a concern that the popular-cum-official history should be widely read. This led to an emphasis on literary skill, and several people were rejected as possible authors on the grounds of not having a sufficiently lively pen for the task. Fourth, there was recognition that sources other than official documents, such as personal diaries and letters, might be valuable in the preparation of a popular history. These two latter points have some resonance in New Zealand official history even today.
The Defence Department's official history program was paralleled by another strand of official war history. In early 1918 James Cowan began work on ‘the Official History of the Wars in New Zealand’, a four-volume work in his original conception.21 Originally employed on a two-year contract, he eventually spent three and a half years on the project, which was carried out in what he described as the ‘Maori Wars History Section’ of the Department of Internal Affairs.22 A major reason for Cabinet approval was the belief that many veterans of the wars, both European and Maori, were passing away with their experiences unrecorded. In addition to his extensive journalistic and literary experience, Cowan's credentials included the fact that he spoke Maori fluently and had spent more than twenty-five years gathering oral testimony from Maori of the New Zealand Wars era. The fact that he spoke the language of both adversaries in the conflict is unusual among New Zealand's war historians, official or otherwise. He approached his task with a determination to produce ‘a history that would do even justice to both sides’, and placed much store on visiting the sites of the various battles and skirmishes.23 Published in two volumes in 1922–23, his work is notable not only for its extensive use of oral history, but also for its sympathetic and somewhat sentimental portrayal of the Maori side of the conflict.24 It was reprinted in both 1955 and 1983, and only partially superseded in 1986 by James Belich's The New Zealand Wars.25
Within the Defence Department, history was not entirely overlooked between the wars. In 1930 notes on the history of the New Zealand military forces, originally prepared by Major W. G. Stevens to assist staff college candidates, were issued to all regular officers. They were seen as the basis for a ‘more comprehensive history’, though in the event nothing more was done with them.26 Partly because of the difficulties encountered over the First World War volumes—the regimental histories, in particular, had made very heavy losses—but mainly because of a lack of resources, the military authorities had little continuing interest in publishing military history for a wider audience.27 In 1929 they made no objections when responsibility for the task of producing the long-delayed Boer War history was handed to the Department of Internal Affairs. At the instigation of the South African War Veterans Association, the Cabinet agreed that J. A. Shand, who had been a war correspondent in South Africa during the war, should be commissioned to produce the history.28 It is possible that he made use of the Beamish manuscript.29 By the time he completed the task in November 1931, however, doubts about the commercial viability of the project lessened the enthusiasm of a government increasingly beset with financial difficulties. The project was repeatedly deferred until in 1935 the manuscript was deposited in the Alexander Turnbull Library:30 perhaps mercifully, for an authoritative reader later described it as not having ‘a single merit that should be present in a military history’ other than the many ‘facts … hidden under the verbiage’.31
The First World War official history effort, ad hoc in its conception and military dominated in its implementation, was very different from that developed for the Second World War. One reason was the existence of a government that was more receptive to the views of non-military specialists as to what was necessary and more interesting in historical matters, if only because of the activities surrounding the Centennial of New Zealand in 1940. Shortly after the outbreak of war Alister McIntosh of the Prime Minister's Department, an historian and librarian by training, had addressed the question of an official history.32 Within the Department of Internal Affairs there were a number of professional historians and librarians whose expertise and initiative was important the process of getting a war history underway. The Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, for example, urged early action in April 1940.33 A belief that the perceived excellence of Australia's First World War official history stemmed from the fact that it had been planned from the outset of that conflict underlay much of this early activity. It was reinforced by a justifiable feeling among many officials that the First World War New Zealand histories had not done justice to 1NZEF.
