Soldier’s tale told
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Mr Bounsall had written his own unpublished autobiography which he lent to Mr O’Carroll.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.”
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.