A nearly 100 year-old World War II veteran from Hastings made a recent pilgrimage to Tikokino in Central Hawke's Bay to commemorate 100 years since his uncle and namesake was killed in action during World War I.
On July 22, Waipawa-born George Robert Foulds, 98, a 1931 Hawke's Bay Earthquake survivor who was injured at the Battle of El Alamein, travelled to CHB to conduct a service at Tikokino Memorial Hall to honour his namesake, his uncle George Robert Foulds, who was a Lance-Sergeant (in those days Lance-Serjeant) with the New Zealand Cyclist Battalion.
Awarded the Croix de Guerre (Belgium) in February, 1918 - a decoration awarded by the King of Belgium for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield - Lance-Sergeant Foulds was killed in action in France later that year on July 23, 1918, aged just 23.
George Foulds said he felt compelled to pay respects to his father's brother, a man who left this world about 18 months before he himself entered it. His uncle is buried at the Marfaux British Cemetery in France.
"I am a bit of a history buff. And it's always interested me over the years that there was this George Robert Foulds, who I was named after, who had been killed. I thought 'it's in me. I've got to go up to Tikokino and have a little celebration'," he said.
He found it serendipitous that the centenary of his uncle's death fell in the 100th year since the end of the Great War.
"It was something unique and you don't have those sorts of things happen every day," said George, who has driven to Tikokino to commemorate Anzac Day every year for the past few years because of his uncle.
At the service, George also honoured three other World War I soldiers with names on the Tikokino Memorial Hall: Walter Henry Parkinson, who died on June 9, 1917; James Parkinson, who died on August 28, 1918; and Charles William Beazley, who died on September 9, 1918.
George said the Foulds, Beazleys and Parkinsons were all closely related.
"One hundred years ago they all lived out there [at Tikokino].
"There was a Parkinson and a Beazley who were both killed in the closing stages of the war, so I thought I'd get what was left of the family together and I just said a few words about how we were there to honour their names."
All three were prominent early families in the area.
George's great grandfather John Beazley started the first horse-and-cart postal run between Ongaonga and Waipawa in 1829, and his maternal grandmother was also a member of the Holden family, which celebrated a 150-year reunion at the family's ancestral home, Springvale, in 2009.
The descendants who attended the service - including George's son, daughter and grandson - placed poppies next to the soldiers' names on the memorial before Janet Castell, president of the Waipukurau and Districts RSA, recited The Ode.
With 21 names from World War I appearing on the Tikokino War Memorial and two from World War II, Castell said Tikokino was one of many rural New Zealand towns that commemorated a "disproportionate number of names on their war memorials".
George was glad he marked the occasion while he still could.
"In November next year, I'll be 100. Whether I get my driver's licence renewed or not, I don't know," quipped George, a pupil at Hastings Central school the day of the Hawke's Bay earthquake in 1931.
He later served in Egypt, Northern Africa and Italy with the New Zealand 4th Field Artillery, driving trucks and firing "25-pounders" during World War II, where he was injured at the Battle of El Alamein in 1943.
"A Stuka, a German dive bomber, dropped a bomb one day near our gunning position.
"One of our men was killed, and two others were injured. I was far enough away but I copped a piece in the leg and the back," said George, who was only "slightly injured" and rejoined the battle four weeks later.