Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sergeant Matthias Beck - Awakino Memorial

Sergeant Matthias Beck is another reminder of how ordinary men are capable of brave and selfless acts.

Beck was born in Ormondville, Hawkes Bay in 1887.  He embarked with the Wellington Infantry Battalion on 9 October 1915 with the 7th Reinforcements.  At the time of his enlistment he had been a bush contractor in the Urenui area, North Taranaki.

Beck's war was a full one, he was promoted several times eventually to the position of Sergeant in July 1917.  He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry on 7 June 1917 at Messines and then later in the month he was awarded a Bar for further acts of gallantry on 24 June 1917 at St Yves. 

After being gassed at St Yves Beck was out of action rejoining his unit in the field on 29 August 1917.  He was killed in action at the Battle of Broodsiende on 4 October 1917 he was aged 30.  Sergeant Matthias Beck like many is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

Below are the citations of Sergeant Beck's awards taken from a book by Wayne MacDonald, Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918.

Messines offensive - 7th-9th June 1917. At Messines on 7th June 1917 this NCO did most valuable work. His Officer was wounded when attacking a number of the enemy who were fighting from shell holes. With the 12 men left in his platoon Sergeant Beck then took charge and pushed the attack with such boldness that over 50 were killed with rifle and grenade and the rest driven off. He did good work during the remainder of this operation and had previously proved himself a bold and capable patrol leader.

At ST YVES on 24th June 1917 this N.C.O. was the platoon sergeant of a platoon working as a carrying party. That evening the whole area and the saps were under a very heavy bombardment, with both gas and ordinary shell. Two men were buried by a shell, and Sgt Beck, with another man immediately went to the rescue without thought of his own safety. Finding he could not get them out quickly enough working with a respirator on, he took off the respirator, knowing the risk, with the result that he was gassed. Though feeling the effects of the gas, on the platoon commander also becoming a casualty from gas, and saw that the task of the platoon was finished before he was evacuated. His previous record is excellent and he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry at MESSINES.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Te Kuiti Memorial - 22 September 2011

In the background is a white arch which is the WWII Memorial   

Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume XLIV, 31 January 1924 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Three more memorials

Yesterday I visit the memorials at Te Kuiti, Pio Pio and Awakino today on my way back up North I will take a look at Otorohanga.

The Great Adventure often started at home...

Whilst driving through the King Country yesterday from Te Kuiti to Awakino (on the west coast) it struck me that for many New Zealand young men their great adventure began at home.

The journey from Te Kuiti to Awakino is a great drive, a smooth road, winding but not unmanageable and the King Country scenery was spectacular.  My journey was also comfortable and relatively short compared to those young men who volunteered for service in World War One    Then the journey from rural New Zealand to the big cities of Auckland and Wellington was in itself a great adventure.  Many who volunteered from places such as Awakino had never ventured far from the area they came from and had certainly not been to the city.  

The initial few months in New Zealand and aboard troop ships en route to the war were as we now know the great adventure.   The so called great adventure of World War One turned out to be a nightmare for most.  New Zealand soldiers in their revolting trenches I am sure lamented the time when they had thought this would be their great adventure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's happening next...

Tomorrow I am off to the King Country for a flying visit and to visit several memorials.  Just purchased the republished 'Maori in the Great War' by James Cowan.  The book was first published in 1926 and has been republished by Willson Scott  Publishing.  Great to have a list of all those who served in the Maori/Pioneer Battalion.

The Gaskell Brothers - Ngaruawahia Memorial

Four sons of Arthur Herbert and Edith Gaskell of Glen Murray, Waikato served during World War One a worthy contribution from any single family.  The first to enlist was George Oscar Gaskell on 10 August 1915.   He served with the Field Ambulance Corp and received multiple injuries on 1 October 1916 and according to his records he never went back to the Front staying in the UK in convalescent camps were he also worked as a dispensary (before becoming a farmer he had been a chemist).  He was discharged from service on 22 May 1919.

Frederick Arthur Gaskell was the second brother to enlist on 5 October 1916.   He embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) on 16 February 1917 aboard the Navua departing from Wellington.  During his service he rose to the rank of Sergeant.   On 15 May 1918,  Frederick Gaskell received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his efforts - London Gazette entry below:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty after assuming command of a platoon. He organised his under heavy fire, pressed his attack home, and helped to capture an enemy strong position. He sent back useful information to adjoining troops, and generally displayed initiative and good leadership.         

Although considered to be the army's second ranking gallantry award, the DCM was almost always seen as a "near miss for the VC".

On 26 August 1918 during the Battle of Bapaume he received a gun shot wound to the abdomen and died on 28 August 1918.  He was buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, France.

Norman Gaskell was the next to enlist on 30 April 1917 and embarked on 13 August 1917 aboard the Mokoia from Wellington with the 29th Reinforcements, E Company.  He marched into Etaples Camp in France on 29 October 1917 and was attached to the Wellington Infantry Regiment on 8 December 1917.  Then on the 6 February 1918 he was admitted to hospital sick.  He remained in hospital for the duration of the war initially with influenza which turned into Bronco Pneumonia.  On the 11 November 1918 the day the war finally ended Norman Gaskell died.  He was buried in Brookwood Military Hospital, England.  Norman was only 22 years old. 

The last of the Gaskell brothers to enlist was Percy Gaskell on 20 September 1917 he embarked on 29th Reinforcements E Company aboard the Athenic from Wellington.  He joined 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment in the field on 29 June 1918.  However, Percy spent most of his war until  discharge in and out of hospital with sickness.  He was discharge on 5 August 1919 after returning to New Zealand.

