Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Friday, May 05, 2017
Triumph on the Western Front: Diary of a Despatch Rider with the ANZACs 1915-1919
Triumph on the Western Front: Diary
of a Despatch Rider with the ANZACs 1915-1919
Compiled by Philip Holdway-Davis
It has taken two generations and close to 100 years, but poet and prolific novelist Oswald Harcourt Davis’s last piece of literature to be published is the first of its kind.
Davis’s diary is the only Great War diary written by a British Soldier attached to the ANZACS who has written about his experience in a role largely ignored by history: The Carrier Pigeon Service.
When Davis joined the Royal Engineers Signal Service in 1916, arriving in Abbeville, Somme, France, he was surprised to be told that because of his motorcycling experience he would become an Anzac Corps pigeon despatch driver.
A motorbike enthusiastic, Davis had the advantage of well-practised talent for impromptu repair that often allowed him to get to places when others had turned back.
The job was essential and dangerous, dodging enemy fire, where he took pigeons housed in cages strapped to his back, up the Somme line to the ANZACS. The pigeons would then be sent back with vital information.
As Davis was an avid writer, a freelance journalist and a poet with twelve published books, his war diaries are beautifully written.
Triumph on the Western Front: Diary of a Despatch Rider with the ANZACs 1915-1919 takes the readers on a vivid journey from wartime Britain in July 1915 to Davis’s voluntary recruitment where he is sent to the Somme and Flanders for the duration of the war, finished with a post-war trip to occupied Germany before demobilisation in February 1919.
Auckland based Philip Holdway-Davis is the great-nephew of Oswald Harcourt Davis. Philip edited the diary and compiled the battlefield guide (included in the book). He now conducts free Battlefield Tours around the Western Front.
Philip said as he grew up, his parents told him stories about their hero relative, so Philip borrowed a copy of Davis’s diary and was enthralled and felt privileged to be a descendant of such a courageous and gifted man. Philip feels the diary is a testament to Davis’s powerful observational skills and quiet courage.
“This is my chance to say thank you to my hero, Great Uncle Oswald,” says Philip.