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Denis Mclean
Photo Credit: © Denis McLean

Denis Mclean

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The late Denis McLean wrote the acclaimed biography of the iconic New Zealand citizen-soldier, foremost soldier-scholar and sometime leader of the 2nd New Zealand Division in World War Two, Howard Kippenberger: Dauntless Spirit.

McLean had a distinguished career in the public service: Department of External Affairs/Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 21 years; posted to Washington, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, London (Deputy High Commissioner, 1972–77); Secretary of Defence, Wellington, 1979–88; New Zealand Ambassador Washington, 1991–94. He was also a writer and military historian, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and wrote three books: The Long Pathway — Te Araroa (on walking the North Island), The Prickly Pair (on Australia–New Zealand relations), and Howard Kippenberger: Dauntless Spirit. He was a member of the Institute of International Relations and served on the Press Council.

McLean was perfectly placed to write about Howard Kippenberger, a leader of men, whose democratic style of leadership reflected the ethos of a new nation — active, competent and engaged in the world in its own right, no longer a dependency of Britain; a man known for a very real and deep rapport with his soldiers and concern for their welfare; he ‘made men realise that here was one who thought more of them than of himself’.

In Review, the publication of New Zealand’s RSA, Colonel (Retd) Ray Seymour called Dauntless Spirit ‘a great read that just flows’. He wrote: ‘It is the work of a meticulous researcher and a gifted writer[:] . . . an exciting biography on . . . an “outstanding New Zealand leader”.It’s also a book about the coming of age of this nation and the role that Kip played in that process, and it’s about the nation-building of New Zealand.’