Tag Archives: Woolshed

Dad recounts getting wounded

When I was a kid I remember Dad showing me the scar on his forehead – a jagged ‘v’ shaped scar just inside his hairline. He said he was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel that went through his tin hat and grazed his head. I knew he had been wounded but in the New Zealand army a wound doesn’t get you a medal like in some militaries, so his scar was his only memoir, albeit one he wished he never had.  As a kid I never knew that this wound caused him so much pain and ongoing discomfort – it was “Oh yeah, Dad got hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel”.   Dad’s application for a war pension came about because about this time he was checked out and had his neck and back x-rayed for the first time and it was discovered that the top three vertebrae were crushed and somewhat fused – the result of an old injury as it turns out. The specialist asked him if he had ever received a blow to the head causing whiplash. That is when he realised that the shrapnel to the head was the only thing that could have caused the injury.

I was tidying up the Woolshed and came across the following documents in a box of papers. One is a hand written letter from Dad when he was applying for a war pension detailing the events surrounding his disability, and a letter to one of his platoon mates who was asked to recount his memories of the same event sent by the RSA (Returned Services Association) Welfare Officer at Dad’s local RSA.  Dad did receive the pension in the end. There is a post-script to this story that I will recount below.  Note that he never once mentions that he was decorated in this action.  He also doesn’t mention it in the letter but he said to me that he was pretty certain the shell fragment was from his own Div Artillery who were stonking the area he was in at the time (see his citation on the post linked to below).

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TRANSCRIPT

SMALLER, BCD 633301, A CO. 22nd NZ BN

On the night of 13th April 1945 during an attack to the Sillaro River in Italy.
While carrying in wounded members of my section I was grazed high on the forehead by a piece of shrapnel which threw me to the ground stunning me momentarily.

Although there was considerable bleeding for a while I carried on with the attack and we duly reached our objective.

By morning and after a wash I examined the wound which was about two inches long and did not appear very deep. I considered going back to let the MO have a look at it but decided it was safer to stay where I was and by the time we were relieved the wound had closed up and was giving me no trouble, so I did nothing about it. It seemed so minor after the ghastly wounds of my mates. I did notice a constant ringing note in my ears. That’s all at the time.

Since the war the ringing in my ears has been constant but I’ve become used to it as one does and for a few years I suffered severe headaches which have reoccurred frequently and are very distressing.

Over the last few years these headaches have become almost daily occurrences and usually start about the middle of the afternoon, often putting a stop to my work for the day because I lose my concentration and am afraid the dizzy spells which accompany the headache may cause me to fall from a ladder or scaffold.  I also have frequent pain in my neck at the base of the skull, it has been suggested that this was caused by the blow to the forehead snapping my head back and damaging a vertebrae there.

I am Sir

Yours Faithfully

BCD SMALLER 633301

Letter to Bill Moulton. Bill “Papa Bill” was the old man of Dad’s platoon. Almost all the platoon were young men but Bill was already in his forties.  There is a tragic story about Bill that I will recount in a future post.

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POSTSCRIPT.

Dad received his Military Medal for his gallantry under fire the same night he was wounded. In the mid-1990s the RSA and Social Welfare were sorting out his pension entitlements and it was discovered that he was eligible for a small honorarium along with his medal. This had been due from the time he was gazetted in 1945 and he had never received it. With adjustments for inflation and so forth, fifty years of back-payments came to a tidy sum that was well into five figures. When Dad found out about this I asked him how he felt about this. He said “If I had known I was going to get this much I would have killed more bloody Germans”.  The joke was that he received his medal for saving lives, not taking them.

Winter is Coming

We are in the last month of Autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere and we are enjoying some lovely warm weather…but that is just for a bit because around the corner is ………. winter. Here at Castle Woolshed, in preparation for the oncoming cold we have been getting some late firewood sorted.  This is the reason that I have not been painting anything this week. I find after chainsawing and chopping firewood my hands are in no state to hold a brush. Cut into rounds with the trusty Stihl chainsaw and I split it all by hand. I am kind of old fashioned that way. As long as my back holds out of course. Lady SWMBO was delighted at all the firewood. At the rate she burns through it you would think it grew on trees.

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Ready to start work. Three trailer loads.
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Note my trusty Saw Aardvaark (I thought Saw Horse did not do it justice)
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End Result of three hours of axing.
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Our Dire Wolf Jasper keeps watch for Wildlings and Rabbits. Go here to see more of Jasper and what he gets up to.
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Done for the day. Collecting more wood this afternoon and tomorrow.

