Home Sweet Home Glory Be
In March 1918 George Grenfell arrived to serve in France. Before the war George worked as a cabinet maker. He had sailed from New Zealand in November 1917. He was 32 years old and had been balloted to serve in June 1917.
His diary entries start on Saturday March 23rd. “Arrived Boulogne, train to Etaples.” In his diary George records his daily life in the trenches. The entries are short and to the point. Aside from his daily activities George has noted some proverbs, jokes and who he has written to at home. The diary also includes maps, helpful definitions, types of military flag, first aid, Morse code, abbreviations, tips on knots and so on.
Sun 19th May. Through front line and a good look into no man’s land through glasses. Did not see any Huns. Had a few shots at Fritz planes.
Fritz was a popular slang name for the German forces. I find the language used in World War One letters and diaries really interesting. It can take a while to understand all the lingo and really make sense of what people were writing about. Trying to make sense of how Kiwi’s spelt French place names is another challenge.
In August George writes:
Tues 20th Aug. Battle eve. Big things doing tomorrow.
Wed 21st Aug. Waiting to shift forward. Big bombardment at dawn. Tanks and cavalry going forward.
Thurs 22nd Aug. Prisoners coming in.
Fri 23rd Aug. Over no man’s land. Passed through Bucqouy.
Sat 24th Aug. Stretcher bearer. My first stint.
Sun 25th Aug. Left front line. Jerry strafing all day.
Jerry was another slang term for the Germans.
Mon 26th Aug. Bob Harris killed. Aeroplane firing on us.
Thurs 29th Aug Passed through Gravillers. Camped opposite Bufuivillers.
Fri 30th Aug. Dr. Sincock wounded. Day of battle and all its horrors. Baupame. Helping Padre and stretcher bearers.
The war was nearly over. On Armistice Day George wrote:
Mon 11th Nov. Return Solesmes. Heard that Germany accepts terms at 11.a.m. Marched from Solesmes to Fontain. Pleased terms accepted 11 a.m. Band played the Marseillaise .
After the Armistice many New Zealand soldiers had to wait months before returning home. George continued to record his experiences.
Fri 20th Dec. Eupen, Germany. Crossed frontier. Billeted in German house. 3 Huns treated us all right.
He writes of visiting Kew Gardens, Westminster Abbey, Pascall’s Lolly Factory, Giant’s Causeway, London Zoo and other places of interest. George’s last diary entry is from 28 July 1919 when he arrived back in New Zealand:
Home sweet home Glory be.
This blog is part of the From Little Towns in a Far Land series. Chloe Searle, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the North Otago Museum, shares some of the personal stories behind the Waitaki District's contributions to the First World War.