Monday, 28 May 2018

Review of Frank Twisleton’s Letters from The Front

Letters from the Front  F.M.Twisleton
Te Rau Design & Print 2009 ISBN 978-0-473-15581-0 109pp

Letters from the Front is sequel to Francis Twisleton's Boer War diary and is another quality reprint from New Zealand. The Fronts in question were in Gallipoli, France and Palestine during the 1914-1918 global conflict.

The writer is Yorkshire born and part of a family that emigrated to New Zealand in the late nineteenth century. The family members established farms in the Waimata Valley, Gisborne. Twisleton matched that frontier spirit by organising a 'Legion of Frontiersmen' who were to offer military service with British Imperial Forces.

The New Zealand horsemen sail to Europe where their marksmanship makes valued contribution within the savage conflict. It is the last major conflict in which horses play a part. Twisleton notes the excitement of his men as they encounter hydroplanes and submarines in a new kind of warfare. They encounter giant guns and tear gas which at least does damage to the rats that share their trenches.

Light railways play a key role in the military strategy. Without these the equipping of thousands of trips with rations and ammunition would have been impossible. The author describes how the tramways in the French conflict were laid as fast as the infantry advanced. Along these railways thousands were conveyed back to camp hospitals or to their graves.

Captain Twisleton's accounts were sent home to serve the Legion which has been guardian of the inspiring diary that came to an end in Palestine. His third and last posting made full use of cavalry with horsemen in arrays that stretched for miles. The author fell in conflict with the Turks at the Battle of Ayun Kara in November 1917.

The book captures something of the leadership gifts that served an imperial age. Twisleton's enthusiasm established his homestead at the furthest reach of the British Empire. In defence of the prestige of that Empire he offers himself and his network of frontiersmen many of whom were to perish with him in that cause. We may question today the cause and the barbarity of the conflict. The integrity of the author seems much less open to question.

John Twisleton, Horsted Keynes, West Sussex UK April 2010 

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