Anzac Day Book Review: Nice Day for a War by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott

Nice Day for a WarNice Day for a a War : Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in World War I by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott, Harper Collins NZ, RRP $29.99, ISBN 9781869509019, Available now.

A little Anzac Day special for you – Harper Collins were kind enough to send me a review copy of Nice Day for a War by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott.

Nice Day for a War follows the story of Cyril Elliott – grandfather of Matt Elliot – who enlisted to fight in WWI at the age of 18 and travelled from the Kaipara Harbour to the Western Front, where he fought for 3 years.

Elliott’s teamed with cartoonist Chris Slane to present Nice Day for a War as a sort of graphic novel/non-fiction book hybrid for younger readers (probably about 12+) and they do a reasonably good job of it, incorporating a lot of great historical material (photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, cartoons, soldier’s pay books). The information is interesting, pertinent and reasonably even-handed without being too complicated or too facile for the intended audience.

My one complaint would be there wasn’t enough use of Chris Slane – the graphic elements are really only interspersed which to me is a bit of an opportunity lost. There’s a glimpse of a really great graphic novel here but there just isn’t enough of it, which will probably be something of a disappointment to the young male audience that I’m sure the publishers would like to reach.

Guest Post : Mr Monster reviews!

As some of you know Mr Monster runs his own website Military Models and he does occasionally do book reviews (as well as scale model news, scale model kit reviews and general WW2 flim flam. I’m probably not supposed to call it flim flam.) I thought it would be something different and interesting to see a review of a book from a niche publisher – and a reminder that books encompass such a huge range of interests. So without further ado… please welcome Mr Monster!

Book Review – Panzers In The Bocage

(Under The Gun Series Number 1)

The Oliver Publishing Group is a book publisher based in Australia who provide a high quality range of reference books on armour. They began trading as The Oliver Publishing Group in May of 2009 when they broke with The Factory Publishing ( themselves a publisher of armour related books ). Panzers in the Bocage : German Armour in the Battles For Normandy was their first independent title and the first in the “Under The Gun” series which uses photos of disabled or captured vehicles together with photo plates showing various camouflage and marking options.

If you’re familiar with the Panzerwreck  and the Panzer Colour series of books then this one takes both concepts and meshes them together, and does it well. The quality of the black and white photos is very good, with the clean-up of the originals done extremely well, giving good clear images.

The first five pages give a very useful short summary of the units in the area, including who served with who, some of the vehicles they are known to have had, and when and where they fought. One page is a VERY handy table of the 21st Panzer Division strength with what units had what vehicles. This is complemented by a similar table on the inside of the back cover which covers Tiger units in Normandy from June to August of 1944.

The second and last quarter of the book ( the two B&W photo sections ) is actually very reminiscent of the Panzerwreck books ( presented in portrait rather than landscape ) with two to three photos per page accompanied by text describing each photo. The text appears to be well researched which is always an important point for those of us familiar with some publishers’ “take a wild guess” type text.

The first section of black and white photos is very Panther focused, with the last section covering Tigers, StuGs, half-tracks and some SPGs and artillery. The centre eight page section, together with the back cover, is made up of colour artwork plates showing various camouflage and marking options on vehicles covering predominatly Panthers, Tigers, StuGs and Sd.Kfz.251 halftracks.

This coloured section is a huge help when it comes to referencing vehicles as they were at the time of the post Normandy landing battles in and around the Bocage. The layout is very similar to similar artwork in the Panzer Colour books ( which are likely better known to those of us who do actually get into the whole research thing ), or even the colour sheets that accompany Bison decals.

I love these sorts of books, for me they’re hugely useful in researching ideas for builds and for getting an idea for how a particular unit marked and painted their vehicles. But even if you’re not the sort who really cares whether or not the markings on your model are historically accurate to the month and the town these are a facinating read, just looking over the various photos of wrecks left behind.

This looks to be the beginning of a great series of books and this particular one should be a great refence point for anyone looking for some good, decent sized, decent qulity images of vehicles on the battlefields of the Bocage. I do like when books like this are specific to a particular location/point in time and I’m looking forward to more of the same.

Author : Karl Berne

Publisher : Oliver Publishing Group ( )

Pages : 34 containing B&W Photos and colour artwork plates

Binding : Softcover

Size : 212mm x 297mm

ISBN : 978-0-9806593-0-6

Book Review : The Great Wrong War by Stevan Eldred-Grigg

The Great Wrong War coverThe Great Wrong War : New Zealand Society in WWI by Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Random House, ISBN 9781869792633, RRP $55, Available now.

