A Bloody Road Home by Christopher Pugsley
Never judge a book by its cover, but feel free to judge one by its weight. I can’t recall the last time I needed two hands to carry a book. Beyond it’s impressive weight, this book is quality.
I’m a great fan of history, especially if you throw the word war, world and two in to that mix. However, I am fairly embarrassed to admit that my New Zealand War history is not complete. I’d put it at about 70-75%. Pretty good, but needs work.
Usually I will sit down and pick several chapters to thumb through to get the feel of a book. I couldn’t put this one down. Forget movies, the Internet, personal histories, nothing could be more thorough than this book when it comes to New Zealand’s involvement in World War Two.
The book details every aspect of the 2 Division, the nation’s personal contribution to the war. It would be fair to say that New Zealand were once bitten twice shy after the Great War and therefore they were concerned, and rightly so, about how this Division was going to be treated. A sick Prime Minister needed the right person to lead at the front. Sir Major General Bernard Freyberg was appointed to the post. A man who was a major influence in the success of 2 Division, both in protecting it from being used as fodder, as in World War One, and providing tactical and inspirational leadership.
Never before has such a comprehensive history been compiled in one book. It really is quite staggering the amount of detail there is this book. What struck me as particularly… well striking, was the matter of fact-ness nature of it. Obviously, this is what you expect from such a subject, but it created a real sense of awe. Both for the soldiers leaving, the Army assembling and for the loved ones that were left behind.
From the initial camp in Cairo, each and every campaign the 2 Division embarked on is meticulously reported on. The disasters in Greece and Crete, the hard fought and won battles in Northern Africa, and the final push through Italy. Each time the 2 Division butted heads with arguably Germany’s finest and each time they made a punched well above their weight, given the tiny country deep in the south pacific that they all came from. Even Rommel himself was compelled to praise this mighty Division.
Much of what the 2 Division did was never seen by New Zealanders. None of it was on our back door step. For six bloody long years this Division represented a nation and defended our interests, all relatively unbeknownst to the people who kept New Zealand ticking along in their absence. This book allows you to get to know and thoroughly understand this hugely significant and important aspect of being a New Zealander. This book is more than just a history of how New Zealand fought in World War Two, it is essentially the most important account of the greatest heroes this nation has ever seen.
REVIEWER: Drew Thompson
TITLE: A Bloody Road Home: WWII and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division
AUTHOR(S): Christopher Pugsley
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House