To Gallipoli – in his grandfather’s footsteps
Te Whau vineyard owner Tony Forsyth will be following in his grandfather’s footsteps to Gallipoli for the 100th anniversary of the famous battle next year.
Tony Forsyth never got to meet his grandfather. The much-decorated career soldier died in 1944. Aged just 51, Cuthbert Free had already served in two world wars and, between those, seen action on India’s North-west Frontier and in the Third Anglo- Afghan War.
“His is an amazing story – the more you dip into it, the more amazing it gets,” says Tony. “I’m very proud of him and I wish I’d met him.”
But, in 2015, he’s doing the next best thing – following his grandfather’s footsteps to Gallipoli.
The Waiheke resident and Te Whau restaurant owner recently learned that he was successful in the special ballot to attend next year’s 100th Anniversary Anzac Day dawn service at the site where so many soldiers lost their lives in Turkey during the First World War.
A young Cuthbert Free was nearly one of them. He enlisted with the 1st Mounted Rifles (Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry) in August 1914, and by September 1914 was on a troop ship to a training camp in Egypt. The young man’s Christ College school record reveals him as the champion rifle shot in the schools’ Cadet Corps.
“The Cavalry was originally formed in 1864 as a part-time colonial self defence unit so when war broke out, this was an existing outfit bolstered by enlistment. So off they went on a ship half way across the world. We have all his letters and these talk about the voyage, how they looked after the horses, that it was ‘bloody hot’ in Egypt when they arrived,” says Tony.
The letters, which maintained a “bright and breezy” tone because he presumably didn’t want to worry the relatives back home, says Tony, also provide a fairly graphic account of how C W Free was wounded in hand-to-hand combat with a Turkish soldier at the famous Battle of Chanuk Bair in August 1915.
“He was bayoneted in the thigh but managed to grab his small dagger and stab his attacker through the heart from the back. Then he withdrew the bayonet, bandaged himself up and carried on,” says Tony. “He was later invalided out to hospital, patched up and then sent back to the front.”
He was one of the last New Zealand officers to leave the battlefield when the Anzacs withdrew, says Tony. Although no Anzac medals were ever given out, the Australian and New Zealand Governments decided they needed to honour the old solders and so struck the special Gallipoli medallion.
“My mother Pat Forsyth was able to apply for that and it was awarded. There’s not too many of those.”
It now has pride of place with C W Free’s impressive line up of medals. These include a Military Cross awarded for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” at the pivotal WWI Battle at Messines. That was after he’d left Turkey and transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment on the Western Front.
“The citation for the Military Cross said that he had led his men to overpower two German machine gun nests at a critical moment in the fighting,” says Tony.
Subsequent medals follow his continuing military service – as do his letters.
“After the Great War finished, he joined the Indian Army because he wanted a military career. And his family gets this delighted letter – ‘joy of joys, I am posted to the elite regiment of the Indian Army. I am going to be an officer in Queen Victoria’s Own Corps of Guides’,” says Tony.
“This was a very famous pathfinder regiment, so he was very happy to be part of it.”
His Indian medal sports two clasps for the Third Afghan War (1919) and North-west Frontier actions in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. Up in the rough border territory, he carried out espionage work at a time when there were concerns about a Russian invasion from the north, says Tony.
“He was quite a swarthy looking man, so he’d put on local clothing, go up into the Hindu Kush area and basically do a bit of spying.”
Travelling through Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1975, Tony found a plaque honouring his ancestor’s regiment set into a cliff going through the Khyber Pass where he had fought.
It was in India that Cuthbert Free found time to get married and have three children – one of them Tony’s mother Pat who was born in Quetta, now Pakistan but then part of the British Empire.
Tony has a map carefully embroidered by a family friend of his grandparents, following their trip to India when they visited the Frees in 1927. In the mid-1930s, the family returned to New Zealand and Cuthbert Free was asked by the Government to help organise the fledgling Royal New Zealand Air Force. During World War II, he was sent to Fiji to help prepare the islands’ defences against the Japanese.
“But he missed India and missed his regiment and asked to go back there, which he did in 1942. That’s probably where he contracted the Dengue fever which, on top of incipient TB, was to kill him a couple of years later,” says Tony.
Cuthbert Free died in Johannesburg – where he’d doubtless gone because the city’s height above sea level was seen as a healthier place for recuperation.
His family returned to New Zealand and his daughter, Pat Forsyth, ended up living on Waiheke. It was only recently, as she was packing up to move from her Kennedy Point home, that her father’s medals were rediscovered.
