Thursday, March 3, 2011

Private Roy Clemens - Mt Eden Memorial

Private Roy Clemens was the much loved only son of Charles and Janie Clemens.  At the outbreak of war he was an engine driver for the Colonial Soap Company in Parnell.  From the start of war he served with the New Zealand Garrison Artillery until December 1915 when he embarked on the Hospital Ship No. 2, the Marama with the New Zealand Medical Corps. Initially he worked as an orderly at the Brockenhurst Hospital in Hampshire which had been taken over by the New Zealand Division.  He departed for France in August 1917 and was soon in the thick of it at the Battle of Broodseinde where he earned the Military Medal for Gallantry:

London Gazette, 17 December 1917, p13201, Rec No 1467: For gallantry and devotion to duty under fire. On October 5th 1917 near Abraham Heights this man on his own initiative took stretcher squads forward and kept the left R.A.P's clear. He showed a contempt for shellfire and set a fine example to the other bearers. He bought in many men whom he found lying in shell holes wounded thus saving their lives.

The Battle of Broodseinde was a victory for the New Zealand Division yet it was soon overshadowed by the battle fought on the 12 October 1917 which would become New Zealand's worst defeat in terms of casualties ever recorded.  At the battle Private Clemens was seriously gassed but despite this he refused to use a stretcher so that a fellow wounded soldier could use it.  After initially being treated in England he was invalided back to New Zealand in June 1918 and was sent to Auckland Hospital and from there to Queen Mary's Hospital in Hamner where he died on the 3 November 1918 from Influenza and Pneumonia, he was 24 years old.

On further research I found that Private Clemens father had subsequently written a letter to the Ministry of Defence berating the treatment his son had received on his return to New Zealand.  Mr Clemens alleged that despite the fact his son was gravely ill he was put into an open ward in Auckland Hospital whilst officers where given private rooms, his son was also transferred to Hamner in South Island by train in an ordinary passenger carriage unable to lie down despite the fact that he had been in bed for weeks and the weather conditions on the day were inclement.  He also claimed that no provision had been made for his transfer from train to steamer and that the orderly who had been assigned to him for the trip had only hours before been treating patients with influenza.  By the time his Private Clemens reached Hamner he was gravely ill with influenza and his life could not be saved.

Private Clemens father naturally felt that had his son received better treatment he would have had a better chance of recovery and hoped that by bringing it to the Minstry's attention it would help to prevent such treatment of other soldiers.  

Private Roy Clemens was buried at Waikaraka Cemetery in Auckland on his tombstone it reads:

who was wounded at the Battle of Passchendale 
12 Oct 1917 and after thirteen months intense suffering
 died 3 Nov 1918 

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