Fam­ily grate­ful for tin hel­met

Waipa Post - - Crimeline - BY DEAN TAY­LOR

The op­por­tu­nity to take part in cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tions for the lib­er­a­tion of Le Ques­noy, France proved a tremen­dous draw for Richard Swar­brick and his sis­ter Kate Jones.

The Te Awa­mutu sib­lings were joined for part of the event by their brother Philip, who re­sides in the UK, as they vis­ited the part of the world where their grand­fa­ther Henry Au­gus­tus Swar­brick al­most lost his life.

Henry was the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion lawyer in the Te Awa­mutu firm founded by his fa­ther Arthur.

Richard says it is the first time any­one from the fam­ily has been to a war zone.

“The fam­ily didn’t talk much about war in­volve­ment,” he says.

Richard re­mem­bers his grand­fa­ther well and says when he started do­ing more re­search into the fam­ily he was able to es­tab­lish, that Henry was wounded in the lead up to the Le Ques­noy of­fen­sive — in fact on Novem­ber 3, 1918, the day be­fore the troops went over the wall.

Henry was ini­tially not se­lected for ac­tive over­seas duty, although he served at home.

But as the war drew on, and men were needed, he was as­sessed as be­ing suit­able and was a Lieu­tenant in the Field Ar­tillery.

Henry was sta­tioned out­side Le Ques­noy in Novem­ber and dur­ing a bat­tle took ei­ther a bul­let or shrap­nel to his head — saved only by his hel­met, which the fam­ily still has.

He was evac­u­ated to hos­pi­tal and fam­ily folk­lore says he slept un­til Ar­mistice Day.

Henry made a com­plete re­cov­ery back home in Te Awa­mutu.

Richard say there is no blood in the hel­met, so his brother, a para­medic, be­lieves he was lucky to only have suf­fered a se­ri­ous con­cus­sion.

Richard said the sig­nif­i­cance of Henry’s sur­vival on their very be­ing was not lost on the sib­lings.

As part of Richard’s re­search, he con­tacted the De­fence Force and it was this re­la­tion­ship which re­sulted in the trip to Le Ques­noy and in­vi­ta­tion to the func­tions.

Richard and Kate say it was an amaz­ing feel­ing to be so wel­comed on the other side of the world, 100 years af­ter the lib­er­a­tion.

“It was quite over­whelm­ing how much ap­pre­ci­a­tion the towns­peo­ple still have for the Kiwi troops,” says Richard.

He and Kate had read about the Cullen fam­ily through our news­pa­pers, but didn’t know the sis­ters.

It was Kim Colt­man and Sue Gra­ham who recog­nised them and they spent some of the time to­gether.

Richard says once they meet the sis­ters they kept see­ing other lo­cals they knew, in­clud­ing catch­ing up with Te Awa­mutu cou­ple An­drew Brown and Linda Miles.

He says there were prob­a­bly 500-600 Ki­wis in the town for cel­e­bra­tions on Novem­ber 4 — ‘it was in­cred­i­ble’.

Part of the cel­e­bra­tions were at the build­ing which is the pro­posed mu­seum.

Richard says the idea be­hind the mu­seum is very sound, and he whole­heart­edly sup­ports Waipa¯ mak­ing a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion.

He and Kate say the trip gave them a whole new re­spect for what the men and women who went to war sac­ri­ficed.

“We re­alised how many lo­cal fam­i­lies have been af­fected by this war,” he says.

“Our an­ces­tors trav­elled 12,000 miles to fight for King and Em­pire.

“We can­not for­get that.”

Photo / Dean Tay­lor

Richard Swar­brick with his grand­fa­ther Henry Au­gus­tus Swar­brick's WW1 hel­met, com­plete with bul­let or shrap­nel hole, which saved his life on Novem­ber 3, 1918 at Le Ques­noy, France.

Photo / Sup­plied

Lieu­tenant Henry Au­gus­tus Swar­brick.

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