Sunday 17th (November 1918)

Church Parade in a protestant church, very little damage, in which our raucous voices reverberated powerfully.  “For those at Sea” was pitched too high on the wheezy harmonium, but we overcame that by ringing the changes from base to tenor and tenor to basso, producing withal a turbulent and not un-oceanic effect.

Nemesis has found me out and I must stump up 24/8d. – railway fare Torquay to London.

16th November (1918)

Freezing day; the frost remaining on the ground throughout.  They keep us going from dawn to dark.  Apparently the only thing of real importance after beating the Bosche is to clean the harnesses.

Wherever we spend the winter, its terrors will be minimised by the knowledge that it is our last on this side of the world.

nlnzimage 1-2 013782-G NZ Troops watering mules, Solesmes, Nov 1918

[Image: New Zealand Division Transport watering mules at Solesmes, France. Photograph taken ca late November 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/2-013782-G]

Friday 15th (November 1918)

Picquet last night under the freezing moon, but we had a bright little fire going behind a brick wall. From our billet one can look across the small North France manufacturing town, with its sharp preeminent Church tower rearing above the sea of tiled roofs, and with its curious mixture of the military of all nations, mingled with the recently repatriated citizens.

13th November (1918)

Whole morning at a colossal church-parade-thanksgiving-service, attended probably by the whole division, held in a large natural amphitheatre – the bishop, or whoever he was, standing up a small hillock in the centre.  Aeroplanes were whirring about overhead the whole time, we could hear absolutely nothing.  At noon our O.C. addressed us on the situation and somewhat cleared the air.  If he is right we go to Germany only until the armistice (36 days) is completed, when demobilization will commence.

After all, if it does not delay our return, it will be something to have crossed the Rhine before the actual signing of Peace.

The N.Z. infantry are kicking up an awful shindy about going to Germany.  I think what they object to is marching all that distance.

12th November (1918)

On trek again all day – fine, clear, cold weather – passed through many small towns and villages, finally pulling up where we were stationed the night before I went on leave (Quievy).  Billeted in a deserted farm house and have secured a fine spring mattresses.  Hear that the German Fleet is in revolt, that She is torn with internal troubles, and that the Kaiser, “Clown Prince”, and Hindenburg, have “done a bunk”.  It really seems that the end has come.

Johnny Johnson, the cheerful boy with the contagious laugh, was killed by a stray rifle bullet, a few days before my return.  Everywhere signs of repatriation of French civilians.  Passed a whole party of both sexes this morning – they were going, so they told me, “a l’église” – a very battered one no doubt to a thanks-giving service.

Monday, 11th November, 1918

At 11am. on this 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 (if we can believe official despatches) hostilities ceased in the greatest of wars ever waged upon this earth.  Most of us are still inclined to be sceptical.  We received this news whilst on trek.  We are already picturing ourselves back in N.Z. and preparing to live “happy ever afterwards”.

Though we were pulled out at 5am. and started about 8.30am., we have not  covered a great distance, owing to the congestion of the roads.  Amongst ourselves and those we have met, there has been little enthusiasm and no hilarity, only a slight access of cheerfulness – the thing takes time to soak in, just as it was difficult to realize the fact of the war when it commenced.

The day was gray and cold.  Have been in the saddle most of the day and did not get corralled into our usual barn till well after dark.  The first rum issue for many a day.  Our feet wet, our blankets damp, our bodies dirty, but our hopes are raised.

Sunday 10th (1918)

Perfect autumn day.  The village folk – bright, cheery and hospitable, like people let out of prison, cannot do enough for us.  Madame is a very sensible, bright woman, and is always doing us little kindnesses which we repay as best we can.

The air is full of rumours such as “abdication of the Kaiser”, refusal of the “clown Prince” to carry on, “Armistice – German fleet surrendered under the red flag”, “peace declared”, etc., etc.  At present we are reminded of war by the boom of land mines blowing up roads, etc. behind the retreating bosches. A huge bridge over the river was already destroyed when we got there.

nlnzimage 12-013666-G Aged town crier of Solemes relaying war news, 9 Nov 1918

[Image: The aged town crier of Solesmes in France reading war news to local people in a village captured by New Zealanders in World War I. Photograph taken 9 November 1918 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref. 1/2-013666-G]

nlnzimage 1-4 017543-F NZ troops marching through Le Quesnoy, 10 Nov 1918

[Image: New Zealand troops marching through the bombed town of Le Quesnoy, France, during Poincare’s visit. Taken by an unidentified photographer, 10 November 1918.  Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/4-017543-F

Note: the various batteries of the NZ Division’s artillery were not at Le Quesnoy itself, but were relatively nearby.  J.R. Bryne’s New Zealand Artillery in the Field, 1914-18 (1922, Auckland), p.295, records:

The New Zealand Artillery was in action for the last time on November 8th, when the 1st and 3rd Brigades carried out a little harassing fire. The enemy, now completely disorganised, was still retiring, and in the afternoon both these Brigades moved forward to the vicinity of Boussieres. The following day all batteries were relieved by the 42nd Divisional Artillery, and orders were issued for the three brigades and the Divisional Ammunition Column to march to Quievy, to rejoin the Division. This move was to be carried out on the 11th and 12th, the intervening night being spent in billets at Villereau.]