At 11.30am on 18th February 1944, Royal Fusiller Lieutenant Eric Waters was killed by the Germans in a ditch near the Italian town of Aprilla. He left behind a five-month-old son who would go on to be one of the world’s most famous musicians and who 70 years to the day since his father’s death will finally see where his life ended.
How Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters has come to such a moment is an amazing tale of determination by an old soldier who survived the worst of the battles and has dedicated his life to answering the questions about those who did not.
7,000 Allied troops were killed in the Battle of Anzio, with British, American and Canadian soldiers fighting to push the Germans out of Italy.
Harry Schindler, 93, was one of those who survived and using his regimental records he traced where Roger Waters’ father died. It is a task he has carried out for countless families determined no one who gave their lives in the liberation of Rome should be forgotten.
Last year after hours of careful research he wrote to the musician to tell him that he now knew where and how Lt Waters’ life ended - that on 18th February 1944 there was a German attack starting at 10.15am, that many soldiers hid in ditches and by 11.10am they were surrounded.
News of the death of Lt Waters, misspelt as Walters, came at 11.30am. He was killed in a fox hole in the mud and cold of an Italian winter.
Roger Waters never knew anything of his father’s final hours. He knew only that he died in Italy serving for Z Company having gone from conscientious objector who drove an ambulance in the Blitz to a soldier.
Yet the questions as to how, where and why he died have played a huge part in his life and shaped much of his music. When the Tigers Broke Free, the second track in The Wall, was written for his father and those who died alongside him.
Last year he travelled to Monte Cassino where his father’s name is commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery. It was that journey which prompted Harry Schindler to try and find where Lt Waters’ body lay.
Today in two services the dead of the Anzio landings will be remembered and Roger Waters’ will finally meet Harry Schindler, the man who answered his questions without ever being asked.