Batch - he was every inch a war hero.

Eric Batchelor August 1920- July 2010. He hated fuss.
London Gazette: 21st June 1945 NZ Military Forces.
  Bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal
No. 16827 Sergeant Eric BATCHELOR, D.C.M.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, at the outbreak of the war on 3 September 1939 said "It is with gratitude in the past, and with confidence in the future, that we range ourselves without fear beside Britain, where she goes, we go! Where she stands, we stand! We are only a small and young nation, but we march with a union of hearts and souls to a common destiny"  These were not just words.

A single oak leaf emblem attached to the War Medal ribbon denotes a Mention-in-Despatches. Even if a person had several "mentions", he would only have one emblem.Medals: DCM and bar, The 1939-45 Star, Africa star with the 8th Army clasp, The Italy Star, The Defence Medal, the oak leaf emblem on the ribbon of the War Medal 1939-45, 1939-1945 NZ service medal, _________. _________

Mr. Eric Batchelor died in his hometown of Waimate on July 10, 2010 at the age of 89 and was buried on Wednesday 14th with full military honours at the Waimate Cemetery. He was born in Waimate on August 29, 1920 and worked on a dairy farm before he went overseas with the Fifth Reinforcements in 1941. He served in the 23 Battalion in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy like so many 2NZEF servicemen alongside the British Eight Army under Montgomery. As a platoon commander of mainly West Coast South Island infantrymen during the Allied advance through northern Italy, he was often at the front of patrol operations, moving quietly at night behind enemy lines. He earned the nickname "ferret" from daring nocturnal excursions behind enemy lines and sneaking up on German positions from behind and leaping in through the back window while his platoon kept them diverted from the front. He regularly captured whole German platoons with his surprise tactics. Skills he learned as a teenager hunting at night in search of wallabies, hares and rabbits in the backblocks of Waimate came in handy.  Mr Batchelor's first DCM was awarded after a fierce close quarter fight in a small house behind German lines. His second came after a similar engagement two months later. A communication error put him and his platoon behind enemy lines and in the target area of a full Allied advance. Batchelor walked into a big Italian villa expecting a friendly rendezvous but could smell sauerkraut, a favourite German dish, so he knew there were Germans in the house. When the building was attacked "there were about 30 Germans inside and there was a bit of a fight". His men ran out of ammunition, but used captured German weapons to take 19 prisoners including the commanding officer back to the New Zealand lines before daylight. It turned out to be a German forward headquarters. As a result Mr Batchelor was recommended for and received a second DCM, which rates him among the best of the best. "We'll we were pretty small in those days", says Mr Batchelor, "so we didn't make much of a target and the Germans were pretty poor shots. Or at least I thought they were." "Only time when you thought of dying is when you had your face down in the dirt when the enemy were shelling you then you made all sorts of promises."

I was always restless, always keen to get out and see what was doing" he smiles. "And I guess, if you go looking for trouble, then you're going to find it."

Batch was one of New Zealand's highest decorated soldier. He was the only New Zealander during the War to receive a Distinguished Conduct Medal & Bar for conspicuous bravery during the Italian campaign - an award second only to the Victoria Cross. Only one other WWII Allied NCO received similar honours. He was promoted to sergeant in the Italian campaign and refused promotion to the officer's ranks, preferring life as a humble Sergeant. He was also mentioned in despatches, and fought at El Alamein in North Africa and Monte Cassino in Italy and was only slightly wounded twice but otherwise came through the war unhurt. He decided that, if he survived the war, he would remain in Waimate. He was true to his word. When he returned from the war, Mr Batchelor chose to stay in Waimate, telling a Timaru Herald reporter in 1978: "I like Waimate. Under the post-war rehabilitation scheme I trained as a market gardener, and was given the opportunity to take up a property in Hawke's Bay, but it was too far away from the place that I really wanted to live." In fact, he lived in the same street all his life. Over the years he ran a taxi business, a delicatessen, and then a wine shop in Waimate. He blamed that on the Italian campaign. He was introduced to wine in Tuscany and and brought back his taste of wine back here. In his semi-retirement years he was a school bus driver.

Batch stood as the Waimate Highland Pipe Band played the Waimate Warrior. Pipe band songs were often about a person or event. Waimate's Warrior, a song composed to honour Eric Batchelor in 2004 by Timaru piper Ivan Sorenson. Since then Waimate's Warrior has been played at Waimate Anzac Day ceremonies.  He attended the Queen's Coronation in 1952, travelled to El Alamein in 2002 to mark the 60th anniversary of the battle and was one of the symbols when the Year of the Veteran was marked in 2006.  He was not afraid to use his status to speak his mind. In 2008 he told a Timaru Herald reporter that three months' labour in a military boot camp would be the best cure for young offenders.

 Eric Batchelor, of Kiwi original, was built from the same mould as Charles Upham and Jack Hinton, both Victoria Cross winners.

One tribute written about him a few years ago, said his exploits made him one of the finest of the many millions of infantrymen who served in World War 2. He was every inch a war hero – his exploits more than proved that – but he was also a realist. He knew fear when he went into action in the churned up sand at El Alamein in Egypt and he knew the extreme distress that came from losing his friends to battle. Eric Batchelor's life reflected the times he grew up in. He was a bright man, but because of the Depression, had very little schooling. His time as a hunter stood him in good stead in the infantry, and he quickly realised it was best to hunt out the enemy at night when darkness could be used to great advantage.  

