Howick war heroes will never be forgotten

Jack Reeves beside his tank in Tunisia 1942. Photo supplied

As Howick and districts count down to the 175th anniversary, the Times continues its series by Alan La Roche giving readers a glimpse of life as it used to be. The countdown began at the 170th in 2017

Many Howick men and women served with outstanding bravery in World War II. It eventually brought peace that we enjoy today. Space allows for just a few in this article.

Archie Trousdale farmed Murvale Stud Farm in Bleak House Road and his homestead was built over the 1910 fire-destroyed Bleak House homestead. He had a Friesian dairy herd and bred pigs. He was commanding officer of the 21st Auckland Battalion in the Second New Zealand Echelon in Greece in 1941.

Of the 7702 New Zealanders who fought in Crete, 671 were killed, 1943 were wounded and 2180 became Prisoners of War. The Germans and Italians parachuted thousands of troops into Crete and if Crete fell it was thought they could bomb the Suez Canal shipping lane. The allied forces had to retreat for a complete evacuation under the leadership of Major General Bernard Freyberg.

Captain Archie Trousdale and Private Wally Johns, both from Howick, were injured in the fighting and were captured by the Germans as the New Zealand forces were retreating. They were put into a German field hospital 40 miles into enemy territory. Norm Robertson, Archie Trousdale’s neighbour in Gills Road, Howick, gathered up a group to rescue their Howick officer. Dodging the German and Italian patrols and the high mountains, they found the hospital then carefully smuggled them out and eventually caught up with the New Zealander troops heading towards Egypt. This brave action avoided them from being interred into a Prisoner of War camp. Archie Trousdale was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Military Cross.

Lieutenant Jack Reeves (born 1907, died 1942) of Green Hill Farm, Pakuranga, now Reeves Road area, was the first person to enrol for service in World War II in Auckland. He served with distinction in Greece, Crete, and Egypt where he was commander of a tank division. His mates called him Hell Fire Reeves and was awarded the Military Cross for his successes in the Tunisian Desert but was later killed in a tank battle. His mother read about his death in the long lists in the <ITALICS>NZ Herald<END ITALICS>before being told officially.

Wing Commander Robert Trousdale DFC, Croix de Guerre (born 1927, died 1947), grew up in Howick, son of Archie and Clarice Trousdale. At 21-years-old he was the youngest squadron leader in Britain. He flew for the Royal Air Force 225 Squadron as a fighter pilot. He was one of the original Battle of Britain pilots. After the war he was test flying aircraft and crashed his Mosquito plane and was killed.

Flight Lieutenant Gray Stenborg DFC (born 1921, died 1943) grew up near Howick Beach. He flew Spitfires, destroying many German planes. He was awarded the Caterpillar and Goldfish Club insignia for surviving a belly landing on land and ditching on the sea flying for the Royal Air Force. On his 188th sortie he was shot down over France and is buried in France.

Pilot Officer Ian Irvine DFM lived at the corner of Minerva Terrace and Paparoa Road and worked as a postman. He flew Spitfire planes from Britain escorting bombers, destroying enemy shipping and land targets avoiding anti-aircraft firing. There is a plaque in his memory under a Puriri tree opposite his family’s home.
The thousands of men and women who served at home or overseas for peace, will not be forgotten.

Alan La Roche MBE
Howick Historian
alanlaroche@xtra.co.nz