Book review: Into the Unknown

The secret WWI diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford no 25/469 

In Boundaries2 Minutes

The secret WWI diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford no 25/469 

By Ian Trafford 

RRP $38 

This book is like stepping back in time to France, 1916. Made up of diary entries from the years 1916 to 1919, it was written by Alick Trafford from the Trafford farming dynasty of Gisborne.

The entries, and an afterword about Alick’s return home, were compiled by his grandson Ian Trafford.

Alick requested that his son Harvey burn the diaries after Alick’s death. However, the diaries never reached the fire.

Alick writes not only of the boredom, piss-poor decision making by English officers, horrible conditions and death in the trenches, but also of the farming practices he witnesses in France.

He openly admires the French peasants who “live on almost nothing” but get on with the harvest and other farm work while WWI rages on.

Alick also noted on May 1, 1916 that “all the country boys would rather be duck shooting. The New Zealand season opened today.”

He muses on which bright spark decided that horses, one of the most sensitive and highly strung farm animals, should be taken into an environment of mud, bombs and artillery fire. According to, only four war horses made it back to NZ out of the 10,000 equine which were shipped over to German Samoa, Gallipoli, Egypt and the Western Front.

If you are a descendant of someone who served in war time, whether it be Gallipoli, El Alamein, Malaysia, Vietnam or Afghanistan, this book gives insights into what soldiers go through when they enter the theatre of war. Alick was a writer of some note so we are fortunate that his son disobeyed orders.

  • Hamish Barwick