At first the matter was regarded as primarily a military responsibility, and some steps were belatedly taken to ensure that material of an historical nature would be preserved. An official archivist was appointed in 2NZEF's base headquarters in February 1941.34 However, it was the induction of E. H. McCormick into 2NZEF soon afterward that finally led to serious consideration of the issue. His substantial literary reputation and his experience in production of the Department of Internal Affairs' Centennial publications suggested that his talents might be best utilized in ensuring that materials for the official history were preserved. Although he arrived in the Middle East as a private with the 5th Reinforcements, the intercession of the Secretary of Internal Affairs, Joe Heenan, and others soon led to his appointment as assistant archivist with the rank of warrant officer, second-class.35 In early 1942 McCormick returned to New Zealand to head the newly established Army Archives.36 It was a McCormick suggestion, sparked by the appointment of Gavin Long as Australia's official historian, that led to the formation of an Inter-Services War History Committee in October 1943.37 In March 1944 the government agreed to the appointment of an editor-in-chief and a chief war archivist.38 McCormick, now ensconced once again in the Middle East as 2NZEF's Official Archivist, was brought back to New Zealand to take the latter appointment, stopping off in Australia on the way to study the approach to war history being taken there.39 From his recommendations arose the War History Branch, established within the Department of Internal Affairs in early 1945. A high-level ministerial committee, including the prime minister, minister of finance and minister of defense, was given the task of considering a provisional war history scheme.40
The fact that the official history was not placed in military hands was a significant change from the First World War experience. Partly it stemmed from recognition that New Zealand's Second World War effort was much wider in scope than that of the previous conflict. Moreover, whereas in 1918 the Defence Department had held pride of place in New Zealand's military hierarchy, in 1945 there were three separate service departments and no joint service organization that might have taken responsibility. Nor was there any suitable alternative institution akin to the Australian War Memorial, which was charged with producing the Australian official history. There was also a feeling that the military authorities were not well fitted for such work. Influential historian J. C. Beaglehole probably expressed a common view when he noted that in his experience ‘anything produced by the Army badly needs editing by somebody quite independent, who is familiar with the elementary principles of English prose’.41 Although the responsibility fell to Internal Affairs, Heenan had not at first been particularly forceful in advancing his department as the appropriate repository for the New Zealand official history project, even if he always thought its expertise would be useful. In 1941 he had noted that the war history, primarily a matter for defense authorities, was ‘just another of those cases where, willy-nilly, Internal Affairs is drawn into the discussion’.42 Even in 1945 he thought the Prime Minister's Department might be a suitable location for the special branch, though urging that his own department have responsibility for actually producing the histories because of its experience in this work in relation to New Zealand's Centennial publications.43 The Cabinet no doubt decided that it would be more convenient to have both editorial and production aspect housed in the same department.
When the War History Branch came into operation in April 1945 it was overseen by McCormick, who set in motion a substantial program of record collection and classification and preparation of narratives of government departments and branches. From the outset it had been envisaged that Major-General H. K. Kippenberger, a lawyer by profession, an avid student of military history, and a popular citizen soldier who had risen to temporary command of 2nd New Zealand Division before losing both feet to a mine in Italy in 1944, would become editor-in-chief.44 However, because Kippenberger, after recuperation, was given the task of overseeing the reception in Britain of liberated New Zealand prisoners of war, he was not able to take up the position until 1 July 1946. Not least of the several advantages he brought to it was his high status with the government. This was reflected in the direct access to the Prime Minister that he demanded and received and his salary, which was several hundred pounds higher than that of the permanent head of the Department of Internal Affairs. Kippenberger also had the confidence of his former commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, now Governor-General of New Zealand, and his high prestige among the New Zealanders who had served in 2NZEF was soon to be reflected by his election, in 1948, as president of the New Zealand Returned Services Association. He inspired loyalty among his subordinates, handled “specialist staff and authors firmly but co-operatively, and demanded very high” standards of accuracy, a reflection perhaps of his training as a lawyer. Setting about consolidating and building on the work undertaken by McCormick, he had by April 1947 appointed three key staff members to the branch: his former brigade major Brigadier Monty Fairbrother as associate editor, Duncan Stout as medical editor, and Bill Glue as sub-editor. In that month the Army Archives Section was transferred to the branch as well.