Lambing Time – Wins and Losses

As you may or may not realise, I live on a lifestyle block. In the UK it would be called a small-holding.  This time of the year is lambing season in New Zealand. All over the country millions of lambs are being born.  Last year I was going to get rid of all my sheep and just run another couple of beef cattle.   Imagine my surprise then when all my ewes fell pregnant, especially seeing  as I didn’t have a ram.  The previous couple of years I had borrowed the neighbour’s ram to do the necessaries.  As it turns out I had one wether left that had escaped the freezer from a year or two before.  There were two left, I grabbed at one, it got away but the other one ended up as roast. The lucky survivor was lucky in more ways than one.

Turns out he was what is called a cryptorchid.  When I nutted him as a lamb, I missed a testicle. He had one left, and apparently, one is enough. So, instead of becoming food, One Nut is now the proud leader of a small flock.

So, there are three ewes, The first one had a healthy lamb and the second bore twins.

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The other day I went out to check on the third girl and discovered that she had a prolapsed uterus. This happened when the pressure inside basically pushes the uterus out her vagina. The trick is to shove it back in and use one of these bearing retainers to hold everything in place. They can lamb through them which is rather nifty. You put the spoon part into the vagina and tie the thing in place so it holds her insides in.

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Not my sheep but an example of a prolapse.
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Bearing retainer

However, by the time we got to this stage she had been distressed for some time, was exhausted  and had partially delivered a lamb. The poor girl was on her side with a lamb stuck halfway. Yanked that one out and it was alive. A bit of rubbing and it was breathing. Had to go inside her and deliver the next one.  It too was alive. At this stage the bearing retainer was inserted and we left them too it. In the morning I discovered she had lambed again. Triplets. Once she had finished lambing she rejected one lamb a few hours later and despite spending a night feeding it inside in front of the fire the lamb died. The other two were feeding vigorously so I had high hopes for them. However, in the morning one was dead. So from three am down to one from this ewe. Saying that, the survivor seems to be doing very well.

The joys of rural life.  Wins and losses.

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L/Cpl Brian Smaller,MM, 633301, 22 Infantry Batn, 2NZEF

On Thursday 15th May, 2014 my father, for whom I am named, finally marched off parade and into the memories of those who knew him. He was in his 90th year. He was a veteran of World War Two, a conflict that shaped him and affected every day of his life from when he was sixteen and joined up (after lying about his age) until the day he died.

Dad's Rack

He started his military life in 1940 as a Trooper/Bandsman in the Queen Alexandra’s Own Wellington West Coast Mounted Rifles. They actually rode horses and practiced cavalry charges with lance and sabre.

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He transferred to the Coastal Artillery and was stationed at the forts covering Wellington Harbour. He operated the mechanical range finding calculator to feed targeting information to the big guns. The Range Finger shoulder flashes below are rare as hen’s teeth. I have been looking for another set for years with no success. Rather glad that Dad managed to keep these items.

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In 1942 he transferred to the Infantry and first went to Egypt for training and was posted to 22 Battalion, 2NZEF as a replacement. His first taste of action was in Italy in 1943 at Monte Cassino, a hell of a baptism of fire. He spoke of the horror of experiencing combat in such a nightmare place, and how he quickly learned to respect the enemy he was fighting.

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My father was a natural soldier. He fought throughout the rest of the Italian Campaign. Like most New Zealanders of the time he was used to living rough and was able to make-do with what he had on hand.  For the most part he enjoyed soldiering. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. This is a copy of the original citation document held in the War Office Archives in the UK. The original presentation certificate signed by the King was lost to a fire. He said that he must have been shell shocked because no sane person would ever have done what he did.  Self-deprecation is the way of Gallantry Award winners it seems. He always said that he didn’t deserve his medal and better men did. In latter years he spoke of this award with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

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He never actually received his medal until about 1950 when his old Divisional Commander General Freyberg, who was Governor General of New Zealand at the time, came up from Wellington to Wanganui (the town where Dad and his young family lived) and presented him with it at a special ceremony at the Opera House. Dad had to draw a uniform and present himself. He had been demobbed in 1947.  Dad did have the opportunity to go to London in 1945 to get his medal pinned on him by the King but he was chasing a young Italian woman (my mother) at the time and that seemed more important.  He told me that having “Tiny” Freyberg pin his medal on meant more to him than if he had got it from the King.  After all, Tiny knew him by name.

