A Kiwi woman goes to WWI


Did any New Zealand women serve in WWI? There were nurses, of course, but his­to­ri­ans would be hard-pressed to find any fe­males up near the front lines.

Then Massey war his­to­rian Pro­fes­sor Glyn Harper stum­bled upon Gla­dys San­ford.

‘‘In 2011, I was re­search­ing some­thing else in the New South Wales State Li­brary,’’ Glyn told a gath­er­ing of pupils at Col­lege Street Nor­mal School, ‘‘and her name came up in con­nec­tion with the New Zealand Ex­pe­di­tionary Force.

‘‘This woman was an am­bu­lance driver, flew a plane, could fix cars and drove across Aus­tralia. I thought ‘I’ve got to tell her story!’’’

Gla­dys Goes To War is the out­come.

The new chil­dren’s book, il­lus­trated by Jenny Cooper, is be­ing launched at the school next Wed­nes­day 13 at 1.30pm dur­ing the school’s An­zac assem­bly, held be­fore the end of term.

When her hus­band went off to fight, Gla­dys was de­ter­mined to be near him, and against all odds, man­aged to serve as an am­bu­lance driver on the West­ern Front. Sadly her hus­band died. On re­turn­ing to New Zealand, Gla­dys then be­came the first Kiwi woman to gain a pi­lot’s li­cence, and had other ad­ven­tures.

In re­sponse to ques­tions from his young au­di­ence, Glyn says 100 years ago, war was seen as a natu- ral out­come of the way things were – a great ad­ven­ture with a quickly sorted out­come.

‘‘Ger­many’s Kaiser Wil­helm said ‘You’ll be home be­fore the leaves change colour’.’’

No one had reck­oned on the huge scale of the con­flict.

‘‘It went on be­cause weapons had changed. It was the first in­dus­tri­alised war.’’

He de­scribed the hor­rific con­di­tions in the trenches, shelling and ma­chine guns, and the abysmal diet that led to sol­diers get- ting scurvy.

Gla­dys fol­lows Roly, The An­zac Don­key, Le Ques­noy and in 2015, Jim’s Letters based on WWI cor­re­spon­dence be­tween two brothers. This won Glyn and Jenny Best Pic­ture Book for Chil­dren and Young Adults at the New Zealand Book Awards, and a Sto­ry­lines No­table Pic­ture Book Award.

Af­ter the school’s An­zac ser­vice next Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, books will be avail­able for sale and sign­ing by the au­thor.


Col­lege Street Nor­mal School chil­dren Isaac Gre­gory, Patrick Holmes, Kate Coutts, and Eilidh MacKay take turns to read ex­cerpts from Gla­dys goes To War to its au­thor, Pro­fes­sor Glyn Harper

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