Nick Squires in Aprilia
18 Feb 2014
Pink Floyd rock star unveils a memorial to the father he never knew, 70 years after he was killed during a battle between British and German forces south of Rome.
Seventy years to the day after his father was killed in a desperate battle with German troops in Italy, Roger Waters unveiled a memorial in which he paid moving tribute to the man he never knew.
The founder of Pink Floyd was just a baby when his father, Lt Eric Waters, died during the bitter, close-quarters fighting that took place after British and American troops landed at Anzio in Jan 1944 in order to outflank the Germans and liberate Rome.
His unit, Z Company of the 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, was all but wiped out in an aggressive German counter-attack on Feb 18, 1944.
His remains were never found.
The death of his father has haunted the British rock star all his life and inspired many of Pink Floyd's best known songs, including some off the album The Wall.
But as he stood in front of a newly-erected white marble obelisk commemorating his father in the town of Aprilia south of Rome, he finally achieved a degree of closure.
"It is 70 years to the day since my father died here and I have finally come to the end of a journey to discover what really happened to him," the musician and composer said, after placing a wreath of red poppies at the foot of the monument, next to a British steel helmet peppered with shrapnel holes, retrieved from the battle field.
Waters, 70, said that at the outbreak of the Second World War his father had declared himself a conscientious objector, but as the evils of Nazism became more and more apparent he decided that he should join up.
"So he went back to the conscription board in London and told them he had changed his mind. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers, which is how he ended up here 70 years ago. He believed he was involved in a necessary fight against the Nazis, and for that he paid the ultimate price."
Waters said he found the unveiling of the memorial "extremely moving" and at one point had to staunch a nose bleed with tissues.
"I feel an enormous attachment to my father today. I'm very happy to be here," he said, placing his hand over his heart.
Until recently, the guitarist had no idea exactly how or where his father had died.
He knew only that he had been killed following the landings, when tens of thousands of Allied troops streamed ashore at Anzio and Nettuno and established a precarious bridgehead.
But last year his story was taken up by Harry Shindler, an Anzio veteran who lives in Italy and who is head of the Italy Star Association of British veterans.
He scoured war diaries and military maps held by what is now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at the Tower of London, and came upon an intelligence report that described the desperate last few hours of Lt Waters' unit and the exact spot where he was killed.
Mr Shindler, 93, who on Wednesday will be awarded an MBE by the British ambassador in Rome in recognition of his services to veterans, has since become friends with Waters.
"Roger, I hope that you can go into calmer waters now and that this wall at least is down for you," Mr Shindler, who also served with the Royal Fusiliers, said.
On Monday the two men paid a private visit to another recently-built memorial, a circular stone monument which marks the spot where Lt Waters died, close to a gully that British troops called "the Wadi".
Although the death of his father caused him huge pain during his life, he seems to have found some peace with the enemy soldiers who killed him.
The monument, which lies on the edge of a grove of olive trees, is inscribed with words from 'Two Suns in the Sunset', the closing track on the Pink Floyd album The Final Cut: "Ashes and diamonds/Foe and friend/We were all equal in the end."
Waters was flanked by two soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who flew out from the UK to take part in the commemoration.
"In the regiment we have a saying - 'once a fusilier, always a fusilier' - so we feel it's very important for serving members to attend events like this," said Major Chris Head, who was a platoon commander in Z Company, just like Waters' father.
Colonel Duncan Venn, the British military attaché in Rome, said: "It must be very difficult for the relatives of soldiers whose remains were never found because they have no focus for their grieving. Hopefully these monuments will offer some comfort to Roger Waters."