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Howard Kippenberger

Dauntless Spirit

By Denis McLean

Published by RANDOM HOUSE
384 pages including notes, bibliography and index, paper back

Reviewed by Col (Retd) Ray Seymour.

A great read that just flows

Denis McLean, by his own admission, has taken a long time to write this book – but the wait has been well worth it. Page after page, this book just flows so extremely well. It is just about in that category that few books get into – a book that is so enthralling that it could be read in one sitting! It is the work of a meticulous researcher and a gifted writer. Denis McLean you have presented the nation with such an exciting biography on – as he quite rightly states – a man who was an “outstanding New Zealand leader”.

“Howard Kippenberger Dauntless Spirit” is a great read. It’s one of those books that take the reader from conception to consecration and everything in between these two events. We are provided with an insight into “Kip’s” early childhood and upbringing – his fascination of the military which lead to his desire to enlist as an under-age soldier and go off on his OE to the Somme during World War 1. Kip’s accounts of those battles, unearthed by McLean, were so exciting. I just can’t imagine how anyone could find the time, energy, inclination and security to sit down in a hole full of stinking mud, having just fought yet another engagement with the enemy, and write either a letter home to his parents or add another page to his journal. Kip did, and McLean was able to weave that rich tapestry of Kip’s early exposure to combat into such a readable account. It now provides us, as readers, a vivid account what life was really like in those trenches of World War 1.

But it is Kip’s life during World War 2 that gets the most attention – and so it should. For it was during Kip’s war experiences of the Second World War that we get to learn so much about this remarkable man. Appointed to command the 20th Battalion, Kip set to and moulded and shaped that Battalion so that it was a superior fighting machine. He certainly knew it was and so, too, did many of his superiors. Kip’s progress through the various levels of senior command is equally well reported, as are the accounts of many of the 32 engagements he was personally involved in. “Howard Kippenberger Dauntless Spirit” is not just a biography on an exceptional military leader – or as Dan Davin aptly described Kip as one of “our ablest soldiers and nicest man”. It’s about the men and women in his life who either schooled with him, worked with him, loved him, fought with him and alongside of him, or in some cases, against him. It’s also a book about the coming of age of this nation and the role that Kip played in that process, and it’s about the nation-building of New Zealand. It’s really a book with so much of everything!

“Howard Kippenberger Dauntless Spirit” will have immense appeal to so many in our community. There is good guidance to the education sector on the role they have in the teaching of life’s values; there is guidance to RSAs around the country from Kip – a Past President of the RSA - on what their role is in society and to their responsibilities toward Returned Servicemen and women. Another strength that Kip has given us, and included by Denis McLean in his book, are the leadership qualities that Kip lived by, and that if applied by today’s captains of industry, would greatly benefit them in their pursuit of excellence in their respective professions. Kip’s personal qualities such as courage – authority – getting the basics right – decisiveness – fitness – applying the common touch – rapport – communication – kinship – knowledge and the family, will, if applied to one’s own life and profession, will stand anyone in good stead.

Ah McLean – you’ve done it again! This is an outstanding book, researched and written by a perfectionist on one of New Zealand’s most trusted, most admired, most resourceful; most bold and bravest war fighters. I can now declare that “Howard Kippenberger Dauntless Spirit” is now firmly positioned in the top three books in my library. Interestingly, one of the other two books happens to have a Kippenberger connection – it’s Kip’s own book – “Infantry Brigadier.



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