The man behind Ted’s bottle

The story of Ted’s bottle is widely known, it makes the national news every ANZAC day.  Scottish comedian Billy Connolly was so fascinated by the story, he called into the Waihao Forks Hotel to see it for himself while touring NZ.

Ted’s bottle has become a poignant memorial for all the young NZ men and women who tragically lost their lives while serving overseas.  Here’s a bit more about Ted, the local farmer, the “likeable larrikin”.

Waiho Forks Hotel.

Waiho Forks Hotel.

Ted, a Waihao Downs farmer, left a bottle of beer at the Waihao Forks Hotel when he set off for War on 27 December 1939.  Sadly Ted never returned and is buried in the Suda Bay war cemetery in Crete. His bottle is still at the pub, unopened, enshrined in glass.

Born La Tour Mollet d’Auvergne on 21 February 1906, he was the youngest of six children.  The d’Auvergne family farmed at Stoney Creek in Waihao Downs, behind the Waihao Forks Hotel.

Ted D’Avergne

Ted D’Avergne

He attended primary school at Kapua, and secondary school at Timaru Boys High School, where he played rugby and was a good swimmer.  He damaged the hearing in one ear in a diving accident while at TBHS.

His main ambition in life was to be a farmer, and with his father getting on in years, he left TBHS at the age of 14 and returned to Stoney Creek to help run the farm.

Rural life at Waihao Downs was much like it is today, it was a social farming community.  Ted attended all the gatherings - weddings, birthdays and dances at local halls.  There was the annual Draught Horse Derby and the Arno Swimming Carnival, at which Ted won prizes.

He has been described as a “likeable larrikin” who worked hard but loved to have fun.  He allegedly knew the road between his farm and the Waihao Forks Hotel like the back of his hand!

Ted had a keen interest in vehicles and machinery.  According to legend he wrote a couple of cars off on the shingle roads around the District.  

Ted’s other interest was the army.  When World War II broke out 1939, he had been in the Territorials for 13 years.   Farmers were considered essential to stay home and farm for the war effort, but Ted declared “I haven’t played at soliders for 13 years not to get involved when the real thing happens!”

Ted's farewell was held at the Arno Hall on 23 December 1939.  It was a typical country do: ”ladies a plate”!  The obligatory kegs were discreetly hidden out the back, there was music and dancing.

Ted was  posted to the 27th Machine Gun Battalion as part of the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force as a driver, where he saw service in North Africa and Crete.  He was fatally wounded by sniper fire while crossing a vineyard in Crete. Even though he was nursed by the locals, he passed away from his wounds a few days later, on June 2 1941, aged 35.

Ted's sister Rata was also killed in action, she served in the Fire Brigade driving fire engines in London in World War II.

Ted’s Bottle, Waihao Forks Hotel

Ted’s Bottle, Waihao Forks Hotel

There are a few of versions of how the bottle ended up behind the bar.  One has Ted dashing for the train when he heard it whistle from outside the Forks Hotel.  Another, told by Wanaka Hall (formerly Wanaka Brown of Ikawai), was that it was left there on the day of the local gun club shoot on December 19. Ted, Stuart Dixon and Dave Ponsonby went the pub after the shoot. They went rounds, but when they went to leave Ted hadn’t opened his bottle, and it’s this bottle that remains there to this day.  And finally George Provan’s daughter recalls her father calling them in to the bar to farewell Ted, and it was George who placed the bottle behind the bar and told Ted it was “for when he got back”.

Did he catch the train from the Forks, did he pass it to the publican on December 19, or did the publican put it aside for him?  It doesn’t matter. What we do know is that the bottle has remained at the Waihao Forks Hotel waiting for Ted since he left for World War II in 1939.

Ted, his sister Rata, and many other service men and women from the Waimate District, and across NZ, lost their lives miles from home in the service of others.  Here’s a respectful cheers to them all.

Fundraising underway for a life sized brass Ted D'Auvergne sculpture

Christchurch sculptor Donald Paterson has been commissioned, and once finished it will sit out the front of the Waihao Forks Hotel. It will be a memorial to Ted, and also all the other service men and women who lost their lives while serving overseas

If you want to get involved head to the quiz night on Thursday 21st of Feb at the Waihao Forks Hotel.

You can also donate online via a Give-a-little page here.

Kate O'Connell