Tales of Three Campaigns (2nd Edition) - 12th (Nelson) Company N.Z.E.F.
Author: Lieutenant Colonel Cyprian Bridge Brereton
In 1926, Colonel Brereton who had taken the 12th (Nelson) Company of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion into the Great War in the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, wrote the well-received first
edition of this title.
The three campaigns alluded to, were the Battle of the Suez Canal on 3 February 1915; Gallipoli as it related
to the Landing at Anzac, and the Second Battle of Krithia at Cape Helles (where the author received a serious
head wound); and the Western Front, including First Somme in September 1916 and two periods in the line
in the Northern Zone, in and about Armentières.
Although it was only 24 hours or so in duration, the rarely-written-about Battle of the Suez Canal was of
signal historic importance. No one was better able to write about New Zealand’s role in it, than Brereton.
All four battalions of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade were called upon to reinforce the canal defences,
when the very real threat of a Turkish attack developed. Only a minor element of them became involved - two platoons of 12th
Company, commanded at first-hand by Major Brereton; 100 all ranks. Solely by their musketry skill, they helped deter a brigadesize
assault over the narrowest point of the canal. We read his front-line account of their baptism of fire, and his later shrewd
analysis of how the Turks should clearly have won, had they conformed to their German-authored plan.
Colonel Brereton strongly identified with his soldiery; his concern clearly was with them rather than upwards towards
his seniors, and the prospects of personal advancement. He describes the relevant skills brought by them from their rural
pursuits. Personally cool under fire, he writes in an attractive, flowing style, quite lacking in military jargon, and with occasional
dry humour, to which the reader will warm. This is whether discussing battle, desert training in Egypt, troopship journeys,
inter-action with French civilians or the multiplicity of other incidents experienced in over four years of active service, at a responsible, but not too-elevated level.
I have a battered copy of Major C.B. Brereton’s Tales of Three Campaigns that I purchased many years ago in Smith’s Bookshop in Christchurch.
It, together with Cecil Malthus’s Anzac: A Retrospect, opened the door to my understanding of the New Zealand experience in the Gallipoli Campaign.
To me, it read like a Boy’s Own tale of adventure, balanced by quips and comments – it was a great read by a personality who seemed to laugh at
the world and at himself in the most desperate of situations.
My favourite is the description on landing at Anzac Cove, and Brereton’s alarm when the waiting staff on the beach said, “We are very glad to see you,
Brereton”, and his comment that the situation ‘must indeed be grave’ for he and his men to be welcomed like that. However, as he notes,
‘a few minutes later one of them commenced swearing at us, so we cheered up, feeling that all was not yet lost’.
It is this slightly off-beat view of the war that captured me. Brereton seems on the surface not to take anything too seriously, yet, at the same time,
his account captures the tensions, the reactions of both commanders and men, and the realities of combat, all told in a way that only later
did you realise how insightful his words were.
Walking the area of the Daisy Patch at Cape Helles in 1983, it was Brereton’s immediate response to his being wounded that stayed with me,
and which I recall each time I return. ‘I felt the terrible pain of a bullet through the top of my head, and as I fell I could see in imagination,
but very vividly, great flames rushing out of my head. It crossed my mind instantly, “Serve you damned well right for ordering men into such a fire”.’
His statement carries with it the awful responsibility of command that every officer has in battle, and sheets home the personal responsibility
that cannot be deflected by the words ‘simply carrying out orders’.
This is a book of home truths – ‘a soldier’s plain unvarnished story’. Brereton’s Tales of Three Campaigns is an important insight into the
nature of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force that went to war in 1914, its make-up and its character. He shows us both the enthusiasm and the
inexperience and how this was balanced by hard training and pragmatism in Egypt, Gallipoli and then in France.
Brereton is lucky to survive his three campaigns and this new edition is enriched with both superb and previously unpublished photos from his
own collection, but also includes the fourth campaign – the love story between Daisy and “Cyp” – she 21 and he 38, which allows us to see another
side of the man and the love match that anchored his life.
This is a marvellous book, brought alive again with the combined efforts of John H. Gray’s editing; Peter Millward’s contribution from the
Nelson Provincial Museum’s collections, and the tangible support of the Tasman Bays Heritage Trust; Bob Anderson’s enormous enthusiasm and
dedication in resurrecting forgotten gems in New Zealand military history, and Mrs Annie Coster’s lovely coda to her grandparents.
Published: April 2015
Size: 180mm x 240mm
Extent: 380 Pages
Illustrations: 115 Photographs 14 Maps
Binding: Casedbound & Dust Jacketed
The Silent Division - and Concerning One Mans
Author: Ormond Edward Burton
It is appropriate that the imminent centenary of the start of World War l should be marked by publishing in one volume,
of the greatest New Zealand front-line writer about that war
twice decorated and thrice wounded.
Ormond Edward Burton lived life at an uncompromising extreme, whether as a soldier – when, as recounted in this book, he more than
once voluntarily went to considerable lengths to put himself in harm’s way, as he saw it in his unit’s interests - or later as a clergyman and Christian pacifist.
Published: May 2014
Size: 180mm x 240mm
Extent: 416 Pages
Illustrations: 50 Photos, 22 Maps
Binding: Hardback, Dustjacket
Authors: Peter Cooke, John H Gray, Ken Stead
The long-awaited history book of the 3rd Battalion, Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly's Own) & Northland and all of its predecessors is now available.
It is the first detailed history of the 'Aucks' and the 'Norths' (also incorporating the Cadet Units) from the formation of the first militia units in the 1840s
all the way to the 3rd Auck (CRO) & North Battalion Group of the early 21st century. 'Auckland Infantry' is 576 pages long (16 of which are in colour)
and includes just over 640 photos, diagrams and graphics. It covers the period from the first of the Auckland Infantry units formed in 1845, shortly
thereafter into active service with the Units first casualty being Private William Reily at the Battle of Ohaewai on 1st July 1845. The latter part
of the 19th Century saw the formation of the 3rd Aucklands' and 15th North Aucklands' then service in the South African War, WW1 from Gallipoli
to the western front in France and Belgium. World War II saw the Aucks and North Aucks as the 'numbered' Battalions (18th, 21st, 24th, 29th and 35th)
in Greece, Crete, North Africa, Italy and the Pacific, through the CMT and National Service eras to the Territorial Force Volunteer of today.
This is a must read (and have) for anyone with an interest in the history of the 'Aucks'' and the 'Norths' in war and peace.
Published: December 2010
Size: 305mm x 220mm
Extent: 516 Pages
Illustrations: 600 Photographs Colour & Black and White
Binding: Casedbound & Dust Jacketed