War memorabilia gifted to Methven

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Pictured: Mark Roufeil with some of his grandfather's war memorabilia and Martin Nordqvist with a formal photo of Charles McCrenor in his war tunic.

By Mick Jensen

An impressive collection of World War 1 medals and other service memorabilia belonging to a Methven-raised soldier have been gifted by his Australian family to the Methven Historical Society.

Charles McCrenor was raised on a farm on the edge of Methven known as Middle Stables and was the youngest of seven children. He enlisted with the NZ Machine Gun Corps at the age of 19.

During his three years of battles in Europe, he took shrapnel in his legs, was buried alive in trenches and was gassed with mustard gas.

As a machine gunner, he fought on the front line and was a prime target for the enemy artillery.

Charles McCrenor was one of the few survivors from his unit and returned home to Methven after the war, before immigrating to Australia in the 1920s.

His war and service medals, badges, impressive company banner and souvenirs from Europe have been gifted to Methven by his grandson Mark Roufeil, a Sydney based accountant.

Mr Roufeil delivered the items in person last week, organising the handover with his distant cousin and Methven identity Martin Nordqvist.

The donated items also include a German luger pistol, minus its firing pin, confiscated by Charles McCrenor from a German prisoner, and given to Mr Roufeil by another family member in Nelson.

Mark Roufeil said the family had agreed that Methven was “the right place” for his grandfather’s items and it was “fitting that the treasures be returned to his home town”.

The Hall of Memories exhibition in the Mt Hutt Memorial Hall “was a wonderful dedication to soldiers of the region”.

His grandfather had kept in regular touch with his siblings after he moved to Australia, but he had never returned to New Zealand.

He had later enlisted to fight in World War 2 and was in the motor transport unit before being invalided out after 272 days following a fall.

Mr Roufeil said Charles McCrenor had died in 1959, six years before he had been born, but he had heard many stories about him from his mother Doreen, Charles’ daughter.

“Upon returning home to Methven after the war, Charles faced sadness on many fronts. Not only the direct loss of his friends and comrades, but also the unwitting sadness conveyed from his lost friends’ families who would often cry when seeing him in town because he reminded them of their lost loved ones.

“He also suffered from the mental trauma and physical injuries that war left him with.”

Those factors led him to emigrate from New Zealand to start a new life in Australia, said Mr Roufeil.

Family member Martin Nordqvist said the gifted items, most of which were now close to 100 years old, would be a great addition to the Methven’s war archives.

Some of the items were in a delicate state and all would be carefully stored with other historical material and would likely be displayed in the future.