Sunday, October 4, 2015

William Haigh Seaton - Devonport Memorial, Auckland

The Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917 was a comprehensive victory for the allies.  The New Zealand division was given the task of capturing the Gravenstafel Spur on the Broodseinde Ridge.  They fulfilled  their task admirably but at a cost.   At the completion of the battle the New Zealanders had 1,700 casualties including 350 deaths.

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1917 - No known copyright restrictions 

William Haigh Seaton was born in Grimsby, England the eldest son of Kemp and Jane Seaton.  

He had emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and brother James in 1912.  The family set up home in Devonport and at the outbreak of war William was employed as an engineer working for the Union Company in Auckland.  William enlisted in November 1915 and embarked with the Auckland Infantry Battalion on 4 March 1916.  He marched into camp at Etaples, France on 24 April 1916.    At the end of July 1917 he was granted 10 days leave to the UK.  By this time his younger brother James had enlisted and embarked from Auckland earlier during the month of July. 

Sadly the two brothers were not reunited in the UK as James disembarked in Plymouth on 24 September 1917 and William by then was already back at the Front.  Tragically William was killed in action on 4 October 1917 at the Battle of Broodseinde.  He was 27 years old.

James finally marched into camp at Etaples on 28 October 1917, this must have been a difficult time for him knowing that only weeks earlier his brother had been killed in action.  Even harder would have been the fact that William's body was never recovered so James had no grave to visit.  

William is remembered along with the hundreds of other New Zealanders who lost their lives in Belgium during October 1917 and have no known grave on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.


Monday, June 1, 2015

"She faced them gentle and bold" - Nurse Edith Cavell

 Edith Cavell by Laurence Binyon

She was binding the wounds of her enemies when they came—
 The lint in her hand unrolled.
They battered the door with their rifle-butts, crashed it in:
 She faced them gentle and bold.

They haled her before the judges where they sat        
 In their places, helmet on head.
With question and menace the judges assailed her, “Yes,
 I have broken your law,” she said.

“I have tended the hurt and hidden the hunted, have done
 As a sister does to a brother,        
Because of a law that is greater than that you have made,
 Because I could do none other.

“Deal as you will with me. This is my choice to the end,
 To live in the life I vowed.”
“She is self-confessed,” they cried; “she is self-condemned.        
 She shall die, that the rest may be cowed.”

In the terrible hour of the dawn, when the veins are cold,
 They led her forth to the wall.
“I have loved my land,” she said, “but it is not enough:
 Love requires of me all.        

“I will empty my heart of the bitterness, hating none.”
 And sweetness filled her brave
With a vision of understanding beyond the hour
 That knelled to the waiting grave.

They bound her eyes, but she stood as if she shone.        
 The rifles it was that shook
When the hoarse command rang out. They could not endure
 That last, that defenceless look.

And the officer strode and pistolled her surely, ashamed
 That men, seasoned in blood,        
Should quail at a woman, only a woman,—
 As a flower stamped in the mud. 

As we continue worldwide to mark the centenary of the First World War, The Royal Mint in the United Kingdom has chosen to remember one of the most prominent female casualties of the First World War – Nurse Edith Cavell – on a new coin.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse who was executed in 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape German-occupied Brussels during the First World War. Her death was highly controversial at the time.  

On the coin are words from the poem above by Laurence Binyon called 'Edith Cavell' "she faced them gentle and bold"  I have not reproduced the whole poem and the link below will take you to a copy of the full version.  Laurence Binyon is well known for his First World War poem 'For the Fallen'.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Great War Exhibition - Dominion Museum Wellington

Last weekend I visited 'The Great War Exhibition' at the Dominion Museum in Wellington and I have to say I was suitably impressed.

The highlight of the exhibition for me was the colourisation of World War One photographs which shone a new light on many images that I had seen before, making the war itself all the more vivid 100 years later.

I highly recommend a visit.


The Great War Exhibition
Dominion Museum Building
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
New Zealand

Poignant WWI Photos to See Light of Day Online

The National Army Museum has received a grant which will enable it to digitise most of their WW1 photographs, this is great news for researchers (like myself). 

“This is exciting news for us” said Director Jeanette Richardson ONZM. “The eve of the World War One Commemorations is such a good time to know that we will be able to bring a range of very poignant images directly to the public of New Zealand”.

Saint Kentigern Boys' School ANZAC poppies

Inspired by the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, every boy at Saint Kentigern Boys' School made a poppy, which were then placed around the school as part of their ANZAC day 2015 commemorations.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cyril Patrick Melbourne Jackson - Picton Memorial

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1917 - No known copyright restrictions 

The handsome man in the photo above is that of Cyril Jackson, the second son of George and Martha Jackson of Picton.  In his days in Picton Cyril had been a valued member of the local cricket club and a member of the Holy Trinity church choir.   

At the outbreak of war Cyril was employed by the New Zealand Railways as a clerk at Waihi station in Coromandel.  He enlisted on 20 October 1915 at Waihi and embarked with the 10th reinforcements attached to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 4 March 1916.

Cyril was promoted to Company Sergeant Major on 11 July 1916 at Sling Camp, England.  His posting to the Western Front was delayed as he contracted Mumps early in March 1917 and was admitted to hospital in Glasgow for treatment.  By the begining of April he had recovered and was marched back into Sling camp and on to  Codford camp where he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment.

He arrived in France in May 1917.  However his tour of duty on the front was short.  Cyril was wounded in action at Passchendaele most likely on 4 October 1917 at the Battle of Broodseinde and died of his wounds the next day.  He was buried at the Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3, Vlamertinge, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. 

The news of Cyril's death back in New Zealand added to the grief that his family were already suffering,  this due to the death of Cyril's father in June of the same year.

Cyril is also remembered on the Waihi War Memorial Gate (pictured below).