Taranaki Daily News
Creating list a huge effort
28 April 2008
Jack Elliott has never forgotten the mates he lost at war. And their memory has inspired him to labour at a task for the past 10 years that no one else has been prepared to do.
The 88-year-old painstakingly compiled the list that appears on the front page and page two of today's edition of all the Taranaki men and women who lost their lives in World War I (1251), World War II (793), Korea (1) and Vietnam (2). It has been a protracted effort of patience and endeavour to verify and log the names of the 2047 who died in service.
"I started compiling a list for the Inglewood RSA and that sort of got me going. There were a lot I knew from Inglewood who went away [in WWII] and quite a few schoolmates from New Plymouth Boys' High School who didn't come back. That inspired me."
He has taken names from cemeteries, churches, memorials, school and hall honours boards, researched books and sought information from the National Archives and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
"I reckon my list is about 95 per cent, maybe 99 per cent, accurate. It is vital something is done because more and more honours boards and memorials are being lost as schools close and country halls come down. It would be good if all these names are put up in one block in a place like Puke Ariki. There is only a bit of fine-tuning left to do." Not every Taranaki person who served and died would be on his list.
"For example, a lot of Taranaki men served in the RAF and were regarded as members of the British forces and are on their rolls of honour." He has also compiled a list of all who died in the Taranaki Wars and the Boer War.
Jack added a year to his age and listed his job as shop assistant when he signed up. "I was only 20 and was a chemist's apprentice in Inglewood. A chemist was a reserved occupation [exempt from service], so I had to change that."
He joined the 25th Infantry Battalion and served in Greece and Libya before being captured and sent to Italy.
"We should have been released when armistice was declared in Italy, but the commandant was a fascist and held us until the Germans arrived."
They were shipped to Poland to work in a heavy machinery factory where a number of them, including Jack, trained as fitters and turners and as gas and electrical welders.
"We knew what they were up to and when they lined us up to make parts for their tanks and 88mm guns, we cited the Geneva Convention at them. They were not happy, called us swine Englanders, then loaded us on to the rattler [train] and sent us off to our next job."