Kiwis at War: 1914 Riding into War by Susan Brocker.
The first of a new series from Scholastic that has quality NZ writers telling about New Zealanders in World War 1, featuring each year of the Great War, the war to end all wars. If only that were true.
This novel is accessible to a wide range of readers from middle school through to secondary students and I expect the others will be the same.
Billy Bowman is 17 when he, his best mate Jack and work colleague, Chopper, ride off the farm to sign up for the big adventure. What they and their horses got fell well short of that description. At Awapuni Racecourse they were assigned to the 6th Manawatu Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment.
They expected to ride gloriously into battle on their chargers but instead got Gallipoli and the battle of Chunuk Bair. At home New Zealander’s were greeted with the headline” How the ANZACS gained a foothold at the Dardanelles, No finer Feat in the War”. At the front it was a different story.
Before the action the men and horses were shipped to Egypt and experienced the heat and culture shock while champing at the bit to go into action. Leaving their horses behind was a telling blow.
Susan Brocker tells it well through the character Billy and through letters from home. She knows the story of the horses having written the story of Brave Bess one of only 4 horses that returned. A review appears earlier on this blog.
Much has been written about the Gallipoli Campaign but this account adds the dimension of the horses and will still bring a tear to your eyes as Billy learns two new words – amputee and prosthetics. Lest we forget.