As you travel along the main road of Katikati, you pass the town clock at Memorial Square.

Chances are you have seen it; maybe you have even glanced up at its face to check the time.

Or, as it has been there for decades and is now part of the town's fabric, you simply haven't registered it as anything out of the ordinary. You have driven by, completely unaware of its history.

The story behind that clock has until now been largely unacknowledged, and not by accident.


"No one ever knew what it was about, except a few of us who were interested in a little bit of military history and knew a little bit about the families of the district," said Western Bay district councillor Peter Mackay.

"The family didn't want any recognition for what the clock was for."

That family is the Walfords, who have long farmed near Aongatete.

Russell Freeland Walford was born in Katikati in 1914 and grew up there. He attended Tauranga District High School.

His parents were Edmund Freeland and Winnifred Elsie Walford (nee Trevor).

Like many men of his age and younger, Russell left New Zealand to serve in World War II.

He saw action in both Egypt and Italy and was part of the 20th Armoured Regiment, New Zealand Armoured Corps.

Russell Freeland Walford. Photo / Weekly News
Russell Freeland Walford. Photo / Weekly News

A little over a week before Christmas – on December 16, 1943 – Russell was killed during the Battle of Sangro River in Italy. He was 29.


The lieutenant's body was buried at the Sangro River War Cemetery.

His family back home in Katikati wanted to do something to remember their son.

But, as district councillor Mackay explained this week, they didn't want to be "tall poppies".

After all, there were other young local men who didn't come home as well.

So the Walford family quietly gave the county council £100 to put up a clock.

"I think you could say it would be absolutely typical of the Walford family that I know – very understated, they just get on with things," Mackay said.

About a year ago, he approached the Walfords and sought permission to finally give credit where credit is due.

"I think it just puts a line underneath something which deserves to be known about," Mackay said.

"That's exactly why the RSA felt it needed to be recognised."

This Sunday at 11am, a plaque bearing Russell Walford's name will be unveiled on the clock during an Armistice Day service at Katikati's Memorial Square.

The plaque that will be unveiled on the Katikati town clock this week. Photo / Supplied
The plaque that will be unveiled on the Katikati town clock this week. Photo / Supplied

The plaque will face inwards, towards the Memorial Hall, still allowing some anonymity.

"But if you stand on that Memorial Square, you'll understand that it represents a lot more than just the Walford family, and that this is just a small piece of the jigsaw puzzle," Mackay said.

Members of the Walford family are travelling from all over to be at the service and will say a few words.

The New Zealand flag will be draped over the clock.

Graham Walford, who lives in Waihi, will be there. He will be wearing his uncle's medals.

"It's pretty special," the 72-year-old told the Bay of Plenty Times this week.

"I've got all his medals; my dad had them ... I'll wear them on my jacket."

Meanwhile, the Katikati RSA is "absolutely delighted" the special unveiling is going ahead, president Glenn Burt said.

"It fits in very well with the remembrance part of our commemorations."

He said it was also nice to finally recognise the contribution of the Walford family.

"I think how they've done it is the most important part – where they don't just want to remember their son, but also remember those that he served with, which is a lovely sentiment."