Dylan Jones has discovered the story of one special ex-Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil.
It all started when the year 12 pupil was given an assignment to research a historic event and its relevance to New Zealand and his family.
His grandmother suggested looking into the history of his grandfather’s uncle, Private Henry Ross Bottle, who was a World War 2 sapper and engineer fitter.
Up until then, Pvt Bottle’s life and death went largely unspoken within the family. According to Dylan’s mother, his grandparents did not like talking about it.
But a memory that was too painful for his grandparents, was something he could bring to life.
Without bearing the pain of losing an immediate loved one, Dylan was able to revive the story of Pvt Bottle with a sense of curiosity .
“It was a crazy history and we had not known about it for a long time,” he said.
What struck him the most about his great-great-uncle was how young he was when he died.
“He was only 23-years- old.”
Dylan told Pvt Bottle’s story at Oamaru’s Anzac service in the Garden of Memories, where the fallen soldier’s name is inscribed.
“This time last year I did not know about Ross Bottle and his story,” he said.
He spoke about his assignment and the extensive research he did to uncover the truth, and his surprise to discover Pvt Bottle’s name on the school’s honour role.
Dylan began researching using the Waitaki Boys’ magazine, The Waitakian, and old school records.
“It was great to find him.”
He discovered his grandfather’s uncle won awards in metalwork and woodwork and the Macmillan Brown Prize, he participated in athletics, and was a school librarian.
Dylan spoke about visiting a memorial hut built by Pvt Bottle’s father at Iona Home, researching the Commonwealth War Graves records, and writing to the New Zealand Army for a copy of Pvt Bottle’s war records.
“I learned so much about his training, service, where he had been and what dates he was there, and where he is buried now.”
He asked people of his generation to make an effort to “discover family stories before they are lost to time”, by asking questions, creating records, and making albums.
“Bring them back to life and keep them alive.
“I can honour my great-great-uncle by making sure that future generations will not forget his sacrifice.”
And Dylan’s work is not over.
He now had his sights on researching his father’s side of the family, hoping to discover the histories and lives of those before him.