Sunday, November 11, 2007


Without any glorification of war or sentimentality about the date, here is another instalment of my grandfather’s WW1 diary from the trenches of France. While he’s not exactly Hemmingway, it is an accurate record of events from a kiwi digger.

"New Zealand 4th Reserves in England 28/7/16"*

These are the “boys” from New Zealand’s 4th Reserves the day before they left Sling Camp in Britain and shipped out to France. Though my grandfather is in it, he actually failed the medical later in the day and was held back for months before seeing any action. He wrote “I was greatly disappointed being kept back from all my mates”. Despite two attempts to send him back to NZ as being unfit for action, he finally crossed the channel in early January 1917.

Tuesday 6th February 1917

Parade then marched to trenches. Joined 4th Battalion A. Camp in support lines. Hutch and I put into same dug out with plenty of rats for mates.

May 4th

Went into trenches in front of Messines. First night we were raided next 3 nights were very heavily shelled. Lost number of men.

June 6th

Left camp at 9.30 and marched to trenches 5 miles opposite Messines. During march up were shelled with ‘Gas’ Shells. I am runner for Lieut Shaw. Arrived at ‘Otara”’(?) Trench about midnight at last near time to go over top. All the boys in good sprits.

June 7th

At 3.10 am ready for attack got signal and over the top and took Messines. Huge mines exploded by us. Tanks and all in action. No 4 platoon under Lieut Shaw had to go through Messines at night and get to an … 1,000 yards other side which we did capturing a number of prisoners. After we got to our position I had plenty of messages to take to Battalion headquarters etc

….. On June 13 moved up to trenches in night…and in evening went over top again and dug in beyond former support line. Stayed here for 48 hours and heavily shelled whole time, plenty of machine guns firing at us. At 10 pm I was carrying message to Capt. Emery(?) when I got hit by shrapnel. Managed to get back to Lieut Shaw and got foot bandaged up and Cook took me out to Hyde Park Corner dressing station, took over 2 hours to get there. Plenty of Gas shells. At dressing station had foot dressed then put in ambulance and sent to Australian Clearance Station. Had cup of coffee then sent to Steenwerck hospital where I was put into bed and had wash etc. June 15th had wash and breakfast 5 am then put on Red Cross train for Etaples. Arrived at Etaples 5 pm taken to Canadian hospital had foot dressed and tea and bed very tired but happy to be safe and sound. June 16th doctor told me that I would be going to Blighty. Weather very hot. June 18th at 1 am nurses woke me and gave me cup of tea and told me to get ready I was leaving for England. Taken to Red Cross train in ambulance lady gave us cigarettes. Had breakfast on train. Arrived at Calais about 10 o’clock. Went onboard hospital ship at noon and crossed channel. Arrived at Dover 3 pm. Then on R.C train finally arriving here about 9 pm. Had tea and washed and wound re-dressed. Met Arthur Foden and enquired about sending cable. Good food and Sisters.

* names appear to be in order L to R, from top left of photo

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Blogger Ann O'Dyne said...

anything about WW1 gives me the horrors.

any war.
Coming up on ABCTV is a show called Who Do You Think You Are? where celebrities agree to have their history traced - watch out for, and don't miss the edition with Robert lindsay. His GF was a merchant navy age 16 whose job was to row the ANZACS ashore at Gallipoli beach. The show goes there and we see the actual boat and many other very saddening stuff. It is truly excellent show.
Stephen Fry Sunday night - his family was hauled away by NAZIs and he weeps at the building in Lodz (or similar) where there is a plaque with the names.

5:49 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I watched the ep with Stephen Fry one time when i was somewhere with f*xtel - amazing. Well worth a watch, even if it is to see him weep.

WW1 was lambs to the slaughter. Awful.

7:31 pm  

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