Full honours for Waimate hero

FLEUR COGLE
Last updated 05:00 13/07/2010
Eric Batchelor
MARK LAWSON
WAR HERO: Eric Batchelor was a highly decorated soldier.

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Waimate war hero Eric Batchelor, who died on Saturday, will be farewelled with full military honours tomorrow.

Mr Batchelor, 89, was the only New Zealander to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice during World War II, and was at one time New Zealand's highest-decorated living soldier.

Second Canterbury Nelson Marlborough West Coast Battalion Group commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Grant McMillan said Mr Batchelor and his wife Thurza were important members of the army's extended family.

"First and foremost our thoughts are with Thurza and the family. We have involved them in a number of things over the years."

Mr Batchelor, who served in the 23 Battalion in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy, had maintained ties with the battalion and would often visit training exercises, including a major exercise in Waimate five years ago.

"He joined us for a large part, talking to young soldiers."

He was a key dignitary at the 2Cant NMWC 150th anniversary in 2009.

Lt Col McMillan believed the military service for Mr Batchelor at Waimate High School Hall at 1.30pm tomorrow would be well attended.

The service would involve a firing volley, the bearing of the casket on a gun carriage, and at this stage a march from the hall to the RSA section of the Waimate Lawn Cemetery.

"I think it will be quite a mixed group. It will be a large service but one which we hope respects Eric, supports his family and acknowledges him.

"It was one of those things we knew we would have to face but we never wanted to get there."

Mr Batchelor was born in Waimate on August 29, 1920 and worked on a dairy farm before he went overseas with the Fifth Reinforcements in 1941.

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."

Over the years he ran a taxi business, a delicatessen, and then a wine shop in Waimate.

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- The Timaru Herald

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