Bill Wakeling

Bill Wakeling

Bill Wakeling, 19th (Armoured) Regt, 4th Armoured Brigade | 2NZEF (WWII)

Bill Wakeling, 19th (Armoured) Regt, 4th Armoured Brigade | 2NZEF (WWII)

(Palmerston North)

Date: [ca 4 Aug 1944] By: Kaye, George Frederick, 1914-2004
Ref: DA-06510-F
Caption on file print reads: ‘This NZ Sherman tank was knocked out by the German Tiger [tank], which was destroyed in turn by a ‘stonk’ from the guns of NZ Div Arty.’ Photograph taken circa 4 August 1944 by George Frederick Kaye.

Bill Wakeling was born on the 20th of August 1922 in Wanganui, where he grew up and spent the first eighteen years of his life. His father had a small block near the town; a leased a further 60-acres further out; milking cows and rearing pigs. ‘We were milking 60 cows and raising 200 pigs.

’‘Families were tighter in those days. All you’re spare time was spent helping out… I think we were fortunate, being on a little farm. There was so much to occupy our time.’

His Father also held down a full-time job in the city, setting up petrol bowsers for Wright Stevensons and their Challenge Benzine outlets. Later, he set up his petrol and tyre business. He then bought a farm in the Waitotara Valley north-west of the city, and Bill moved there too to work on it. During the Depression years, when business was down, the large family garden on the farm helped out a lot.

“Things were pretty tight.”

When Bill left school, he initially took a wholesale grocery job and thought he might pursue the trade.
Later, after going into the Army, on final leave before going overseas, he purchased a run nearby his family farm, which he farmed himself after the war. ‘Other than my Army life, I was up there all my life, nearly. 60 years.’

“I knew I was coming back (from the War). Optimist eh. All of us over there thought we were coming back…”

At Maadi Camp just out of Cairo, Assigned to the 19th Armoured Regiment, Bill became part of NZ 4th Armoured Brigade, that had recently converted from infantry as 19th Battalion. He served through the Italian campaign.

 

Arthur James

Arthur James

Arthur James, 6th Field Ambulance | 2NZEF (WWII)

Arthur James, 6th Field Ambulance | 2NZEF (WWII)

(Wanganui) - Greece - P.O.W -

Image: Arthur James Collection

Arthur was born near Swansea in Wales on the 7th of December 1918, moving to New Zealand as a very young boy with his parents. His father, a Welsh veteran of WWI, had planned to emigrate to Australia with his English wife, but was convinced to move instead to Wanganui by a friend here who set him up with job in carpentry.

“Mum didnt like Wanganui. She went down to the beach and it was black sand! She was used to white sand.”

Arthur attended Key Street School then Wanganui Intermediate School. Arthur’s schooldays were the Depression years, which he remembers clearly.

“Dad was only on half-work (working one day on, one off). We ate the cheapest of everything. Mum was very prim and proper, and I had to wear shoes to work, but most of my friends wore bare feet. I took my shoes off when I got to school.”

After leaving school at 14, he took a job initially with a cabinet-maker friend of his father’s, then the Wanganui Education Board. Arthur could see the war coming in the late 1930s, and joined the Red Cross to do his medical and first aid training in anticipation of joining-up. As a committed Christian, he wanted to do his bit, but knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to kill anyone, so elected to join the Medical Corps. After brief training, he sailed with the 3rd Echelon.

After the Division moved to Greece, Arthur served at the New Zealand General Hospital near Athens. Captured and taken prisoner of war during the evacuation, he was eventually repatriated to New Zealand due to ill health in a prisoner exchange organised by the Red Cross.

(Interview by Nga Toa/Patrick Bronte)