New Zealand soldier’s diary offers glimpse of wartime New Forest

WWI

Published Tuesday 26 April 2016

Newly uncovered photos and a diary of an injured New Zealand soldier are giving a personal insight into the role of the New Forest in World War I.

The diary of Rifleman Octavius George Garlick of the 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade has come to light as part of research for the New Forest National Park Authority’s New Forest Remembers WWI project.

It includes his personal account of convalescing at the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital in Brockenhurst, having journeyed from New Zealand by troopship to Egypt, then on to France and Belgium.

Hospitals, industry, camps and training areas took over the Forest during the Great War of 1914 to 1918 and had a significant impact on local residents.

Details of the role the Forest played in the Great War can be discovered in the last few days of the New Forest Remembers WWI exhibition at the New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, which closes on 1 May. After this the exhibition panels will be on display at Lymington Town Hall until 6 June before touring other New Forest venues for the rest of the year.

Rifleman Garlick’s time in the Forest began when he was transferred to Brockenhurst on 12 June 1917 by boat and train after being wounded whilst in action at Messines, Belgium. He was part of the initial assault at 3.10am on 7 June when ‘mines went off at the same time we hopped the parapet’, and was eventually wounded between the railway line and Oxonion Trench while still in Messines.

Once he arrived in the New Forest, Garlick’s photos show a relaxed pace of life for him and other injured New Zealand troops. This included regular visits to woodland near Sway organised by a local woman called Mrs Sladen, tea parties at her house and a trip from Balmer Lawn, Brockenhurst, by horse and cart.

WWI

The photos also show servicemen relaxing in hammocks in the Kia Ora Club (above), which was the hospital social club located on Brookley Road, Brockenhurst. Garlick is shown with his arm in a sling, with other photos showing him at the basket making school at the hospital as part of his rehabilitation.

WWI project officer Gareth Owen said: ‘The online documents and photographs held by the New Zealand National Army Museum give a real insight into the care and treatment given to the New Zealand troops at the hospital at Brockenhurst.

‘Rifleman Garlick’s photos and diary are one of the few accounts directly linking the New Forest to the theatre of war in Europe and we are very thankful to the museum for allowing us to add this information to our online interactive archive.’

Explore more of Rifleman Octavius Garlick’s photos and memories, as well as other wartime stories from the New Forest, on the growing online interactive archive www.newforestheritage.org.

For more details on the travelling exhibition, supported by ExxonMobil, and how you can request a visit to your venue visit www.newforestheritage.org/wwi-traveling-exhibition.

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Notes to Photo Editors:

Convalescent soldiers out for a drive by horse and cart near Brockenhurst. Rifleman Garlick is seated beside the driver wearing a white sling. The lady is Mrs Sladen but the rest of the soldiers are unidentified.

Credit to National Army Museum of New Zealand.

Notes to Editors:

The groups which contributed to the WWI exhibition are:

  • Brockenhurst a WWI Hospital Village
  • East Boldre Village Hall Society
  • Fordingbridge First World War Centenary Committee
  • Maritime Archaeology Trust
  • Redlynch and District Local History Society
  • Emery Down Lychgate Project
  • Waterside Heritage Group
  • Sally Arnold, Ashurst and Colbury Historian

The exhibition and associated project are supported by ExxonMobil.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

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