There had been much discussion in the period 1944–45 as to the eventual form of the official history. Kippenberger quickly put forward, and the Cabinet approved, a plan for a history ‘which will meet the needs and expectations of the people of New Zealand, including returned and home servicemen, workers in the war industries and members of the general public, and which will at the same time establish in countries overseas the facts of New Zealand's war effort.’45 The centerpiece was a series of volumes covering the campaigns, the services, and the ‘people at war’. Their authors, whom Kippenberger described in 1947 as ‘writers of some distinction’, included several university history teachers (F.L.W. Wood and N.C. Phillips), journalists, and military officers. Their fees ranged from £1,000 to £1,500.46 The second major element of the war history was a series of 2NZEF unit histories, for which authors were paid fees of around £600. Unit committees had a significant role in the production of these histories, as in the case of their First World War predecessors, but the War History Branch was responsible for their publication. These unit histories only covered the 2NZEF units that operated in the Mediterranean theatre. Even before the War History Branch was established, the commander of the 3rd Division, which had served in the South Pacific, had initiated a unit history program for his division and jealously guarded its ‘private, unofficial character’.47 A series of thirteen volumes edited by O. A. Gillespie appeared between 1946 and 1948. The third element of the official war history project was a series of episodes and studies, short accounts of actions or aspects aimed at a popular audience. Published between 1947 and 1954 and numbering twenty-four in all, these were designed to get a body of material into the public domain as quickly as possible. The branch also published a three-volume set of documents and oversaw the production of narratives of government departments, which had all been completed bar one by 1957. Kippenberger complained that the ‘leading department’, presumably the Treasury, had refused to co-operate, but suggested that the narratives were in any case ‘largely a waste of labour’ (though they were later used extensively in the production of the home-front volumes and provided the basis of several books).48
A notable feature of the Second World War histories, apart from their scope and the resources devoted to the project, was the use made of professional historians to prepare detailed narratives based on the documents for use by the contracted authors. A number of young history students or graduates were employed as ‘narrators’ in the War History Branch, with some of the former producing university theses from work they undertook for it. A few spent their whole careers in the branch or its successor; others eventually drifted away to university or other positions, leaving a legacy of narratives that continue to be significant historical sources. These narrators “were the key to the whole project, for the authors depended upon them for the” accurate factual base for their histories.49 However, the production of the narratives was hindered by the scale of effort required, the relatively low status in the project of the narrators (leading many to move on to other employment), and distractions caused by the need to undertake additional work of an editing nature. Some authors proved gifted writers, as for example Peter Llewellyn, whose account of the Divisional Ammunition Company (Journey towards Christmas), based on his personal diary, was acclaimed for its literary qualities. But a number found the going difficult (Dan Davin, the author of Crete, later claimed that it had ended all desire he might have had to become a historian), while others died before completing their histories (in the case of J. L. Scoullar), withdrew from their contracts (for example, Geoffrey J. Cox), or performed so poorly that their projects had to be rescued or taken over by War History Branch staff.50 As Ronald Walker, one of the narrators, later noted,
Paragraphs, pages, and whole chapters were re-written by the narrators, of both the unit and the campaign volumes, a process that exposed, albeit slowly, one of the myths on which the program had been founded. High-ranking officers, military correspondents of newspapers, or for that matter acknowledged authors of other subjects, do not necessarily make good military historians. Errors, omissions, and the inability of some contributors to write clear English, provided constant work for the narrators.51
A significant feature of the Second World War histories was Kippenberger's insistence at the outset that there should be no censorship.52 His editorial discretion was accepted, and there is no evidence that the principle was ever seriously challenged. An element of self-censorship may have existed in relation to particularly sensitive issues, however, and is perhaps inevitable when writing histories so close to the event. One of the authors complained in 1955 that it was ‘really impossible for any historian in New Zealand to dare voice criticisms of the General [Freyberg]’.53
Despite a waning of political support in the 1950s, the loss of key staff, and the death of Kippenberger in 1957, the official history project was brought to a successful completion in the 1960s save for one volume, on the home front, which was completed in 1982 and finally published in 1986.54 Fairbrother succeeded Kippenberger as editor-in-chief, and an editorial committee consisting of three history professors (later augmented by an economics professor) was established to assist him with manuscript assessment.55 Difficulties with authors meant that narrators were employed to prepare some of the final volumes, an important development in the process of professionalisation of official war history production in New Zealand, even if forced by circumstances rather than by recognition that this was a more appropriate approach.56 Altogether there were forty-eight volumes and twenty-four short booklets. The production of the official war series involved just about anyone in New Zealand capable of writing military history, and some that were not.