“My sister Caroline came over one day with a box she’d found under the house and suggested I might like to go through it,” says Tony. “Inside was a smaller box which had a false bottom. When I lifted that, there were all his medals. I couldn’t believe it. It was a very emotional moment.”
Since then Tony has had the medals all restored and polished. They make an impressive line-up – and Tony will be taking a set of miniatures of the medals when he heads off to Gallipoli next year.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have been successful in the ballot. We’ve always been very proud of my grandfather – and I’ve never been to Gallipoli, although I’ve always wanted to.”
More than 10,000 entered the ballot to attend the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings in Gallipoli and winners of 950 double passes were announced late last month. Just 251 double passes were allocated to direct descendants of those who fought at Gallipoli.
Tony’s wife and daughter plan to travel with him to Turkey but won’t attend the service – the second ticket will be used by his sister Caroline, says Tony. He says they’ll be part of a small escorted tour that will include four eminent New Zealand historians.
“So I’ll learn a lot more about my grandfather and the battles he fought and the terrain he fought through – and the hardships he had to endure.”
Eventually, this will form part of the memoir Tony and Caroline plan to put together: the story of an amazing man living through interesting times.
“It’s not just his action in the wars but his time in India during what were the last days of the Raj. When I had the medals restored I was told this is a very rare combination to have earned.”
As his research reveals, his ancestor was a rare sort of man. • Vicki Jayne
Anzac Day services
The Waiheke RSA will conduct commemorative Anzac Day services at the cenotaph adjacent to the Waiheke War Memorial Hall in Ostend and all members of the public are invited to attend.
The dawn parade starts at 5.50am. Assemble at the clubrooms no earlier than 5.30am and at the cenotaph at 5.45am.
Service personnel and community groups march for the civic service from the Ostend shopping centre along Belgium Street to the cenotaph at 10.55am. The service commences at 11am and veterans are welcome to bring along young family to march with them.
In the event of bad weather, services will be held inside the hall.
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and all that jazz . . . photos, news and reviews from another great island weekend
Getting tuned up for all that Easter jazz
– The festival gets going at Rangihoua Estate on Friday with the Good Friday Groove, featuring The Phoenix Foundation, Five Mile Town, BlackSandDiva, Jan Hellriegel Band, Kevin Mark Trail and Sharlene Hector.
Saturday and Sunday feature a range of acts at The Bay, The Waiheke Island Resort and The Festival Club as part of the Daytime Jazzabout series, Friday and Saturday evening concerts and a ‘Stars of the Festival’ event on Sunday. For more information see What’s On on page 42 and for festival highlights and interviews, see our sister publication, Waiheke Weekender, free on the ferries and around Waiheke.
To book tickets, go to www.waihekejazzfestival.co.nz.
Board takes action on Wharf Road’s ‘suboptimal’ roading design
– Frustration over lack of local input on roading design prompted a stand-off between Waiheke Local Board representatives and Auckland Transport (AT) contractors on site at Wharf Road last week.
Back on Metro’s menu
– Five Waiheke restaurants have made it onto this year’s Metro Magazine Top 50 Restaurants of the Year, including the reinstatement of The Shed at Te Motu.
More inside this week's issue, available on the ferries, at island retailers and online
Property CCO considering service centre land for disposal
The future of three pieces of council-owned land around Waiheke’s Ostend service centre – including former Waiheke Roads Board land bought in the 1950s – will be reviewed by Auckland Council Properties Ltd (ACPL) with a view to possible disposal.
They include the adjacent 4-6 Belgium Street land – the former power board building and site – that the council property CCO says was acquired by the former Auckland City Council for use as a service centre, which was to include a future library.
The others are the former council depot at 7 Waitai Road that was purchased in the 1950s (the Waiheke Roads Board was founded in 1955) and the site at 15 Waitai Road that includes waste water disposal beds.
Ongoing sales of surplus city assets were set to raise $80 million in the year to June 2013 and a further $58 million in the current year.
The CCO’s six-monthly summary to the Waiheke Local Board, authorised by chief executive (and former Auckland City CEO) David Rankin, says that “property disposals are undertaken in a commercially robust manner” and ACPL provides commercial expertise in property management, buying and selling of properties and by strategically developing council assets to achieve “social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes for Auckland”.
Optimising “net returns” and bringing a commercial perspective to planning and development initiatives were among the objectives.
