Lest we forget...

14/07/10

Tandem is sad to see the loss of the man known as the ‘Waimate warrior’.

Eric Batchelor, one of New Zealand’s most highly decorated World War 2 soldiers, died in Waimate, South Canterbury, on Saturday, and is being buried with full military honours today.

Sergeant Batchelor, who would have turned 90 in August, was twice awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for conspicuous bravery during the Italian campaign, an award second only to the Victoria Cross.

He was mentioned in dispatches, and fought at El Alamien in North Africa, and Monte Cassino in Italy, both key battles for New Zealand troops.

Mr Batchelor was promoted to sergeant in the Italian campaign, gaining a reputation as an effective search and destroy operator with the nickname “The Ferret”.

Leading a platoon of mainly West Coast South Island infantrymen, he became a specialist in working many kilometres behind enemy lines at night, a skill he owed to his New Zealand childhood.

In later years, long after the war, he admitted he had not been a “very bright” school pupil and spent much of his younger days roaming the hills in and around Waimate shooting rabbits or “sneaking around at night raiding orchards”.

His first DCM was awarded after he captured a group of Germans after a fierce close quarter fight in a small house behind enemy lines.

His second came from a similar engagement two months later when he and three New Zealand soldiers, working well behind enemy lines at night, came upon a remote house.

Tandem met Eric when filming the documentary ‘Citizen Soldier’ last year. Eric and his wife welcomed us into thier home, made cups of tea and offered biscuits, with Eric then warmly sharing his experiences in World War Two. This video is with Eric from that documentary. (Full story at the ODT)