As a sideline the branch also cleaned up some unfinished business when, in 1949, it published an official history of the South African War. Kippenberger was unenthusiastic about accepting this additional responsibility, especially because he dismissed as unpublishable the existing manuscript by Shand: ‘It consists of a diffuse boastful and rambling account of the services of the New Zealand Contingents, quite unintelligible, and of long lists of names’.57 David Hall, a journalist who was under contract to write episodes and studies for the War History Branch, was set to work on the task. The outcome was far from satisfactory. The author admitted that very little research went into the new manuscript, and that he had relied heavily on Shand's account.58
The great effort involved in the Second World War history ensured that attention to New Zealand's postwar campaigns would be delayed, as in other Commonwealth countries. There was never any question that responsibility for these histories remained with Internal Affairs: they were seen as adjuncts of the Second World War project, and there was no interest within the military hierarchy in challenging the arrangement. The official war history responsibility was inherited by the Historical Publications Branch (now Historical Branch), which in 1966 emerged from the War History Branch with a brief of preparing histories of wider government activities as well as completing the Second World War official history project. In 1968 Ian Wards became chief historian of the branch. Having joined the War History Branch shortly after its inception, worked closely with Kippenberger, and completed an M.A. in history based on work he did as a narrator of 2NZEF's campaign in North Africa, he was well qualified to oversee the completion of the war history project. During the 1950s he had been commissioned to prepare the history of the New Zealand Army up to 1939 in the Second World War series. Although this volume was eventually dropped from the series, some of Wards' work appeared in his The Shadow of the Land, a study of the role of the military in the early years of the colony and particularly the conflict of 1845–46, published in 1968.59 He also oversaw the publication of two books based on War History narratives.60 By the time he retired in 1982 the only outstanding title of the Second World War history was moving toward the press, and work had begun on histories of New Zealand's postwar campaigns.
From 1982 the last remnant of the War History Branch was the officer responsible for military histories in the Historical Branch: myself. In that capacity I prepared the first postwar campaign official history, dealing with New Zealand's involvement in the Korean War. Although the idea of a history had been mooted in the 1950s, it was not until 1979 that it got underway, but was then long delayed by my diversion to other duties. The first volume, covering political and diplomatic aspects of New Zealand's involvement, did not appear until 1992, with the second, on combat operations, following four years later.61 The branch had previously published several of my books dealing with the evolution of New Zealand's defense policy in the period from 1840 to 1942.62 During the 1990s, further war history projects dealing with postwar campaigns were initiated. As with the Second World War effort, outside authors were commissioned under contract, with arrangements varying according to funding sources. In contrast to the Second World War official history project, professional historians were in the shop window rather than the back room in these postwar campaign histories. The official history of Jayforce, New Zealand's contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan from 1946 to 1948, was based on the work of a young graduate student, who prepared a master's thesis on the subject and was then employed by the Historical Branch to turn it into a book, which appeared in 1997.63 This was the only practicable means of meeting the insistent demand of Jayforce veterans for a history, given the lack of funds available for this purpose. Other authors worked on histories of the involvement of New Zealand forces in Malaya/Malaysia and the political aspects of New Zealand's involvement in the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, these arrangements also proved less than satisfactory because of the authors' difficulties in finding the time, due to teaching and other commitments, to complete their manuscripts.
