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New Plymouth Old Boy to attend Gallipoli commemorations

Corporal Chris Watts

Corporal Chris Watts, off to Gallipoli as part of the NZ Defence Force contingent. 

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05 April 2011

When Air Force Corporal Chris Watts arrives in Gallipoli later this month he will be able to trace the footsteps of his Great Great Grandfathers and his Great Great Uncle.

CPL Watts, who grew up in New Plymouth and attended New Plymouth Boys High School, now lives in Blenheim with his wife Krystel and three children. He will be the flag orderly, part of a tri-Service New Zealand Defence Force catafalque guard, which will parade at the Anzac Day services on 25 April in Turkey.

Corporal Watts says he feels extremely honoured to be part of the Gallipoli contingent taking part in their year’s Anzac Day services in Turkey. While in Gallipoli CPL Watts will be wearing a cross his Great Grandfather Victor Watts was given while recovering in hospital from wounds received in the battle of the Somme.

“I had three relatives that took part in the Gallipoli campaign; my Great Great Grandfather Archibald Mclaren, Great Great Grandfather Frank Griffith and Great Great Uncle George Soffe.

“My Great Great Grandfather Archibald Mclaren left his wife and children behind when he went to WW1 and that was something I never really understood until I went on deployment myself in 2007 and in 2009. I was lucky enough to be able to make phone calls to talk to loved ones. I can’t imagine what it would have been like writing a letter and waiting three months for a response, if one was received at all!

“My Great Great Uncle George Soffe, who was of Maori descent, was ‘captured’ by the British after he wandered into the wrong area and mistaken for a Turkish spy. Despite his pleadings otherwise they were about to shoot him when his commanding officer walked past and managed to save him from the firing squad.”

CPL Watts joined the Air Force in 2000 and works at Command & Recruit Training Squadron in the Tactical Support Section in Woodbourne.

His career highlights include being deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and an Anzac Day when he was on the Dawn to Dusk catafalque guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington.

“Hearing some of the comments from civilians who came to the National War Memorial that day helped me to know that the New Zealand public appreciate what we do and the sacrifices that I and others have had to make are worth it!”

The official New Zealand contingent travelling to Gallipoli includes the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, and a small group of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel including an Army chaplain, catafalque guard, and members of the Central Band of the RNZAF.

The Anzac Day ceremonies in Gallipoli begin on Saturday 24 April with the Turkish International Service and conclude with the New Zealand Service at Chunuk Bair on 25 April. The services will be attended by dignitaries from New Zealand, Australia and Turkey.

ENDS

For further information please contact Ally Clelland, Defence Communications Group 04 496 0273 or 021 569 130

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