HARRY Gunther used to sit on his grandfather's knee and ask him how many Germans he shot during World War I.
The answer would always be the same — none, he had missed them all.
But whenever he went hunting rabbits, Henry Valentine Gunther was a crack shot. "He could shoot the eye out of a mosquito," his grandson said.
Henry, also called Harry, was born on June 27, 1897, into a farming family and grew up around Glen Waverley. The family ran a farm at the corner of Police Road and Jacksons Road, where Waverley Gardens shopping centre is now.
Henry was 26, and working in the Northcote pumping station when he enlisted on July 16, 1915. Within six months, having been given a clean bill of health and run through basic training, he was sent overseas.
His army records show that before his first year in the army was over he had been hospitalised in Greece with the flu. He disembarked in Marseilles after travelling via Egypt.
In France and Belgium, Henry was buried alive after shells exploded near the trenches and was sprayed twice with mustard gas. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
Harry says his grandfather returned in 1918 to a wife he had only just married before leaving and a son he didn't know. "My father was four and, when they were all disembarking, he asked my grandmother ... which one was his father."
The war changed Henry and despite the many questions his family asked him, he remained tight-lipped.
"They went through hell,", says Harry Gunther, who heard from his grandfather's mates about the things they endured. "He didn't like to talk about it. He would tell you something funny but nothing serious."
Every year on Anzac Day, Henry would march in the city. Afterwards, his mates would stop by his house and they shared a meal and their memories.
Henry's youngest son, Trevor Gunther, used to listen in on their conversations and learnt his father used to carry out his fellow diggers when they suffered trench feet.
"They reckon he was pretty good for doing it," Trevor says, laughing. "There was a big bond. Some of them helped dig him out and he dug some others out when they were in the trenches."
Henry returned home to work as a market gardener. He fathered four more children. His lost his soldier settlement property — which occupied part of the site of VFL Park — during the Great Depression. He was about 73 years old when he died in 1971.
"It was very hard. I still think about him a lot," Trevor says. "My father was a fanastic person."
Every year Harry chauffers several of the older veterans in his 1946 Ford Mercury convertible during the Anzac Day march in the city.
"He loved going to the marches; he loved meeting his mates. "The old boys feel pretty good, you know, when everyone's clapping and cheering them."
This year, the Waverley RSL will not be holding its annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Glen Waverley cenotaph. Instead, the branch will be joining in with the State RSL's Remembrance Day Service at 2.30pm on Sunday, November 11, at the Springvale War Cemetery. Details: 8558 4700.