Several gaps remain in New Zealand's official war history. Perhaps the most serious is an account of New Zealand combat operations in Vietnam to complement the political-diplomatic volume under preparation (the author began work on this project in 2002). A volume on the political-diplomatic aspects of New Zealand's involvement in Malaya/Malaysia would also be valuable. It is recognized, moreover, that neither the Boer War nor First World War histories are satisfactory, and resources might eventually be directed toward remedying this situation. As a first step, a pictorial history of New Zealand's involvement in the Boer War was prepared for issue during anniversary commemorations in October 1999. Regrettably, it has not been possible to emulate Australia in commissioning a full-length history.
In 2000 the Department of Internal Affairs's long involvement in official war history came to an end when the historical branch, now renamed the History Group, was transferred to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Although the ministry's responsibility for the official histories is firmly accepted, the New Zealand Defence Force now sponsors some historical work as well. In 1969 an historian was employed by the Ministry of Defence within its Policy Branch. The objective was not so much to produce works for public consumption as to provide the capacity for inhouse historical work using materials that were mostly still classified and dealing with inquiries from the public about historical matters. Since 1969 there have been four holders of the position of historical research officer, as it was designated, including the author. The original incumbent, John Henderson, prepared a history of New Zealand defense policy, and wrote some papers on Vietnam. None of this work was published. When the author took over in 1971, he began by preparing a history of the reorganization of the higher defense machinery in New Zealand, a topic in which the Secretary of Defence at the time, John Robertson, had a special interest. He subsequently wrote an unpublished account of New Zealand's decision to deploy combat forces in Vietnam before re-visiting the evolution of New Zealand's early defense policy. The latter work eventually formed the basis of my book The Path to Gallipoli, which the Historical Branch published in 1991. More recently John Crawford, now designated rather more grandly as the Deputy Director (History) and ensconced within the New Zealand Defence Force Headquarters rather than the Ministry of Defence, has worked on New Zealand's involvement in peacekeeping and nuclear testing.
Initially, the defense historian concentrated more on policy aspects of defense than on purely military history. This has changed more recently with Crawford's focus on the activities in the field of New Zealand servicemen engaged in peacekeeping operations.64 Within the services there have never been positions devoted purely to historical research, though a number of officers have performed such functions unofficially. For example, Squadron Leader Paul Harrison had no official status as RNZAF historian, though he became that in practice. The RNZAF, RNZN, and Army museums, in Christchurch, Auckland, and Waiouru, respectively, also have had officers who, in addition to being curators, carried out a range of historical duties, in particular Wing Commander David Provan and Lieutenant Commander Peter Dennerley. The latter is now RNZN historian. Formal training in history was not a prerequisite for appointment as curator.
A further potential center for research and writing is the Military Studies Institute, which evolved out of an earlier Militray Studies Centre established at Waiouru Military Camp. The MSI later relocated to Trentham Military Camp near Wellington, facilitating research by bringing its staff closer to the archival repositories in Wellington. Several members of the staff have historical training. There are several other ways in which the Defence establishment—the New Zealand Defence Force and the Ministry of Defence—encourage research and writing. The NZDF underwrote the preparation by Dr. Christopher Pugsley of the official history of New Zealand's military involvement in Malaya/Malaysia, while the Ministry of Defence has provided sufficient financial assistance to the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History Project for a research assistant to be employed.65 More recently the NZDF has funded the preparation of a history of the New Zealand artillery, intended as the first in a series of corps histories. Both the ministry and the NZDF contribute to the funding of the Centre for Strategic Studies, established in Wellington in 1993. However, the focus of this institution, which has a handful of permanent staff plus a number of visiting scholars from overseas, is more contemporary than historical.
