Partisan by James Caffin
First published in 1945, this amazing true-life story has just been reissued in a handsome hardback after being out of print for many years. It follows the extraordinary war exploits of John Denvir during the Second World War. In 1941 he was captured by the German forces in Greece and sent to a prison of war camp in Yugoslavia. After a daring escape, John reached the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana where he joined partisan fighters.
Back in New Zealand, his distraught family had been told he had been shot and killed, but meanwhile he was alive and well, leading heroic attacks on German and Italian soldiers from behind enemy lines for nearly two years. He was wounded four times and was eventually awarded the Soviet Medal for Valour. When he was demobilised, he returned to New Zealand to his overjoyed family, and he became a taxi driver in Temuka. But it is his time fighting for the partisans that is the central focus of this well-written book, and what an adventure he had! It’s an extraordinary story, at times brutal and horrific, but there is also friendship and kindness, and an incredible story of survival against the odds. Where other soldiers fell, his fitness, soldiering skills, tough mental attitude and great instincts kept him alive for all this time, in a land foreign to him, but fighting alongside others determined not to surrender to the enemy.
Partisan is also a story of fallen comrades and the bravery of other partisans and the local people who risked life and limb to help them. I’d highly recommend this wonderful true-life story to anyone interested in tales from the Second World War, and in this case, a brave and heroic New Zealander.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
HarperCollins, RRP $25.00