Raetihi fire survivor celebrates 100th
Frank Taylor was born in turbulent times, 100 years ago, as World War 1 raged on the far side of the planet.
His earliest memories are of the Raetihi fires of 1918, that resulted in the death of the Akerson family [mother, father and one child]. It destroyed 150 homes and nine sawmills and almost swallowed several towns.
Later he would serve as a tank commander in World War 2.
He celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday, with family and friends.
He remembers his training days at Waiouru Military Camp. Something he has ’’no sweet memories of.’’
During training Taylor slept in camp tents that leaked, he needed six blankets to keep warm, and slept on hardboard floors.
After completing his training Taylor was all set to go to war. He was initially kept back to guard his own country with fears of a Japanese invasion, before setting sail.
He served in Guadalcanal, Nissan Island and Italy, but the memories are not ones he cares to dredge up.
‘‘They weren’t pleasant years, I don’t want to remember them.’’
‘‘We didn’t have a choice, we were conscripted,’’ he says.
Taylor was able to relate the
‘‘ The memories are imbedded in my mind, stuck in my mind forever.’’ Frank Taylor
terror of the Raetihi Fire in 1918 seen through the eyes of a toddler.
He was little more than a baby at the time but the sights and sounds of March 19 and 20, 1918 have been branded in his mind forever.
The fires burned for two days and almost destroyed the towns of Raetihi and Ohakune.
‘‘All the memories are imbedded in my mind, stuck in my mind forever,’’ he said.
‘‘Sparks flying and and pieces of timber.’’
The fire ripped through bushland and destroyed 150 houses and nine sawmills. It had a lasting effect on the community with 300 saw mill workers out of work and countless farms out of action for years afterwards.
Taylor spent 30 years working for his father’s carrying business, transporting big and small items and working at the sawmills where he got his saw doctor’s certificate.
He lived in Taumarunui and the Bay of Islands, before making the move to Marton where he spent 60 years. He retired in Taupo 30 years ago.
Frank Taylor tells his story of 100 years.