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Official History of the New Zealand Engineers During the Great War 1914-1919.


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At a New Zealand Expeditionary Force Senior Officers' conference, held in Wellington some time ago, it was decided to have Regimental Histories prepared.

Unfortunately a large number of war diaries, the notes prepared for the Field Troops' history, and various other records never reached New Zealand. Many of the maps and plans sent back from the field were also missing, and even the records of men decorated or commended for gallant action were incomplete.

To such an extent is this true that the Committee in charge of publication, greatly averse to running any risk of drawing invidious distinction, almost decided to make no reference by name to any member of the Regiment save a bare list of honours and awards gained.

However, it was realised that this would greatly lessen the general interest in the book, and it was finally decided to set forth appropriate details of gallant actions and faithful service where such particulars were known. This decision of the Committee was further strengthened by their conviction that the men most worthy of special mention would be the last to complain of its absence, and the first to realise that many another just as deserving as themselves had missed recognition through unavoidable force of circumstances or had received but an obscure wooden cross as his share of the material gains of the mighty conflict.

The bare material available from existing diaries and records was not sufficient to produce a history which would appeal to and retain the interest of ex-members and others concerned in the work of the Engineers. It was therefore decided that a personal note should be introduced.

With a view to obtaining all the necessary information a circular was prepared and addressed to Officers, Warrant Officers and Senior N.C.O.'s who had served with this branch of the Force asking for information which was not likely to have been included in the war diaries. The following were particularly asked for.—
(a)Any noteworthy exploits in the field carried out by any individual member of the party.
(b)Any incidents of a sensational, amusing, or humorous nature.
(c)Any facts concerning the N.Z.E. which it was considered should be chronicled.
(d)Any suggestions which would tend towards the general improvement of the Regimental History.
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The loan was also solicited of photographs, postcards, and sketches of places, works, etc., associated with the Engineers, from which to make a selection.

The assistance given by certain officers, N.C.O.'s and others in response to this appeal is gratefully acknowledged, but whether owing to short memories or as a result of war weariness the great majority failed even to reply to the circular which was addressed to them. This is to be regretted, as it is felt that, had all the information which was in the possession of those to whom the communication was addressed, been placed at the disposal of the compiler, the book could have been made much more interesting.

Considerable help, notes and photos relating to the Field Companies were received from Lt.-Col. G. Barclay, Lt.-Col. L. M. Shera, Lt. A. H. Bogle, Sergt. A. Goss and Corpl. A. Williams. In fact the Field Companies' history has, to a large extent, been compiled from contributions by these officers and N.C.O.'s.

Lt. R. T. G. Patrick undertook the task of writing the History of the Signal Troop.

Writers for the Histories of the Field Troop in Palestine and the Wireless Troop in Mesopotamia could not be found amongst the ex-members of these units and, owing to the loss of most of the diaries and records, this was regrettable. Many notes and photos were received from Lieuts. H. G. Alexander and H. A. Lockington and assistance was given by Colonel Commandant C. G. Powles. Short Histories of the Troops' work, based on the information available, were finally written.

Major L. C. Forgie and Capt. Jervis were found to be untiring in their efforts to help with official records.

The assistance received from all the above-mentioned Officers and N.C.O.'s, also Lieut. I. Davey, is gratefully acknowledged. Although the compiling and writing was difficult, it would have been considerably harder without their help.

The delay in the issue of the History has been attributable to various causes. Many of the records required did not reach New Zealand until some time after the demobilization of the Forces, and the daily avocation of those associated in the work necessarily curtailed the time which they could devote to the completion of the History. It is trusted that the reader will make due allowance for any shortcomings which may be observed, and credit the writers and others responsible with doing their best under somewhat difficult circumstances.

N. Annabell,

Major N.Z.E.