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ANZAC Tribute

Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

My Father served his Queen throughout the Boer War 1899 – 1902

A son remembers

By Kenneth Bliss

On their way from England to settle in New Zealand in 1875, my grandparents William and Maria Bliss broke their journey at Hobart, Tasmania, where my father Albert Edward Bliss was born. He was named after the husband of Queen Victoria. The family, which later grew to two sons and three daughters, later settled in Woodville, New Zealand, where grandfather was the original town cobbler. My dad left primary school early and matured early as an outstanding sportsman, deer hunter and horseman. Woodville proved too constricting for his restless nature, so he moved to Palmerston North to learn the drapery trade. However, once again his adventurous spirit prompted him to move to Sydney in the mid 1890s and further his knowledge in the big wide world. For most of the 19th century, Southern Africa had been regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics and African chiefdoms – a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But in 1871 everything changed. Prospectors exploring a remote stretch of sun-scorched scrubland chanced upon the world’s largest deposits of diamonds at Kimberley. Fifteen years later, an itinerant digger stumbled across the rocky outcrop of the gold-bearing reef on a ridge known as the Witwatersrand, beneath which lay the richest deposits of gold ever discovered. Suddenly the region was a glittering prize. What followed was a titanic struggle fought by the British to gain supremacy throughout Southern Africa, and by the Boers to preserve the independence of their republics. When the Boer War broke out in 1899 Dad had no hesitation in joining an elite band of troopers, known as Doyle’s Australian Scouts. With their horses they were shipped to South Africa to face hostilities. My father lost more than one horse during skirmishes with the enemy, but he survived the three year war without a scratch. He had a reluctant admiration for the skills of the Boer farmers who would attack without warning on horseback and then retreat before they could be fully engaged in battle. Such highly mobile action probably heralded the birth of what is now known throughout the world as guerrilla warfare, and the traditional red coats of the British army were fi nally discarded for khaki uniforms, as the Boers were such expert marksmen. Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the Boer War all wore khaki uniforms.

During and after the war, Dad came across Baden-Powell, who founded at that time the world scouting movement, Winston Churchill, who at that time was war correspondent and Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. After hostilities, the English speaking soldiers were given the option of either returning home or accepting 50 pounds sterling to settle in South Africa to counter balance the Dutch speaking majority. My father had no ties and readily accepted the offer. (50 pounds in 1902 was quite a tidy sum.) My father worked in a drapery store in Johannesburg. As well as being a talented sportsman, he was a born gambler and philanderer, and managed to survive a somewhat questionable social life in white rule Johannesburg.

Dad was 30 years old when he met and married my 20 year old grandmother Gabriel, whose father owned a Johannesburg pub. Three daughters were born and schooled in Johannesburg before my dad decided to bring his family to New Zealand. They settled in Hamilton, where I was born in 1923. Sadly, my mother did not survive long after my birth. In 1941 I was called up at the age of 18 for the Waikato Territorials. Fourteen months later I was transferred to the RNZAF, and after intensive training in Christchurch, I served in the South West Pacifi c war zone, mainly in the Solomon Islands of Bougainville and Guadalcanal, and later in New Guinea.

My father died in 1956 at the age of 80, after retiring from a lifetime in the drapery trade. I have marched in every Dawn Parade since I moved to Pukekohe with my family in 1969, and with much pride and deep memories, I have always worn my father’s Boer War medal, which is faced with the head of Queen Victoria. His name and unit are engraved around the rim and there are several campaign bars attached to the ribbon.

“My Dad fought in the 1914 – 1918 War”

In France with the A.I.F.

By Maurice Smyth

“Dad was 68 when he married Mum. She was a herd tester he met on the farm – she was 28. He had been married before but his first wife died and they had no children. He was born in 1886 in Wiltshire, one of a family of 14, leaving school at 10 to make wagon wheels. He later went to Sydney where he had a cousin in the Irish Guards who used to guard convicts. Dad worked in the Outback, droving and as a groom in stables in Portland, Victoria so when he enlisted in the A.I.F he was in demand for his skills with horses. He embarked on December 16, 1916. Horses were used to haul heavy artillery, ammunition, stores and the army needed men who understood horses and who could handle them when they reacted to shells exploding around them. Dad was a brilliant horseman.

