Raetihi fire sur­vivor cel­e­brates 100th

Ruapehu Press - - Your Local News - TAMARA THORN

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.

TAMARA THORN/STUFF

Frank Taylor tells his story of 100 years.

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