by Ian Stuart
published by Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd. Price $29.95.
Reviewed by George Kaye
A fine book, In Line of Fire by Ian Stuart, is on my desk. The 143-page volume contains 38 stories that regale readers with names, places, people and incidents. Army, Air Force, Navy; Vietnam, East Timor, Korea; the First and Second World Wars including the 28th Maori Battalion and the Maori contingent at Gallipoli. Ian Stuart has brought all these together in a splendid way.
Each story is an intriguing read. A most interesting reference is made in the chapter ‘Your Sons Lie In Peace at Chunuk Bair’ when we read that in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, a small piece of rock from Chunuk Bair is the centrepiece of a memorial to ANZACs. The memorial also contains the last words of Lieutenant Colonel Malone, written to his wife just before the assault on Chunuk Bair in which 770 of our men took part and only 70 survived. Here is what Colonel Malone wrote: "I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins. My desire for life - so that I may see and be with you again - could not be greater but I have only done what every man was bound to do in our country’s need. It has been a great consolation to me that you approved my action, the sacrifice was really yours. May you be consoled and rewarded by our dear Lord."
In another chapter, ‘A Message from the Grave’, Ian Stuart tells of Private Thomas Hughes, a member of the Durham Light Infantry. He wrote a love letter to his wife in 1914 placed it in a bottle and tossed it overboard in the English Channel. Not until April 1998 was the bottle and its letter found, in London’s Thames River estuary. Twelve days after he wrote the letter, Thomas Hughes was killed in action. The letter was finally delivered in 1999 to his 87-year-old daughter, Emily Crowhurst, of Auckland. She was only two years old when she saw her father for the last time.
All the black and white photographs in Ian Stuart’s splendid book are pertinent to the stories to which they have been designated. Though most include the names of many people, the absence of an index is to be regretted. This is the only fault (if there is one), but because Ian’s enthralling creation is itself now in the line of fire, I feel I must fire this verbal bullet. Having said that, it must also be said Ian’s engrossing creation is certainly destined to be cherished by all who obtain it.