Scoop Review of Books

NZ’s WWII Pacific Stories On-Line

Kiwis honouring fallen heroes this Anzac Day now have free access to the remarkable history of New Zealand’s Third Division, courtesy of Victoria University’s New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

In the context of New Zealand’s participation in World War II, the scale and significance of the Third Division’s involvement in the Pacific is often forgotten, says Acting Director of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC) Jason Darwin.

More than 38,000 New Zealand troops embarked to serve in the Pacific (compared with 59,000 for the northern hemisphere), and a significant number of these were wounded or killed in battle.

Launched this week by the NZETC are the 14 volumes that make up the entire Third Division history. Mr Darwin says the digitisation of the histories provides the most complete picture of the activities of New Zealanders in the Pacific during World War II.

“Being printed more than 50 years ago, and in relatively small quantities, these texts are now difficult to access and a complete set may go for more than $500 at auction,” he says.

The volumes cover the wide range of activities in the Pacific by New Zealand troops.

He expects the project to get a lot of attention from New Zealanders increasingly wanting to know about New Zealand’s role in World War II.

“There seems to be an increasing awareness and interest among the public of the activities of New Zealanders in the war, particularly as many of these former soldiers are now passing away. Attendances at Anzac Day services have been steadily increasing, and it seems that New Zealand’s participation in the war is strongly bound up in our sense of national identity,” says Mr Darwin.

Mr Darwin says they will be a valuable resource for descendents of those who served in the war—or anyone interested in New Zealand history.

“We always get a large number of visitors for the texts that we have online regarding New Zealand in the Second World War, and I think the public will be very interested in this addition to the collection.”

The NZETC is a free online archive of New Zealand and Pacific Islands texts and heritage materials, based at Victoria University. It offers an ever expanding, fully searchable, set of images and full-text books, manuscripts and journals.