Politics of Forgetting:
New Zealand, Greece and Britain at War
Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019
Paperback 432 pp RRP $49.95
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, June 2019
In building our library’s collection, we seek out books on the New Zealand experience of war, particularly when they help us understand how Anzac forces work together. This is an almost exclusively New Zealand work, though published in Australia.
The Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s first campaign – Greece with Crete was to end in dispiriting defeat. By the end of the brief Greek campaign 291 New Zealanders had been killed and 1826 captured. Most of the Allied troops evacuated from Greece were sent to Crete. By the end of April there were more than 42,000 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers on the island. This force included the bulk of the New Zealand Division (7700 men). More than 1700 British, Commonwealth and Greek soldiers were killed and 15,000 captured during the Battle for Crete. There were 671 New Zealanders among the dead, and 2180 Kiwi prisoners of war.
The story of the resistance to the German occupation of Greece is far from straightforward. Greek right-wing partisan groups competed with communist inspired and backed groups. Some support was given to both factions by the British Special Operations Executive and MI9, the organisation supporting POW escapes. A further layer of complexity arose after the 1944 German withdrawal: it led to the Greek Civil War. The Cold War overlay of US and UK support to the rightists along with Titoist support to the left combined with military dictatorship in almost every possible permutation has disastrous consequences.
Brown also examines the writing of New Zealand’s Official History of this campaign and how key personalities influenced it.
This book weaves Greek and New Zealand politics into the fabric of war and civil war and cast much light of the intricacies governing those conflicts. It is a worthwhile book without an Australian counterpart.
The RUSI -Vic Library thanks the publisher for providing this review copy.