“Into The Unknown”,

The Secret WWI Diary of Kiwi Alick Trafford No. 25/469

If this is war, then let there be no more.

If you are one who feels deep stirring emotion on Anzac Day, or wonder what it is all about – then this book is for you. Much more than just another war book, it will take you on the same honest and explicit journey that was endured by our stoic grandfathers (and grandmothers) at the Western Front, and the pain on their return. An ordinary Kiwi man, Alick is raw and intimate. He tells it like it is – no censorship. I hope it finds its way into every Kiwi Home.

“If you read only a handful of World War 1 diaries, make Into the Unknown one of them. Either  diarist East Coast farmer Alick Trafford had a gift for writing or perhaps his editor, grandson Ian Trafford, has done most to shape the diaries into a compelling, flowing narrative. In the end, both men can be thanked for producing a war diary which ranks among the best.” reviewed by Jim Sullivan, Otago Daily Times.

This read must rate in my top five percent of all time and I highly recommend it…..the closest Kiwi touch to The Great War that I’ve seen.” Reviewed by Steve Atkinson, Deals on Wheels.

LISTEN TO PODCAST – RADIO INTERVIEW http://www.topwriters.co.nz/uploads/4/0/1/4/40149171/top_writers_oct_10_20.mp3

READ EXCERPTS HERE AND BUY ONLINE. https://www.penguin.co.nz/books/into-the-unknown-9780143775126

“World War I (and its aftermath) in the words of a young soldier fresh off a remote New Zealand farm, written with immediacy, emotion and clarity.” -Penguin website.

Background Story: Way, way back, my father, Harvey, was bidden by his father, Alick, to find a hidden stash and burn it. It was his World War One diaries, and secretly, they were not destroyed. I have written my grandfather’s words into a fast-paced narrative, more like a novel than a diary. It seems as if I speak for him and all of our families who were affected by this un-great war. Thanks to Alick for writing the diaries, the generous people who contributed to my Givealittle page, Penguin Random House NZ and everyone who helped along the way.

“More and more dead men congest our sunken road. In the afternoon, at periods, I get the chaps to move some of the bodies or roll them and their deathly faces over towards the ground.”  – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Gisborne Photo News.
“He lies near the top of famous Hill 60, a little way from where he was killed. On one side of him is Sergeant Whitelock, 8/500, and on the other Private Jenkins, 40009, all killed together.” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Tairāwhiti Museum.
“The scene of wounded beasts and men floundering in the slop is an absolute havoc of hell.” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Tairāwhiti Museum.
“…..preparation is crucial to the upcoming New Zealand attack on the fortressed town of Le Quesnoy. This is not a good sector. We are out on a pivot front with enemy machine guns surrounding us on three sides.” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Tairāwhiti Museum.
“The army has more to worry about winning this war than men yearning for the comfort of women.” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Tairāwhiti Museum.

“…… the old problem of VD is rather epidemic. The battalion’s quota in the lockup joint is quite serious and I have to give the platoons a lecture on the subject. They listen and take it all right. Thanks to the unpopular agitating by a New Zealand woman, the army has prophylactics available and the naive men need some education.” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin.Photo source; Auckland Libraries.
Matawai, after the war.
“After four hours’ travel, a homeward-bound Trafford saddled up a horse, rode under looming Mount Misery, forded or swam the Motu River, then negotiated the treacherous bridle trail and bluffs over Trafford’s Hill to home” – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19120725-13-5
After the war.
“Alick’s friends remembered ‘Traff’ as a ‘tough bastard’, but a man too sensitive for war. A new theatre was now set for a further series of strung-out battles — the long war getting to grips with financial hardship, and the unseen forces of suppressed memories and re-emerging emotions.”  – © Into The Unknown, Ian Trafford, Penguin. Photo source; Peggy McConnell.

News and Reviews

Videography by Judith Mittermeier. Editing by Ross Trafford – embedded here from his youtube channel.


Click on the article to go to the free Pressreader version. Below is the pay per view link.


Bob Davies, Army News, Sept 2020.


Mat Tait, Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54809879-into-the-unknown – “I’ll say up front that the author of this book is a friend of mine, so take the following however you like. Having said that, I have no issue thoroughly recommending Into The Unknown. It’s a vivid, visceral, frank account of an intelligent and thoughtful young man’s experiences in and out of the trenches of WW1.

What’s presented here are excerpts from the diaries Alick Trafford wrote while trying to stay alive in the midst of an unimaginably grim situation, and they have the shocking immediacy of day to day dispatches desperately striving to find sense (often very eloquently) in singularly horrific events right as they occurred.

It’s clear that the act of writing these diaries (in secret as soldiers were forbidden to keep personal accounts on the front lines) was crucial to Alick’s mental and spiritual well-being; both a link however tenuous to the ordered, peacetime world he’d left behind in New Zealand, and a kind of valiant mapping of the bottomless absurdity, tragedy and chaos he now found himself struggling to survive in.

But there’s light as well as shade here, and his entertaining, good-humoured and sometimes equally frank accounts of his adventures on leave in England, show a man who despite the unrelenting grind of the front, and periodic episodes of depression, was determined to snatch any happiness on offer.

The final chapters of Into The Unknown are probably, for me, the most affecting. In them Ian Trafford, Alick’s grandson, picks up where the diaries leave off, piecing together family stories and his own memories of his Grandfather to give us a picture of the man who came back from the war, and in doing so provides a powerful context to the book as a whole. Just as Alick wrote to try and make sense of his traumatic experiences, so Ian it seems writes to try to understand Alick: damaged by the war, he was a man who was sometimes unpredictable and difficult, and difficult to know, but who left in his diaries indelible traces of himself. The book becomes not only an invaluable ground-level record of enormous historical events, but an attempt to reach out towards a beloved and complicated family figure, who loomed large and is now gone. All of this is of course deeply personal to the writer and the Trafford family, but there’s a sense in which Ian is also writing for all those who had or have loved family members who returned from war changed, and inevitably silent. It’s a very generous thing to have done.

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson, https://www.dealsonwheels.co.nz/trucks/features/2008/book-reviews-august-2020

There are a huge amount of WWI books out there and it seems every single aspect has been covered by writers and historians over the last 100-plus years, but this latest offering puts what I reckon is the closest Kiwi touch to The Great War that I’ve seen.

The diaries were kept by the author’s grandfather and he details his experiences in the trenches, while convalescing from injury in the UK and pretty much everything else in between.

The first-person account is raw, at times funny, frequently sad, and occasionally horrific, especially when told of the places some would inject condensed milk to get off returning to action.

As readers, we’re lucky to get this clear New Zealand observation of WWI, as the original writer gave his son instructions to burn the diaries. Fortunately for us, this did not happen, and thanks to his grandson, we have an excellent historical account. This read must rate in my top five percent of all time and I highly recommend it.

One of the first to order – Reremai, my old classmate from Waikohu College

Like ‘Our Alick’s’ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Into-The-Unknown-written-by-Ian-Trafford-107938170874887/

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