Bertie Batstone was born 12 September 1890, the second son of George and Ruth (Cleaver) Batstone and one of nine siblings. George was a baker, confectioner and grocer in Kirwee (west of Christchurch), with his sons employed in the family business of “G. Batstone and Son”. The family worshipped at St. George’s Anglican Church in Kirwee. At the outbreak of the Great War, Bertie was employed in the family business and played Rugby League for the Addington club in Christchurch. He enlisted in April 1915.

A Private in the 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment (6th Reinforcements), Bertie was reported “missing” and then “killed in action” in France on 28 September 1916, having just celebrated his 26th birthday. (He had earlier survived Gallipoli and being wounded in France).

Bertie was remembered as “a fine sprinter”, running 100 yards in 10.1 seconds and 220 yards in 22.3 seconds, but was never seen really at his best on the track, “as he never trained sufficiently to get the best out of himself”. In the 1914-15 New Zealand Athletic Championships, held in Wellington, he scored three second places, and in each case he was beaten by only a slight margin. Martis, of Wanganui, beat him in the 100 yards and 220 yards, and Wilton, of Wellington, beat him in the 440 yards.

Reported to have “the same bulldog determination” of Ron Opie, a sprint champion of the era, Bertie often competed in handicap races in Christchurch, from the scratch mark, but did not contest any of the Canterbury championships of the era. As noted above, while in camp at Trentham he won the 100 yards and 220 yards military championships.

In 1926, the Kirwee Amateur Athletic Club presented the inaugural "Batstone-Simpson Memorial Cup", for most points gained by a club member at Kirwee sports meetings. The Kirwee Amateur Athletic Club is no more (and the whereabouts of the Cup is unknown), but the north Canterbury town still features active lawn bowls, rugby football and tennis clubs.

Picture: The resolute gaze of Bertie Batstone, an athlete with "bulldog determination"