Badge of honour for WWI tortoise
She is the only living survivor of World War I from down under, and a Greek tortoise named Torty is set to be honoured by the Returned and Services Association.
Torty, pictured, was brought to New Zealand by Kiwi stretcher bearer Stewart Little, who found her wounded after she had been run over by a French gun carriage in Thessaloniki, also known as Salonica, where injured Gallipoli soldiers were being treated in 1915.
Little nursed her back to health, and slipped her into his backpack when it was time to return home in 1918. When the hibernating Torty awoke, she was in Dunedin.
Chris and Helen Little of Morrinsville are descendants of Torty’s first Kiwi custodian, and are bringing her to this weekend’s armistice centenary commemorations at Tapawera. The three-day event begins today.
In recognition of her living history status, the RichmondWaimea RSA will present Torty with her own membership badge at Sunday’s closing ceremony, to be held from 3pm.
Following last month’s Ride to Remember in memory of mounted troops from Tapawera who served in the war, the village will commemorate the armistice centenary near the site of a Regional Military Training Camp established on George McMahon’s farm. Most of the men from the top of the south who served during the war passed through the camp prior to deployment.
Organiser Sarah Arnold said public interest in the armistice centenary had grown in recent weeks, as had the number of people discovering family links to the war and the Tapawera camp.
Torty’s story has already featured in a children’s book, Torty and the Soldier. At the invitation of Tapawera committee member Sandra Rogan, the book’s author Jennifer Beck and illustrator Robyn Belton will be reading their children’s stories on Sunday.