by Richard Stowers
Hardcover with jacket, 448 pp, over 350 b/w photographs + maps
Published by David Bateman Ltd (April 2005)
For direct orders call Tim Brown (09) 415 7664 ext 802 or email email@example.com
Reviewed by Dr Stephen Clarke February 2005
This book makes a dramatic impression as a result of its stunning cover, depicting the Gallipoli section of the First World War stained-glass memorial window of St Andrews Church in Cambridge. What is found inside is no less impressive in terms of detailed research and the author’s obvious passion for the subject but in particular the individual soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. Author and publisher together have matched advertising hype as the book certainly makes a ‘fitting memorial to the soldiers who served and died at Gallipoli’.
From the outset the author states that this book complements Chris Pugsley’s groundbreaking Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story and while Bloody Gallipoli: The New Zealanders’ Story is a most accessible and in many places a riveting read, Pugsley remains the definitive account. Where Stowers is best is dealing with the individual soldier, which after all is his stated aim, from selection of firsthand accounts to the meticulously researched day-by-day casualty lists that accompany the text in the margins. The author revises many of the probable dates of death for the 2,779 Zealanders who lost their lives at Gallipoli (also an increase on the Official Figure of 2,721) and the considerable biographical detail provided, covering one hundred pages, will be invaluable to family researchers. Over a 150 portrait photographs complement the daily lists (in general the large number of previously unpublished photographs is refreshing and the Thames RSA Collection is a revelation). Stowers’s history is unique in that it also works has a memorial: the often-quoted nameless and faceless statistics are now named and often provided with a face.
There are mistakes (the Colonel Sinclair MacLagan on page 33 is the same Commander 3rd Australian Brigade as the correctly named Lieutenant-Colonel EG Sinclair-MacLagan on page 82, despite being listed separately in the index), inconsistencies (a statement that some members of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles who died at Gallipoli in 1918 “possibly survived the Gallipoli Campaign” is clarified in biographical notes elsewhere that state some had served), omissions (no account of the controversial sending back of four Maori officers by Godley after the August offensive), and rather too many inconclusive statements. I was certainly surprised that the author had not consulted the latest international research on the campaign, mainly the widely acclaimed Tim Travers’s Gallipoli 1915 (published 2001) that includes original research in Turkish Archives, which would have provided answers to some of the questions raised in the book. But there are omissions of sources from New Zealanders as well; it was surprising not to hear firsthand from Gallipoli veterans Percy Fenwick, Cecil Malthus or Alexander Aitkin whose respective accounts are regarded as classics. My greatest bugbear, however, is the total lack of references, which when one considers the amount of research undertaken is a great loss not only for future researchers but also descendants interested in locating the diaries of re-discovered ancestors. These criticisms must be read in the context of what is a considerable achievement.
Richard Stowers is to be congratulated for a significant and most innovative contribution to the New Zealand story of Gallipoli. This book, together with the accompanying exhibition at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, is indeed a fitting means of marking the 90th Anniversary of Gallipoli.