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Voices of World War II: New Zealanders Share Their Stories by Renée Hollis



A handsome hardback with photographs, cartoons, posters, press clippings and first-hand accounts, Voices of World War II provides an invaluable and illuminating snapshot of how life was lived during this extraordinary time. The book covers from just before the war until 1946 and after the war.


In the introduction, the publisher says, ‘Much as been written about World War II, but this book has been largely written by New Zealanders at home and overseas who lived through it, and this volume gives them a voice.’ It more than gives them a voice; it allows younger generations to step back in time and experience life as it was then.


Unlike the First World War, New Zealanders entered the Second World War with caution, but all of New Zealand was involved in the war effort, whether overseas or at home. At each stage of the war, real New Zealanders describe some pivotal moments in the war, from listening to the radio address from the Prime Minister saying, ‘Where she (Britain) goes, we go,’ to enlisting.


‘We felt pride for their King and country and, with a few exceptions, were prepared to fight for it,’ says Bob Conning from Hokitika.


‘Spent two weeks course on 25-pounders and then proceeded to Waiouru for a live shoot,’ says James A. Stubbs.


‘It is gradually getting hotter here and I’m not looking forward to summer much. The flies are going to be the worst feature, I’m afraid,’ says Dick Baker about Maadi Camp, 14 kilometres south of Cairo.


A young lady who has joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was shocked to be sharing showers with other women. She had only ever seen her mother’s ankles bare before! Other women were taking on roles traditionally dominated by men while their men served overseas. Soldiers talk about their experiences after major campaigns, prisoners of war talk about being imprisoned, others talk about living with ration books and being part of the Home Guard.


Voices of World War II is a compelling account of real-life people at various stages during the conflict. The book’s design makes it easy to dip in and out of, and the selected images add considerably to the well-written text and selection of quotes. This is well put together volume, and I’m sure it will be of interest to people from many generations, both the young and the old.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Exisle Publishing