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Dad Congratulatory certificate

A full shot of what Dad called his Brag Board.  You will notice that bottom right there is a badge missing. That was a cap badge of his with a dent in it where a bullet nearly took his head off one day.  When Dad gave me this Brag Board before he went to live with my sister in Australia he took it with him. His good luck charm he reckoned.

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You never remember your parents as anything other than old, and sometimes it is hard to imagine they were anything else. I see that in my own kid’s eyes. But he was a young man once.

 Dad Italy 1944

 Dad in centre with Bren.

Not all Jam and Chutney

Napoleon said “an army marches on it’s stomach”.  That goes for those at the Woolshed.

The plum trees are laden and I have been busy making preserves for later in the year. So instead of painting those Elite Miniature Napoleonic British Foot Artillery I have been up to my elbows de-stoning plums and making jam, chutney and sauce. Another big batch being made tomorrow morning before I head to Wellington.  Next time I am home it is marmalade from the grapefruit trees.

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That gets turned into….

ImageThe chilli plants are looking good this year. Still have some dried ones left from the last harvest and they have not lost any potency in the past year.

ImageI did try to get some painting in. Honest.

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Shaky Isles

New Zealand is also known as The Shaky Isles. It is living up to it’s name today. We have had a swarm of earthquakes all day. Just had a 6.9 rumble through. The house was rocking and rolling.  It was shallow – only 19km. Fortunately it was centered at sea. Here’s hoping the damage is not bad. I cannot get hold of home at the Woolshed. Phones are out.  Lots of aftershocks.

Here is a link to the Geonet info about the quake. http://geonet.co.nz/quakes/region/newzealand/2013p543824

UPDATE: Got hold of my son back at home – everything seems OK. He will get up on the roof tomorrow to check the chimney.  He went over to the Woolshed and said all the cabinets holding my models were still attached to the walls. He said the water in the swimming pool was sloshing right out of the pool.

UPDATE 2: Another aftershock just jolted the house. There have been a few hundred small quakes since yesterday I think. Some people will be getting motion sickness 🙂

A photo of my father, Italy c.21st Oct 1944

Now I have seen this photo before in a few books but while trolling through the National Library of New Zealand web-site I found a copy of it. Ordered it as a high resolution jpg.

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My father is the young guy in the middle of the photo with the bren. I look at this and shake my head at how young he was. Only nineteen years old. He was a Lance Corporal in the 22nd Infantry Battalion, 2NZEF.  The old bugger is still going at 88 and not quite ready to start pushing up the daisies.

We have another photo of Dad taken by my Uncle Bob from the turret of his Sherman – it shows Dad escorting prisoners he took back down the road from the front. Dad said it was the best day of his war. He captured about forty Germans who had been asleep in a church and no-one died – on either side.

Here is a link to the original source. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23034721?search%5Bi%5D%5Bsubject%5D%5B%5D=Military+personnel%2C+New+Zealand&search%5Bi%5D%5Bsubject%5D%5B%5D=Italy&search%5Bil%5D%5Bcategory%5D=Images&search%5Bpage%5D=3&search%5Bpath%5D=items

Woolshed Besieged.

Last night the Woolshed was besieged by somewhere between 40 and 60 teens for my daughter’s birthday party. It took a real hammering. All my gaming stuff, wall ornaments, pictures, swords, bat’leths, steel helmets and so forth were moved into the office and bedroom along the right hand wall and I put a couple of bolts and locks on those doors.

One thing about living a long way from town is that once people were dropped off there was no where else to go – they were stuck here. On the other hand, the chances of gatecrashers out this far from town was almost nil. All in all, the Woolshed was a safe environment for these kids to let their hair down.

There were about 40 girls who slept over at the house and a dozen boys who ended up asleep in the woolshed amongst the wreckage. It was the first party for her ‘year group’ at school and seemed to be a success, depending how you measure it. I would suggest to all fellow gamers with teens who are contemplating a big party to reconsider:)

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Bleary eyed kids the morning after. Image

More floor pie than a dog could eat – and believe me – the dog tried his hardest.Image

Dead Soldiers. Despite what it looked like there was not a lot of alcohol consumed. A few over did it but everyone was right in the morning.

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After a good breakfast they were all a lot chipper. I made them do the bulk of the clean-up before dishing up breakfast. Apart from cereals and left over sausage rolls and pizza from the night before, there was a big bowl of fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and two kilos of bacon.

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