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Sound: a veteran remembers Le Quesnoy

Audio file

Along with other surviving veterans of the Western Front, Curly Blyth was made a chevalier de la Légion d'honneur by France in 1998, and a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit three years later 'for services to war veterans and the community'. Just before his death on 10 October 2001, at the age of 105, Lieutenant-Colonel Blyth was one of the last two remaining veterans of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. This interview was given in 1988, the 60th anniversary of the battle. 


Curly Blyth : Now, I was telling you about Le Quesnoy. It is special, so special because we liberated these people who had been incarnated with [by?] the Germans since the outbreak of the war on August the fourth, 1914. They'd been behind the walls there for four and a half years. And when we captured the town and handed it back to France, the people were naturally very pleased, and they called us liberators. And from that day on we have established quite good relationships with that township and the people.

Unfortunately, most of the people who prompted it – I'm the last, most of them have passed on. And I'm going back now to try and rekindle the flame and with an endeavour to interest the school children of Le Quesnoy in New Zealand and vice versa – to interest some of the school children of New Zealand with the town of Le Quesnoy.

Now tell me, most of the battles in that war were sort of preceded by an enormous artillery bombardment. Were there special instructions given not to bombard this historic town?

Yes, yes, the instructions were there were to be no bombardment, that the town was to be taken with the minimum amount of artillery fire.

Did that mean then that it was sort of hand-to-hand fighting like in the old days, going up the ladders over the wall sort of thing?

Well, there was a certain amount of that. We had these ladders which we got from the French fire brigade in Paris. They were long, 20 to 30 feet long. Difficult to – they swayed a lot when you started to climbed up them. The entry was made not only from the top by the ladders but the sally-port – the sally-port is an opening in the bottom of a trench where you can get out into the no man's land and places like that – so that the assault came from the top and the bottom. The most spectacular part of course was the top with Averill, Lieutenant Averill and his crew being the first and the rifle brigade to go up on top of the ramparts.


Geoff Robinson interview with Curly Blythe. Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero, Reference MR 911024. This sound file may not be reused without permission from Sound Archives/Nga Taonga Korero.

How to cite this page

Sound: a veteran remembers Le Quesnoy, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated