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Memories of WW1 - Buckets & Spades special edition
published by on Sun, 04/05/2014 - 12:46

The next Buckets and Spades will be special.  Dedicated to those who were alive during The Great War.  Lets make this special.  Do you have any snippets of information about your ancestor in WW1?  If you wish to put an article together, however short or submit a photograph please do contact me via the website.  The deadline for articles is Tuesday 20 May.


Project leader - Memories of WW1

News TopicMemories of WW1
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Comments ..

Submitted by Roy Banwell on Mon, 05/05/2014 - 15:00

Dear Editor,


You may find this little story interesting and may wish to print it.


It is true that things happen when you least expect them. I was visiting the excellent ‘In Flanders Fields’ museum in Ypres, Belgium in February this year.


Since its refurbishment in 1998, there is an interactive side to it. When you enter the museum, you press a button on what appears to be a cash point machine. The machine issues you with a small card with a name and barcode of a soldier who had died in the area upon it. At intervals around the museum, the card is placed in a slot and information is displayed about that particular soldier. I must admit I was stunned when I looked at the name on the card, it read William (Billy) Banwell. Being a Banwell myself, I was intrigued by this coincidence and vowed to try to find out about William.


William or ‘Bill’ Banwell was born in Dunedin in Otago in New Zealand on the 4th October 1882. His father had shortly before come from England, his mother from Ireland. Bill is the youngest of nine children. He attended the Union Street School and then worked as a labourer for the coal dealers, J. Macfie and Co, in Dunedin. In 1906, he marries Frances Mary Payne. The couple have four children. Bill is a Corporal in the Dunedin City Guards, a local army unit, and plays rugby. After military training, Bill Banwell leaves New Zealand and goes to the Front on 14th August 1915.


Bill Banwell belongs to the1st Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment, of the New Zealand Division. His unit fights first in Egypt then at Gallipoli (1915). On the Western front, he takes part in the battle of the Somme. On the 27th September 1916, he is wounded there. One week later he can leave the hospital in Rouen and again join his unit. In June 1917, he is assigned to a mine battle at Mesen. On the 14th June, a week after the beginning of the battle, he is shot down as a German observation post near Sunken Farm (Warneton) is taken at night.


It was a surreal experience reading about this man with the same surname as me. He being dragged halfway around the globe to die for a country he probably only heard stories about, and me stumbling upon his gallant story.


I would be interested to hear from anyone who may know this family in New Zealand and to be able to locate where Bill’s parents came from in the UK.


Roy Banwell

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