Father’s WWI items shared
Brian Walters took his father’s military-issue cut-throat razor and carefully sliced through the tape holding a small pocket diary to a page.
“Sharp as the day he last used it.”
Laid out before the 82-year-old on a table in his spare room in Pa¯pa¯moa was a collection of memorabilia of his father’s youth and army service in World War I.
Private Stanley Charles Walters was 29 when he fought the Second Battle of the Somme, also known as the Spring Offensive, with the 13th Canterbury Infantry Regiment as a Lewis gunner, 100 years ago.
His pocket-sized diary contained a pencil-written record of Walters’ war, from the time the 27-year-old left Wellington for Europe on the troopship Tahiti in November 1917, to his return to New Zealand aboard hospital ship Maunganui at the end of 1918.
He was wounded at Bapaume in France on September 2, 1918, when a piece of shrapnel from an exploding German whizz bang shell hit him in the left hip.
His son still has the jagged piece, a little smaller than a 10c piece, that was dug out of his father’s hip and saved by a nurse who wrapped it in a piece of linen torn from Walters’ bedsheet.
Also preserved were the items in the left pocket of Walter’s pants when he was hit, including a brown handkerchief with multiple shrapnel holes.
His son unsealed a bag containing a matchbox-sized dark brown lump, also from the pocket.
“Smell it — that’s a 100-year-old plug of tobacco.”
The collection also included his father’s dog tags, medals, shoulder flashes, returned soldiers’ handbook, original “lemon squeezer” hat and service records and certificates. Walters said he first saw the collection when he was aged 19 and a letter marked On His Majesty’s Service arrived at the family home. He did not need to open it to know what it was; his call-up for compulsory military training.
“I went to go tell my father. He was in the back garden planting onions. I told him I had been called up.
“He said ‘I want you to sit down and I’ll tell you what you’re getting yourself involved with’.
“This is what he had up in the wardrobe.”
Over the years Walters has augmented his father’s keepsakes with his own research: photographs, battle maps, news articles, books and information about other soldiers his father mentioned. He would have liked to have visited the battle site and seen the graves of his father’s friends who did not return.
He also has mementoes of his father’s rugby league career, which began with the North Shore Albion club before being selected to represent New Zealand.
He made one overseas tour before war broke out, and resumed playing after the war, representing New Zealand from 1919 to 1921 on two overseas tours and captaining the team in a three-match series against Great Britain.
Brian Walters, 82, reflected in a photograph of his father, World War I veteran Private Stanley Charles Walters.