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Moving visit ... Rosa Westgarth (left) and Jan Gibson at Ted d'Auvergne's grave in Crete earlier this year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Chris Tobin

Another Don Paterson statue is set to become part of South Canterbury.

Several of the former Oamaru artist’s works are on display around the region – the Captain Cain statue at the Landing Service Building in Timaru, a life-sized statue in Fairlie of a New Zealand Mounted trooper about to go off to World War 1 and a bushman in Waimate.

His latest project will be a statue of farm worker Ted d’Auvergne who left Waihao Forks to go off to World War 2 and never returned.

Mr d’Auvergne died aged 35 in the Battle of Crete in 1941.

The story of how Mr d’Auvergne had a final beer in the Waihao Forks hotel and told the publican to hold on to a bottle of beer that he would open on his return has become a local legend.

“Ted’s bottle”, as the unopened bottle of beer is known, now kept in a glass case, has become a fixture of the main bar and has been sought out by thousands of people over the years, including comedian Billy Connolly.

The late Yakavos Kalionzakis,
pictured with his wife. Mr Kalionzakis tried in vain to
save Ted d’Auvergne’s life on the island of Crete during World War 2. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The idea for a sculpture came from a meeting of the Waimate Community Anzac Group which has commissioned Mr Paterson for the project.

Waimate mayor Craig Rowley will launch a fundraising drive to raise $50,000 at the Waihao Forks Hotel on Friday, October 19 at 12pm.

“We want this sculpture to also commemorate all soldiers from rural New Zealand who left small communities and went off to war,” he said.

“The annual Ted’s Bottle Anzac service attracts hundreds of people and is a very special part of our district’s Anzac services. I am fully behind this piece of art being commissioned and installed outside the Waihao Forks Hotel.”

Mr d’Auvergne’s great niece Rosa Westgarth, of Timaru, said the sculpture was a great idea.

“I think it’s fantastic; it’s going to be amazing for the district.”

Earlier this year, Mrs Westgarth and her sister Jan Gibson, of Wanaka, travelled to Crete to view Mr d’Auvergne’s grave and to track down the family of a 16-year-old boy, Yakavos Kalionzakis, who buried Mr d’Auvergne.

“Ted was shot in the chest and the boy fed him eggs and goat’s milk.

“Ted gave him a photo of himself and a woman. The boy thought it was Ted’s wife but it was his sister.

“He gave him a letter as well, and an address, and he asked him to post the letter back to New Zealand.”

When Mr d’Auvergne died, Mr Kalionzakis buried him in the orchard where he had been hiding. The body was later taken for burial in the Allied War Cemetery at Souda.

Mr Kalionzakis was taken prisoner by German soldiers and could not post the letter. Three years later, he found the letter had been destroyed but the photo and address remained.

He rewrote the letter as he remembered it and posted it to Mr d’Auvergne’s stepmother.

Mrs Westgarth and her sister learned on their trip to Crete that Mr Kalionzakis had died several years before but they met his son and family.

They also met historian Costas Mamalakis who each year, on the anniversary of the Battle of Crete, drives from Heraklion to the Souda cemetery.

There he places an unopened bottle of beer on Mr d’Auvergne’s grave.