New Zealand Engineers, Middle East
When the late Sir Howard Kippenberger, upon my handing in the final draft of 28 (Maori) Battalion, suggested that I might care to attempt the history of the New Zealand Engineers in the Middle East, I must confess that my first reaction was a definite negative. I did not like engineers—few infantry in the First World War did. All I ever saw of the sapper arm was an individual, well protected against the weather, who appeared when an infantry working party arrived at the designated rendezvous. He would indicate an enormous amount of work—digging a trench, building a strongpoint, or laying a cable—and intimate that when we had finished we could go back to our billets. He would then disappear while we worked in the cold, muddy wetness of Flanders.
However, upon reflection, I decided that the history would be a simple and straightforward account of road work and the like and accepted Sir Howard's offer. Nobody told me that World War II engineers could be found at any given period spread between England and Iraq, and from the Turkish border to Central Africa. As the story unfolded so did my admiration for these men increase.
The numerous units involved and the variety of work they performed—the construction and operation of railways, the milling of timber, the construction of bridges, airfields and harbours, the supply of water to the Eighth Army via pipelines and barges, as well as exploits with mines and bulldozers—have created an unavoidably disjointed volume. This has, somewhat inadequately I fear, been countered by bringing each chapter up to the same point in time.
To do the many sappers of high and low degree who have helped me by loan of diaries, answers to letters and by reading draft copies the simple courtesy of a personal acknowledgment would extend this preface far beyond the permitted length. I acknowledge my indebtedness to them. I also thank Major Nevins and Lieutenant-Colonel Knapp for the valuable appendices page viii they have contributed. And without the unfailing assistance of the War History Branch officers, the CRE (Brigadier Hanson) and the former Chief Engineer, New Zealand Army (Lieutenant-Colonel Currie), I would never have been able to complete the job at all. My thanks are also due to the Cartographic Branch of the Lands and Survey Department, which drew the maps and sketches, and to Mr. F. A. Davey for his index.