Home' Greymouth Star : April 4th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, April 4, 2017
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uLetters to the editor
1406 - King Robert III of Scotland dies and
is succeeded by James I, who was being held
prisoner by the English.
1660 - England ’s King Charles II issues
Declaration of Breda, promising religious
1818 - US Congress decides the
American flag will consist of 13 red
and white stripes and 20 stars, with
a new star to be added for every new
state of the Union.
1949 - Nato is founded when the
North Atlantic Treaty is signed in
Washington by foreign ministers
of United States, Britain, France,
Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Denmark,
Iceland, Norway and Canada.
1979 - Pakistan’s former prime minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ousted by the military in a
coup 21 months earlier, is hanged.
1983 - The US space shuttle Challenger roars
into orbit on its maiden flight.
1988 - Iran hammers Iraq’s vital oil centres
with missiles and fighter bombers.
1990 - Britain publishes a controversial bill to
grant citizenship to up to 225,000 Hong Kong
residents in the run-up to the colony ’s handover
to China in 1997. .
1996 - A military judge in Rome orders
former Nazi SS Captain Erich Priebke to stand
trial for his role in the massacre of 335 civilians.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Grinling Gibbons, English sculptor (1648-
1721); Nicola Antonio Zingarelli, Italian
composer (1752-1837); Max
Dupain, Australian photographer
(1911-1992); Muddy Waters,
US blues musician (1913-1983);
Marguerite Duras, French writer
(1914-1996); Elmer Bernstein, US
composer (1922-2004); Kitty Kelley,
US biographer (1942-); Craig T
Nelson, US actor (1944-); Christine Lahti, US
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather
the judgment that something else is more
important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmoon.
“ Whatever you have learned or received or
heard from Me, or seen in Me — put it into
practice. And the God of peace will be with
you.” -- (Philippians 4:9).
uFood for thought
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The crowds of
protesters in Moscow
and other Russian
cities were far bigger
the last time, in
leader Alexei Navalny
was so intoxicated
by the 40,000 or
50,000 citizens who
Moscow against Vladimir Putin’s rule that
he boasted: “I see enough people here to
take the Kremlin right now, but we are
peaceful people and won’t do that just yet.”
It was a delusional thing to say even
then. Five years later, the crowds joining
the protests against official corruption on
Sunday were in the hundreds or the low
thousands in most Russian cities. Even in
Moscow’s Pushkin Square they probably
did not number more than 10,000 — and
Navalny himself was arrested on his way
to the square. At home, Putin reigns
supreme, with approval ratings around the
He is not doing too badly abroad,
either. On Friday he met with Marine
Le Pen, the leading candidate in France’s
presidential election next month and
Putin’s favourite western leader after
Donald Trump. She supported Russia’s
illegal annexation of Crimea from the
start, and promises to work for an end of
European Union sanctions against Russia
if she becomes president of France this
That promise might be hard to keep,
since she would also be busy organising a
referendum on withdrawing France from
the EU, but Putin replied: “I know that
you represent a European political force
that is growing quickly. ” It certainly is:
the Brexiteers in Britain have already won
their referendum on leaving, and the EU
would probably not survive the departure
of two of its three biggest members.
Without the EU, there would be no
powerful counterpoise to Russia in
Europe, and the election of Donald
Trump has already put an admirer of
Putin in the White House. Moreover,
Russia is now the dominant outside power
in the Middle East for the first time
since the 1960s, and it has achieved that
position at a far lower cost in blood and
treasure than the United States paid in
Putin is undeniably a master
manipulator both at home and abroad,
and he has good reason to be pleased with
his accomplishments. And yet . . .
Putin has played a weak hand
internationally with great skill, but Russia
really is weak. Its economy is smaller than
Italy’s, and apart from defence industry
the country is largely de-industrialised.
(Have you ever bought anything made in
Only oil and gas exports give Moscow
the cash to play the great power game
at all, and the collapse of oil prices has
put Moscow on a starvation diet. The
relatively low-cost intervention in Syria
has brought Moscow high diplomatic
returns in the short term, but Putin
lacks the resources to play a major role
in rebuilding post-war Syria, so Russia’s
influence in the region is bound to fade as
Even in Europe, Russia’s posture is
essentially defensive, if only because it
could not afford to hold up its end of
a new Cold War. Putin has effectively
neutralised the pro-western government
of Ukraine by seizing Crimea and
sponsoring a separatist war in two eastern
provinces, but he will not go any further
even with Trump in the White House.
Putin’s real vulnerability is at home. His
popular support has held up well despite
three years of economic decline because of
falling oil income, and it may even carry
him safely through next year’s presidential
election. But there is no reason to believe
that oil revenues are going to recover in
the near future.
Even Russia’s co-operation with the
Organisation of Petroleum Exporting
Countries in cutting oil production to get
the price back up caused only a modest
and brief upward tick in world oil prices.
