Peter, after you mentioned your visits to the Wischnowsky family, I did some research. The Halcombe Lutheran Church was burned by arsonists during the First World War. 1917. Other churches were burned or threatened because people associated them with Germany. The Lutheran Church in Christchurch was confiscated by the government, and the bells melted down. It was thought they had been made from French cannons — spoils of the Franco-Prussian War.
There were all sorts of sad mistakes — but it was wartime — people got very enthusiastic about their ideas.
But Herbert, your mother’s cousin, fought for ‘King and Country’ and got killed in the Somme by the Germans. 1916.
All very confusing.
I read that some people were concerned because your Halcombe ‘Germans’ were pruning the side branches off their pine trees, and leaving a tuft on top. It occasioned some strange speculations. Was it ‘a signal to invaders that the farm was German’? All that sort of thing.
That makes me laugh. Lots of strange ideas get around at times like that. It’s part of the war fever — like volunteering — for some young men it was a big chance for adventure — ‘doing your bit’ they called it — but what they really wanted was to travel, and blow things up — destroy things — they couldn’t get there fast enough.
Your brother Fred’s girl, Donna — the one who gave you your ‘100 NOT OUT’ cap — she sent me a copy of Fred’s ‘Record of Service’. Seems he didn’t waste time volunteering. War declared in September 1939, he joined the Navy in November.
Well, you had a choice — get in early and volunteer, or take you time and get forced — conscripted. Lots of people were very keen to get cracking. It was very tempting for some. And if you volunteered you had some say in where you went — navy — air force — that sort of thing.
What surprised me was what Fred wrote for his occupation.
What did he say it was?
Guess. You knew him. He was your brother. What occupation did he have? He was 19 years and 4 months old at the time.
He could have written all sorts of things. Sorry, but I’m no good as a mind reader. Tell me.
He said his occupation was — DYNAMITER!
DYNAMITER! Oh dear! That does bring back memories. Unfortunately, in a war, when someone wants to get involved, like Fred did, a volunteer can try and nominate himself — put himself forward as a certain thing. Dynamiter!
I told your half-brother John about Fred’s ‘occupation’. He worked for Fred in the 50s, and he thought Fred might have worked with your Dad, clearing stumps and splitting logs. John knew your father used dynamite a lot. It was a lot easier than using axes, wedges and huge hammers.
Dad knew all about that. I remember on one occasion he pointed out the Woodville Bridge to me. ‘Peter,’ he said, ‘I could blow that lot out of existence with a few sticks of jelly.’ Smithereens!
The whole war thing was a sad episode. It could be an adventure, and for some it might have been a good thing. It makes me smile. Fred, the Dynamiter.
When Fred’s daughter wrote to me she said ‘No wonder Dad always enjoyed Guy Fawkes night. He loved setting up Catherine Wheels and letting off jumping jacks and sky rockets.!!!
That’s interesting. What can we make of it all? And now, every 5th of November we celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. That’s always amazed me — we CELEBRATE it! And that man was the Original Terrorist. He was planning to blow up the Houses of Parliament! He was foiled — they stopped him, but then what does everyone do — they go to all this fuss, and celebrate it! It’s all a bit weird.
But with Fred, we don’t know what was in his mind, but I suspect he was certainly putting himself forward. The Dynamiter. That’d be Fred.