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Bugle boy's heirlooms from the battlefront

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Auteur Bericht

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BerichtGeplaatst: 22 Apr 2008 12:43    Onderwerp: Bugle boy's heirlooms from the battlefront Reageer met quote

On one of the rare days Sergeant Arthur Perry was allowed to wash in the sea of Anzac Cove, he stayed in the water while his khaki uniform dried on the sand. The men of the Otago Mounted Rifles were used to dodging Turkish sniper bullets while they bathed, but Perry didn't expect to be on guard for thieves.

Hidden in his trousers was one of his most prized possessions - a double hunter pocket watch he had won in a roller skating race back home in Dunedin. His name and the date of his victory were inscribed inside.

While in the water, someone stole Perry's watch. During the many months the gunner fought in Gallipoli, he never discovered who the thief was. Ten years later, the watch was returned to Perry back in New Zealand after a bizarre string of circumstances.

A man had been bothering a young woman he saw on a tram in New Plymouth. The woman's brothers told her to arm herself with a handful of pepper and a pick handle in her handbag. When the man approached her again, she threw the pepper in his face and hit him with the pick handle. As he ran off, he dropped the watch.
Police handed the prized timepiece back to Perry in Dunedin, and he wore it in his fob pocket every day for the next 25 years.

Perry's family still have the watch - along with some other invaluable heirlooms from the battle for Gallipoli.Like many New Zealand soldiers, Perry took a camera to war with which he furtively captured images from the trenches and the hills above Anzac Cove.

The sepia photos told of life at the front line: marching to battle, taking aim at the enemy, sleeping in bivouacs fashioned from sacks and branches and reading letters from home. A soldier in a Courtney's Post trench is poised with his bayonet fixed while another takes aim with a periscope rifle.

Graeme Perry has kept his father's 100-year-old Kodak 1A - a folding pocket camera with a wooden lens mount and bellows.

An army bugle boy since the age of 12, Arthur Aubrey Perry left Port Chalmers in October 1914 on the troopship Ruapehu, sharing the voyage with 31 officers, 785 fighting men and 244 horses.

Perry, a 22-year-old commercial traveller, hit the beach at Anzac Cove two hours after the first wave of New Zealand troops on April 25, 1915, stepping over dead bodies already in the water.

During his tour of duty, Sergeant Perry fell ill. In searing heat, drinking water that had trickled into the trenches after seeping through decaying bodies, he contracted enteric fever - typhoid.

Weakened and emaciated, Perry was invalided from the battlefields and eventually made the journey home on New Zealand hospital ship, the Maheno; returning to New Zealand on New Year's Day, 1916.

He defied death many times - once a letter from his mother was mistakenly returned stamped "Reported: Killed In Action".

The family have kept all of the mementos Perry collected from Gallipoli - a gold tin with an ampoule of iodine and two field dressings that was a Christmas gift to the soldiers from Princess Mary; a propaganda letter that rained down from the enemy; the outer ring of a British shell that fell on his head while he was sleeping.

The ravages of war were obvious: for two years he couldn't sleep without a pillow over his head; he suffered from stomach ulcers for decades. He disliked the smell of thyme, reminding him of the fragrant herb which grew wild through the gullies of Gallipoli.

He lived to be 81, a doting father and a successful businessman - the manager of Briscoe & Co Hardware Merchants in Christchurch, and president of the city's businessmen's association.
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