Acclaimed writer and cartoonist Tom Scott will be speaking at an event at the Te Awamutu RSA about his new book Searching for Charlie tomorrow at 5.30pm.
As well as the RSA, the free event will be hosted by Paper Plus Te Awamutu, who will assist with book sales and signing.
Tom is famous for his weekly column and cartoon on politics for the New Zealand Listener in the 1970s and 1980s, he has won numerous awards including the Qantas New Zealand Cartoonist of the Year (seven times) and Columnist of the Year and Political Columnist of the Year (three times).
He has made a subsequent career writing plays and for television and film.
Tom had long dreamed of writing a book that laid bare the truth about the British Commonwealth's greatest soldier, Charles Upham.
In 2019 he gave up his regular cartoon slot for the Dominion Post to make it happen.
Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham is the only combat soldier ever to win the Victoria Cross twice. His acts of bravery in World War II meant he probably deserved six more.
The mystery of how a reserved, modest, slightly built farm valuer from New Zealand, could be so ferocious and fearless in battle has intrigued and fascinated Tom ever since he read about Charles Upham as a schoolboy.
Searching for Charlie goes a long way to solving that mystery.
"When I kept running into young people calling the Second World War, World War Eleven — as in, 'I love world war 11 films' I realised there was a knowledge gap that needed plugging," said Tom.
"In particular I wanted to write something my children and their children could read and gain a better appreciation of the sacrifices their grandparents and great-grandparents made and the hardships they endured to rescue the world from a monstrous evil. Something I was slow to appreciate myself for a long a time."
Tom travelled extensively and researched exhaustively. He went on a pilgrimage to Charlie's old battlegrounds in Crete and Egypt, visited Colditz and Weinsberg in Germany, and Modena, Italy where Charlie spent time as a POW.
He also visited Charlie's childhood haunts and learnt about his uncle and namesake, Dr Charles Hazlitt Upham, who took little Charlie on house-calls to a leper colony on Quail Island in the middle of Lyttelton Harbour.
The seeds of Charlie's powerful moral compass and his lifelong abhorrence of bigotry, pretence and prejudice were sewn here. Upham's moral courage lent wings to his physical courage.
Working as a stockman and shepherd in the New Zealand's rugged back of beyond, High Country gave him wiry strength, and prodigious stamina, made him a crack shot and gave him a feel for terrain, light and landscapes that served him well in battle, contributing to him becoming a living legend within the New Zealand Division — an epithet which he detested.
Shy and reluctant to take credit for his actions, Charlie deflected all praise on to his soldiers and was described as "distraught" that he had been honoured.
"Charlie was locked into a defiant, bewildered, almost pathological modesty. He didn't downplay his achievements so much as wish vehemently that they would go away," said Tom.
But it's a mark of the man, that when Upham died his old foes, the famed Afrika Korps, took the extraordinary step of placing a death notice in The Press newspaper saluting him as 'one of the bravest and one of the best soldiers'.
Searching for Charlie paints a full picture of this complex man, who is unravelled with humour and empathy.
Tom draws upon his full repertoire of skills to deliver a book that will become a New Zealand classic.
"Searching for the source of Charlie's courage was like chasing the end of a rainbow. It moved away from me as I advanced. The deeper I looked and explored the more mysterious it became, until it defied rational explanation," he said.
"Winning a single VC is marvel enough, winning a second breath-taking and unfathomable — possibly deserving another six is inexplicable and beyond comprehension."