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“My Dad Fought in the 1914–1918 War”

In France with the A.I.F.

“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 rifle – shot, bayonet or butt. The soldiers were issued with wooden 303 Smiley rifles and Mack 103 Lee-Enfields – 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 “you’re 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 mother 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.”

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elocal Digital Edition – April 2020 (#229)

elocal Digital Edition
April 2020 (#229)

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