Bullet nearly claimed Sir Ed's dad

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 08:35 22/05/2014
PERSONAL EFFECTS: Keith Sloane with medals, wartime papers, Sam Browne belt and riding crop his grandfather wore.
SIMON MAUDE
PERSONAL EFFECTS: Keith Sloane with medals, wartime papers, Sam Browne belt and riding crop his grandfather wore.

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One of the greatest New Zealanders of all time might never have been born had his father not narrowly escaped death at Gallipoli.

Sir Edmund Hillary's father Percival was shot through the nose during the ill-fated campaign while serving with Aucklander Keith Sloane's grandfather.

Sloane says Hillary had just commented on the shooting skills of Turkish troops when the bullet struck.

"Oh these Turks are bloody poor shots," he said.

It's the only story Sloane remembers his grandfather, Nat Robinson, sharing about his time in the trenches.

So he's included it in a self-published 393-page book Living with High Explosives: The 1st New Zealand Light Trench Mortar Battery 1916-1918.

Efforts to find a war photo of his grandfather pushed Sloane into writing the book and he's drawn on numerous diaries and letters to complete the work.

Most, he says, are filled with protectively humorous tales and meticulous sports reporting.

"They didn't write about the gory stuff," he says.

"They kept better records of rugby and cricket games than of the guys killed."

Robinson died aged 73, when Sloane was 15.

Percival Hillary was a beekeeper and newspaper publisher after the war and his wife Gertrude gave birth to Sir Edmund on July 20, 1919.

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