WAR BLACKS: The extraordinary story of New Zealand’s WWI All Blacks
Top 10 NZ Non-fiction best-seller (Nielson, 16 June 2016).
HARDBACK, 320pp, ISBN: 9781775540366 | Also available as an e-book
UK release date: 9 February, 2017. USA release date: 6 June, 2017.
‘Deducing how many saw active service and then downloading screeds of documents about them required a great deal of effort and patience, not to mention commitment… The story about Brian McLeary, a boxing champion as well as an All Black, is one that has rarely been told and worth the book price alone…At least half a dozen books have been produced in the last couple of years, mostly in Britain, about games-playing soldiers. This ranks well with them.’ – Ron Palenski (author and historian), New Zealand Books, Autumn 2017.
‘For anybody wanting the definitive story of the All Blacks at war, this is the book that does it..A fascinating read.’ – Doris Mousedale (Arcadia Bookshop, Newmarket) on Newstalk ZB with Leighton Smith.
‘To dismiss this book as ‘just another rugby book’ would be doing it a serious disservice …for the serious collector it is a must.’ – Robin Hughes, Booksellers New Zealand.
‘ A no-nonsense war history with a difference.’ – Christopher Moore, NZ Listener.
‘War Blacks is a richly detailed account of the war experiences and playing careers of the 93, and will undoubtedly appeal to those with an interest in our war history and rugby fans alike. There are many lives here which have been “rescued” from the obscurity of the past by the author.’ – Alister Browne, Your Weekend Books of the Week (Waikato Times, Dominion Post, Christchurch Press).
‘He’s done a lot of research…extremely interesting…the real value of the book is in the social history.’ – Harry Broad, Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan.
Rugby and war have played major roles in the forging of a national New Zealand identity. War Blacks by Matt Elliott is the story of where both met, on the hot sands of Egypt and the muddy fields of Britain and France during World War I.
War Blacks sets out to record the contributions of All Blacks, both famous and forgotten, to the war effort of 1914–18. It presents for the first time the stories of more than 90 men who had been, were, or would be All Blacks and their wartime service, wearing the double silver fern of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force or the badges of other nations.
War Blacks also charts the effect of the Great War on our great game and the role our national sport played as recreation for servicemen. From there, Services rugby and war veterans were an integral part of the revival of the game and made up one of New Zealand’s greatest-ever football teams, the 1924–25 ‘Invincibles’.
‘The experiences of war were unspeakable for many who endured them, whereas the exploits of rugby players on the field have been told and retold for decades,’ says Matt. ‘I hope this book adds to the history of our national game and our consideration of the men who played and fought.’