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Few Kiwis Were Aware of Balkans Crisis

RSA National Media Release

22 April 2014

Few Kiwis Were Aware of Balkans Crisis

The author of the children’s book presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge this month has reflected on 1914 New Zealand, just before the outbreak of war.

The book, Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved, was written by Professor Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, and tells the story of how New Zealand soldiers liberated the French town in 1918.

Professor Harper, who’s playing a key role in preparing the official 13 volume Centenary History of New Zealand and the First World War, is also a successful children’s author and his book, Le Quesnoy, reached number one on the NZ bestseller’s list for children’s books last year.

He was surprised and honoured that the book was chosen by the Department of Internal Affairs to be presented to the Royal couple.

Back on April 25, 1914, Professor Harper says few people were aware of the conflict in the Balkans that would lead to war a few months later.

New Zealand was an agricultural country of just over a million people enjoying “good economic times” when a terrorist act in the Balkans led to the conflict.

Young men joined the war for the adventure, travel and an opportunity to see the world “ignorant of its causes, innocent of its meaning” as war historian and Gallipoli survivor, Ormond Burton, wrote.

Britain’s declaration of war, on behalf of itself and its empire, came “out of the blue” with few people informed about the events that caused the conflict Professor Harper says.

“Yet we were well prepared to send troops and thousands of young men who joined up saw it as a cheap way to get overseas and experience life,” he comments.

By 1918 this country had sent more than 102,000 men and women overseas to support the Allied war effort. Of those nearly 60,000 became casualties and 18,000 were killed.

“As a result Anzac Day this year and the RSA commemorations throughout New Zealand will become more poignant as we approach the centenary of World War One,” Glyn Harper says.

The RSA is part of the governing group responsible for the centenary history of World War One. CEO, David Moger, says it’s pleasing to see the government recognising and supporting the commitments made by World War One veterans.

“We were delighted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were gifted Professor Harper’s children’s book and Prince William found time to inspect our military heritage,” David says.

Professor’s Harper’s book, Johnny NZ, the New Zealand Soldier at War, which is part of the official volumes, is due for release in August next year and only a fortnight ago, his eighth children’s book, Jim’s Letters, about the story of Gallipoli, was launched.


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