Wednesday, 5 May 2004

Prime Minister launches online war history

The official history of New Zealand’s contribution to the Second World War is to reach a worldwide audience thanks to Victoria University and some generous donations.
The Prime Minister, Helen Clark

The Online Official Histories of New Zealand in the Second World War were launched by the Rt Hon Helen Clark at 5pm on Wednesday 26 May. The Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Vice-Marshal David Bamfield, was also a guest of honour at the launch.

The project, which is managed by Victoria University’s New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, has digitised and placed on the internet all 50 volumes of the Official Histories of New Zealand in the Second World War, which were published in the decades following the war.

The volumes include accounts of battalions, campaigns, prisoners of war, and details of war surgery and field medicine. The information, which includes 25,764 pages of text, as well as thousands of photographs and maps, is searchable online at

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said the University was delighted to have completed a project with such intrinsic value to New Zealand history.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon

“The online official histories will give people all around the world, and across generations, easy access to rare accounts of this crucial period in New Zealand’s history. It’s a major achievement to have developed this substantial out-of-print series into a digital history that is globally available, free of charge to the user.

“With the recent rise in attendance at ANZAC Day parades and a general increase in interest in the War, the Online Histories will provide an unparalleled tool for historians and students, not to mention the friends and relatives of those who lived and fought in this time.”

The success of the project was ensured by significant donations received through the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation. These included a UK£20,000 donation from Mary Weston, the daughter of New Zealand war hero Major General Sir Howard Kippenberger, who oversaw the production of 23 volumes of the official histories. Support has also been received from the New Zealand Community Trust, the University, and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Air Vice-Marshal David Bamfield, Vice Chief of Defence Force emphasised the value of this project.
Air Vice-Marshall David Bamfield

“New Zealand’s armed forces have played a hugely significant part in the development of the country’s identity and culture. The endeavour, commitment and sacrifice demonstrated by Kiwi servicemen and women during the Second World War set the example for the long held values and characteristics consistently demonstrated by our people today.

“This project is an excellent initiative and will provide ready insight into this outstanding chapter of the New Zealand Defence Force’s ongoing contribution to the nation.”

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre is the University’s research centre devoted to XML-based electronic publishing and the development of online libraries. Earlier in May the centre announced an alliance with Wellington-based web development company to provide a comprehensive new range of electronic publishing solutions and services.