Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Forts and Works, number 11 (June 2001)



At the same time as all this, other aspects of the Pacific campaigns were under consideration for official histories. Brig Dittmer said on 1 November 1945 that Capt NA Fraser was at present compiling a history of 2NZEF Fiji Section, the NZ-officered and run brigade group which held Fiji from November 1942. Fraser had the day before been attached to Archives Section for this work. Brig Dittmer discussed the project on 26 November with the War History Branch, from which WA Glue suggested it be printed in a format like the Third Division books, with 50,000 words and 12 pages of pictures.

Created a couple of years after the Archives Section of Army HQ, the War History Branch was eventually to inherit all the work that Archives Section had done - and was clearly the wiser for it. The relationship between these two bodies probably would repay closer attention.

Little however seems to have come of this work by Fraser. Apart from compiling a Nominal Roll of the 2,595 men who served with the Fiji Section 2NZEF from 1942, the project seemed to have died. A history of the Fiji Military Forces was by then getting under way in Suva.

One who was on the Fiji Section
The first public record of 3 NZ Division's service was this book, The 36th Battalion in the Pacific, which was revised and updated by the Third Division Histories Committee as The 36th Battalion.

The first public record of 3 NZ Division's service was this book, The 36th Battalion in the Pacific, which was revised and updated by the Third Division Histories Committee as The 36th Battalion.

Nominal Roll was Sgt Colin R Larsen, living at the time at 4 Saxby Rd, Nae-nae. Now a WO1, Larsen had been charged by Army HQ with writing the story of another Fijian unit, 1 Commando Fiji Guerillas. As Intelligence Sergeant with the unit from inception, he had been "in a unique position to view the commando activities from all angles" except when removed from the front with malaria. A narrative on this unit was under way in March 1944, and a History Committee for it had been formed in March 1945 under the chair of Capt DE Williams, with 2 / Lt KW Dane and S/Sgt LV Jackson. Larsen's draft was ready in July 1945 and £66 in regimental funds left over from when the unit was disbanded in May 1944 was earmarked to go to-wards its publication.

While HQ Fiji Military Forces were happy with Larsen's manuscript, the OC FMF Brig Dittmer told Army HQ in August that it "cannot be accepted as Official History or for inclusion in the general history of the Fiji Military Forces because of its length and personal nature". Bill Glue also had problems with it, saying Larsen had "deified Maj Tripp and the New Zealanders in the unit", and was guilty of trumpet blowing. Glue said it had been "written with too much feeling".

For the War History Branch Larsen also wrote the two-volume '2NZEF IP Narrative' and, in May 1945, a 12-page narrative on Special Companies. page 4Larsen's 126-page narrative on the Fiji Guerillas did find a publisher in New Zealand, in 1946. AH & AW Reed picked it up and, as Pacific Commandos, printed it in the same format as the Third Division stories on which the firm had started production. Apart from the Reed logo on the spine and slight yellow tinge to its book cloth, it could pass as a 14th (or 1st) book in Reed's series.

No further action is recorded on NZ history of its service in Fiji until 1949, when Sir Howard Kippenberger received a copy of Lt RA Howlett's The History of the Fiji Military Forces 1939-45, from Lt Col Stafford of the FMF Historical Committee, Colonial Barracks, Suva. By then Gillespie was writing his official volume on the Pacific, published three years later, in which he acknowledged Capt Fraser (and therefore, presumably, used his research and narrative to some extent).

While we do have the Army's formal account of its Pacific campaigns in one volume, with another on medical services in this hemisphere, no other of the big histories focus on this theatre. The Navy and Air Force histories cover the Pacific as part of general accounts of their overall war efforts. Even the two-volume '2NZEF IP Narrative' already mentioned was treated differently to the extensive northern hemisphere narratives (of which 80 volumes were written for the Army alone). The 2NZEF IP Narrative was sent to Barrowclough by Kippenberger when Gillespie was starting the Pacific volume, and 'Barrow' surprised 'Kip' by sending them back, after reading them, "without comment". And whereas the other narratives sit in Defence Library (albeit shelved on the floor) the Pacific narrative was sent on high. Maybe it was Colin Larsen's style or methodology that did not endear the Generals. Or maybe it was because, as Bill Glue remembers to this day, "Neither General Kippenberger or Monty Fairbrother… showed much interest in them." The focus of these Editors-in Chief, both being 2 Div men, was not surprisingly on NZ experiences in North Africa, Crete, Greece and Italy.