The Great Wrong War is a true writing achievement for Eldred-Grigg – a very obvious large amount of research, thought and time has gone into this book and it shows. As a history, The Great Wrong War investigates all aspects of the lead-up in New Zealand to World War 1 and what it was like for New Zealanders to live through it – from the politics, the struggles between the classes, the cultural and societal effects right down to actual day to day living and thoughts of individuals involved. These are some of the most enjoyable parts of the book – the quotes from letters, diaries and interviews.

Because this is a history of how important yet under-thought decisions, made miles away in both geography and mindset, can have such a devastating effect on those who are asked to bear the consequences.

In some ways this is a polemical history, and to be honest I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with so much polemic in my history. On the other hand it was a very enjoyable read, so perhaps that’s just my old-fashioned self clashing with my newfangled self.

Eldred-Grigg is very firmly and obviously against the New Zealand participation in WW1 and argues that New Zealand had a choice, even as a British colony, on that participation. And, as he clearly states, blithely buying into the imperalist rhetoric and sacrificing our citizens and our economy to the war was a very bad decision.

He also firmly puts paid to the gallant Kiwi digger myth with stories of bad behaviour in both Samoa and Egypt – especially in the Egyptian sex trade. The bad behaviour extended to our political leaders also, who clearly saw the war as an opportunity to begin our own little slice of Pacific colonialism by annexing the German colonies that would become available was Britain to win. (We had designs on Hawaii also apparently, but those damn yankees got there first). And it’s a mind-opener to read about the truly appalling treatment of New Zealanders with German ancestry, conscientious objectors, and the ordinary men who were corralled into uniforms and divisions, and sent off to do the bidding of an officer class that often had no clue what it was doing.

The Great Wrong War has brought up a lot of questions for me about the present – the growing nationalist fervour around Anzac Day, the pervasive myth that we were fighting a “just” war in WW1, the ideas of “sacrifice” and the encroachment upon civil and individual rights in the name of political expediency in a crisis. Packed with illustrations, it’s also a beautiful object of a book.

In the main, this is an absorbing read and also rather crushing – crushing in that just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it does. WW1 was bloody awful. Bloody awful for those who had to fight, bloody awful for those who had to say goodbye to those going to fight, bloody awful for those living near the battlefields, bloody awful for ordinary citizens at home, bloody awful for the “losers”, etc.

It was slightly less bloody awful for upper class Britishers and New Zealanders but in the end the reality was no-one won this war. 9 million + military personnel died. When it was over, another estimated 50 million people died from the subsequent spread of what was termed Spanish influenza.

Good god.

Book Spotlight : Freyberg’s War by Matthew Wright

Freyberg's War

Freyberg's War

Continuing in our New Zealand Book Month theme of books…


Freyberg’s War : The Man, the Legend and Reality.

This book will change the way you see one of New Zealand’s best-known historic figures.

Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Freyberg led the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force from 1939 to 1945. He became a national hero, exalted by a generation and upheld as one who could do no wrong. Some historians have challenged that view, finding fault in Freyberg’s handling of the battle for Crete and blaming him for the destruction of the Benedictine monastery above Cassino in 1944. But are they right?

In Freyberg’s War Matthew Wright draws on a wide range of documents, including material published here for the first time, to cast new light on some of the crucial questions about Freyberg’s war.

Who was really behind Freyberg’s appointment to command in 1939? How much did Freyberg actually know about the ULTRA code-cracking secret on Crete in 1941? What did he intend in Cassino? What did Middle East Command really think of him?

Wright paints a vivid picture of man and commander, revealing Freyberg to be a complex, multi-dimensional leader whose approach to the war has been misunderstood.

You can purchase Freyberg’s War from BookieMonster for just $22.95!

Better than a mug, more useful than socks – It’s BookieMonster’s Father’s Day Sale!


Because we think dad’s are extra cool at BookieMonster we’ve decided to have a sale on some specially selected titles that Dad might be interested in.

There’s a range here for almost every dad – from science to sport to DIY, gardening, cooking, miltaria, music, Monty Python and William Shatner.

That’s right, William Shatner!

Here’s a selection of the titles included:

Fly-Fishing for the Clueless

Steak Lover’s Cookbook

SAS : Behind Enemy Lines, Covert Operations

First-time Father : Starting Out As A Dad

New Kitchen Garden : Organic Gardening & Cooking

Modern Cruising Under Sail

The Pythons : Autobiography by the Pythons

Cars of the Sizzling ’60s

The World War II Desk Reference

Complete Guide to Home Repair and Improvement

In the Cockpit : Inside 50 History-Making Aircraft

John Lennon : All I Want Is The Truth

And there is plenty more to choose from!

You can find the full list here.

These are all priced to sell and to give you some great ideas for Father’s Day! We’ll be adding more titles over the next couple of weeks too, so make sure you check back! These great prices will last right up until Father’s Day.

PS Love you Dad xxoo