Emo­tional trip

Sis­ters re­trace grandpa’s steps

Waipa Post - - Front Page - BY BETHANY ROLSTON

Two Te Awa­mutu sis­ters are trav­el­ling to Le Ques­noy, France, for cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions of the town’s lib­er­a­tion.

It will be an emo­tional jour­ney for Kim Colt­man and Sue Gra­ham, who plan to dis­cover more about their grandpa, John Ray­mond (Ray) Cullen, who was in­volved in the leg­endary World War I bat­tle.

They hope to re­trace the same steps their grandpa took af­ter he was saved in an act of kind­ness 100 years ago when wounded in the Mor­mal For­est of Le Ques­noy.

Le Ques­noy had been in Ger­man hands since the be­gin­ning of the war.

Ray, a farmer from Ki­hik­ihi, was one of the New Zealand sol­diers in­volved in the bat­tle and sub­se­quent lib­er­a­tion of the town.

On Novem­ber 4, 1918 he was the sole sur­vivor of a seven-man ma­chine gun post hit by a Ger­man ar­tillery shell.

“I was ly­ing there on the ground when a batch of sur­ren­dered Ger­mans came through,” he later said in record­ings by fam­ily.

“Some fel­low no­ticed that I was still alive… he lay down be­side me — no mind we were en­e­mies be­fore that — and said, ‘Can’t you make it, mate?’”

The Ger­man of­fi­cer — Hein­rich Held — made a stretcher and car­ried Ray to the clear­ing sta­tion with the help of two other Ger­man sol­diers.

Hein­rich gave his wal­let to Ray and stayed on to talk with him — he spoke per­fect English — shar­ing their bit­ter­ness about the war.

“I am the only one left to tell the tale,” Ray later said in let­ters home.

Af­ter heal­ing from 17 shrap­nel wounds, Ray re­turned to

New Zealand and raised two sons, Garth and David, on the fam­ily farm with his wife Hilda.

Grow­ing up, Sue and Kim, along with their sib­lings and cousins, trea­sured their Grandpa’s war sto­ries.

Sue has told her Grandpa’s story in a book and will write the sec­ond part af­ter her trip to Le Ques­noy.

“Revisiting his trail will be an emo­tional jour­ney,” Sue says. “It will be a very hum­bling trip filled with a lot of re­flec­tion.”

Dur­ing their time in Le Ques­noy the sis­ters will stay with lo­cal fam­i­lies and at­tend com­mem­o­ra­tive events.

They are look­ing for­ward to watch­ing a play by the Bim­ber­lot Theatre Group, in which their grandpa’s story will be re-told.

Their rel­a­tive, Pri­vate Hay­den Cullen, a great-grand­son of Ray, will also be vis­it­ing Le Ques­noy with the New Zealand De­fence Force army band.

Novem­ber is a big month for Waipa¯ as Cam­bridge pre­pares to mark the cen­te­nary of the lib­er­a­tion its sis­ter city and the sign­ing of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Photo / Bethany Rolston

Te Awa­mutu sis­ters Kim Colt­man (left) and Sue Gra­ham will visit Le Ques­noy for the 100-year com­mem­o­ra­tions of the lib­er­a­tion of the French town.

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