Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Passchendaele train in South New Zealand
Russell Atkinson is reporting:
Locomotive AB608 (built 1915), later named “Passchendaele” as a memorial to all the railwaymen who died during the First World War, was in Dunedin this weekend, running excursions along the harbour shoreline.
My late Uncle Bill Matches survived the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). On his return he joined NZ Railways and frequently drove the historic locomotive on main trunk passenger services. I remember him recounting how the firebox would be stoked on the climb to the Mihiwaka Tunnel, then he and the fireman would cover their noses and mouths with wet handkerchiefs, and lie on the footplate to minimise smoke inhalation during the transit through the tunnel.
He also described “going over the top” at the battle, and with a mate being first into a German trench. On a shelf were a pair of Zeiss binoculars and a Luger pistol. The mate grabbed the former, so he got the Luger. As a ten year-old, I was once allowed to hold this trophy. (It was very heavy!). Sadly, after his death on Armistice Day in 1965, it was handed in during an arms amnesty, and probably finished up at the bottom of Cook Strait.
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