The Kiwis’ Last Action – Liberating Le Quesnoy
On 4 November 1918 the New Zealand Rifle Brigade was camped outside the walled medieval French town of Le Quesnoy, which was occupied by the Germans and had been for several years. The town had a moat and very high walls which were hundreds of years old. New Zealand artillery couldn’t be used to bomb the Germans into submission, because about 5,000 French civilians were still living in the occupied town.
The Germans refused to surrender and a party from the 4th Battalion was detailed to try and work out how to scale the 13-metre-high inner brick wall.
Intelligence Officer, Second Lieutenant Leslie Averill – a medical student from Christchurch – used a long, fairly rickety ladder and led a small party of men up the wall. He courageously chased off two German guards with his revolver, which allowed more New Zealanders to then follow him and take the town – without a single civilian casualty.
In 1958, Leslie Averill recorded a talk for radio, describing how he got into the town. (Notice that in this excerpt, in a classic piece of Kiwi understatement, he manages to completely avoid saying that he was the first man up the wall.)
Māori and Pākehā on the Western Front
George Puhi Nicholas served in World War I with the Māori Pioneer Battalion in northern France and Bob Robertson, a Pākehā, with the 6th Hauraki Regiment. In a joint radio interview recorded in 1985 they compare notes on their memories of the trenches, the bad food, the lice and the mates they lost.