Into The Unknown: The secret WW1 diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford
By Ian Trafford, Penguin rrp $38
Firstly, it must be said that non-fiction is not my forte and secondly, I have noticed there seems to be a resurgence of books based on war stories at the moment. It took me a few sessions to really embed myself into this book, but then the story gripped me tightly until the end. Ian Trafford has used his grandfather’s detailed and highly sensitive WW1 diaries and deftly created a gripping first person account of the horrors of war in France and Belgium, interspersed with much-needed family time in England and Scotland. Alick Trafford left his home on the family farm in Matawai in 1916 to join the NZ Army. He trains briefly at Trentham and then sails for Europe, with a stop in Egypt. He fights in campaigns in Passchendaele, Ypres and Messines among others, and it is the stuff of nightmares. When he is injured he is sent to England where he finds extended family, and these visits are a relief from the insanity of trenches, mud and incessant bombing. Alick is sent back to fight and manages to rise in the army ranks through hard work and diligence. At times he’s quite disillusioned with the British Army, but his bravery, given the conditions and the loss of many of his friends, is phenomenal. The book finishes with Alick’s life back home post-war and that, too, is a difficult time for him. All in all, a fascinating story. Highly recommended.