Diary of Writing Italy’s Sorrow

Auckland, 18 October, 2003
Can’t believe I’m flying out to New Zealand for the second time in one year  – but needs must.  One of the themes I want to cover in both my North Africa and Italy books is that the Allied armies, especially, were a really polyglot force.  Back in July, when I visited Tunisia with my friend Jim, we saw Takrouna where the Maori had had one of their more famous battles.  Jim turned to me then and suggested I should really try and speak to some Maori veterans.  After all, they were all volunteers, for while there had been subscription for white New Zealanders, the Maori had been exempted.  I knew he was right, but finding Maori veterans who would talk to me was no easy matter.  I contacted various museums in New Zealand and eventually was put in touch with Monty Soutar, a young ex-soldier himself – and Maori – and now an academic working on Maori history at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.  He has contacted a number of North Africa and Italy veterans, but obviously for me to interview them I have had to come all the way out here – telephone interviews don’t work – at least not before you have gained someone’s trust and certainly not with Maori who are wary of talking to whites about highly personal matters such as their war experiences.

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