Reviewed By Alistair Kerr.
For a reviewer, this is something of an unusual book, in that, while its content would clearly only appeal to a limited reader audience, it is I believe, a book that needed to be written, because it deals with the history of a small, but important piece of New Zealand’s social fabric. For the local reader, it is interesting to note that from the several mentions of Te Awamutu, our town obviously had a “high profile” in the life and activities of the Legion.
The Legion of Frontiersmen was founded in Britain in 1904 and was a movement designed to attract and use men whose experience reflected active military service, hunting , ‘roughing it’ and exploring in wild places. Its ethos reflected pride in, and service to the Imperial ideal popularised at the time by such writers as Rudyard Kipling. Some of its early members included such notables as Genera Jan Smuts, Captain Scott. Lieutenant Oates, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Lord Kitchener.
The book, mainly chronological in order tells of the Legion’s founding in New Zealand in 1911, of its spread around the country and of the service to both country and community by its members. There are detailed accounts of members’ achievements, especially in World War One in which , of New Zealand V.C. wines, seven were Legion members as was Sgt J.D. Hinton in World War Two’.
There is a very detailed record of the Legion’s post- and in-between-war periods with information about awards, activities and deaths of members. A feature of this section is the great number of ‘period’ photographs, which really enliven and expand the text. One which caught my eye was of the Legion’s 1945 Conference in Te Awamutu which shows around 150+ members! Another ’local’ link includes a picture of the Legion’s hall in Te Rahu road, now occupied by the Bridge Club. There are many accounts of Legion members giving service in Search and Rescue operations, crowd and parking control and, in the latter roles, readers will remember them in their distinctive uniform of black tunics, fawn pants and “lemon-squeezer” hat.
Quite clearly an enormous amount of time and effort has been put into the research and compilation of this book and its authors are to be congratulated for their efforts.
It deserves its place as a useful addition to the social history of New Zealand.