Touching moment Pink Floyd star visits World War II cemetery in Italy to honour his soldier father who died in heroic final stand

PUBLISHED: 10 October 2013

Roger Waters' father Eric died in Italy in the closing stages of the war

He made an emotional journey to the battlefield where his father died

Pink Floyd star was just five months when his father was killed in action

Lt Waters' name is on a memorial at Cassino but remains were never found

Roger Waters said his father died because of foolhardy generals in songs he recorded

This is the touching moment Pink Floyd star Roger Waters visits a cemetery near where his soldier father died in the final months of World War II.
Eric Fletcher Waters was serving as a second lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers as they advanced through Italy in 1944 when he was killed in action.
His newborn son Roger was aged just five months when he was killed on the battlefield near Cassino.
Earlier this year, the Pink Floyd musician made an emotional journey to visit the battlefield where his father was killed along with thousands of other Allied troops.
He was able to pinpoint the exact spot where he died and also visited a graveyard where his death is marked on a memorial.
The second lieutenant's remains were never found.

Graveside: Roger Waters of Pink Floyd visits a cemetery in Cassino, Italy, as he makes an emotional journey to visit the battlefield where his father was killed along with thousands of other Allied troops

A war diary belonging to Pink Floyd star Roger Waters' father has been uncovered by a fellow soldier (pictured) the Waters family while father Eric was serving in the Royal Fusiliers

Now, War Diary documents unearthed at the National Archives in Kew by former veteran Harry Shindler, paint a clear picture of the final 24 hours of Lt Waters and the brave men of Z company (coy) who were with him at Anzio in February 1944.

The first line dated February 17 records how at 11am 'intensive shelling and mortaring' took place in the area where Lt Waters, commanding officer John Oliver-Bellasis and the rest of Z company as they tried to advance on a heavily defended German position.

Later in the day, an entry timed 1745, describes colourfully how the Germans called on Lt Waters and his comrades to give up: 'Z coy reported an attack on the left forward platoon. The bosche called on them to surrender but were answered with all available SA (semi automatic) fire. Casualties were inflicted.

The diary, which documents dramatic dispatches from Mr Waters' time in service

Just over an hour later, the entry adds: 'Situation well in hand, enemy decided to withdraw. 'Prisoners from Z coy said they had recently marched from Rome and were told they would not be used in an attack. Had also been told that b'head was almost finished.'

The report goes on to record a quiet night but then in the early hours of the morning at 1.45am, the day Lt Waters was killed, describes an 'enemy concentration reported on the rt of 7th Oxf & Bucks, which is followed by an entry at 0630 of how the Oxf and Bucks troops are being attacked 'and sounds of tracked vehilces heard to their front.'

At 7.15am 'Z coy reported attack by approx 50 Bosches. Successfully dealt with.' More than two hours later at 0945am it adds: '5 enemy killed and several spandaus captured as result of above.' Then 30 minutes later the battle which will claim Lt Waters life begins.

On the offensive: This picture shows troops landing in Anzio, on the Italian coast, in 1944

It reads: 'Further attack on Z coy. This time in greater strength than previous attack. Enemy in close contact with forward positions. Unable to send assistance as Z coy having trouble on their rt.'

An hour later the Diary records: 'Z coy reported enemy all round their positions, very stiff fighting going on.' Then at 1130am the final report reads: 'Lt Waters killed and Lt Hill wounded, situation now critical. Message received over air that assistance would now be too late.'

Lt Waters was killed in the first wave of fighting as the Allies attempted to secure the beach head at Anzio, south of Rome. 

Lt Waters name is on a memorial at the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Cassino but his remains were never found.

Eric Waters' death provided the inspiration for several songs and it is commemorated in particular with When The Tigers Broke Free, which also appeared in the film The Wall.

In the song, Waters describes how he feels that his 31-year-old father died because of foolhardy generals.

The last verse has the lyrics 'It was dark all around. There was frost in the ground When the tigers broke free. And no one survived  From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z. They were all left behind, Most of them dead.

'The rest of them dying. And that's how the High Command Took my daddy from me.'
He also describes coming across a letter of condolence from George V as he tried on his father's uniform, adding how he found it disturbing that it was rubber-stamped and not actually signed.

After visiting the cemetery at Cassino in March, Waters, 70, told a local Italian TV station: 'I'm on a journey through Europe, my grandfather was killed in 1916 and my father was killed down the road in Anzio. This is the end of my journey.

'Some of my past is in my music and so is my future. I'm making a film that won't be aired in public.'

Speaking of his father, Waters recalled in an interview his childhood and how his father's death had affected him. He said: 'When men in uniform came to collect their children, that's when I realised I didn't have a father anymore.

'I was very angry. It took me years to come to terms with it. Because he was missing in action, presumed killed, until quite recently I expected him to come home. The sacrifice of his life has been a great gift and a great burden to me.'

The film and album The Wall tells the story of how a troubled rock star called Pink, who is said to be Waters, is left psychologically scarred by the loss of his father in the war. The film opens with scenes of a solider - Eric Waters - along with his comrades, storming a beachhead.

Mr Shindler, 93, a veteran who fought in Italy during Word War Two and is in charge of the Itay Star Association which represents former soldiers, said: 'I started to dig around on the story when I saw a report of this man on the TV. 

'I was very moved that he wanted to find out more about his father's death and the circumstances of how he was killed. I don't know who Pink Floyd are, my music stops at The Beatles.

'The report describes the events leading up to his father's death and how they were surrounded and outnumbered but despite putting on a brave fight their was nothing they could do.'

Mr Shindler adds that he had been in touch with Roger Waters agent but had no direct contact with the musician who recently completed a successful tour of Europe.

On his official website Waters has posted a tribute to his father and urged fans to send in photos and stories of their 'Fallen Loved Ones'.

He writes it 'is a request, from me, reaching out to ask you to provide a photograph and personal details of a "Loved One" lost in war. Your "Loved One’s" pictures and details would be included, along with those of my father Eric, in my up coming show THE WALL, as an act of remembrance. The "Fallen Loved One" does not have to have been a soldier. Civilian deaths are equally, if not more, harrowing.

'I make this request to you in light of my belief that many of these tragic losses of life are avoidable. I feel empathy with the families of all the victims and anger at "THE POWERS THAT BE", who are responsible, in equal measure. Please join me in honouring our dead and protesting their loss.'


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