Teaching of history in the armed services is limited. The Command and Staff College at Whenuapai includes some historical content in its courses. The Military Studies Institute developed a relationship with the University of Waikato, but eventually changed its focus to Massey University near Palmerston North. The NZDF provided funds for the employment of a lecturer for three years in defense and strategic studies. A defense studies center was later established, but the opportunities presented by this development have largely been squandered through a failure to place academic excellence at the forefront of its endeavor.
The impact of the official military history program on the study of military history in New Zealand generally is considerable, if only because of the lack of scholarly treatment of the subject outside official auspices. Some military history is taught outside sponsored-sponsored activities by the history departments at the universities of Canterbury and Auckland. Nevertheless, a disdain for military history permeates the wider historical profession in New Zealand. Roberto Rabel, who is preparing the official history of the diplomatic and political aspects of New Zealand's involvement in the Vietnam War, has alluded to a feeling in some quarters that war history is ‘outdated, narrow in focus, boring and intellectually challenged rather than challenging’. Deriving from ‘a belief that war history has been virtually untouched by the great tides which have swept the historical profession and society at large in recent years’, this has resulted, in his opinion, in ‘a certain marginalisation of military history’.66 Given such attitudes and the vice-like grip social history now has on the academic historical profession (the fact that much military history is social history is generally unacknowledged), there seems little prospect of any early change in this situation short of New Zealand becoming involved in a situation that brings defense issues back to the foreground of public and academic concern.
This renders even more important the maintenance of the small bridgeheads that exist, particularly that in the History Group. Although the group's prospects appear relatively bright in 2002, that has not always been the case. The Historical Publications Branch fell victim to a cost cutting minister of finance, R. D. Muldoon, in 1968, and was only resuscitated, in straitened form, by a vigorous lobbying effort after some months. In the early 1990s the branch's vulnerability was highlighted by a review of its function initiated by the newly elected National administration led by Jim Bolger (according to rumor it survived by one vote in a Cabinet committee). That challenge revealed that military history was a good buttress to branch defenses. The recording of the war efforts of New Zealanders is an aspect of the nation's history that politicians find difficulty in opposing, not least because of the potential adverse reaction of the Returned Services' Association (an organization whose influence is, however, steadily waning as its membership declines). More recently, attention has been directed to the importance of military history as an aspect of New Zealand's national identity, the promoting of which is a key mission of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. As the holder of the arts and culture portfolio, Prime Minister Helen Clark has taken an interest in the work of the group and was instrumental in the initiation of a series of oral history projects relating to the Second World War. Two publications—on Crete and prisoners of war—have appeared so far.67 In 2001 the group also published a guide to the New Zealand battlefields and memorials on the Western Front.68
Official military history in New Zealand, then, has enjoyed a slightly precarious existence. Its development in New Zealand has been marked by a steady movement toward professionalism. An important milestone was passed when the responsibility for the Second World War project was lodged in the Department of Internal Affairs, ensuring that a broader perspective was brought to bear on New Zealand's war effort than occurred after the First World War. Certainly, the project was controlled by a military figure, but he was a citizen soldier rather than a regular, and he was more attuned to the requirements of military history than were those who controlled the First World War history. The success of the Second World War project in turn convinced the military authorities of the value of a professional approach, and they have since co-operated effectively in the preparation of post-Second World War campaign histories. Professional historians are now recognized as the appropriate authors of official war histories, and even for the preparation of in-house military history. While it is still possible to find some in New Zealand, both military and civilian, who totally underestimate the problems of writing history of any sort, who believe it is just a matter of recording a lot of facts in chronological sequence, there is an acceptance where it counts in the services that good historical writing has a valuable role to play. To that extent there can be some confidence that resources will continue to be devoted to official military histories, and that New Zealand's Boer War and First World War efforts will eventually be revisited with a view to producing more professional histories of them.
1 The title of this chapter is taken from H. K. Kippenberger, preface to D.J.C. Pringle and W. A. Glue, 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment (Wellington: War History Branch, 1957). The author is indebted to the late Ian Wards, John Crawford, Dr. Roberto Rabel and Dr. Doug Munro for their comments on a draft of this chapter.
