The tale of the Anzac Tortoise

The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise is a children's book based on the true story of a nurse who was given a tortoise during World War One.

When NZ Defence Force artist Matt Gauldie approached Shona in 2014 about creating a children's book about World War One, they decided to include her family story along with two fictional children, Matthew and Marama, who travel back 100 years to witness the tale of the Anzacs and nurses first-hand – and to play a part themselves.

The Tale of the Anzac Tortoise is a captivating children's book for kids age 5–8. It's a tale of soldiers, nurses, war, sacrifice, and kindness.

The book was published in April 2015 to mark the centenary of the Anzac Cove landings.

Buy now from EK Books

THE NURSE AND THE soldier

New Zealand WW1 nurse Nora Hughes (photo courtesy of The Kate Booth Collection)

New Zealand WW1 nurse Nora Hughes (photo courtesy of The Kate Booth Collection)

Author Shona Riddell's great-great aunt, Nora Hughes, was stationed as a nurse in Cairo, Egypt, and received a tortoise from a wounded Anzac soldier who had found the tortoise in the Gallipoli trenches and put him in his pocket for safe-keeping.

In a move that would give Customs a heart attack today, Nora brought the tortoise back to live in New Zealand after the war. 

Visit the Auckland Museum website to learn more about Nora and the other nurses in World War One.

 

 

 

 

My father, Oliver Riddell, age three in 1944 with Peter the tortoise. When this photo was taken Peter had already been in the Hughes/Riddell family for 30 years, and would live for another 50 years. 

My father, Oliver Riddell, age three in 1944 with Peter the tortoise. When this photo was taken Peter had already been in the Hughes/Riddell family for 30 years, and would live for another 50 years. 

the tortoise

The tortoise, named Peter, was a family pet who finally passed away in 1994 after 80 years spent with four generations of my family. He was also a local celebrity, and featured occasionally in the papers as an Anzac veteran. (Read the article written for the Christchurch Press by journalist (and my father!) Oliver Riddell in 1965: 'Our Anzac is a Tortoise'.)

Peter was a Greek tortoise, a species commonly found in Turkey, where he was picked up by the soldier. It is a small species, 7-10cm long, and he would have easily fit in a coat pocket. He liked to eat dandelions and would hibernate every winter.