Laraine Sole and Jacq Dwyer and their respective books were the main attraction last Saturday at the dual book launch at the Baptist Church in Weraroa Rd, Waverley.
Laraine's book — Called to Colours — is about soldiers from the Waverley district who served in World War1, and Jacq has published a book commemorating the Patea RSA centenary, in which she shares stories of the men from the district who fought in both wars. Both books share some common resource material and it was Jacq's book that inspired Laraine to write hers.
Among those attending the launch were descendants and family members of some of the soldiers whose stories are told in the books. Two people present were children of World War1 veterans, another, a niece.
Prue Hyland is the great-niece of James Elmslie who died at Gallipoli. She painted the portrait of him which graces the cover of 'Called to Colours'. She attended the launch.
"It has been quite an experience to write this book, actually a sad experience, because it has been really hard to write these men's stories and not feel touched by them," said Laraine, who addressed the gathering after an introduction by Jacq. She spoke of some of the men in her book, including Rangihiwinui Hiroti, who stood 5'3" and served with the 2nd Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles as a bugler. She says she didn't come across many buglers from the area as their services were reduced when the use of heavy artillery meant their bugles could not be heard on the battlefield. Rangihiwinui, whose name was written wrongly on his war memorial, died aged 21. Laraine bought a World War1 bugler's badge and wore it at the launch in his honour.
Laraine spoke about the book and how it was written, giving credit to those who helped along the way, like Neil Boyd, a former military man whose knowledge came in handy.
Her talk had touches of humour, especially when talking about the frustrations of technology, corrections, setting the pages and the cat who jumped on the keyboard, obliterating hours of work.
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She spoke of the horrors, the diseases, the conditions in which men fought, especially in the mud and vermin-ridden trenches, and the way some men tried to cope, to forget, to live with what they had seen in all the years afterwards.
"It had such an effect on our society," she said.
"There have been so many books about war that they can't actually ever describe the smell of war."
Jacq Dwyer spoke of the post-war efforts to remember the fallen and the men and women who worked hard to make it happen. Her book was to mark the Patea RSA centenary in 2019 but it is also about so many of the men who served and survived, often badly damaged. Their names are not on war memorials but their stories are in her book.
Laraine and Jacq have done justice to the men who fought and returned: they received no memorial until these books.
In her short speech, Jacq picked a name from each of the districts covered by her book and told their stories. She told of Sergeant Ngawakataurua Te Tahua Pehimana from Patea, who enlisted in 1914 and sailed with the first Maori Contingent of 500 soldiers. He survived Chunuk Bair, only to be struck down by influenza after returning home.
Thomas Harvie was a 57-year-old publican who knocked 13 years off his age to enlist, leaving his wife to run the Manutahi pub. Sadly, he was killed at Ypres.
The launch concluded with question time, book signing and morning tea.
Neither Laraine nor Jacq can go long without a project. Jacq has recently finished writing a history of Alton, Taranaki, and Laraine is working on a history of Whanganui East.