Battlefield gassing led to early death

While the rest of Broadwood slept soundly in the summer of 1918 knowing war was over and their homes were safe, William Henry Nash chose to build houses rather than sleep.

The tale of Bill Nash and many more soldiers are being remembered today as Northland celebrates Anzac Day and remembers all those who served to protect their country.

Mr Nash's granddaughter Marian Palmer told the Northern Advocate that she never met the grandfather who built the home she lived in with his bare hands but she has heard so many stories, she feels a close bond to him.

"They used to say Bill Nash was the man who worked during the day and built houses at night," Mrs Palmer said, perhaps to stave off the memories of the horrific things he witnessed during his time in France during World War I.

Bill Nash left his home in Broadwood at the age of 21. His daughter Frances Brownlee said although her father was proud to volunteer to serve his king and his country "one war was enough for any man. They had no idea what they were getting in to".

He returned home lucky to have his life after surviving a mustard gas attack in France, which left him with damaged lungs, and contributed to his premature death at the age of 49.

Mr Nash returned home four years older and with the memories of the horrific conditions of war, and married Ellen and had seven children.

Mrs Brownlee said it was a tough life for their family, with her father busy with his successful blacksmith in Broadwood village and a farm with cows to milk.

He was a real fix-it man, and would repair vehicles and machinery in his spare time, as well as building and making alterations to homes.

His death in 1942 meant his wife was left to raise the children, his eldest son Bill was old enough to tend to the farm while their mother looked after the children.

Mrs Palmer heard about her grandfather a lot from her mother Kath, who was Mr Nash's second eldest daughter, and had a close relationship with him.

"My mother idolised her dad, he was a very caring father," she said.

Mrs Palmer's own father served in World War II and she said Anzac Day was a special day in her home.

Anzac Day services are held throughout Northland today starting with dawn services in Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Kaikohe, Russell, Whangarei, Ngunguru, Dargaville and Maungaturoto. Last year's dawn service in Laurie Hall Park, Whangarei, saw a record number of Northlanders pay respect to those who fought for their country.

- Northern Advocate

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