War mys­tery in Frank­ton at­tic

Waikato Times - - Front Page - Jo Lines-MacKen­zie jo.lines-macken­zie@stuff.co.nz

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 wal­ly­robyn@xtra.co.nz

KELLY HODEL/STUFF

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.

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