The steel army helmet rests on the table. It grasps the passers-by attention. Although the entry point where the bullet penetrated is small, the bullet’s exit has peeled the metal back into a curl.
George James Kennedy of the 2nd NZEF’s 23rd Battalion survived the closest of encounters with death. His daughter, and only child, Carol Cosgrove now has the helmet, and the black and white photograph of her father wearing it in “the desert”.
Seated at a table during the Formal Civic Ceremony at this year’s Anzac Dawn Service at the Invercargill Workingmen’s Club, Mrs Cosgrove is wearing her father’s medals _ a row of brightly coloured ribbons supporting the various medals which show where her father served during World War 2.
She also holds his diary.
“He was in the desert [Egypt] for three months when this happened… he had long, strong, curly hair, and didn’t have the chin strap on, which probably stopped him from getting his neck broken from the impact,” she said.
Also at the ceremony, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt spoke thanking Invercargill City Councillor Leslie Soper who had arranged for a large outdoor screen and speakers to be erected at this year’s Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Invercargill Cenotaph because of the increased attendance in the day of remembrance each year.
He also spoke about the Le Quesnoy project in France which is in the process of being turned into a New Zealand Memorial Museum to honour the New Zealander soldiers who had fought in the area, thanking Sir Don McKinnon, the patron of the New Zealand War Memorial Trust, for the funding so “the project can go ahead”.
Le Quesnoy was liberated by New Zealand troops on November 4, 1918, having been held by Germany since 1914. It was the last big battle fought by New Zealanders, Mr Shadbolt said, and the reason the citizens of that town have such a bond with Kiwis was that not a single civilian was killed during the battle, although 135 New Zealanders died.
Mr Shadbolt also spoke about the 13 All Black-soldiers who were killed on the Western Front in France, and in particular, soldier-All Black Jimmy Ridland, who had played for Invercargill’s Star Rugby Club.
Earlier in the day Ms Soper had said it was “always great to see so many young people turn up” to the Dawn Service at the Invercargill Cenotaph.
We say that “we will remember them” [the servicemen and women], “and the fact so many families, with so many young people shows that we do.”
Ms Soper said her grandfather had served in the Otago Mounted Rifles, taking his own horse over in 1914 and returned on the SS Kia Ora in May 1919, minus his horse. He was awarded the Belgium Croix (Cross) on September 13, 1918.
Of the more than 10,000 New Zealand horses sent to World War 1, only one returned, she said.
“A lot of the troops in Egypt shot their own horses, rather than leave them to either be worked to death or a worse fate.”