Author(s): Brendon Judd
This is the untold war story of the railwaymen who built and ran the desert railway in North Africa and the Middle East during World War II.
In 1940 as the Second World War developed, the New Zealand government called for volunteers from the country's railwaymen to go to North Africa to build and operate a railway system in the Western Desert. Some 1300 Kiwi railwaymen answered the call.
From the beginning they were unlikely military men. Although they were called 'sappers', they certainly weren't soldiers. They were also older than the usual young soldier - some had fought in the First World War, at least one at Gallipoli and several had sons serving as soldiers.
In the desert, railway lines became the prime means of transporting men, equipment and supplies, sometimes to within a few thousand metres of the line of battle. Running the trains was just as dangerous as fighting on the front line as the Germans were determined to disable this strategic operation. Their adventure culminated in the Battle of Alamein.
This is the untold story of railwaymen at war who made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in North Africa.