Kiwi Compañeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War, by Mark Denby

Kiwi Compañeros: New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War, by Mark Denby (History)

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In the first-ever account of New Zealand’s role in Spain’s civil war of 1936–39, Mark Derby presents the personal stories of some extraordinary individuals who became involved. For example:

  • A fighter pilot from Wellington who landed his plane with a shattered shoulder, then left for Hollywood to make movies with Errol Flynn
  • A Cromwell surgeon who operated as close as possible to the firing line, and was described as ‘the most important volunteer to come from the British Commonwealth’
  • A tough young wharfie from Napier who buried 80 of his fellow fighters in a single grave, and later became a union leader and thorn in the side of PM Rob Muldoon
  • A Christchurch-born academic who risked his life as an intelligence agent in Spain, and was later termed the handsomest man at Oxford University
  • An elegant young Englishwoman who fought with anarchist militia units and, under the guidance of Frank Sargeson, turned that experience into a writing career
  • A Wellington film-maker, show-jumper and flamenco dancer who fought for Franco’s fascists.

Derby records also the actions of New Zealanders who worked for the Spanish cause at home by raising funds, lobbying politicians, writing poems and spreading propaganda.

'Kiwi Compañeros' includes contributions from some of New Zealand’s leading writers and historians. It draws on personal letters, recently released military documents and previously unpublished photographs to tell an all-but-forgotten story.          

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