Stanley Herbert remembers Passchendaele

Stanley Frederick Herbert was born in Herbertville in the Tararua district in 1895. He was a farmer when he sailed to war with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He served in France and Belgium and was wounded at Messines.

Hear Stanley describe his experiences at Passchendaele at the time of the October 1917 offensive.


On lice

Everybody had lice - the civilians. We used to sleep in stables or the trenches. Everybody had body lice. And they didn’t affect me but a lot of people they did, and when we went for a bath on a night if we were sitting fire at night we’d get a poker and we’d get it quite hot and we’d run it down the seams and you’d hear them go click, click, click.

On daily life and food

You had no soap. We never washed. Our knife and fork and spoon you dug it into the earth and then wiped the dirt off it, just clean any grease that might be on it. Bully beef in tins, that’s what we were living on and you’d put the tea in the lid and the stew that was stewed up in the other part, and when you’d finished it you cleaned it as well as you could and put it on your belt and waited for the next meal. When we were in the front line we used to get a piece of bread and that was our food for the 24 hours while we were there. And then we had dixies, we used go back and get tea, of a sort. And of course you couldn’t drink any of the water without it was tested because everything was poisoned before we got there.

On rats

The rats – the first night I went into Passchendaele I forgot to put my food in the haversack, the small haversack I had and you put it under head – and the rats got it and the rats ran across my face.

These extracts of oral history have been edited to facilitate reading/listening.

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