“I remember Dad telling me when I was a kid that he could have reached out with his rifle and touched a German trench. He also spoke of seeing his mates drowning in mud. He talked about being taught three ways to kill with a rifl e – shot, bayonet or butt. The soldiers were issued with wooden 303 Smiley rifles and Mack 103 Lee-Enfi elds –they weighed a ton. He had two years active service in France. We think he was at the Battle of Bullecourt or Polygon Wood near Ypres, before he was wounded. He told me he didn’t understand why he had dropped his rifle until his sergeant said to him “your’e off to Blighty mate.” He had copped a piece of shrapnel in his right arm. After being sent back to Australia he came to New Zealand to work and found his way to Franklin where he got a land allotment on Pinnacle Hill Road and started farming.” Maurice recalls his father as a true gentleman who never swore, was very laid back, never lost his temper and who liked his whiskey. A faded photo shows the pair of them on the beach at Kaiaua, a pipe smoking Edgar dressed immaculately in a suit and tie looking fondly down at a blond two year old Maurice. “We both had snowy hair.” “Dad always wore a poppy on Anzac Day and went to the Dawn Parade at Bombay – I still go there – but like many who were in the thick of it, he didn’t talk much about what he went through. He never let anyone waste food and never complained about anything – he would say things like “I’ve slept in worse places. “ He was still cutting barberry hedges with a slasher in his 70s. My m other Patricia was in the NZAF during the second world war and I was always interested in the army, joining the Territorials when I was 32. Dad died in 1975, when he was 88. I always looked up to and admired my father, and I still do.”

Memorial of a Soldier

Lest we forget

By Julie Halligan

The general feeling of the time was that it would all be over by Christmas. For four long years the people of Papakura waited for that end and when it came on Armistice Day 11th November 1918, the final tally of the roll of the dead for Papakura and Karaka stood at 32.

It was billed as The Great War and it was said it would never happen again as the walking wounded and survivors made their way home. For those whose sons had not returned, whose bodies laid in a foreign fi eld the loss was all the harder to bear for where did one go to mourn, where did one lay a wreath?

In Papakura the people of the town got to work industriously and throughout 1919 various meetings were held by the public and council whereby eventually it was decided that a monument be commissioned and erected on a municipal triangular plot of land along the Great South Road, originally the site for the Papakura Public Library and which had formerly housed the Town Board Offi ces as a memorial to the fallen of the Papakura and Karaka districts. An invitation was issued to the residents of the district for the submission of monument designs and various fund raising activities were embarked upon to fund the endeavour. The Town Board paved the way legally for the site to be given over to the monument while a subscription and garden party events eventually raised seven hundred pounds for the monuments commission and erection. The Beautifying Society were given the job of clearing and improving the area in readiness for the installation and unveiling ceremony.

The job of sculpting the colossal monument was awarded to an English artisan, Mr William Henry Feldon, a former Oxfordshire man who had made his way across the world to New Zealand in 1910 after a very successful career as a sculptor and carver in the UK and the United States. Mr Feldon’s career had also been interrupted by the Great War and he served in the Auckland Mounted Rifl es as Brigade-Major eventually ending his service in Otago as Adjutant 8th Southland District Attesting Officer.

With the ceasing of hostilities, he returned to his sculpting career and he was responsible for the Matakana Memorial, the Memorial Gates at Bombay Domain, the Arawa Tribe Memorial of Chief Rangitiki in Rotorua before he came to accept the Great War Memorial commission from the people of Papakura and Karaka. Mr Feldon, carving in Oamaru stone was ably assisted by a local youth, T S McFarland who in the eyes of Feldon, made a credible job, eventually.

The memorial is of a soldier in full battle dress standing at ease on a sandstone plinth atop a stepped base gazing into the far distance, at his feet a recumbent lion. This was originally used in Boer War memorials but by this era was very symbolic of empire.

The memorial, minus its lion, which arrived weeks later, was unveiled to the public by the then Governor General of the day, Viscount Admiral Jellicoe. Around 600 members of the public gathered on 5th June 1921 for the unveiling where 60 returned servicemen also formed a guard of honour under Major C R Spragg.

The 32 names of the Fallen were inscribed on the column and in 1955 another Roll of Honour was added, those who had perished in the next great war, World War Two. In 1993 a plaque was also added to commemorate service in the theatres of Borneo, Malaysia, Korea and Vietnam.

