One of Franklin’s local papers ran a great story recently, about a link to this region of one of New Zealand’s All Black rugby legends .
England based Zinzan Brooke returned to the family’s former farm in Karaka, Franklin region, last week with his father Sandy, to film an episode of a documentary series. Descent from Disaster will screen on TV One later this year.
The story of Brooke’s late grandfather, Martin Brooke, will form the backbone of the episode.
The Waiuku-born 58 test No 8, admitted he knew “bugger all” about his grandfather’s time at war.
“It was probably out of respect that I did not ask him more about what it was like – I had heard stories of guys with post-traumatic experiences who did not deal with it”
His father said that stories of war never filled the Brooke household.
“The only thing he ever said was that it was the most hell of a place he had ever been in his life and he would not go near it again”
Martin Brooke was one of the first Pukekohe men to enlist in the army when it was announced New Zealand was joining the war in August 1914.
……… born in Essex, England, Martin Brooke’s outgoing, and at the time rebellious, attitude was on full display in the way he moved to New Zealand.
“When he left school he went to work in Barclays Bank. I think it lasted a week and then he said ‘The hell with this’ so he went down to the wharf and found a boat that was sailing to New Zealand and got on,” Sandy said.
“He never told his parents and he was 16 years old. The next time he saw his parents was when he was wounded in Gallipoli and shipped back to England.”
Learning his grandfathers full story was a special moment for Zinzan and one that he is determined to pass on to his children.
“A lot of guys paid the ultimate price for our freedom and I am very proud that my grandfather was part of that”
Brooke was not part of the ill-fated Gallipoli landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915 but was there not long after.
“When [the landing] went badly, very soon after that, the Auckland Mounted Rifles, including Martin, got sent there.
“He was there for about four weeks when he was hit by a shell and his arm was very badly damaged.
“A shell exploded in his face and went through his shoulder, leg, and knee and shattered his left arm.
“He had a crooked arm after that and his war wounds were obvious for the rest of his life.”
That effectively ended his time at war but due to a lengthy stay in hospital, he did not return to New Zealand until August, 1916.
“He came back and eventually bought a farm in Karaka where he raised his family.
There he would marry Sybil Zinzan and have four children and 15 grandchildren, including All Blacks Zinzan and Robin Brooke.