Scoop Review of Books

Images of War: World War One

Media Release

A photographic record of New Zealanders at war 1914-1918 by Glyn Harper

This year, 11 November, marks 90 years since the end of the First World War, the greatest military conflict the world has ever seen. During the war, New Zealand soldiers captured images of war with forbidden cameras that were hidden in their kitbags. Most of these photographs have never been published. Glyn Harper, one of the country’s leading military historians, began a major research project to collect these images, to piece together an authentic pictorial narrative of New Zealand’s war efforts.

Images were sourced from the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum and the Kippenberger Military Archive, but Glyn knew there were more images out there so a nationwide appeal for photos was sent out and the response was incredible — thousands of photos from private collections as well as photo albums were sent in. Three years of work and more than 30,000 images viewed bring us Images of War, the first collection of photographs of New Zealanders in the First World War.

Glyn says: ‘It was a real privilege to be able to work on this project. As it progressed I came to realise what an important but much neglected historical source these photographs were. The images assembled in Images of War record a large slice of New Zealand’s experience of this pivotal and tragic event and reveal something of what it was like for the New Zealanders who had to live through it. I think this is one of the most important books I have worked on and I am so glad it will be released in time for the 90th commemoration of the Armistice.’

Images of War gives an insight into the wartime experience and its overall significance for those involved by highlighting the complexity of the First World War giving due attention to what New Zealanders achieved, but without ever forgetting its cost.

Chosen to depict each theatre of the 1914–18 war, a huge range of photographs has been selected, with categories broad enough to capture the essence of the New Zealand experience of the First World War. Incredibly rare images of live action shots have been included along with images of battlefields, troops on the move and the hardware of war in action — rifles, artillery, tanks, machine guns, and aircraft and battleships with a New Zealand connection.

There are images that record the daily lives of soldiers in the trenches, behind the lines and on leave, including horrific portraits of wounded soldiers receiving treatment and prisoners of war. Famous and infamous people are featured — VC winners and troublemakers — and transport and logistics, critical to any military combat, have not been ignored. A miscellaneous selection of photos features war animals — horses, mules, dogs and camels — and images of war graves and from the Home Front, as well as emotional ones of soldiers leaving for the war and returning.

Images of War is a significant achievement and an important milestone in New Zealand’s history of the First World War. It is poignant, stirring and, at times, unbearable, as it records the appalling, brutalising, mundane and touching experiences of those who were there.

Lest we ever forget.

Glyn Harper is the author of many highly regarded books on both the First and the Second World War, including In the Face of the Enemy: The complete history of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand and, released in October last year in remembrance of the anniversary of Passchendaele, Dark Journey: Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front. Glyn lectures at Massey University, where he is an Associate Professor and heads the Centre for Defence Studies. A former teacher, he joined the Australian Army in 1988, transferring to the New Zealand Army where he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel until 2001.

What the critics said about Dark Journey: Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front:

‘Harper’s book draws upon the experiences of individual soldiers to form a gripping work of narrative history.’ — New Zealand Listener

‘Well-researched, well-written military history stands high in my reading list, and this one is as good as it gets.’ — Otago Daily Times

‘Harper deserves high praise for this monumental trilogy. It deserves the widest possible readership.’
— The Press