We will remember them

April 25, 2012

The Maheno war memorial  records the names of 42 men who died in WWI, a plaque at the entrance to the reserve records the names of those who died in WWII.

Each Anzac Day people gather at this and other similar memorials around the country to remember.

At this morning’s service about 40 people from young children to the elderly came.

One young woman paid tribute to her grandfather, a returned service man who was there.

I’d been asked to give the address. I said:

On Anzac Day we remember and revere heroes and  acts of extraordinary bravery.

Today we also remember and pay tribute to the ordinary people who answered the call, who served and sacrificed, overseas and at home.

One of those was a young Scot who came to New Zealand to work in the Haka Valley during the depression.

He joined the Otago Mounted Rifles as a territorial. When war broke out the following year he enlisted with the 20th Battalion and served with them in Egypt and Italy. 

He was badly burnt when a tank exploded and spent a fortnight in a saline bath. He was also taken prisoner but managed to escape and find his way back to allied troops. He was one of the soldiers described by Battalion commander Jim Burrows as those magnificent men after the break out from Minquar Qaim.

He didn’t talk much about what the war was like – but a photo illustrates it: It shows him with four others from a company of 120 who started the battle of Ruweisat Ridge. These five were the only ones left for the survivor’s parade at the battle’s end.

When his active service finished after the Battle of Casino, he stayed with the New Zealand army and was posted to London as a driver.

While he was away, she was serving at home.

When war broke out she began working a night a week at casualty and also attended first aid classes.

In 1943 she was called up by the army and posted to Trentham.

The new recruits were met by a sergeant at the Wellington ferry terminal who issued their uniforms: men’s greatcoats, battle dress, rain coats and boots. They then continued by train to Trentham where they found their new homes were unlined huts some distance from the ablutions. It wasn’t unusual to wake on winter mornings to find flowers frozen in the vases.

Her duties at the camp hospital included polishing. Everything had to be ready for inspection by the matron and colonel in charge.

The volunteer aides were called on for injection parade and after receiving their own jabs were expected to look after the men receiving theirs.

These two people were my parents. When the war ended Dad returned to New Zealand to take up a rehab apprenticeship as a carpenter and Mum trained as a nurse.

Their service to their country and community continued throughout their lives through the church, a variety of voluntary organisations and in many informal ways, typical of their generation.

It is easy when headlines are so full of the ills of the world to think that younger people don’t have the same selflessness.

But last night the RSA gave the award of Anzac of the Year to the Student Volunteer Army, reminding us that the youth of today can and do put others before self.

These young men and women are of similar ages to the people we remember today. The ones who gave so much in war that we might live in peace.

We haven’t been called to serve as our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were, but we owe it to them and the future for which they fought to do what we can to make the world a better place in big ways or small.

We can’t all be heroes but we can all serve.


On Anzac Day I remember

April 25, 2010

On Anzac Day I remember my grandfather who was one of the men who sailed to Egypt with the New Zealand Army during World War I. There, one of his tasks was caring for the horses.

On Anzac Day I remember my uncle who served in the Royal Navy during World War II.

On Anzac Day I remember my father who served with the NZ Army’s 20th Battalion. He was burned in a tank and survived, was taken prisoner and escaped and was one of only 5 of a company of 120 men who survived the Battle of Ruweisat Ridge.

On Anzac Day I remember my father in law who also served in the 20th Battalion.

On Anzac Day I remember my mother who served as a nurse aid in the New Zealand Army during World War II.

On Anzac Day I remember and I am grateful.


His story

April 25, 2009

My father came to New Zealand, from his home country, Scotland, in the late 1930s. He worked for relatives on a station in the Hakatarmea Valley.

 

While there he joined the Otago Mounted Rifles as a territorial. When war broke out Dad enlisted with the 20th Battalion and went overseas to fight in Egypt and Italy.

 

He was badly burnt when a tank exploded and spent a fortnight in a saline bath. He was later taken prisoner but managed to escape and find his way back to allied troops. Dad was one of the soldiers described by Battalion commander Jim Burrows as those magnificent men after the break out from Minqar Qaim.

 

He didn’t talk much about what the war was like – but we do have a photo of Dad and four others which illustrates it: They were part of the company of 120 who started the battle of Ruweisat Ridge, and those five in the photo were the only ones left on survivors’ parade at the battle’s end.

 

When his active service finished after the Battle of Casino, Dad stayed with the New Zealand army and was posted to London as a driver. One night he was called to take Lord and Lady Freyberg to the Dorchester Hotel. The only vehicle available was a three tonne truck so he put a chair in the back for the General and Lady Freyburg sat in the cab.  When he pulled up outside the Dorchester, beside Eisenhower’s car, the doorman rushed up to direct him to the tradesman’s entrance. However, Dad ignored his agitated “round the back Chum”, helped his passengers out and drove off leaving the doorman speechless.

 

After the war Dad sailed back to New Zealand. He was manpowered to the freezing works at Pukeuri where he worked 18 hour days, six days a week. Then he got an adult apprenticeship as a carpenter in Oamaru.

 

Dad died in 1999 and as I wrote on the earlier post about my mother’s memories, I have lots of questions I regret not asking him.


A Scottish Soldier

April 23, 2009

Adam Smith has a series of musical and poetic posts for Anzac Day at Inquiring Mind including:

Kipling’s Tommy, Kipling’s Recessional , Siegfried Sassoon’s poem The Troops and They were only playing leapfrog

The Scottish Soldier about whom Andy Stewart sings fought in an earlier war.

I post it in memory of my father who was a Scottish soldier in the New Zealand Army’s 20th Battalion during World War II.


Atrocities from all sides

January 13, 2009

Construction workers in Poland have uncovered a mass grave  believed to be of 1800 German civilians who disappeared during the Soviet Army’s march to Berlin.

That reminded me of a story my father told. He served in the 20th battalion in Egypt and was part of a group who took some German POWs. They were handed over to Polish troops and never seen again.


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