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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


MULGAN, Lieutenant-Colonel John Alan Edward, M.C.



Elder son of Alan Mulgan, well-known journalist and author, John Alan Edward Mulgan was born in Christchurch on 31 December 1911, a descendant on his father's side from Ulstermen of the Katikati Settlement, and on his mother's (Marguerita Pickmere) from earlier English settlers with a missionary connection. He was educated at Wellington College and Auckland Grammar School, where he became known as a good athlete and natural leader; and at Auckland University College, where he took an arts degree in 1933. He went on to Merton College, Oxford, where he read English with Edmund Blunden as his tutor and took a first class in the Schools in 1935. That year he joined the staff of the Clarendon Press in Oxford and was chiefly engaged in editorial work on English studies, though he also wrote articles for New Zealand papers on European affairs and attended one session of the League of Nations as observer for the New Zealand Government. In 1937 he married Gabrielle Wanklyn, and next year brought out his first independent publication, a verse anthology, Poems of Freedom. The novel Man Alone, in which a story bare as an Icelandic saga carries something of the author's radical sympathies and much of his concentrated feeling for his own country, was hastily completed and published in 1939: plates and stock were destroyed by German bombing in London and the book was not widely read in New Zealand until its reissue in 1949. Before the outbreak of war John Mulgan held a commission in a territorial battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; he therefore served throughout the war with British units, including the Royal West Kent Regiment in North Africa, and Force 133 in German-occupied Greece. At the time of his death in Cairo on 26 April 1945 he held the rank of lieutenant-colonel and was awarded the M.C. for his operations with the partisans in Thessaly and the Pindus mountains. Some of his finest writing – always deeply humane, generally terse and at times lapidary – is to be found in the posthumous Report on Experience, published with a memoir by Jack Bennett in 1947. This book, with other reflections on war and politics, contains a classical tribute to the men of the New Zealand Division. To contemporaries, John Mulgan seemed one of the most mature and clear-sighted members of his uneasy generation; these qualities, and the disciplined control of his writing, give lasting significance to the small body of literary work he was able to complete.

by James Munro Bertram, M.A.(N.Z., OXON.), Associate Professor of English, Victoria University of Wellington.

Dominion, 3 Apr 1945 (Obit).


James Munro Bertram, M.A.(N.Z., OXON.), Associate Professor of English, Victoria University of Wellington.