Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the road again...

On Wednesday I am heading off for a few days to photograph some more memorials my intended route is Central Plateau - Stratford, Taranaki and Wanganui. I am hoping to bring my memorial total to eighty and as a bonus the weather forecast for the next few days looks good.

I am also going to pop in to the Army Museum at Waiouru.

I have just started researching four memorials in the Hawkes Bay I visited earlier this year Dannevirke, Waipakurau, Havelock North and Waipawa these will keep me busy for a while.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Frank Allan Henderson - Mount Eden Methodist Church

I have looked at the religious murals on the back wall of the Mt Eden Methodist Church Hall on many occasions never really paying much attention to them.  However recently I was doing an exercise class in the hall and for some unknown reason was drawn to take a closer look.  Once up close I was interested to find that two of the murals had been dedicated to a local boy who had been killed at Passchendaele - naturally I decided to find out more.

Frank Allan Henderson was the only son of John George and Annie Marie Henderson, of 17 Gordon Rd., Mount Eden (known as Ngauruhoe Street, today).  Prior to enlisting he was an architects assistant for the the firm of T.G. Price, Auckland with a promising future.

Frank embarked with the 23rd Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Regiment, A Company on 14 March 1917 from Wellington.  After surviving the disastrous battle at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 Frank was killed in action shortly after on 23 October 1917 ironically the same day the New Zealand troops were relieved by the Canadians.  Frank is remembered on then Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.  

News of death would have been devastating for his family and I found several 'In memory' notices for Frank in the Auckland Star.  One of these notices a year after his death included the words of the first verse of 'O Valiant Hearts' a poem written by John Arkwright and put to music by Gustav Holst.  It was written in remembrance of those who fell during World War One and first published in 1919.  the Hymn is sung at many remembrance services today:

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Frank's family had a close relationship with the Methodist Church in Mt Eden.  His father John George Henderson served for 12 years as the superintendent of the Sunday School at the Church on the corner of Mt Eden Road and Gordon Road (as it was then).  The Church Hall was built in 1910 and presumably the murals were added later after the war.  They are a lovely memorial to an only son in a place where the family would have visited regularly.  Frank had three sisters and it would be interesting to know if any of the their descendants live locally today.

We are lucky the murals still survive today  as a few years ago the church was under threat of removal.  If anyone has more information about the murals please contact me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Wilton Brothers - Pahiatua Memorial

Hugh Regardso and Sidney Thomas Wilton were two of the five sons of Thomas and Annie Wilton.  They both farmed with their father in Mangamutu, Pahiatua before enlisting together on 12 October 1915 and then embarking with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 5 February 1916.  On his last leave before embarking Hugh married Isla Mary Macdonald.

On arrival in France Hugh contracted measles and was admitted to hospital in St Omer on 12 July 1916 he rejoined his unit on 21 July 1916 and was most likely reunited with his brother.  As with all the stories on my blog this one has a tragic ending.  Hugh and Sidney were both on the Somme on 15 September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette when they were both killed in action.

Only months earlier the Wilton family had been farewelling their two sons, never would they have imagined that they would lose both their sons in the same battle on the same day

Sidney Wilton is remembered on the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial which commemorates more than 1,200 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the Battles of the Somme in 1916, and whose graves are not known.

According to Hugh Wilton's Military record he was buried at the time of the battle.  His body was then exhumed after the war and buried at the Bulls Road Cemetery, Flers.

The men below from the Pahiatua memorial were also killed in action on 15 September 1916:

Eric Mennington Austin, aged 23
  William Henry Cowan, aged 34
John Joseph Doyle
Louth Frederick Peters, aged 25
Hugh Ross, aged 27
Alexander Edward Willoughby, aged 20
Clement Cecil Wills, aged 25

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gunner Harry Selby - Pahiatua Memorial

Harry Selby was the son of Edwin and Mercy Selby born in Masterton on 6 January 1882.  He was fair haired and blue eyed and from all accounts an outgoing and well liked member of the Masterton community.  He worked as a carpenter for the firm Coradine & Whitaker and was an active member of the volunteer Masterton Fire Service.

He enlisted in August 1914 and embarked with the Main Body on 16 October 1914, serving throughout the Gallipoli campaign and then on to the Western Front.  In July 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal for his actions on 2 June 1917 - below is an extract from a letter from Gunner Selby printed in the Wairarapa Daily Times, on 21 September 1917 entitled 'A Masterton Hero'.  I love the line in the letter where he states "It was a fire so I had to be there" his years in the fire brigade certainly put to good use.  He seemed humble about his own award even embarrassed.

London Gazette, 18 July 1917, p7291, Rec No 744: "At Wulverghem on 2nd June 1917. When hostile guns were heavily shelling the Battery position a shell landed on a dump of boxed ammunition causing the boxes to ignite. The fire obtained a good hold and a second explosion seemed imminent, when Fitter Selby and Gunner Belton accompanied by their officer rushed to the dump, and, regardless of the fact that the heat was causing shells to explode on all sides, separated by burning boxes from those untouched. When water arrived they ably assisted their officer to extinguish the fire. A heavy explosion resulting in the loss of several lives and the almost certain discovery of the Battalion position was thus averted."

