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PM: Address at Launch Launch of No Better Death

Monday 8 August 2005

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister Address at Launch of No Better Death: The Great War Diaries and Letters of William G Malone

National Library Wellington 5.50 pm

It is an honour for me to launch this important book, No Better Death: the Great War Diaries and Letters of William G. Malone, edited by John Crawford, the New Zealand Defence Force Historian, with the assistance of Peter Cooke and published by Reed Books.

It is wonderful that so many members of the Malone family have been able to come from throughout New Zealand, and that Clare and David Lyons and Anita Young have come from the United Kingdom for this launch.

Like the Malone family and so many other New Zealand families, I too have a family connection to the Gallipoli campaign, and a long standing interest in it. I was, therefore, very happy to accept the invitation of the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, to write a foreword for this book and to launch it.

Ninety years ago today the Wellington Infantry Battalion, under its brave commander Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, was engaged in a ferocious struggle with defending Turkish forces for control of Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli.

This fierce action claimed many lives, including that of William Malone. His name, along with those of more than three hundred of his men, is engraved on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Chunuk Bair. When the Wellingtons were relieved on the evening of 8 August, only around seventy of the battalion’s men remained. Chunuk Bair remains today a very sombre place for New Zealanders.

This year I returned to Chunuk Bair, and walked down the ridge to the coast. One cannot but be overawed by the incredible bravery of those who scaled that hillside, and took the high point. Had all gone well and reinforcements been available, it would have been a decisive breakthrough in the Gallipoli campaign. Alas that was not to be.

Although William Malone has no known grave, he is one of the best-known of the thousands of New Zealanders who fought at Gallipoli. In part this reflects his forceful character, and the leadership he gave his men in the campaign; but it is also due to the survival of his detailed diary and the substantial collection of his private letters.

This precious archival material was entrusted to the Alexander Turnbull Library by one of William Malone’s grandsons, Ted Malone. Sadly, Ted Malone's widow, Dr Judy Malone, who greatly assisted John Crawford and Peter Cooke in their work, is not well enough to be here tonight.

The diaries and letters held by the Alexander Turnbull Library are in a fragile state and often very difficult to read. Only short extracts from them have previously been published. This publication of No Better Death will serve two important purposes; both reducing the wear and tear on the original material, and making Malone’s actions, thoughts, and experiences during the First World War better known in New Zealand and elsewhere.

The publication of an edition of William Malone's diaries and letters, and the production of a complete transcript of all his diaries and private letters held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, is a very appropriate way for the New Zealand Defence Force to commemorate the 90th anniversary year of the Gallipoli campaign, and in particular today’s 90th anniversary of William Malone’s death in battle.

No Better Death, reproduces most of the Malone material held by the Alexander Turnbull Library. It also includes an introduction outlining Malone's life from his birth in 1859 until August 1914, a postscript which describes the last three days of his life, and a conclusion which assesses his achievements and legacy.

The book includes a great deal of previously unpublished material from the collections of family papers and photographs held in Wellington by Judy Malone and in London by Clare Lyons, Tessa Keegan and Anita Young. The production of the book could not have been undertaken without the assistance of the Alexander Turnbull Library and the support provided by the Malone Family.

The title of the book, No Better Death, is a quotation from Malone which refers to his belief that the best way for a man to meet his end was on the battlefield in the service of his nation. Although Malone was very much a man of his time, many of his beliefs, such as a strong commitment to treating people of all sorts fairly, are still central to our national character as New Zealanders.

This book rounds out what we know about William Malone. There is a substantial amount of new material about his role as a commanding officer who was always intent on looking after the interests of his men. We also learn a lot about his character and personal life. Malone was, for example, a nature lover, who took delight in collecting wildflowers at Gallipoli.

Perhaps the most moving parts of the book are Malone’s loving letters to his wife and children. Like most men involved in this terrible conflict, Malone sanitised his experience of war at Gallipoli in his letters to his wife. But it is clear that Malone was increasingly aware that he might well not survive his trial by fire on the peninsula.

No Better Death also illustrates the terrible impact the Great War had on families. William Malone himself was killed; two of his adult sons were seriously wounded; and a third, Edmond, after being repeatedly wounded, lost his life on the Western Front in 1918. The Malone family’s life was shattered by the war, as were the lives of so many other families in New Zealand and all other nations caught up in the Great War.

This book is a very important addition to the New Zealand and international literature on the Gallipoli campaign. For us as New Zealanders, it helps us learn more about the traumatic events in which our people were involved, and which helped shaped our nation. I congratulate the New Zealand Defence Force, historian John Crawford, and all others involved in this project on the publication of the book.

It is now with much pleasure that I officially launch, No Better Death: the Great War Diaries and Letters of William G. Malone.


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