18 July 2018
While he is in Europe this month, Aircraftman Trevor Fulton will become the first member of his family to pay respects to a long-lost relative.
Aircraftman Fulton, from Kerepehi in Waikato, has been selected to march in the 43-member New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent marching in Belgium’s National Day military parade in Brussels on Saturday.
They will march with contingents from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the Belgian Armed Forces, to mark the First World War centenary.
As part of the contingent’s pre-march programme, they also will visit First World War battlefields in Belgium and France, giving personnel the opportunity to visit the graves of relatives killed during the war.
When he was told of his selection, Aircraftman Fulton asked his family about relatives who served in Belgium in the First World War.
“I was aware of relatives who served but not where and then my great-aunt sent me Private William Wilson’s service record,” he said.
Private Wilson, Aircraftman Fulton’s great great-uncle, served in the 3rd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, and was posted to Belgium in August 1917. He would have survived the terror of Passchendaele, before the New Zealanders were taken out of the line to winter in and around Polygon Wood.
Far from being a holiday, at Polygon Wood troops engaged in dangerous trench raids and came under heavy mortar and shell fire. It was here that Private Wilson died three days after Christmas in 1917. His body was never recovered.
Aircraftman Fulton will visit the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Buttes New British Cemetery in the Ypres Salient in Belgium, where Private Wilson is commemorated.
“I’m very much aware of the responsibility to make sure I pay proper respects on behalf of my family. I’m hoping to lay flowers at the Memorial and take photos to send home to my family,” Aircraftman Fulton said.
A passion for physics, calculus and aviation at school has led Aircraftman Fulton to a career as an aviation technician with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). His day-to-day duties include the maintenance and repair of aircraft electrical systems.
He has been deployed to maintain RNZAF aircraft in places such as Antarctica, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and New Caledonia.