Fa­ther’s WWI items shared

Bay of Plenty Times - - LO­CAL NEWS -

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.

PHOTO /JOHN BOR­REN

Brian Wal­ters, 82, re­flected in a pho­to­graph of his fa­ther, World War I vet­eran Pri­vate Stan­ley Charles Wal­ters.

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