Sol­dier’s tale told

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

TAK­ING two armed sol­diers pris­oner with noth­ing more than a pair of scis­sors is no mean feat but it’s one of the im­pres­sive mo­ments that fea­tures in vet­eran De­nis Boun­sall’s ser­vice record.

The World War Two bands­man and reg­i­men­tal stretcher bearer of the Dorset­shire Reg­i­ment was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Con­duct Medal for brav­ery, but to most peo­ple in Mt Roskill, he’s sim­ply known as the lo­cal dog walker.

That’s all about to change with his story be­ing told in a new book.

Lo­cal au­thor and mil­i­tary his­tory en­thu­si­ast Bren­dan O’Car­roll was in­spired to write about him af­ter his wife met Mr Boun­sall while they were both walk­ing dogs and she dis­cov­ered his war­time story.

“I’ve got her trained to ask all old sol­diers what they did in the war,” says Mr O’Car­roll.

His in­ter­est was piqued by Mr Boun­sall’s tale of life as a stretcher bearer and he was so in­spired, he de­cided to write Khaki Angels about stretcher bear­ers of the world wars.

Mr Boun­sall had writ­ten his own un­pub­lished au­to­bi­og­ra­phy which he lent to Mr O’Car­roll.

“I read the man­u­script and it blew me away. It wasn’t enough for a whole book but from there I found other stretcher bear­ers.”

Mr Boun­sall joined the Bri­tish army as a 15-yearold boy sol­dier.

He was put into the band and later trained as a sol­dier and detailed to be a stretcher bearer.

The 88-year-old spent two and a half years in In­dia be­fore go­ing to Malta, which he de­scribes as a “hell hole”.

“It was the most bombed place on earth,” he says.

“I was there nearly four years.”

He also served in Italy and Si­cily, trained in Egypt and was among the first Bri­tish troops to go ashore in Nor­mandy on D Day.

He went back to Bri­tain to train troops pre­par­ing to fight the Ja­panese and in 1945, he went with the bat­tal­ion to Ger­many on oc­cu­pa­tion du­ties un­til the end of his ser­vice in 1948.

Mr Boun­sall was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Con­duct Medal, sec­ond only to the Vic­to­ria Cross, for car­ry­ing a wounded sol­dier over his shoul­der more than three kilo­me­tres to safety.

He man­aged to sur­vive the war un­in­jured, de­spite be­ing out in the field with the sol­diers and con­stantly un­der fire.

“That’s all it is, hit and miss.”

In one in­ci­dent a large shell landed right next to him but luck­ily didn’t go off.

Al­though he saw unimag­in­able car­nage and suf­fer­ing dur­ing his ser­vice, he says he didn’t suf­fer any long-term ef­fects – al­though see­ing the an­i­mals hurt and killed in the war up­set him.

His re­gard for Kiwi sol­diers led him to move to New Zealand in 1952.

“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. “It was ab­so­lute par­adise.” The sax­o­phon­ist played in jazz bands, reg­u­larly went back to France for D Day com­mem­o­ra­tions and walks the neigh­bour­hood dogs for 10km ev­ery day now his own pets have died.

He is proud to fea­ture in Khaki Angels and is the only Bri­tish sol­dier in the book.

“It’s a great dis­tinc­tion. I’m the only one other than Ki­wis in there. You can’t be in bet­ter com­pany than that.”

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

War tales: Au­thor Bren­dan O’Car­roll, left, was in­spired to write about war­time stretcher bear­ers af­ter meet­ing vet­eran De­nis Boun­sall.

Boy sol­dier: De­nis Boun­sall in 1938, aged 17.

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