Gallipoli to the Somme: Recollections of a New Zealand Infantryman
By Alexander Aitkin
Alexander Aitken was an ordinary soldier with an extraordinary mind. The student who enlisted in 1915 was a mathematical genius who could multiply nine-digit numbers in his head. He took a violin with him to Gallipoli (where field telephone wire substituted for an E-string) and practiced Bach on the Western Front.
Aitken also loved poetry and knew The Aeneid and Paradise Lost by heart. Aitken began to write about his experiences in 1917 as a wounded out-patient in Dunedin Hospital. He writes with a unique combination of restraint, subtlety, and an almost photographic vividness. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society of Literature on the strength of this single work—a book recognized by its first reviewers as a literary memoir of the Great War to put alongside those by Graves, Blunden, and Sassoon.
Long out of print, this is by some distance the most perceptive memoir of the First World War by a New Zealand soldier. For this edition, Alex Calder has written a new introduction, annotated the text, compiled a selection of images, and added a commemorative index identifying the soldiers with whom Aitken served.