Godley is known to be the incompetent field commander that led members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and II ANZAC Corps to their deaths at Gallipoli and Passchendaele. Hired by the New Zealand Government, the British Godley was purposed with transforming the structure of the New Zealand military into a modern and sustainable force. This he did quite successfully. The ‘Godley Structure’ lasted right through until the 1960’s, giving NZ a force capable of defending its own nation as well as integrating into the military forces of others. But this is not what he is remembered for.
Author Terry Kinloch’s book ‘Godley. The man behind the myth’ aims to “give readers a more rounded and balanced understanding of Godley -the man and the general”. While he discusses what became known as ‘Godley’s abattoir’, most commonly known as Passchendaele, and the charge of The Nek, Kinloch points out that Godley too was simply following orders and had, in fact, declared his concerns to those above him.
Contrary to words printed by previous historians, Godley was highly trained in military tactics and procedures and had seen combat prior to World War 1. Utilising extensive research, Kinloch provides a true record of Godley’s early life, training and combat experience backed by letters, military records and statements recorded on the pages of history. This comprehensive account clearly distinguishes Godley as a man who was wronged by history. In this way, Kinloch has done a service to the man, bringing light to information once passed over because it failed to fit the narrative of the time.
The pace of the book was quite slow, however. The in-depth research was firmly compacted in the pages of this book, leaving little room for flourishes. Those who are able to and willing to sit and read an essay will undoubtedly find Kinloch’s words fascinating. Those such as myself who prefer a story weaved through the ticking time of history may find this piece to be tedious and a real struggle to read through. It was also quite difficult to move past the history I have learned previously about this man. The reiteration of his affluent upbringing and, despite having seen combat in the Boer War, never have been a foot soldier, simply added to the viewpoint I had previously had of the man. His protests against those who ordered his troops forward did not convince me that he truly protested enough. His continued career and the fact that New Zealand maintained his structure until the 1960’s does further the point that the history I was previously taught was clouded. Perhaps that was why I found this read to be tiresome because my mind battled with the words placed before me.
Regardless ‘Godley. The man behind the myth’, Kinloch has successfully penned a book that has rewritten the myth behind this iconic and noteworthy pillar of Australian and New Zealand history.
- Ashayla Ramsay, Integrated Marketing Officer