Before enlistment Sylvester Dargan worked as a miner for the Waihi Gold Mining Company. He was married with four children and lived in Waihi. He enlisted on the 6 October 1915 and embarked as part of the Tunnelling Company aboard the 'Ruapehu' on the 18 December 1915 for Plymouth, England.
The Tunnellers were the first New Zealanders on the Western Front in March, 1916. The Tunnellers arrived at the Arras front line without being part of a larger formation. Enlisted just for their aptitude for digging and their knowledge of working underground, the men of the NZ Tunnelling Company relied on their own resources and capabilities.
The description above is from the NZ Tunnellers website an excellent site - I recommend visiting.
On the 13 November 1917 Sylvester was gassed. He was admitted to Hospital and eventually transferred to England ending up in a convalescent home in Brighton. On 4 November 1918 he embarked on the 'Remuera' headed back to New Zealand and was discharged from service on the 23 November 1918 medically unfit because of the effects of the gassing.
The effects of the gas on Sylvester were debilitating he suffered breathlessness and a persistent chronic cough and bronchitis. He would have returned to New Zealand an invalid. He eventually found himself in the Pukeroa Sanatorium in the Hawkes Bay where he died on the 13 July 1920. He is buried in the Waihi Cemetery.
His wife Harriet was left with a family to support, I wonder how she managed? It must have been a real struggle, one she was not alone in at that time. Harriet never remarried and died in 1957 aged 82 years old.
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