Pye Green, New Zealand Rifles' 5th (Reserve) Battalion and 'Freda'
New Zealand Rifles' 5th (Reserve) Battalion
Freda is not really a person but she is connected with our area and deserves to be remembered.
Freda was a Harlequin Great Dane dog that was adopted by the New Zealand Rifles’ 5th (Reserve) Battalion, as their mascot. It is not known for sure how Freda became their mascot. She could have been found wandering Pye Green, but one story is that the Regiment found her on the battlefield whilst they were fighting in France during the First World War. They took such a liking to her that they took her as their mascot. They took her from the battlefield and thgen bought her to Cannock Chase, when on the 27th September 1917 the reserve troops entrained for the permanent camp at “The Cannock Chase Reserve Centre”.
Their strength at that time was 1925. The Cannock Chase War Cemetery is now the resting place for about 50 members of the New Zealand Rifles who lost their lives through disease between October and November 1918.
Freda died on the 14th December 1918 whilst the New Zealand Rifles were training on the Cannock Chase. Members of the New Zealand Rifles buried her about half a mile off the Chase Road on Cannock Chase and they erected a memorial to her. Her collar and lead are kept by the New Zealand Rifles and it is still on show at the New Zealand National Army Museum in Waioru.
On the 10th of May, the 5th (Reserve) Battalion formally bade farewell to the people of Stafford and on the 14th June, the evacuation was complete. The last detachment left for Codford Camp and were then dispatched to New Zealand.
After they left The Cannock Chase Reserve Centre, Freda’s grave was looked after and cared for by local villagers from all around the Cannock Chase, laying crosses and flowers each year. Over time, Freda’s grave was vandalised. In 1964 a new memorial was erected to Freda and in 2001 the head stone was renewed with a marble memorial erected by the Friends of Cannock Chase which read “FREDA MASCOT NEW ZEALAND RIFLES 1918 FRIENDS OF CANNOCK CHASE”.
Freda's headstone Freda © New Zealand History online
Since Freda was buried, hundreds of dogs together with their owners have visited her resting place to pay their respects to her and all working dogs like her.
On Armistice Day Thursday 11th November 2010 at 14.00, Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Unit invited working dogs and their owners to a ceremony that took place at Freda’s grave and the service was attended by 30 people and their dogs.
In September 2013 Freda’s marble head stone was given a new home. Friends of Cannock Chase wanted New Zealand to have a greater share in Freda’s story, so they gave permission for the headstone to be given to the New Zealand National Army Museum. The County Council transferred the head stone to RAF Brize Norton, and from there, it was flown to its new home. The New Zealand National Army Museum is very pleased to have the headstone of their mascot.
If you want to visit Freda’s grave you will find it recorded on the Cannock Chase Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No. 244 marked as ‘Meml’ at Grid Reference No. SJ978188.
If you have any information on the New Zealand Rifles' 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Freda who the local villagers that looked after her grave, please send details to us.