Season Finale of Kiwis at War

The final episode of the ‘Kiwis At War’ tells the dramatic tale of Eric Batchelor, a soldier’s soldier, whose record ranks him one of the very best infantrymen among the millions who fought in the ‘Second War’. Despite his impressive achievements, he refused promotion to the officers’ ranks, preferring life as a humble sergeant.

Saturday 2 December, 7.00pm, TV One

Our most decorated living soldier is a quiet resident of the tiny south Canterbury town of Waimate. During WWII, they called him ‘The Ferret.’

“Batch was notorious for sneaking up on German strongholds from behind,” says producer Gary Scott, “and leaping in through the back window while his platoon kept them diverted from the front. He regularly captured whole German platoons with his surprise tactics.”

As a result Batchelor received two Distinguished Conduct Medals, which rates him among the best of the best. Only one other WWII Allied NCO received similar honours.

“I was always restless, always keen to get out and see what was doing,” says Batchelor, “and I guess, if you go looking for trouble, then you’re going to find it.”

A country larrikin and an expert woodsman, Bach was a perfect infantryman. As a platoon commander during the Allied advance through northern Italy, he was often at the front of patrol operations, moving quietly at night behind enemy lines, constantly risking capture and death.

“Well, we were pretty small in those days”, says Batchelor, “so we didn’t make much of a target. And the Germans,” he smiles, echoing a comment made by Kiwi war hero Captain Charles Upham, “were pretty poor shots. Or at least I thought they were.”

For such daring raids, Batchelor received his first Distinguished Conduct Medal. A medal that his commander signed, knowing that it was a very rare honour.

“The commendation was commented on by Kippenberger and Freyberg,” says Major General Sandy Thomas, “and they got to know Batch as well. They would often ask me, ‘and how’s The Ferret getting on?'”

Very well, as it turned out. Until a communication error put him and his platoon behind enemy lines and in the target area of a full Allied advance. Batchelor walked into a big Italian villa expecting a friendly rendezvous, but instead stumbled into the German area command.

Which he quickly captured.

As a result Batchelor received a second DCM, which rates him among the best of the best. Only one other WWII Allied NCO received similar honours.

At war’s end Eric returned to the sleepy little town of his birth, Waimate and (almost) resumed life where he left off. Now in his early 80s, he’s been a dairy owner, a taxi driver and an odd jobs man. A simple life in a modest home for one of New Zealand’s greatest heroes.

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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