English is an amazing language. It has a vocabulary of over a million words, and counting. It got there by leeching many of them off other languages – Latin, Anglo Saxon (which produced some of my favourite words, except I don’t use them a lot on this blog), French, German, Scandinavian and so on. Basically,… More Cutesy neologisms needle me, sometimes
Four generations have been born in the century – this weekend – since New Zealand forces struggled to the top of Chunuk Bair, then a bare mountain range in the centre of the Gallipoli peninsula. They had come there from the uttermost ends of the Earth – a symbol of the way in which industrial… More The centenary of Chunuk Bair reminds us it’s time to re-think New Zealand’s history. Again.
It’s a century, this weekend, since New Zealand forces attacked Chunuk Bair as part of a failed effort to end the Gallipoli campaign. Curiously, we neither know exactly how many New Zealanders fought in that eight-month campaign – or how many became casualties. That question has been exercising some of the key figures in New Zealand’s military-historical community… More How many Kiwis fought on Gallipoli? I think the answer’s an essay, not a number
For three years from 1940 the Second New Zealand Division, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg, fought in the North African desert against a combined German-Italian army eventually led by Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel. It was an astonishing campaign that see-sawed across hundreds of kilometres of desert – the arbiter, always, being the supply lines. In the… More Duelling in the desert – the Kiwi way
My book Desert Duel: New Zealand’s Land War in North Africa 1940-43, a brief history of New Zealand’s experience in Egypt and Libya during the Second World War, is being republished as part of a new military series. This time you’ll also be able to get it instantly, on Kindle. I wrote this book in 2001, and… More ‘Desert Duel’: cover reveal!
I’m always intrigued by the way people generally view history. To some it’s a dead past, uninteresting. Others look on it as a trainspotting exercise in data-collection. Academics, on my experience, use the subject as a device for validating self-worth. Henry Ford, reputedly, insisted history was ‘bunk’. In a way he was right, because we… More Why history is really a ‘today’ thing
The other day I threw a crumpled bag into a bin and almost missed. It hung on the edge for a while. Quite suddenly it began collapsing into the bin, flexing as it did so. In a strict sense this was all understandable; I’d crushed the bag, meaning the energy of my fingers was stored… More Do humans see patterns where there aren’t any? Let’s talk…