Evening Post, 13 December 1941, Page 11 WOUNDED—BUT REMAINING WITH UNIT.
BATCHELOR. Eric, Pte. Mrs. L. Batchelor, King Street, Waimate (m.).

Evening Post, 20 December 1944, Page 7 (Official War Correspondent N.Z.E.F.)
Advanced Headquarters, Italy, December 17. BAYONET CHARGE
There was fierce hand-to-hand fighting round one casa when the New Zealanders delivered the blow which caused the Germans to retire from Faenza, and one company of the Maori Battalion rescued some captured comrades at the point of the bayonet. A Maori platoon had taken a house and the Germans counter-attacked with infantry and tanks. The tanks blew the house down, and one tank moved in close to help the infantry to capture the emerging Maoris. A Maori company near by had run out of ammunition, but immediately attacked with the bayonet, driving off the infantry. A remarkable exploit was that of Sergeant Batchelor, Waimate, who, having taken command of his platoon when his officer was wounded, was moving with four men to a commanders' conference, but took them to the wrong house. Entering the casa they found about 30 Germans there and opened fire on them. Sergeant Batchelor and one German shot it out, the German falling. The others surrendered, and the five New Zealanders marched out 19 prisoners, leaving five Germans dead. 

References: Timaru Herald, ODT, TVNZ, The Telegraph

Eric Batchelor
Embarkation: 1941
Army Number: 16827
Pte, Inf. Reinfs. 23rd Batt.
Single
Occupation: Milkman
Last Residence: Clarewood Dairy, Leith Valley, Dunedin, New Zealand
Relative Name: Mrs Lillian Batchelor, 62 Lenard St., Waimate
Relationship: Mother
Roll: 16; Nominal Roll: 1 Jan 1946 - 30 Jun 1948
Roll:   4; Nominal Roll: 1 Apr 1941 - 30 Jun 1941

The New Zealand Infantrymen not only learned skills for surviving enemy assaults but systems of coping with life in the desert and life in the army society.

For cooking in the desert, one had only to build a Benghazi burner. You simply dug a small hole in the desert some four to six inches in depth and the same around, then you poured in about half a litre of petrol onto some of the loose sand, and lit it, and there was your fire. You could stoke the fire by stirring the sand a little with a bayonet to bring up the lower sand that was still a little wet with petrol. You would never add more petrol because one could have an explosion. If you needed more fire, you would dig a new hole and start afresh. NTB, a '39er. 


While many who returned chose not to relive their experiences Batch did not tire of talking about what he had been through.

The Soldier and the Nurse: From Waimate Memories of Wartime Service, 56 pages, 2004. Eric Batchelor, D.C.M. and Bar - Soldier. [1920-2010], Irene Olorenshaw, M.B.E. Nurse. [1910-2002], Waimate, N.Z.: Waimate Historical Society, 2004. Compiled by oral historian Joyce Cooper of the Waimate Historical Society. 54 pages.
    From the Oral History Archives. Eric Batchelor and Irene Olorenshaw, Waimate residents, were to serve overseas in North Africa and Italy during World War 2. It is these extracts from their memories...told in their own words...that you will find in these pages.  "They both had excellent memories and the added interest of being very different personalities" wrote Joyce. Their thoughts, feelings and observations on war certainly make you think. Irene was Matron of Oamaru Hospital for many years. Photos from their private collections and the book is illustrated by Eric’s grand daughter Erica. Extracts from letters the Irene sent back to her family from Italy where she was stationed are included. Grants received from The Waimate District Council and the South Canterbury Returned Services Association. The book is $10 and can be ordered from wtemus@xtra.co.nz. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Waimate Museum.
    Irene (Rene) Gwenevere Olorenshaw MBE Reg. No 13136, Charge Sister NZANS, 2nd NZEF, died May 12 2002, aged 92, her life ended on International Nurses Day. She was born in Waimate in 1910. In 1911, Rene's parents moved to Windsor, south of Oamaru as a married couple on a sheep run. By 1913, they had moved back to Willowbridge, securing their own small farm and assisting the neighbours part-time. Rene started at Willowbridge Primary School, walking along the railway track to school.  She did her nursing trained at Oamaru and qualified in 1934. Attested into the NZEF2 on 28 July 1940. She was always a wealth of information.

Just a Common Soldier 

He was getting old and paunchy, and his hair was falling fast,
as he sat around the RSA telling stories of the past,
of a war that he had fought in, and the deeds that he had done.
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, every one.

Tho' sometimes to his neighbours his tales became a joke,
all his soldier mates they listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
and the world's a little poorer - for a soldier died today.

He'll not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
for he lived a very ordinary, quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
and the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in State
while thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life story from the time that they were young,
but the passing of the soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
a man who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife
goes off to serve his country and offers up his life?

A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives;
while the ordinary soldier who offers up his all,
is paid off with a medal, and perhaps a pension, small.

It's so easy to forget them for it was long ago
that the "Old Bills" of our country went to battle, but we know
it was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
who won for us the freedom that our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger with your enemies at hand,
would you want a politician, with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
his home, his kin and country, and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
but his presence should remind us, we may need his like again,
for when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldiers' part
is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honour while he's here to hear the praise
then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say:
"OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING -
FOR A SOLDIER DIED TODAY".

by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
 Published 1985

(the above text has been slightly altered. e.g.. mates for buddies. RSA for Legion)
 (Randy) Larry Vaincourt - WW II RCAF veteran from Canada. He wrote this poem in 1985 for his newspaper column and it was reprinted in his 1991 book RHYMES AND REFLECTIONS.

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