Ted D’Auvergne was invited by the publican, George Provan, at Waihao Folks Hotel west of Wellington, to have a farewell drinks before departing for overseas service in 1940. When he heard the train whistle, George put a bottle on the shelf saying “we’ll have this one Ted when you return home again”.
On the morning of 27 December 1939, Ted was enjoying his last day on leave at home, before embarking on overseas service. He said farewell to his family and then walked to the hotel, where he was a regular patron, in order to have a couple of final bottles before catching the train. Ted did not have time to drink the second bottle of his favourite Ballins XXXX ale.
Ted grew up in the Waihao forks area southwest of New Zealand and he was the youngest of six. He enlisted in September 1939, and his Army papers show his date of birth as 1 of February 1906, age 33. Ted was posted to the 27th Machine Gun Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
The 27th Machine Gun Battalion was one of the first units to go into action in the Greek Campaign in April 1941, at Veve and Crete, as well at the Western Desert including at EL Alamein, and Tobruk. The Battalion served overseas longer than any other unit in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
In May 1941, Crete was overrun by the Germans, and troops were in the process of evacuating the Island. Ted and his gunners were fighting a rear-guard action amongst the vineyards in harassing the oncoming Germans to play for time while evacuation was in progress at a beach on the North Western coast of the island. Eventually the situation deteriorated as the enemy pushed forward and the order came down for Ted and his group to head for the beach with all the speed. Ted’s mates realised that Ted was not with them when they reached the beach and thought that he may have been a bit behind finishing all his ammunition, or that he may have not heard the order to retreat. He never showed up and was posted as missing in May 1941.
After the war, a local farmer Yakovos Kalionzakis said that he found Ted wounded and cared for him, but he died two days later. Yakovos buried him in his vineyard in order to avoid detection by the Germans. Yakovos informed the Authorities after the war, and Ted’s body was exhumed from the shallow grave and was reburied at Suda Bay War Cemetery.
Since 1939, the bottle XXXX still waits in a glass case. It is now a local memorial to all those who went away to war and never returned. Every year on ANZAC Day, old soldiers, friends and relatives of Ted D’Auvergne gather around, and a red Poppy is placed in the glass case next to the bottle, in remembrance of all those who gave their lives in war.
In memory of Ted D’Auvergne
Private 7110, 27TH New Zealand Machine Gun Battalion
Who died on Monday, 2ND June 1941. Age 35.
Suda Bay War Cemetery Crete.
Panel Number: 12, D, 12. (Plot 12, Row D).
*In the Geek Campaign 1940-41, 841 Australians died and 1040 New Zealanders.
LEST WE FORGET
Steve Kyritsis OAM is the President of the Hellenic RSL Melbourne\