Now they are back down where they were
three months ago.
There is great over-capacity in the
world’s oil industry, and it is entirely
possible that Russians face two or three
more years of declining incomes (from a
base that was never all that high). Many
Russians are still grateful to Putin for
ending the decade of chaos and acute
poverty after the Soviet Union collapsed
in 1991, but for half the population that is
It is the young whom Putin must fear,
because they are less impressed by hollow
foreign triumphs in places they do not
care about, and more unhappy about
an economic future that leaves most of
them bumping along the bottom. He has
had a long run in power — 17 years and
counting — but his future is probably a
lot shorter than his past.
In fact, Russia may be at peak Putin
right now, with only mounting troubles in
his future. The crowds were smaller this
time than last, but they were not just in
the big cities. When there are protests in
places like Chita and Barnaul, you know
that a lot of people are running out of
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Police officers detain anti-corruption campaigner and opposition figure Alexei Navalny during a rally in Moscow.
Is Russia at peak Putin?
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
t was New Zealand’s darkest hour.
On just one senseless day, 846
young New Zealand soldiers were
slaughtered in a boggy foreign
field. It took more than two days to
clear the battlefield of the dead and
injured. They were cannon-fodder. It was a
Telegrams darkened the doors of almost
every home in young New Zealand.
Parents, siblings, lovers, children, they all
mouthed the name of the tiny Belgian
village, unsure of its pronunciation. Scared
to say it aloud. Sobbing. Passchendaele.
And now, a century on and most New
Zealanders are still unsure how to say it,
let alone know its significance. After all, it
is not Gallipoli — the war story taught in
schools, watched on tv, and marched for at
So how do you tell the story of such a
monstrous military disaster? A bloodbath
borne out of an all-too-common perfect
storm: heavy rain, deep mud, “friendly
fire”, unshelled German machine-gun
emplacements, bungling British generals.
For the centenary of the World War One,
New Zealand Post is issuing a series of
stamps over five years to explain the wider
story of the war “through the eyes of an
everyday New Zealander”.
This week sees the release of “1917 The
Darkest Hour” commemorative stamps
It follows the heartbreaking story of
Dannevirke mother Ellen Knight who lost
three sons in the “ War to End All Wars”.
After hostilities broke out in early August
1914, men across the country volunteered
in their droves, for King and Country, with
many sensing a chance for adventure and
While Ellen lived in Dannevirke,
husband Herbert and his sons worked a
farm between Whakatane and Opotiki.
Although farm workers were exempt
from going to war in those early days,
George Bernard Knight and younger
brother Herbert Augustine Knight felt
duty-bound and enlisted to do their bit.
“Men must work while women weep,”
Ellen replied to George after he wrote to
say he was signing up.
“I had a good blub and feel better,” added
the mother of 10 children aged between six
“I dare say it will mean the three boys but
I am ready to do my duty always as you are
to do yours. But please God you may not
be wanted or if you are, will be spared to
come back ‘heroes’.”
George and Herbert sailed for
Egypt in February 1915 with the
3rd Reinforcements of the Otago
Infantry Regiment, before landing at
Gallipoli.”Have no fear, we will both stick
together and come back safe,” George
It was not to be.
On May 9, just two weeks into the
ultimately-doomed stalemate, Herbert
made a fatal decision.
Despite carrying ammunition to the front
lines all day, he volunteered to help bury
a mule carcass near Cape Helles when he
was shot through the heart by an Ottoman
sniper. The former prefect at Wanganui
Collegiate School and star rugby player
and boxer, was 20. George had to write
to his mum to inform her of “the greatest
sorrow that has ever happened in our
He said he had marked Herbert’s grave
under an olive tree with a named cross and
Ellen saw the casualty list before George’s
letter arrived. Later, she replied: “I prayed
so hard that you might both come back to
me, but it is part of God’s great plan and
we must bear it but it is a hard task bearing
to be the mother of soldiers.”
She wrote to her beloved son George
every few days, downplaying her own
fears, passing on snippets of family life and
trying to keep his spirits up.
The light-hearted lovable George had
scares — sur viving shoulder and chest
wounds, illnesses, a septic finger — after
being involved in some of the heaviest
trench warfare on the Western Front.
On October 4, 1917 George wrote home:
“I am liable to be called up to go to the
front line to help in the big attack. I have
been looking for ward to this for ever so
long. As for coming through safely, it is in
someone else’s hands and I’ll do my share.”
But on New Zealand’s darkest day,
October 12, 1917 his luck ran out. Leading
his men over the top, up Bellevue Spur,
towards the small village of Passchendaele,
the 23-year-old company commander
encountered impenetrable German
barbed-wire defences that the artillery
barrage had failed to nullify.