Today the monument stands as it always has, silent, a reminder of where we have been and where we have yet to reach.

100 Years Young 66 Years of Marriage

Some call him lucky, We say it’s fate

Story by Mykeljon Winckel

Every now and then you hear about a story that totally captivates you… that takes you away and leaves a lump in your throat. This is a story of enduring love, tragedy, broken families, separation, war…. It sounds as if it Shakespearean, but I can tell you no it’s not. This is a true story and it’s about a couple who I admire greatly, my Mother and Father. They have now both passed away but their story lives on.

The story starts in 1938 in pre WWII Indonesia known as Java or East Indies which was colonized by the Dutch as far back as the early 15th Century. An absolute tropical paradise laden with such colourful characters as Baabu the Malay housekeeper, the well to do grandparents, classical music and political associations, Catholic schools and the influential strict Dutch reformed clergy. The cars were few let alone electric power, refrigeration or a telephone. Shops were the local markets where locals carried everything on either their head or by baskets lashed across their back with a piece of bamboo where it was hard to be heard over the cacophony of locals bargaining in their native Malay. Every now and then you would hear a smattering of colonial Dutch…. A cold beer was indeed a tantalizing thought quencher especially in the heat of a summer’s day in the wet season. This is where their story begins.

A hot balmy summers day in Malang on the island of Sumatra Gus (26) was doing his swimming training where he cast his eye over to a newcomer to the pool Yvonne (16). Yvonne recalls “A romance blossomed and grew that required strict chaperones to attend!” During this period Gus was a student pilot with the then newly formed Netherlands East Indies Forces (NEI). December 7th 1941 saw an event that would reshape history and affect millions upon millions of lives. Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.

Within 10 weeks of that attack the well-prepared Imperial Japanese Army overwhelmed much of South East Asia and the islands to Australia’s north. The Philippines fell quickly, along with the Malay Peninsula and the vital British base of Singapore.

Darwin Australia was also attacked. Eager to secure vital war-fighting resources, particularly oil and rubber, they rapidly moved towards the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).

“I remember like it was yesterday” says Yvonne, “Thousands upon thousands of Japanese troops on wooden bikes. Everyone was so scared; we just hid in our homes. This did us all no good as we, my two sisters and mother were caught and transported to a women’s prisoner of war camp. My father was transported to a Men’s camp”. Gus was ordered to evacuate military officers to Broome (Australia). Gus comments, “I could have made millions of dollars that night, people offering me diamonds, gold.. It was such a sad event having to leave them behind, I remember the fires and destruction behind me as I took off”.

Yvonne and her family were exposed to some of the harshest conditions experienced of any POW camps with very little of anything except malnutrition, cruelty and death, they were available in abundance. Gus was assigned military duty under the Australian North West Sector (part of General MacArthur’s command) and was instrumental in the fight to push the Japanese back out of their homelands.

Yvonne comments “On two occasions during my POW internment I was able to request through the Red Cross to the whereabouts of Gus, on both instances the reply came back as expired in action”. Gus also made enquiries through the Red Cross; same response “Expired”. In all Gus made some 240 front line sorties with two front line tours. “the attrition rate was terrible; you never knew when it was your turn or who of your mates wouldn’t come back” says Gus.

The 15th of August 1945 was the surrender of the Japanese and saw the release of hundreds of thousands of interned POW’s. “On hearing this news” says Gus, “I went around all of the American bases and collected surplus preserved foods, medical supplies and chocolate. I loaded the goods onto pallets and parachuted them in to all the POW camps I knew of”. Yvonne recalls “I remember August 15th vividly, the camp commander assembled us all and told us we were free to go! The joy that we felt was momentous.

I cannot express enough of how we all felt…. We were free… Shortly after I recall an aircraft flying over very low backwards and forwards, waving it’s wings at us and dropping some boxes with parachutes attached. Chocolate! Yes, there is a God! I still get shivers now realizing that was Gus”. Miraculously, Yvonne’s family had survived, although it took some time before her father was reunited. They were in bad shape but alive. They found their way back to their pre-war home, which was still standing but not liveable.

