Boots, Belts, Rifle & Pack is the story of William Malcolm’s service in the New Zealand Army during World War I, recounted through a compilation of the letters he wrote home to his family.
Through the letters, the reader learns what it was like for a young man from a North Otago farm to train at Trentham, travel to England and then serve on the battle fields of France. They are matter of fact, giving a lot of the small details of day to day ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances.
Among the correspondence is the letter to his mother written after he learned that his brother, George, had been killed.
. . . We were camped near an old sugar refienry or what was left of it. McKenzie had told me that George’s grave was about 500 yards north along a sunken road. On three different days I searched for nearly a mile along and in from the road but although I found many 4th Bttn chaps there I could not find him. I found Harry Cottingham within a couple of hundred yds of the factory. He was knocked out on the 6th. Poor old Harry. I had seen him about a week before. The Dinks had their usual luck. On Marching up, they found Fritz marching through the village so you can guess what it was like. They drove him back to a position which the Dinks and our chaps took a few days later. The trenches they took were in a fearful mess. Old Fritz shelled us a bit but not a great deal We spent 4 days there and shifted back further for the rest of the time. I scored 4 or 5 letter up there date 27th and 31st of Jan. One funny thin is that I had a letter from Dunrobbin dated 18 Feb. today I scored a tin of biscuits from Elsie. . .
Boots, Belts, Rifle & Pack, a New Zealand Soldier at War, edited and compiled by Dorothy McKenzie and Lindsay Malcolm, published by L.M Malcolm, 1992.