George was cut down by a burst of
machine gun fire only feet from the enemy
His body was never recovered. His
military ser vice record states: “Many of
these men were buried by stretcher bearers
where they fell, to right and left of road
beyond Waterloo Farm across Ravebeek
and up towards crossroads.”
Wanganui Collegiate School obituary
paid tribute to “a soldier and a gentleman”
who was both trusted and beloved by his
He was one of 846 New Zealanders
killed at Passchendaele that day. The total
number of casualties, wounded, dead and
missing topped 2700.
The day after George’s death, before the
family was informed, Ellen’s shy, serious
eldest son William Douglas, known as
Douglas, sailed from Wellington, having
been excused from the farm.
On September 1, 1918 Douglas was
killed during the Bancourt Ridge offensive,
felled by a shell while returning with an
arm wound to bring back a wounded
corporal. The letter he wrote to Ellen
earlier that day arrived after she heard the
news. She never opened it.
Another son, Ken, who turned 18 in
1917, was never called up, and took over
But daughter Margarette was struck
by rheumatoid arthritis in 1918, and her
mother became her carer.
Ellen’s marriage was a strained, distant
one, and Herbert died in 1937.
Even the Second World War did not
spare Ellen more heartbreak. Her youngest
child, Maurice, died of malaria aged 36
while training troops in India in 1944.
Margarette and Francis also died before
With her eyesight declining, she moved
in with daughter Dorothy in Gisborne
aged 87, then to a Whakatane nursing
When Ellen died aged 93, her family
found a shoebox full of letters.
Losing one child would be too much.
But for the Knight family, the impact
of losing three sons — Herbert, George
and Douglas — would reverberate down
through the generations.
Growing up, Alan Gibson said the
tragic tale of his great-great-uncles who all
died during World War One was always
spoken about around the family dinner
“My grandfather was a real tough
hill-country farmer and the only time I
ever saw him get emotional was when
he talked about his uncles,” said Gibson,
a photographer for The New Zealand
“The sense of loss and grief had a massive
impact on our family down through the
The heartbreaking story is documented
in a treasure trove of family letters and
documents held in Alexander Turnbull
A “book of letters” was collected and
compiled by the cousin of Gibson’s
grandfather, and the family’s self-appointed
genealogist Nancy Croad.
The remarkable archive has helped New
Zealand Post release its commemorative
1917 The Darkest Hour stamps and coins
series along with a book following the
story of Ellen Knight.
“The family is delighted that their
sacrifice is being recognised — not just
George at Passchendaele but all three
brothers. It was a huge price to pay for any
family,” Gibson said.
His own children are well aware of
the family’s tragic past and attend dawn
ser vices every Anzac Day.
And in 1999, his grandfather made the
pilgrimage to Gallipoli “after living and
breathing the story” his whole life, to pay
tribute to Herbert Knight who was shot
dead by a sniper at Cape Helles on May 8,
Unfortunately, the tour group he was on
ran out of time, and although was with
metres of Herbert’s grave, he never got to
Alan Gibson visited the grave a few years
later and paid his respects to Herbert on
behalf of his family.
He also laid a poppy at the grave two
years ago when he covered the 100-year
commemorations of Gallipoli for the
Even a century on, Gibson wonders how
the family ever coped after losing three
boys in three years.
“It beggars belief how you would go on.”
— New Zealand Herald
PICTURES: New Zealand Herald
George Knight, left, and Ellen Knight.
William Douglas Knight
three soapbox derby
champions who won
trophies at Saturday ’s
annual derby run by the Greymouth Jaycees on
Milton Road hill are Anthony Gutberlet, who
won the 7-8 year section, Chris Moore, overall
champion and winner of the 9-10 year section,
and Ian Boustridge who entered his father’s
go-kart minus engine to win the 11-12 year
Only one of the 14 contestants hit a hay bale
and even the organisers arrived safely at the
bottom of the hill when they tried their skills
after the event.
Spirit drinkers could find it almost impossible
to buy whisky in Greymouth in about
three months’ time. This was the prediction
made today by a Greymouth hotelkeeper
and confirmed to some degree by a local
wholesaler. The latest import licensing schedule
cuts imported spirits by 20% and would
greatly accentuate a worsening situation, the
“The additional 20% licensing cut must
reduce stocks drastically,” said a spokesman for
McDonnell’s Ltd, the Tainui Street wine and
spirit wholesaler. “I am quite sure there will be a
shortage of whisky in Greymouth soon, but we
may conceivably get by.”
The sea has wiped out a section of road to
the Karoro beach and has opened a gap at the
mouth of a small creek at the southern end of
the Karoro Domain. The washout occurred
during recent heavy flooding.
County engineer Mr D Forrest remarked that
the flooding which had caused the erosion had
been the most extensive for more than 30 years.
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