World War II veteran Stan Hutchings’ memories of horrific battles in Europe may have faded, but he remains emphatic about one thing; war is terrible.
The Feilding man, who turned 100 in April, served with a mechanical unit in the army during the war.
Hutchings spent time in Italy working on supply lines and servicing vehicles while the Allies were battling the Germans in the later stages of the war.
Poring through scraps of old documents from the period and noting down his memories, Hutchings can still recall moments from the raging conflict 70 years ago, but many memories have been lost to time.
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He was shipped to Italy’s east coast where his unit was halfway between the front lines and transport headquarters.
Hutchings’ unit had the crucial job of feeding the supply chain with petrol and servicing trucks coming and going from the front.
He said he was in the thick of the action, but came out unscathed.
Hutchings remembers the German navy coming down the coast at Senigallia trying to blow up the Allied fuel lines and torpedo Allied ships.
While waiting to be collected by ships he had to trade items for fresh food. When he was in Rome he saw “a huge cloud” of American B-24 bombers.
New Zealanders fought in Italy from 1943 to 1945 as the Allies fought Axis forces after victory in North Africa. More than 2100 New Zealanders were killed and 6700 wounded during the liberation of Italy.
His brother Ray had been wounded at Al Alamein in Egypt.
At the end of the war Hutchings was offered a job on guard duty in Japan after nuclear bombs had been dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but he declined.
“War is terrible. It has consequences,” he says.
Hutchings’ father served in the First World War, drafted into the army as a motor mechanic. Hutchings was born in Sussex in England, but the family came to New Zealand when he was 3 months old.
His father ran garages, where Hutchings would sometimes work, in Blenheim and across the lower North Island.
The family moved to Stratford after the Napier Earthquake in 1931.
Hutchings started his apprenticeship at Union Foundries in Stratford, working on pumps, factories, saw mills and manufacturing farm equipment.
He joined the Home Guard and because he built radios as a hobby he was made to teach Morse code signal. He then joined the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles.
He remembers doing training exercises at Foxton Beach.
When the war started he appealed five times before he was allowed to leave his apprenticeship and join the army.
He was sent to Trentham in Wellington and put in the artillery division, but he asked to be transferred to mechanical units and was eventually shipped to Europe.
After the war he came back to New Zealand and finished his apprenticeship.
He worked on a union ships in marine engineering in Wellington, and with machinery in Motueka, then got a job in Feilding, Manawatū.
After a spell living in Australia he returned to Feilding in the 1990s.