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The History of the Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1914 - 1919


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The object of this book is to give, in a clear and concise manner, a record of the doings of the Canterbury Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force from its enrolment to its disbandment.

The book consists mainly of a compilation of the War Diaries of the service battalions of the Regiment, and does not pretend to give a vivid picture of the fighting in which those battalions took part. Many of the diaries (and especially the earlier ones) give very little information, and it has been necessary to obtain the missing particulars from brigade and divisional diaries and from personal recollections of various officers. As a general rule, the writer has not attempted to describe the dangers and hardships of war: the members of the Regiment, for whom the book is primarily intended, all have personal experiences of these things; and for the general reader there are many books which purport to picture them.

The writer admits at once that the work is incomplete, and invites members of the Regiment to write down a full account of their own remembrance of any incident to which they consider he has not done justice, and to address it to him, care of the publishers. If this is done faithfully by all readers of the book, the materials will be available for a real history of the Regiment.

Where the official records mention the names of members of the Regiment who especially distinguished themselves, the fact has been recorded in this book; but a glance at the list of Honours and Awards (Appendix "F") will show how many officers and men whose services have obtained them decorations are not mentioned by name in the war diaries. Every soldier knows that not half the men who earn decorations are awarded them; and those whose names deserve to appear in these pages, but do not, would be the last to complain of their being overlooked.

page VI

In several places in the following pages, it is recorded that one or other of the Canterbury Battalions was unable to advance on account of the unit on one of its flanks not being sufficiently forward. The writer particularly wishes it to be understood that this is not intended to cast any slur upon the units concerned: it is usually a pure matter of luck that one unit is sent against a weak point in the enemy's line, while another next to it meets determined opposition. To take an actual example:—When the 3rd Army crossed the Canal du Nord on September 4th, 1918, the New Zealand Division was fortunate in being allotted a line of attack over ground where the Canal passed through a tunnel, while the Division on its left had to cross the Canal where it ran through a cutting about eighty feet deep. The reader should therefore bear in mind that where matters of this nature are mentioned, no adverse criticism of other units is intended.

The attention of the reader is drawn to the colours of the binding, which are those of the Regiment.

The writer wishes to place on record the great assistance he has received from Lieutenant-Colonel H. Stewart, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., late Commanding Officer of the 2nd Canterbury Battalion, who not only was always ready to discuss matters within his own personal experience, but also freely gave information which was the result of many hours of searching in records of every description. The writer has also had the benefit of Colonel Stewart's perusal of his manuscript, which he has altered considerably as the result of Colonel Stewart's criticisms. Finally, many of the excellent maps which illustrate Colonel Stewart's The New Zealanders in France (Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd.) are reproduced here by courtesy of the author and the publishers, and also of the New Zealand Government, by whose draughtsmen they were compiled.

The writer also wishes to express his indebtedness to Lieutenant G. T. Weston, late Intelligence Officer of the 1st Canterbury Battalion, who began the work of writing this record. When the present writer took over the work from Lieutenant Weston, the latter had already prepared a précis of the war diaries up to the beginning of 1918, and had also obtained from various members of the Regiment accounts of their personal experiences. page VIILieutenant Weston's work has proved of great assistance to the writer.

To the numerous other officers of the Regiment and of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the New Zealand Defence Department who have helped him, the writer also expresses his thanks—particularly to the members of the Regimental History Committee, to Major H. S. Westmacott, O.B.E., and Lieutenant V.G. Jervis, N.Z.S.C., both of the Historical War Records Section, and to Major F. L. Hindley, O.B.E., of the Base Records Office.