Read more in this week's issue, available at local retailers, on the ferries and online.
Also this week . . .
– CCO considers Ostend land for disposal
– Plunge in ferry numbers attracts investigation
– Venomous sea snake found on Onetangi Beach
– New snapper bag and size limits now apply
– ‘Terrifying’ encounter as dinghy rocked by playful orca
Island shoppers embrace Plastic-Free Friday
Most retailers in Oneroa say they gave away no plastic bags at all on Waiheke’s first Plastic-Free Friday last week and Countdown manager Wiebe van der Veen said the Ostend supermarket had a 96 percent reduction in plastic bag usage.
He said nine out of ten customers arrived at Countdown with a reusable bag in hand. “Some were even carrying the old Woolworths’ bags - the very first ones made. Everyone obviously has reusable bags. They just need to bring them all the time.”
Normally, Countdown gives out between 2.2 and three plastic bags per customer but on Friday numbers dropped significantly and 800 of the store’s ecobags were given away.
BYO BAG Waiheke Island’s Deb Lyttle says more than 2000 reusable shopping bags were distributed across the island to help shoppers go plastic-free on the day but most supermarket shoppers had brought their own reusable bags.
“It proves that people just need a bit of help to remember to go plastic bag free,” she said. “The campaign for Plastic-Free Friday really helped people to make the effort.”
Most of Oneroa’s retailers got involved in the initiative. Butcher Steve Hill gave his customers bright red bags matching the shop’s storefront and emblazoned with the Humble Pie Village Butchery logo.
Ann McDonald at Take Note said the lack of plastic bags (removed from the till area for the whole weekend) didn’t attract any customer comment. People were even turning down paper bags, she said. At Shop the Rock, Sue McCann also managed to go the whole day without giving out a single plastic bag. When one person became intent on having one, she wrapped the package in a recycled delivery bag.
She found herself in conversations with visitors from Tasmania, India and England, where plastic bags have been banned or a fee charged for them.
At Waiheke Fruit and Veg, Jill Watson said there were no hiccups going plastic bag free. Plastic bags were taken away from the counter and replaced with cardboard boxes. Paper bags were available for 20 cents. The whole team, she said, was really into it, with their own artwork poster in the window and a sign on the chalkboards.
Keith Johnston, standing in line at Countdown, said he received a free reusable bag there, having spent $50. The man in front of him who bought over $300 worth of groceries was thrilled when he received six reusable bags. One shopper said he got a free bag when someone else who already had enough reusable bags “paid it forward” at the cash register.
Donations of reusable bags were met with enthusiasm by Waiheke shoppers. The compact strong red bags supplied by Mike Pero Real Estate were welcomed for bottles and smaller goods while bags from New Generation featuring the logos of Maxwell Williams and Casa Domani were popular because of their enormous capacity.
At Four Square, one reusable bag with the iconic ‘Charlie’ image was given to every shopper, with 400 in total going out the door. “Hopefully they are reused,” said owner Tim Baker. Over the past six weeks, Four Square had also given away 500 of the fashionable jute summer bags with Charlie and his caravan which are seen as symbolic of New Zealand.
While retailers were addressing plastic bag usage, the cafés and schools were also into reducing their plastic footprint. Students at Te Huruhi brought plastic-free lunches and made the effort to avoid disposable plastic drink bottles. They also created an artwork exploring the plastic bag’s disastrous effect on marine life.
Liz and Pilar of Spice Café have been systematically addressing plastic, ordering in paper bags for takeaway food and bio-cups and compostable lids for their takeaway coffee. They also offer a 50c discount to those who bring their own coffee mug. At Double Shot Espresso, the baristas gave away bent stainless steel straws with their iced coffees and milkshakes. Upstairs at the Oyster Inn, paper drinking straws were introduced and stainless steel ones were also put to use.
Lyndal Jefferies’ Revolution juice cart now offers stainless steel straws and cornstarch drinking cups and food containers, with discounts given when customers bring their own jars and containers.
Deb Lyttle said she and fellow organiser Jennifer Fountain from BYO BAG Waiheke Island were very pleased with public support for the event. “We hope people have discovered it’s easy to do without a plastic bag. Plastic drink bottles, cups, takeaway containers, and drinking straws are all options we can do without.”
Next step? “There have been suggestions that Waiheke be plastic-free every Friday. We certainly support that,” said Deb Lyttle. “But why not a plastic-free week, plastic-free month, or plastic-free forever?” •
Also this week . . .