Field Punishment No. 1: Archibald Baxter, Mark Briggs & New Zealand’s Anti-Militarist Tradition
David Grant & Bob Kerr, Steele Roberts ($35)
Sometimes the stories we hear most often are those we understand the least. We’re regularly reminded of New Zealand’s military adventures and the role that their horror is said to have played in shaping our country. Less is heard of those who have resisted those wars and the great courage they have shown in the face of ostracism, imprisonment and torture.
From the earliest of New Zealand’s foreign military expeditions, there have been those who have refused the call to arms. Some had recently suffered invasion and expropriation at the hands of the British government, others held religious beliefs which forbade killing and still more believed that war served the interests of the rich at the expense of working people. At the outset of the First World War, Archibald Baxter and Mark Briggs refused to undertake any military service, a position which the government would not accept. Enduring solitary confinement, public humiliation, starvation, physical abuse and being taken to the front line in the hope that they would be driven insane or killed, the two stood firm.
Their principled stand inspired others and has resonated through New Zealand’s peace and labour movements to the present day. David Grant’ text eloquently contextualises these men’s struggle within the wider history of New Zealand’s wars, as well as the world which shaped their beliefs, while Bob Kerr’s haunting and elegant paintings bringing the story to a richer emotional life.
This book is an invaluable counterpoint to official histories of war in New Zealand, a text rich in information and humanity that reminds us of the power of conviction in the face of coercion and violence.
Alex Mitcalfe Wilson, Unity Wellington