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Soldier Sam Marches On

soldier sam marches on
Rangiora RSA Member Lloyd Thomas gives Harry Renner, a Pupil at the Redwood School, in Christchurch, instruction on the correct way of handling Soldier Sam’s rifle.

As part of the lead-up to Anzac Day 2017 Amberley RSA Member and local historian James Drewery outfitted a full-size mannequin as a young World War 1 Soldier and badged as a Canterbury Battalion rifl eman.

Using much of his genuine personal collection and items of replica uniform and equipment, James achieved a result that was complete in every detail – down to such items as a personal Bible with a period photograph of a wife and young baby patiently awaiting the safe return of their loved husband and father. Soldier Sam was ready for the road.

First stop: the Greta Valley School for a power-pointsupported presentation of how Soldier Sam ate, travelled, slept and generally lived.

This was the start of the road to all 10 of the North Canterbury schools; some talks were done in conjunction with the placement of commemorative World War 1 crosses.

James was supported by fellow RSA Members who, at times, were called upon to swing the gas rattle made specially for the display.

Soldier Sam’s reception from schools was, without exception amazing, says James.

Questions were varied and genuine, and often triggered by the opportunity for pupils to carefully examine and try on all parts of his marching pack and equipment.

Replica tins of Soldiers’ food circa 1917 engendered great interest, as did the hard tack biscuits James baked using a recipe from the Canberra War Museums website.

Carrying 100 .303 rounds and an imitation rifl e gave the children a feeling of how tough the marching conditions must have been as they strapped on the webbing and packs.

Presentations are still being made, although more of a “grown up” nature with the talks more directed to the fi ghting conditions Soldier Sam endured.

Steven Heller did not go to an Anzac Day ceremony this year – the first time he has missed in half a century.

And most of May was a miserable time as he contemplated the loss of his eight medals and formal jacket stolen from his home in Porirua just before Anzac Day.

However, right at the end of May – after publicity about his loss – the unharmed medals and formal jacket were left in a plastic bag on his doorstep.

“It was quite emotional for me,” says the 58-year-old former New Zealand Army Major “Everything’s in the same condition as I left it in my wardrobe.

He was “fairly confi dent” that whoever had taken the medals would not be able to do much with them thanks to their uniqueness and the media attention.

They were attached to a sports blazer with featuring fi ve army sports pockets.

“It’s a jacket no-one else has got, and there are quite a few people in the army who know who wears it. There’s no point in anyone else trying to wear it anywhere – people would know who it belongs too. ”

But I was hoping beyond hope they hadn’t just biffed them in the bin.”

Steven, whose military career with the New Zealand and Australian forces spanned 27 years, believes this was the fi rst Anzac Day ceremony he has missed since he was fi ve.

“My grandfather fought in World War 2 and I was introduced to Anzac Day at an early age. I went religiously with him until he passed away.”

The medals included recognition of his time with the New Zealand Defence Force, the Australian Defence Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) for work in former Yugoslavia, and various other hot spots.