The Bell Brothers - Ngaruawahia Memorial

John Edward Bell and Alexander Law Bell were brother's and the only two sons (that I can find) of Edward and Mary Bell of Ngaruawahia.  They embarked together on 17 April 1915 from Wellington with the 4th Reinforcements.  They had in fact enlisted separately John at Urenui in Taranaki and Alexander at Taupiri in the Waikato.

Both would have served during the Gallipoli Campaign where John Bell was wounded on 4 October 1915.  After Gallipoli the next stop would have been France and Belgium.   I have not as yet been able to access Alexander Bell's military record however, I assume that at some point he was either wounded or fell sick as he returned to New Zealand sometime during 1917.   On his Cenotaph record it is clear he reembarked again with the 32nd Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA) on 21 November 1917. 

Sadly on 17 June 1917 John Bell was killed in action in Belgium (he too served with the NZFA) he was 27 years old.  I expect the death of his brother made Alexander Bell's return to the Front a very poignant one.  Alexander himself died of his wounds on 9 August 1918 in France his age at death is recorded as 21 years on his CWGC (Commonwealth Grave Commission) entry.  I checked to see when Alexander's birth was registered and it is recorded as 1897 which would mean he was only 17 or 18 years old when he enlisted, he no doubt lied about his age when he enlisted.

The story of brothers not returning is unfortunatley a common one of World War One.   On the Ngaruawahia memorial alone there are five sets of brothers recorded who gave their lives.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ngaruawahia war memorial

Ngaruawhia memorial is an impressive memorial, especially as I found a newspaper article suggesting that the memorial had difficulty beginning.

Thames Star, Volume LIII, Issue 14258, 17 June 1920

It is obvious there was a change of heart and the memorial was unveiled in 1922.  I would like to hear more about the memorial origins and I shall continue to dig and delve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sergeant Henry Clarence Welch - Gordonton Memorial


Henry Clarence Welch (known as Tat) enlisted with his brother George Carlton Welch both were the sons of George Edward and Jane Welch of Komakorau.  They embarked together on the 5 January 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 4th Battalion, A Company and it is likely they served together on the Somme where George was killed in action on 3 October 1916,  he is remembered at the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France, he was 21 years old.  It is hard not to wonder if his brother Henry was with him when he died.

Henry Welch went on to win a Military Medal when a raid was carried out at midnight on 17 December with the primary aim being the close examination of the enemy's support line as well as his forward trench at a salient known as "Corner Fort."  The raid was led by four officers and 182 men of other ranks.  According to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade History the raid was a success with only one man being killed and four injured.   Sergeant Welch's Citation is below:

London Gazette, 19 February 1917, p1757, Rec No 522: "For gallantry and special good work during the raid by the 4th Battalion, 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade on the enemy trench at Corner Fort, south of Fleurbaix on the night of the 17th/18th December 1916. Though heavily bombed when he first entered the enemy trenches he led his party with great skill, silencing the party exposed to him, killing a number of them, and finally capturing 5 prisoners."

I am certain George was never far from Henry's mind as he continued to fight on in the war.  Sadly, Henry too was killed in action on 10 May 1917 at Messines he was 23 years old and is buried at St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Gordonton Memorial

Gordonton Memorial was unveiled on the 17 October 1918 (before the end of the war), it was unveiled by R.F. Bollard Member of Parliament.  The memorial has both those who served and those who fell inscribed. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Private Herbert Gadd - Pokeno Memorial

Private Herbert Gadd was born in Birmingham, England on 4 June 1896, he was the son of Herbert and Annie Gadd who later moved to New Zealand.  Before he enlisted Private Gadd was a timber worker for the United Timber Company in Mercer.  If his birthdate is correct, shortly after turning 20 years old he enlisted for service on 24 July 1916.  Private Gadd embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 13th Reinforcements 1st Battalion, E Company on 15 November 1916, aboard the Manganui leaving from Wellington bound for Plymouth. 

Once in France he joined the 1st Auckland Regiment in April 1917.  He most likely served with the Auckland Regiment at Ypres.   Private Gadd was granted leave to the UK on 28 February 1918, rejoining his unit on 19 March 1918.  Just over a week later after returning from leave he was killed in action on 27 March 1918 at the Somme.  

In his military records there is an unofficial report by Private Bertram Ashley that Private Gadd was buried in a shell hole at Mailly Maillet.  Private Gadd is remembered at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, 170 of the burials at Euston Road are unidentified but there are special memorials to 32 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, Private Gadd is one of those.

Second Lieutenant Arnold Lorie - Pokeno Memorial

Second Lieutenant Lorie embarked with the Samoan Advance Party on 15 August 1914 he would have been maybe 19 or 20 years old.  After returning from Samoa he embarked  with the 5th Reinforcements as part of the Auckland Infantry Battalion on 13 June 1915.   He served at Gallipoli until the evacuation and once in France served on the Somme and at Messines were he was Mentioned in Despatches for courage and devotion to duty.  Citation below:

Citation for Mentioned in Despatches (MID): "For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty. At Messines on the 7th June 1917, he commanded a platoon and successfully established one of the advanced posts. He showed great coolness and resource and sent back very valuable reports. He has previously done excellent work at the Somme and on the Gallipoli Peninsula." (London Gazette, 28 December 1917, p. 13575, Rec. No. 1204)

After the Somme he was sent to Cambridge to study for a commission.  He was wounded towards the end of the Battle of Messines and was sent on a short leave to recover before being sent back to the front.  Second Lieutenant Lorie was killed in action on 28 December 1917 at Ypres aged 23 years old.  Second Lieutenant Lorie is a fine example of a brave young man who (like many) survived some of the memorable campaigns of World War One and whose luck ran out.  He gave his all and despite his life being a short one, he contributed greatly to New Zealand which should not be forgotten.

Evening Post, Volume XCV, Issue 13, 15 January 1918, Papers Past, National Library, Wellington