Freda, 5 Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Freda, the Harlequin Great Dane mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, was stationed with the Brigade at Cannock Chase, near Brocton in England. The 5 (Reserve) Battalion had been at Brocton since September 1917, and Freda was probably acquired there.
Another story is that Freda was picked up and adopted as the brigade mascot in France, accompanying the unit back to Cannock Chase in 1918. According to a local historian, Freda had provided warmth and companionship to New Zealand soldiers amidst the death and destruction of the Western Front battlefields.
While this story may not be true, the men in camp faced an equally dangerous enemy when the global influenza pandemic arrived in October 1918. The Cannock Chase War Cemetery is now the resting place for about 50 members of the brigade who 'died of disease' between late October and late November 1918. Freda also died about this time and was buried at Cannock Chase. Members of the brigade erected a headstone in her memory.
For the next 20 years, townspeople of nearby Brereton kept Freda's grave tidy, laying crosses and flowers each year. After it was vandalised, the Friends of Cannock Chase laid a new marble headstone in her honour in 1964. The headstone was renewed again in 2001, and the grave remains a feature of historical tours. In 2010 Freda inspired the community's Armistice Day activities. Working dogs and their owners were invited to a special service at her grave to celebrate the loyalty and service of such dogs.
Freda's collar was returned to New Zealand and is held at the National Army Museum at Waiōuru.