3 Beamish to Minister of Defence, 21 September 1909, Army Department Records, National Archives, Wellington, AD34/8015.
4 Robin to Minister of Defence, 19 November 1919, ibid.
5 Chaytor to Minister of Defence, 28 October 1920, ibid. The manuscript has not survived in Defence records.
6 See Richardson to Allen, n.d. [c16 January 1919], Massey to Allen, 31 January 1919, AD1, 51/669/2; Godley to Allen, 4 April 1919, AD1, 51/816.
7 Robin to Minister of Defence, 10 February 1919, AD1, 51/816.
8 See Allen to Massey, 6 March 1919, AD1, 51/217.
9 Allen to Massey, 2 June 1919, ibid.
10 MacKenzie to Director, Base Records, 13 July 1917, AD1, 51/669.
11 Robin to Minister of Defence, 26 January 1918, ibid.
12 Robin to Allen, 26 January 1918, ibid.
13 Robin to Allen, 13 January 1919, ibid.
14 Liverpool to Allen, 15 September 1918, Tripp to Allen, 12 October 1918, AD1, 51/669/1.
15 Stewart initially declined the offer, preferring to concentrate upon his new responsibilities as 1NZEF's director of education. Allen urged him to look on it as a duty to be undertaken ‘for his country’. It is not clear what Stewart, who had resided in New Zealand for little more than a year before enlisting in 1NZEF, made of this appeal to patriotic duty but he duly agreed to write the history and soon expressed a willingness (later withdrawn) to undertake the official history as well. See the exchange of cables between Brigadier G. S. Richardson and the Minister of Defence in January 1918, and Stewart to Allen, 1 March, 1 September 1919, AD1, 51/669.
16 Stewart to Allen, 29 April, 1 September 1919, AD1, 51/669.
17 Stewart to Allen, 1 September 1919, ibid.
18 Maj. Fred Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli (Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1919); Col. H. Stewart, The New Zealand Division 1916-1919 (Whitcombe and Tombs, Auckland, 1921); Lt. Col. C. G. Powles (and Maj. A. Wilkie), The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine (Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1922); and Lt. H.T.B. Drew, The War Effort of New Zealand (Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1923).
19 Lt. Col. A.R.D. Carberry, The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914-1918, (Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1924).
20 See GHQ Instructions 1919, No. 159, 3 December 1919, AD1, 51/727.
21 Cabinet minute, 20 February 1918, Cowan to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, 8 March 1918, Internal Affairs Department Records, National Archives, Wellington, IA 1, 4/2/13.
22 Cowan to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, 17 August 1921, ibid.
23 Cowan to Minister of Internal Affairs, 28 November 1917, ibid.
24 James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period, 2 vols. (Wellington: Government Printer, 1922–23).
26 ‘History of the New Zealand Military Forces 1840–1929’, and Memorandum by Brigadier W.L.H. Sinclair-Burgess, 2 October 1930, AD-A, 63/5/2.
27 See, e.g., Under-Secretary of Defence to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, 11 May 1936, IA1, 126/8/1: ‘The Defence Department's experience of war histories has shown that there is now little demand for this class of literature.’
28 Cabinet minute, 30 October 1929, ibid.
29 See Note for File, 13 November 1929, and minute of 25 March 1930, AD34/8015.
30 J. A. Shand, ‘O'er Veldt and Kopje, The Official Account of the Operations of the New Zealand Contingents in the Boer War (Years 1899–1902)’, manuscript, n.d. , Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, MS-1790-1793.
31 Major General H. K. Kippenberger to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, 29 July 1947, IA1, 126/8/1.
32 McIntosh to Kippenberger, 29 July 1949, External Affairs Department Records, National Archives, Wellington, EA1, 81/9/1.