Prior to their capture in 1942 Yvonne’s mother had buried a jar full of family jewels and money next to the water well and to their amazement it was still there. They bartered with some of the locals for a chicken, “By today’s standards that chicken cost probably $25,000, because you could not get any change from a diamond bracelet” say Yvonne. They hid in the water well for 3 weeks as the Indonesian revolution was now in full swing and they were now caught up in that.

“It was so dangerous, and you could not blend because we were white. We were emancipated by the Americans and taken to their base where we were made human again” recalls Yvonne.

Upon the Japanese pulling out of the NEI Gus was made Squadron Leader of 18th Squadron which was eventually based in Chililitan on the island of Java. “We were assigned clean up duties, to help control the evacuation of the Japanese and the uprising of the Indonesians” Said Gus. Yvonne recalls, “I was evacuated to Holland, I’d never even seen snow before!, to military school. Yes I was marching, firing a gun, taught to type and to drive. I enquired once again with the Red Cross about Gus and I got the same reply, expired in action, I carried a sadness with me for a long while after that. I was moved around for a year and a half and then I was assigned a post to the army barracks in Chililitan in later part of 1947”.

Meanwhile at the army barracks, only 5km away, Gus comments.

“I had heard from the commanding officer of the neighbouring Army camp who was a good friend of mine that there was a new intake of Woman’s army recruits arriving in the next couple of weeks” Say Gus with a gleam in his eye, “So, I said to my operations officer, I think we should show them a party 18th Squadron style!”. So, the preparations commenced, music, food, alcohol (which was not available except from the Americans) and a clean out of one of the bigger aircraft hangers.

Yvonne arrived after an exhausting trip from Holland along with a group of other female Army personnel. “I was so glad to be back in my home country, the warmth, the sun”. She settled into her new comfortably familiar surroundings where she learnt to drive a Willies jeep amongst many other tasks. She had heard that there was a party at the air force barracks, so she and a few of her girlfriends set about getting prepared for what was to be an earth-shattering event.

Gus was in his dress uniform and getting prepared to officially open the party. Yvonne was getting the final touches ready on her evening dress. They both arrived to the 18th Squadron aircraft hangar – for some reason Yvonne missed the opening, however the party was well on its way when it came time for Gus to retire, he left the building. As he walked down the stairs Yvonne was walking up the other side. They stopped and looked at each other. “Hey, I thought to myself” Gus said, “that looks like Yvonne…… but it can’t be she’s dead…. No… it can’t be, anyway she had blonde hair”. Yvonne thought the same thing “That looks like Gus, can’t be… he’s dead… he had hair! No.. it can’t be”. They both kept walking… That night Yvonne could not sleep, she tossed and turned and with the new dawn she asked to see the commanding officer. She sat with him and asked if he knew a Gus Winckel. He replied, why Gus yes of course he is a good friend he is the Squadron Leader for the 18th – Yvonne broke down and told him the story, about the red cross and with that he got on the phone and spoke with Gus “Gus I have got someone with me that wants to meet you… Stay where you are and I’ll see you in 15 min”. He personally drove Yvonne. Yvonne walked into Gus’s office and said “Hey, remember me? You said I was the prettiest girl in Malang!”. They were married the next day 20th Dec 1947 – her dress was made from a parachute.

A lot has happened since then. But you are both still with me every day. You both served in WWII but you will always serve to be my heroes.

Gus Winckel passed away in Pukekohe New Zealand August 13th 2013 at almost 101 years of age. Yvonne Winckel passed away in Pukekohe New Zealand August 3rd 2019 just over 97 years of age.

Franklin at War

Defending the Homeland

By elocal

The men of Franklin’s Home Guard had a busy war, as the country prepared the best it could to defend itself. From all walks of life, people rallied to the call, leaving farms, market gardens and businesses to take part in training and the laying of traps to slow any advancing invader. The service began in August of 1940 and when Japan entered the war, joining the Home Guard became compulsory for men not already in the armed forces and those between 46 and 50 years of age.

Things were very rustic when the first local units of the Home Guard were set up. Numerous country areas were clustered into platoons based at Pukekohe, Waiuku, Tuakau, Drury, Mangatawhiri, and Papakura. Training centres were set up at Papakura, Waiuku and Tuakau for instruction in signalling and the use of Lewis and Bren guns and French mortars. On the ground though, most of the Home Guard ‘troops’ had no weapons. A piece of wood, vaguely shaped like a rifl e had to suffi ce for drills. As one member of the Home Guard recalls; “The ‘rifles’ were likely to break if dropped. We did eventually get some real rifles and practised dismantling, putting them together and firing.” But many of those were obsolete and instructions came that they were not to be fired. In October 1942, 40,000 American .300 rifl es arrived in the country and were issued to sections in areas considered most likely to be attacked.

