WW2 veteran has the last word at funeral

Centenarian… The funeral service for West Otago war veteran Bill Roulston, seen here after reading the Ode of Remembrance at Tapanui's 2021 Anzac Service, was held on Thursday in Tapanui. PHOTO: FILE

World War 2 veteran Bill Roulston had the first and final say at his funeral service in Tapanui last week.
Video coverage of Mr Roulston (101) playing his harmonica screened as his coffin was carried into the West Otago Community Centre, and his reciting of The Ode of Remembrance was played at the end of the service.
The coverage was filmed by an Otago Daily Times reporter at last year’s Armistice Day commemoration at Tapanui.
West Otago RSA secretary Horace McAuley took the funeral service.
Having the video coverage made the service very special, Mr McAuley said.
‘‘Bill has played himself in and he’s played himself out.’’
The death of Mr Roulston, who was the West Otago RSA’s last remaining World War 2 veteran, did not leave a ‘‘big hole’’ but a ‘‘huge hole’’.

For him and his generation, Mr Roulston was the connection to their own fathers who went to war, Mr McAuley said. 

‘‘In many ways our wish was that he would live forever, because he was such an important link.

‘‘He was a very, very special person in our lives.’’

The Patriots Defence Force Motorcycle Club members performed a guard of honour at the service and followed the hearse to the Tapanui Cemetery. After the committal of Mr Roulston’s body, the family shovelled the soil into the grave.

‘‘It’s their last show of respect for their father and grandfather.

‘‘We gave him the send off he deserved,’’ Mr McAuley said.

Mr Roulston grew up in Hillend, near Balclutha, and helped his father on the farm before leaving for war when he was about 21 years old.

It was at the Battle of Casino that a piece of shrapnel hit him in the side. After recovering from the wound, he went back to join a gun crew in the 17th Anti-Tank Regiment. When he returned from the war, he farmed at Toropuke, near Tapanui.
He started playing bowls at 80 and was fit until he had two strokes in his 90s.
In 2019, Mr Roulston helped Blue Mountain College pupils produce a children’s documentary about World War 2.
He had been living in the Ribbonwood Country Home for about six years.
Two weeks ago, he fell over and broke his hip. He died in Southland Hospital on November 26.