By Sylvia Varnham O'Regan, 25 April 2013

While New Zealand soldier George Brunton lay wounded on a Belgian battlefield in 1917, he could only think of one thing: his virginity.

The 22-year-old Masterton-born lieutenant had never had sex, and could not believe he was going to die without getting the chance.

"Here I am in my young twenties, and I’d never slept with a woman. And I was going to die," he later recalled.

"Is that a strange thing to run through your mind?"

Before George died in 1998 aged 102, he told his story to authors Jane Tolerton and Nicholas Boyack.

"I said to my batman, 'Look, that’s the end of me'," he recalled.

The fellow soldier quickly pulled George to safety in a nearby trench and examined the bullet wound bleeding from his back.

Incredibly, it was good news.

"He cut my trousers and said to me, 'Sir, the bullet has missed your spine'," George recalled.

"It was as if someone had said to me, 'you can live again'."

George and his brother Roy as children. (Supplied)

Born in 1895, George’s military career had started early when, as a teenager, he represented New Zealand as a cadet in Canada and went on to compete and train in New Zealand and abroad.

In 1914, while working as a ledger clerk at Wellington general merchant firm W & G Turnbull, he heard about the outbreak of World War One but was warned by his father to wait until he was 21 to enlist.

The 19-year-old took heed of this advice, and it was another two years before he left for war an officer with the Third Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

It was on a particularly bloody day in October 1917, during the battle of Passchendaele, that George was struck by a bullet while running along the top of an old German trench in Belgium.

Six-hundred New Zealand soldiers were killed that day and George remembered seeing hundreds wounded and dying around him as the ever-present sound of shells loomed overhead.

"In a bank alongside me was a man and he turned green," he recalled.

"He'd had his leg shot off and he was turning green with gangrene and I saw him die."

"It was a terrible war."

"It was as if someone had said to me, 'you can live again'."

Wounded and in need of surgery, George was transported to a hospital in France where he began the lengthy process of recovery.

"The nurses used to come and turn me over to show some of them what a wonderful bruised back I had," he said.

"All colours of the rainbow from bruises – from my neck to my tail."

He was transported to a hospital in England where he waited for an operation, but it was not considered a priority given the number of casualties coming through the door each day.

When the day finally did arrive, George was weak.

He had not been on his feet for weeks and as he slowly paced to the operating table past rows of surgical knives and needles and threads, he collapsed.

Medical staff revived him with a "slug of brandy" before performing an operation to pack his wound and sew it shut.

The doctor who performed the surgery later told George, "I could have put my hand into the wound".

"That's the amount of flesh the bullet tore off you."

George (third from left) as a young man. (Supplied)

By December, when he was active again, George travelled to London to visit younger brother Roy who was in hospital "in a pretty bad way" after suffering an injury during battle.

While in London he ventured out for a haircut and met a young manicurist at the salon who offered to do his nails.

"She manicured my fingernails and she put a cushion on her knees and my hand on the cushion," he said.

"After having one hand done I said, 'would you like to come have dinner with me tonight?' And she said, 'I'd love to'."

The pair shared a dinner of soup, chicken and wine and after leaving the restaurant, George went back to the woman’s house.

"She had a double bed and I stayed the night," he said.

"That was my first intercourse with a woman."

While they never married, the pair corresponded and got to know each other over a period of time.

"We used to go to the pictures, theatres, and come back to her room, and that’s where we used to spend the night," George said.

"I used to pay for meals."

George went on to marry have one son. After his first wife Ella died in 1960 he married Lola Straub, the daughter of a man he had been a soldier with in the First World War.

George died in 1998 aged 102.

George and Ella (far left) with Ella's mother and sister. (Supplied)

Quotes from this story were taken from an audio recording of an interview with George Brunton conducted by Jane Tolerton and Nicholas Boyack in 1989. More from this interview can be found in An Awfully Big Adventure by Jane Tolerton (Penguin).

This article first appeared on Nine News Online.