The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War

About the Project


The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45 is a series of histories prepared under the supervision of the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre determined that the Official War History series was an excellent example of a collection of books that could be useful to a far wider audience if it were made more accessible in a digital format. Few libraries own a full set of the books, and even individual copies are in much demand by the public.

A pilot project was launched by the NZETC. Five volumes were selected and prepared and made available online in mid 2003. The response was immediate and overwhelming, and came not only from New Zealanders but from students of military history and families of WWII veterans the world over. With the support we received and with such overwhelming public enthusiasm after putting only five volumes online, we continued the project and released twenty more volumes in January 2004. Another further generous donation allowed us to digitise the entire series for release in May 2004.

Over 12 million words and 5,000 photographs, maps and diagrams — testimony to the heroism of a nation. From the start, this project has unlocked the unparalleled scholarship and research in the Official Histories. The response to the twenty five volumes already online has been tremendous, traffic to the web site huge. With another twenty five volumes, it will indeed be a landmark: for the past, for the present, and for the future.


Read about the launch of the site and other news items.


Vital support must be acknowledged to those who made this project possible. Many thanks to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage for granting permissions to deliver these volumes to the public online. Deep appreciation is extended to the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson; to Mary Weston, daughter of the late General Sir Howard Kippenberger, one of the Editors-in-Chief of the Official Histories; the New Zealand Community Trust; and to numerous other individuals and organisations who shared help, enthusiasm and inspiration.

Also thanks to the Victoria University Vice Chancellor’s Office for the special funding directed to the pilot project, and to Victoria University Library which provided the first books for digitisation. The majority of the books were generously contributed for digitisation by the New Zealand Defence Library in Wellington.


Director:Elizabeth Styron, NZETC
Project Manager:Sanjan Kar, NZETC
Fundraising Advisors:Tricia Walbridge, VUW Foundation
Malcolm Menzies, Victoria Link, Ltd.
Programmers:Conal Tuohy, NZETC
Jamie Norrish, NZETC
Colin Doig, NZETC
Graphic Design:Tarn McDonald, NZETC
Imogen Mitchell, NZETC
XML Editors:Virginia Gow, NZETC
Vanita Lala, NZETC
Rob George, NZETC
Tarn McDonald, NZETC
Jamie Norrish, NZETC
Nushrat Ibrahim, Whitireia Polytechnic Publishing Course

Technical Details

The full text of all volumes was double keyboarded into XML according to the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative. The physical books were unbound, keyboarded, scanned, and rebound before being sent back to the libraries which donated the books.

We use Apache Cocoon to transform our XML texts into readable documents using XSLT stylesheets.

We use Lucene for searching. Lucene is a full-text search engine written entirely in Java, published by the Apache Software Foundation.

For more information on the technical aspects of this project, read the NZETC’s technology page, or contact

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