Home Guard drills and exercises took the men away after work and weekends and the women folk stepped in to keep farms running. Sometimes field training was timed around milking times.

Much effort went into setting up swivel mechanisms to swing large logs into position to block bridges on key routes. Camoufl age areas were set up to hide tanks, to ambush any Japanese who landed at Waiuku. Looking back, such defensive systems , like the log block set up on an end of Tuakau Bridge would have been no obstacle to the invading Japanese. Neither would the tank traps and road blocks, but the Home Guard were dedicated to defending their homes, the best they were able.

The experiences of WW1 veterans came into play during Home Guard manoeuvres. Scrambling through bush, across paddocks and swamps and on night excercises, those returned soldiers often lead the way, initiating the younger men, who would go on to join the armed forces. The fear of the Japanese invasion was very real and blackouts were observed nationwide. There was huge relief in New Zealand when the Japanese suffered resounding defeats at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

Working at the ‘Dehy’

The work of feeding the troops

By elocal

Feeding those on active service was vital during the war and by 1944 one of four vegetable dehydration factories nationwide was in full production in Manukau Road, Pukekohe. The factory was in constant operation, processing produce from extensive market gardens that were planted on farms all over the district for the war effort, including on part of Pukekohe Golf Club. A large Department of Agriculture garden was set up at Patumahoe – the Patamahoe Services’ Vegetable Project. Trainloads of dehydrated vegetables were taken to the Port of Auckland to be shipped to the forces overseas. The intensive process required a large workforce. Almost 1,000 people worked over three shifts to keep the production lines constantly running. Some lived locally, slotting in shifts when other work commitments allowed, while many were ‘man-powered’, conscripted from all over the country and accommodated in huts and dormitories in camps. University students, older people and New Zealand and American servicemen also joined in the drive to feed the troops.

Gwen Woodward of Pukekohe was an 18 year old farm girl living at Ramarama when she volunteered to work at the ‘dehy’, as the factory was commonly called. She worked on the cabbage and carrot processing lines – other lines processed peas, beans, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes. “I worked alongside the other girls spreading shredded cabbages and cut up carrots on long trays, which the men trollied into the dehydration unit. When they were dried, the vegetables were packed into big tins to be sent overseas. I also used to trim the outer leaves off cabbages and pack them into crates to be chilled until they were needed.” Recalls Gwen. “The carrots were bathed in acid to remove the skins. Three or four girls were badly affected by this, with blistered hands and were off work for weeks. We were given gloves after that. I was paid one shilling and sixpence an hour. When my shifts fi nished I stayed in a two person hut at Rooseville Park. I started off in a dormitory, but it was too noisy, with girls having parties. We were picked up for our shifts by army trucks and taken back for tea. There was one big ablution block and it wasn’t too good to be right down the back of the camp, especially in wet weather, when it was very muddy. “I found it interesting working there and made some good friends. There were some ‘hard cases’ there as well! The girls came from all over the country, so when the war ended, we unfortunately lost touch. I quite enjoyed working at the ‘dehy’, though a lot of the town girls hated it. I can understand that, they weren’t used to doing physical work. Even having to put on a smock like everyone else was different for them. It was hardest for the land girls, who were out planting and picking in all weathers.” Gwen remembers when the war ended; “Everyone went up the street to celebrate. We danced, sang and hugged everyone. It was good! Then we went back to work at the ‘dehy’ in the afternoon”.

The war years in Franklin were a time of ration coupon books, shortages of many basic items and blackout curtains on windows. Trenches were dug around schools for children to jump into if there was an attack. There was fear of Japanese invasion and sorrow at the loses of men killed overseas. But it also a time when American gridiron football was played on Bledisloe Park; when people pulled together to look after each other where they could and shared coupons; it was a time of many social occasions (with chaperones) to keep up morale; of working tirelessly in gardens and factory and of taking in many lonely servicemen far from home to be part of the big Franklin family.

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