33 C.R.H. Taylor to Heenan, 15 April 1940, IA1, 181/1.
34 OC 2NZEF to Army HQ, 29 March 1941, AD1, 319/13/7.
35 Heenan to Minister of Internal Affairs, 7 March 1941, and to acting Prime Minister, 6 May 1941, McCormick to Heenan, 7 July 1941, ibid. Also O. Duff to Minister of Defence, 14 February 1941, AD1, 319/13/8.
36 Officer in Charge of Administration 2NZEF to Army HQ, Jan 1942, EA1, 81/9/1.
37 See McCormick to Adjutant General, 4 March 1943, AD1, 354/3/5.
38 War Cabinet minute, 13 March 1944, IA1, 181/5.
39 Minister of External Affairs to Fernleaf, Cairo, 10 April, 12 May 1944, IA1, 181/5/3.
40 War Cabinet minute, 16 February 1945, IA1, 181/1.
41 Memorandum by Beaglehole, 26 March 1944, ibid.
42 Heenan to acting Prime Minister, 6 May 1941, ibid.
43 Heenan to A. D. McIntosh, 13 February 1945, IA1, 181/5.
44 See Heenan to McIntosh, 8 April 1944, McIntosh to F. Shanahan, 7 April 1944, EA1, 81/9/1.
45 Memorandum by Kippenberger, ‘Official War History, Scheme for the Organisation of Research and The Publication of Histories’, n.d., and Cabinet minute, 22 August 1946, ibid.
46 Kippenberger to McIntosh, 17 April 1947, IA1, 181/5.
47 McCormick to Brigadier W. W. Dove, 11 April 1945, ibid.
48 Evening Post [Wellington], 4 April 1957.
49 Ronald Walker, ‘The New Zealand Second World War History Project’, Military Affairs, vol. 22, no. 4 (1969), 177.
50 Evening Post, 20 March 1957.
51 Walker, 177–8.
52 Evening Post, 4 April 1957.
53 Major General W. G. Stevens to Kippenberger, 15 December 1955, quoted in John McLeod, Myth and Reality: The Zealand Soldier in World War II (Auckland: Reed Methuen, 1986), 170.
54 Nan Taylor, The Home Front, 2 vols. (Wellington: Government Printing Office, 1986). A list of all publications comprising the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 is provided in vol. I, ix-x.
55 CM (57) 37, 17 September 1957, minute by Minister of Internal Affairs, 15 June 1958, IA1, 158/850. The professors were F.L.W. Wood and N. C. Phillips (both of whom had authored volumes in the series), J. Rutherford, and F. W. Holmes.
56 Walker, 178.
57 Kippenberger to Under-Secretary of Internal Affairs, 29 July 1947, IA1, 126/8/1.
58 Hall, The New Zealanders, xv.
59 Ian McL. Wards, The Shadow of the Land: A Study of British Policy and Racial Conflict in New Zealand 1832–1852 (Wellington: Government Printer, 1968).
62 I. C. McGibbon, Blue-Water Rationale: The Naval Defence of New Zealand 1914–1942 (Wellington: Government Printer, 1981); The Path to Gallipoli: Defending New Zealand 1840–1915 (Wellington: GP Books, 1991).
63 Laurie Brocklebank, Jayforce and the Military Occupation of Japan 1945–48 (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1997).
64 See John Crawford, In the Field of Peace: New Zealand's Contribution to International Peace-Support Operations: 1950–1995 (Wellington: NZDF, 1996).
66 Roberto Rabel, ‘War Histories in the Future’, People's History, No. 23 (1996), 2; ‘War History as Public History: Past and Future’, in Bronwyn Dalley and Jock Phillips (eds), Going Public: The Changing Face of New Zealand History (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2001).
67 Megan Hutching, ‘A Unique Sort of Battle’: New Zealanders Remember Crete (Auckland: HarperCollins, 2001); Inside Stories: New Zealand Prisoners of War Remember (Auckland: HarperCollins, 2002).
68 Ian McGibbon, New Zealand Battlefields and Memorials of the Western Front (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 2001).