Ian Trafford can be found thinking in the vege patch, writing on the couch, un-ergonomically, or at the beaches and in the bush of his local Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand – taking time out, working with his camera or guiding hiking tourists.
During his childhood on a farm near Te Karaka, west of Gisborne, his father came home one day with his grandfather’s secret First World War diaries. Ian soon knew that someday the real, raw story of our Kiwi boys in this un-great war, and afterwards, needed to be told.
The time to write came decades later, once other work was done: teaching, guiding river rafters and sea kayakers, writing school reading books and a guidebook, full-time photography, and in times of desperation, pulling apples from the trees of orchardists or stuffing hops into a shredder.
The story from the diaries was written on the couch, with lots of emotion, as if his old grandad, Alick, was sitting there as well.
The resulting book, Into the Unknown: the Secret WWI Diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford No. 25/469, was released in August 2020. Here is the blurb from Penguin Random House NZ:
World War I (and its aftermath) in the words of a young soldier fresh off a remote New Zealand farm, written with immediacy, emotion and clarity.
A personal account of WWI from the diaries of a Gisborne farm boy, shaped into a gripping narrative by the diarist’s grandson 100 years later.
Follow Alick as he moves from his last night on the farm in early 1916, through enshipment and training, then off to the battle fields of France and Belgium, occupied Germany and back home. His treasured diaries covered the tedium, the mud, the fear and sorrow, the discomfort, the periods of leave and the letters from those back home. See the war unfold through Alick’s eyes and learn about his and his companions' attitudes to the army, to female company, to the enemy soldiers, to the hospitality provided by people under pressure, to the war itself.
And after the drama and tragedy of war, comes the return home and the efforts required to make a living while remaining steadfastly silent about the traumas of those terrible years – an unseen fight that continued and affected generations to come.
The book can be ordered from:
Listen here to Ian's interview on Fresh FM radio
in October 2020