Over this long ANZAC weekend I wish all to take some time to remember those who have gone before us. I took the time this week to ask my dad about our relatives and who was impacted in the war. The following is a reflection from my dad who shares his memory of my great uncle.
NZAC Johnny McEnaney (Great Uncle Johnny)
Born on the West Coast Gold Fields at Rimu, he attended school at Woodstock then moved to Kumara, and to Greymouth where Johnny worked for his father (Great Grandfather Michael McEnaney) as a transport contractor. At the outbreak of war Johnny was working on the construction of the famous Rewinui Incline, The rail link to the coal seams in the Paparoa Ranges.
Johnny was called up and sailed from Greymouth on the 9th of March 1917, to join the Canterbury Infantry Regiment. On the 12th of June 1917 they boarded the Tahiti at Wellington, bound for Davenport England, then on to Passchendaele. He went through that offensive with his Regiment. Near its conclusion they were moved to a “rest area” in the Poloygon Wood Sector.
Rest is a relative term in that environment. Their trenches were poorly constructed, narrow and shallow, tended to flood, and with no dry sleeping area. The whole sector was in range of German artillery. They were bombarded nightly, often with a mixture of H.E. and Gas. This was the way of life in their “Rest Area”, and the soldiers were accustomed to having to take cover and wear their Gas Masks. But in February 1918 the nightly bombardment appeared not to include gas, and after the “All Clear” masks were removed. This had been a freezing night with temperatures well below zero. Unbeknown to them, the attacking German regiment had included gas in their bombardment, the canisters landed and split open, but it was so cold the gas remained in them in liquid form; this was until the sun warmed them late in the morning. Then the unsuspecting NZ regiment was caught without masks, the effect was devastating. Johnny was one of the many caught, he was badly injured, and was evacuated to England on 11 March 1918. He was finally invalided home on 15 of January 1919; 3 months after the war had ended.
John McEnaney has a tiny memorial at the remains of the Woodstock School, where Uncle Johnny was educated, it is a roll of Honour and here stands a tiny memorial beside the Woodstock Pub. John McEnaney’s name is recorded on it as one who suffered.
My dad visits it each ANZAC day.
Be safe this long weekend, and I hope you have the chance speak to your older relations about the ANZAC’s, you may just learn of a relation who fought for the life and freedom we have today.