War mystery in Frankton attic
James Haste was 22 when he left New Zealand shores for the Great War.
Service in a rifle battalion and a wound on the Western Front as it ground through the two final bloody years of the war, was his reward.
Along with a service certificate that sat gathering dust and cobwebs in the attic of a Hamilton house for possibly decades before being discovered.
Now Wally Bilton wants to return possibly the final piece of Haste’s history to his descendants – if he can find them. The framed certificate has been passed through numerous hands over the years – it still has a few cobwebs clinging to it.
‘‘A neighbour used to live in Kent Street, Frankton, and found it in the ceiling of the house about 30 odd years ago and she passed it onto her mother at Rotokauri,’’ Bilton said.
‘‘The mother was then having a clean-out I think and was going to dump it. But another neighbour across the road knew that I was in the army so she grabbed it and brought it over to see if I could do anything about it,’’ Bilton said.
The certificate has Haste’s service number is 12388, Bilton believes the numbers 123 indicates that he was from the Waikato. It states that he served overseas for two years 359 days. He commenced duty on January 11, 1916 and was discharged on April 27, 1919.
During that time he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Bilton, 77, has established the validity of the certificate through research at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and some basic details of Haste’s life, but family connections remain a mystery.
Details are sketchy but it’s thought Haste sailed out of Wellington as a rifleman in either May or June 1916 aboard the Mokoia or Navua, passing through Egypt before arriving in France.
He was wounded in France on September 29 1916, a period when New Zealand troops joined their first large-scale action in France at the Battle of the Somme at the cost of 2100 New Zealand lives and nearly 6000 wounded.
Having survived the war, Haste returned to New Zealand and married Winifred Lucy May Diamond in Napier in 1935. He died in Hamilton in 1986, aged 92, and was buried alongside his wife at the Havelock North Cemetery. If you can help track down James Haste’s descendants email Wally Bilton at email@example.com
Wally Bilton would like to find the descendants of a World War I soldier Private James Herbert Haste who’s service certificate he’s holding on to.