An Awfully Big Adventure: New Zealand World War One Veterans Tell Their Stories

Author(s): Jane Tolerton (Editor)

First World War

*New Zealand Listener's '100 Best Books of 2013'

What was it like to be a New Zealand soldier in the First World War? What impact did the war have on those who returned? Let them tell you.

An Awfully Big Adventure traces the reminiscences and reflections of 80 veterans interviewed for the World War One Oral History Archive.

Respected journalist Jane Tolerton revisits the interviews and sets pieces in a chronology for 21st-century readers to follow the progress and human experience of the war in the words of those who were there. The men relive their time abroad, offering private moments as well as the unvarnished realities of life at the front. A century on, their voices are vivid, strong and direct, and often humorous.

Deeply affecting and absorbing, An Awfully Big Adventure is an important historical memoir that reads as if it all happened yesterday.

'[F]ew publications will be quite as engrossing as this one . . . I found the stories of these very real people, who went to war almost a century ago, enormously interesting, moving and compelling.' Lt Gen the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, Governor-General

'You never took any notice of a dead man. When we were going over in the Battle of Messines, before I got hit, we were passing wounded men, dead men, dead Germans, but we just went straight on. It's a terrible thing to talk about what I'm talking about, you know. But I saw it, I was there.' Stan Herbert

'Never let your mates down - that was a good motto. People used to say to me, 'Were you scared?' I'd say, 'Yes, who wouldn't be? But my biggest worry was not to let me mates think I was scared.' Mustn't let them down.' Thomas Eltringham

'I thought it would be a great adventure, and it'd be real fun. And so it was - up to a point. Past that point it wasn't funny at all.' Sydney Stanfield


Product Information

'Few publications will be quite as engrossing as this one . . . I found the stories of these very real people, who went to war almost a century ago, enormously interesting, moving and compelling.' — LT GEN THE RT HON SIR JERRY MATEPARAE, GOVERNOR-GENERAL

JANE TOLERTON is a Wellington-based writer. Having studied History and American Studies at the University of Canterbury, she became a newspaper reporter and magazine feature writer, winning the Dulux News Award and the Cowan Prize for Historical Journalism.


She also won a New Zealand Book Award for Ettie: A Life of Ettie Rout (1992), and has produced three books of oral history – the best-selling Convent Girls (1994), Sixties Chicks (1997) and It's time we started telling these stories (2008).


In 1987, Tolerton and Nicholas Boyack established the World War One Oral History Archive while based at the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University. They interviewed 84 veterans, gifted the tapes to the National Library of New Zealand, and produced an accompanying book, In the Shadow of War (1990).

General Fields

  • : 9780143568490SECA
  • : Penguin Group New Zealand, Limited
  • : Penguin Books
  • : April 2013
  • : 240x170mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : January 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 304
  • : Black and white
  • : Jane Tolerton (Editor)
  • : Paperback
  • : 940.48193