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Outspoken UK military thinker at WWI conference

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Outspoken UK military thinker at WWI conference

One of Britain’s most respected military advisors, who recently criticised the British and United States government’s strategy in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, will share his views on the First World War in an international conference here in August.

Sir Hew Strachan – Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University who has advised the Coalition on its treatment of the Armed Forces and currently sits on the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel – is among a battalion of military and war historians and researchers who will gather at Massey University’s Wellington campus for The Experience of a Lifetime – People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War conference from August 22-24.

Sir Hew, whose presentation is titled ‘Military Operations and National Policies 1914-1918', wrote in a Guardian newspaper column last year that World War I commemorations should be more about education than remembrance following reports that six out of ten Brits said they didn’t understand what the war was about. He also stressed the need for Britain to coordinate its commemorative efforts more closely with its Commonwealth partners.

He has published a number of books on the First World War, including; The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (Oxford, 2001; The First World War: A New Illustrated History (Simon & Schuster, 2003); The First World War (Viking, 2004); and The First World War in Africa (Oxford, 2004).

The conference is part of the Centenary History of New Zealand and the First World War project to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. It is a joint venture with Massey, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association.

Diverse topics covered in the three-day event include portrayals of key military leaders and their strategies; first hand accounts of soldiers’ experiences; the role of nurses; the place of Indian and Fijian soldiers; and the plight of veterans in the post-war period.

Other speakers include well-known military historian and Massey University Professor of War Studies Glyn Harper, who will explore the experiences of Kiwi soldiers in his presentation titled Johnny Enzed: the New Zealand soldier at war. He will discuss his research for a new book on what the soldiers saw, where they slept, what they ate and what they felt through the use of more than 2000 letters and diaries, most of which have not been accessed before.

Professor Harper, who is part of the conference organisation, says “the First World War shaped our country – it gave us the sense of ourselves as New Zealanders, as an independent nation, and forged our place in the world. While it separated us physically, the war brought us together emotionally, and strengthened the bond with Australia that has continued down the generations.”

He says the conference will bring together a wide range of speakers who will talk on many different aspects of the war. “This conference demonstrates the great diversity of New Zealand’s war experience as well as revealing how important it [the war] was to the nation as a whole.”

The conference is open to the general public, and Professor Harper says the event will be of particular interest to history teachers seeking new material and insights.

Also speaking:
• Professor Michael Neiberg, Professor of History, Department of National Security Studies at the US Army War College, Carlisle – If you are in favour of the Kaiser, Keep it to Yourself: American Reactions to the European War, 1914
• Professor Peter Stanley, Research Professor, Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society – Other People’s Wars: British Empire Soldiers 1914-15
• Dr Gavin McLean, Senior Historian, Heritage Services, Ministry for Culture and Heritage – The Great Helmsmen: New Zealand’s Shipping Leaders at War
• Dr Mesut Uyar, Associate Professor of Ottoman Military History, Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society- ‘Esat Pasha on 25 April 1915: Ottoman Corps in Crisis’
• Dr Katie Pickles, Associate Professor of History, University of Canterbury – Edith Cavell: Famous nurse of the First World War
• Megan Wells, Curator of Social History and Accoutrements, National Army Museum – Trench art and souveniring: Examining Soldiers’ Experiences through the Material Archive at the National Army Museum

The conference runs from August 22-24, in the Old Museum Building, Massey University, Wellington.
Registration for the three-day event is $250 ($200 for students). For more information click here.

Sir Hew Strachan will also be speaking at the following venues:
• Wellington at Te Papa Museum (25 August) – Commemoration or Celebration? How should we approach the centenary of the First World War?
• Palmerston North at Te Manawa Museum (27 August) – Ideas of War: 1914
• Auckland at the Auckland War Memorial Museum (29 August) – The First World War: 100 Years On

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