This story seems to fit with Chantal Perrin's DVD story - "They came from the uttermost ends of the Earth".Kiwi's war heroism comes to light
KAY BLUNDELL - The Dominion Post | Monday, 10 March 2008Link to story and photos http://stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4432801a6479.html
The heroic efforts of a New Zealander during World War I have come to light after a museum was opened to pay tribute to Kiwi tunnellers who toiled for France's freedom.
Eileen Tiller, 84, says her uncle William Frederick Hansen was selected in 1916 to be a member of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company to link a vast underground city of tunnels from French town Arras to beyond the German lines. About 20,000 soldiers poured through the tunnels, emerging to attack the surprised Germans from behind.Carriere Wellington museum was officially opened about 22 metres underground in Arras last month to commemorate the work of 450 New Zealanders who linked the huge chalk caves during some of the grimmest days of the war.
Mrs Tiller, of Paraparaumu, contacted The Dominion Post to say she had the diary of her uncle, who had worked on the tunnels.
Mr Hansen was one of many tunnellers recruited from New Zealand's gold and coalmining districts because of their digging prowess.
"Uncle Fred was a really clever chap, practical and very versatile in everything he did," Mrs Tiller said.
His versatility was illustrated by a diary entry made while he was manager of Tauranga Bay Quarry before he left for the war: "Putting a new foot on McLean's old wooden leg".
Once in Arras, he was put in charge of a dozen tunnellers and toiled long hours in freezing conditions, being given rest periods above ground living in the cellars of wrecked houses.
Arras is famous for its lace and tapestries and Mr Hansen posted pieces of silk to his sister in New Zealand, along with other souvenirs such as wood from wrecked aeroplanes.
When he contracted tuberculosis in 1917 and was sent to Oatlands Hospital in England to recuperate, he turned his Kiwi ingenuity to making temporary wooden legs for wounded soldiers, and doing embroidery.
Mrs Tiller says a story passed down the family maintains that Queen Mary visited the hospital and wanted to buy a black satin apron on which he had embroidered a basket of roses, but he said he had already told his mother he was making it for her.
The apron is now on display at Te Papa.
When he returned to New Zealand he embroidered many articles for his home when he married Mrs Tiller's aunt Elizabeth.
The untrained but talented woodworker also made a roll-top desk from shipwreck timbers and crafted four violins, one of which Mrs Tiller still owns.
She is full of praise for her uncle and the other New Zealanders who played a pivotal role in defeating the Germans in the Battle of Arras in April 1917.
"They were such an elite group of men who deserve to be remembered."
Entries from Fred Hansen's diary, rewritten by his sister Lena:
March 26, 1916: Putting a new foot on McLean's old wooden leg.
November 21: At Arras. Been reverted from sergeant to rank of sapper.
November 22: At Arras. Tunnelling etc.
November 25: In rest camp for three days, living in cellars of wrecked houses in Arras.
February 4, 1917: Front. France. At rest camp.
February 5: Still at same work, 8 hours on, 24 off. Very cold, freezing day and night.
March 26: Lena received parcel from Fred containing German bullet, glassware, pencil case and German badges.
May 1: In No 2 NZ General Hospital, Walton-on-Thames. In bed with bad cold and headaches.
June 5: At Oatlands Hospital, England. A working patient. Carpentering.
September 1: Still at Oatlands, started on sash and door work.
December 29: Left for sanatorium. Put to bed for three days to begin with, have to stay here for three months.