JACK JOSEPH BUTLER
Jack as he was known went to war in 1940; he was part of 24 Battalion. He sounds a real character and very clever and resourceful up to every prank one could possibly get up to and if you read the Whakatane Butler Book you will find it very interesting. He was a signaller. In March 1942 he was in Syria, June in Alexandria where there was a lot of German activity. He was captured and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Benghazi where the Germans handed him over to the Italians. He spent his time wheeling and dealing with the Italian guards etc, in order to get more food. He ended up being shipped to Brindisi where for a year he worked in agricultural gangs. He received Red Cross Parcels, and he enjoyed the wine and cheese the Italians rationed out to the prisoners. When Italy looked like being invaded by the allies the prisoners were taken by train to Trieste and then Austria. Then transported to Gorlitz in Germany to a big camp called 8A, working 12 hr to 18 hr shifts in a sugar factory.
He was always up to something and got solitary confinement a few times. He was a good German linguist and so he and 5 others escaped after bribing a guard and they got close to the Swiss border but were exhausted, hungry, and gave themselves up. Jack was sent to another camp where he became Camp Carpenter and then he escaped again and a few days later whilst hiding in a barn with his friend he saw a convoy of Yanks going by and he joined up with them.
He was back safely in NZ in July 1945. He married Helen Cowan BEATTIE on 20 August 1946 and produced 14 children.
This photo and information was supplied by Jim DUNNING via his mother Lenore Dunning nee BUTLER
Captured whilst signaling to the Battalion. Railed to Italy where they weren't badly treated and sent out to work. The Catholic Priests and others didJack and his brother Patrick Maurice BUTLER both wrote lovely letters home to their mother and the "Whakatane Butlers"' have saved and shared these with each other. These are a couple of postcards which Lenore his sister has kept and which she requested I put in this booklet in memory of her beloved brother Jack.
what they could for the boys, giving Communion to them. Jack is on the left with his back to the photographer.
Jack on one of his escapes had a John DODUNSKI accompanying him and he was apparently according to Lenore possibly a Grandson of Michael or Gabriel Mathias DODUNSKI and a cousin of some sort to Jack via his mother Evelyn CROSFKEY whose mother was Jane nee POTROZ descendant of Anton POTROZ and Josephine FUNK. Maybe he was Eileen KOMENE nee DODUNSKI'S missing brother Johann DODUNSKI, as she believes he was killed in WWII.
I have also been requested by Lenore to type the following extract from the book "Sons of Te Ramaroa" written by Author Joan M Leaf. I will type out a short version:
In September 1940 Jack entered camp at Ngaruawahia beginning with infantry training and then on to a mobile machine gun platoon. He left for Fiji on Armistice Day. Jack enjoyed his food and on the ship the boys were given sandwhiches and Jack made good use of his newly acquired false teeth. The lads had a set of binoculars amongst them and took turns viewing the girls waving goodbye to them at the wharf. Whilst Jack was having his turn with the binoculars one of the others impatient for his turn slapped Jack on the back. Jack lost his brand new expensive dentures overboard. Jack spent 4 months in Fiji without teeth. So he ate a lot of pineapples, oranges and did not require teeth to drink kava. The only side effect he experienced from the Kava was numb feet. He was known as the kava king. A lot of Butlers have dabbled in wine making over the years and Jack well his expertise was making kava.
Whilst in Fiji they would patrol the coast watching for Japanese submarines, and did intensive training on a motorbike so that he could jump over 8 officers and continue safely on his way with his signaling equipment.
Jack got transferred to Regimental Signals, and then returned to NZ in October leaving Auckland aboard the Aquitania. Three ships sailed together to Perth. The Aquitania, Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, Aussie troops were aboard the Queens. Fortunately they avoided any German Submarines and got to Perth safely. No leave was granted in Perth because the Aussies and New Zealanders caused too much trouble. (I can vouch with that as a few Australian ladies I have spoken to over the years were having a great time here in Perth with all the troops - but they used to prefer the Americans as they always had nice gifts for the girls - stockings, etc - and often the Aussies and New Zealanders would fight with each other over the girls until the Americans showed up at the pubs and then they joined together and fought the Americans - all over the girls).
Jack and his mates waited till it was dark and slid down the ropes and went off to a pub. He spotted a bottle of whisky behind the bar as he was leaving and flogged it; hiding it in his uniform thinking he could impress a few girls with it - only to discover later it was cold tea. They managed to get aboard the next morning without being discovered AWOL.
Sailing over the Indian Ocean to Tewfik, disembarking & going to Maadi Camp to train for 6 weeks, then 8 weeks
Signals Training Training - in Morse, Heliograph and Semaphore.
Up to Syria in March 1942 to delay a German spearhead via Turkey. Jack acquired a taste for a drink called Araak whilst in Syria. In June they moved back to Egypt but the journey was unbearably hot and the lads wore wet cloths over their faces. He was so thirsty he found Worcestershire Sauce wasn't too bad and finished a whole bottle during the 900 mile journey (5 days).
He got two days leave at Sidi Bish (near Alexandria). Leave was cancelled as the Germans it was discovered were only 30 miles from Alexandria and Jack was sent straight into action. Out in the desert with 88mm shells dropping all around him Jack had to run cable for the Battalion's communications. In the evening Jack was in headquarters dugout (concreted) when an ammunition truck arrived. The driver decided to have a hot drink and lit up his primus. A lone Jerry plane was flying over at the time noticing the flame and dropped a bomb on the big captured Italian truck. It blew their cover immediately the inferno was like a beacon to the enemy. They were bombed all night long. Several times bombs dropped between Jack and his mates blowing them off their feet and killing others but Jack was fortunate and escaped harm.
At Minqar Qaim one night Jack and another signaler had to cross a minefield whilst under heavy enemy machine gun fire from all sides, it was so dark they could not see a trip wire; the other signaler injured his leg in the explosion and could not continue. Jack had to leave him and continue alone with radio and microphone. It was a successful night as Jack's Battalion wiped out all the Italian soldiers. However Jack noted one hiding in a trench, but a New Zealand Lieutenant ran his bayonet though him. He forgot to turn the bayonet before pulling it out and then had trouble separating it again from the body. Jack proceeded on leaving the Lieutenant tugging away. But the Germans had arrived dropping daisy-bombs which spread out at knee height. His company was lost and Jack had to go ahead and try to find out where they were. Soon he heard guttural voices. He warned the Battalion and hid and waited for daylight.
Whilst he was attempting to get back to his own lines the next day a couple of Jerry tanks came rolling towards them and greeted them with "Hello Jerry" thinking they were English and ordered them to surrender. So he and a few others were taken prisoner. They marched for a week across the desert; rations were meager and water scarce. However one of the German guards wanted Jack's wristwatch and instead of just taking it offered him a half a bottle of water in exchange. Water was of more value than a watch so Jack accepted.