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