Author(s): Tony Simpson
Rumours persistently surface that the last New Zealand soldier killed in action in Europe in World War Two owes this unenviable distinction to a skirmish with Yugoslav partisans in the northern Italian city of Trieste in May 1945. Only days previously these partisans had been our admired allies, responsible for fighting more than twenty German and their allied divisions to a standstill and eventually chasing them pell mell out of Yugoslavia. Now our army was face to face with them in a stand off which heralded the beginning of the Cold War. How could such a strange and tragic event have come to pass? The answer lies in this book, an intriguing tale of a journey to find the answer which begins in the Public Record Office in London in 1978, winds several times in and out of the city of Trieste, and ends at the trial of Slobodan Milosovic at the Hague in 2002. This book is an account of that journey of exploration, which led Tony Simpson to traverse some of Europe's strangest historical terrain and in which the city of Trieste itself came to play a major part. Among a rich cast of characters are to be found the novelist James Joyce, General Bernard Freyberg commanding the 2NZEF, Yugoslavian president Josip Tito, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated by Serb nationalists at Sarajevo in 1914, and Pope Pius XII, who has been described by one leading historian as 'Hitler's Pope'. Together with a remarkable chorus of contemporary participants, both New Zealand and Triestine, they add up to a rather different perspective on the events of and background to the meaning of the events which took place in Trieste in May and June 1945.
Tony Simpson has been one of New Zealand's leading popular social and political historians since the 1974 publication of his prizewinning The Sugarbag Years, an oral history of the thirties Depression. Among his fourteen other published works are Te Riri Pakeha, an account of how Maori were long betrayed by the Treaty of Waitangi, and A Distant Feast, a social history of food in nineteenth century New Zealand. He is a past president of the New Zealand Society of Authors and has been awarded the MNZM for services to New Zealand historical research.