Gunner Belton was also awarded the Military Medal.

Gunner Harry Selby was seriously wounded on 4 October 1917 at the Battle of Broodseinde in Belgium and died the next day on 5 October 1917 he is buried at Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, below is his obituary with the title 'Masterton Hero" a title he surely deserved.


Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume 43, Issue 133070, 13 October 1917,

Article image

In Gunner Selby's military record I found a small newspaper clipping of a letter written by the father of Gunner F.D. Bell it is a moving account of how Selby saved his son's life.  Gunner Bell survived the war thanks to Harry Selby.

Wairarapa Daily Times, Volume 43, Issue 133081, 26 October 1917

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pahiatua Memorial - Wairarapa

Lieutenant Arthur Grant Ross Crawford - Pahiatua Memorial

Lieutenant Arthur Grant Ross Crawford the son of Robert D. Crawford and Caroline Crawford was born in 1877 at Weston Super Mare, Somerset, England.  His father had been a Master Mariner and  captained convict ships to Western Australia.  Arthur moved to New Zealand joining his brothers Henry Edward Venner Crawford and John Yatman Crawford who were sheep farmers at Kaitawa.  The farm called 'Chelsfield' was named after their fathers family home in Kent, England.

In April 1904 Arthur married Isabella Cunningham and a son was born in 1909.  With war declared in August 1914 Arthur enlisted in September 1915 aged 37 years old, it must have been a difficult decision to make with a wife, a young son and a sheep farm to run especially as some of the farm's shepherds would have enlisted leaving the farm short of valuable manpower.   Nevertheless with a sense of duty Arthur embarked with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) on 10, October 1916 with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Once in Egypt he transferred to the Imperial Camel Corp (ICC) which had been formed in early 1916 to assist fighting the Senussi (an Islamist movement) on the Libyan/Egyptian border.  Two NZ camel companies 15th and 16th were raised from the reinforcements intended for the NZMR.  In December 1917 Lieut. Crawford was promoted to Lieutenant and appointed 2nd in command of 15th company.  Then on 30 March 1918 (now transferred to 16th Company)  he found himself part of the combined ICC and ANZAC Mounted Division seeking to capture Amman and cut the Hejaz railway which supported Turkish forces further south in the Arab peninsula. Hill 3039 was the high point over looking Amman which together with the Auckland Mounted Rifles had to be taken before Amman could be assaulted.  The weather during the campaign had been atrocious - wet, windy & cold and they were exhausted from the previous days climb. They also had very limited and ineffective artillery support for their uphill assault.

The combined forces succeeded capturing the summit after a night time bayonets only advance. The Turks made several attempts - nearly successful - to recapture the Hill.  Lieut. Crawford was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the assault on Hill 3039:

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. When the enemy made a determined assault and drove our men from their position he rallied the men, and with great courage and daring led them back to the attack. All day, till wounded, he directed the fire of his machine gun section, continually visiting different parts of the firing line under heavy shell, rifle, and machine gun fire.'
London Gazette. 16 September 1918, p11054.

Despite capturing the key hill and having the Turks at breaking point, the Allied forces were ineffective in following up their gains by strongly attacking Amman town. Further Turkish reinforcements put the Allied force on the back foot and the decision was made to retreat back to the Jordan Valley. Much effort and loss for no gain.

Lieut. Crawford was seriously wounded during the assault receiving gun shot wounds to the right arm, shoulder, chest and head. The nearest dressing station was a 1000 yards from the firing line and there was a shortage of stretchers so blankets had to be used to carry the wounded making the journey an arduous one.  The wounded were then strapped to the back of horses face down to make the 10 mile journey to the nearest casualty clearing station.   The journey would have been horrific and many wounded died en route.  Lieut. Crawford survived the journey and was transported to hospital in Cairo.  He clung onto life until 9 June 1918 when he succumbed to his wounds.

In Lieut. Crawford's military personnel file I found a moving note written by his wife expressing her thanks to Sir James Allen for the Military Cross her husband was awarded.  The note gives us a real insight into the grief the family felt while at the same time being proud of their loved one's sacrifice. Below is an extract from the note:

"Your letter and information means so much to me and to my little son who is just nine years old.  We feel that it helps us both with the anguish of his death which sometimes is to hard to bear, we always knew he would do his duty faithfully whatever the sacrifice....

Lieutenant Arthur Crawford was buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

Sources used:  Auckland war Museum, Cenotaph database, National Archives, Devils on Horseback by Terry Kinloch, Fiery Ted, Anzac Commander by Micheal Smith, Papers Past, New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eketahuna War Memorial

Killed in Action 7 June 1917 - Eketahuna Memorial

The Messines offensive in Belgium began on 7 June 1917 and was a victory for the Allies, which came at a cost.

The offensive began at 3.10am when 19 huge mines were detonated under the German trenches.  The explosion was the largest and loudest of its time and it is said it could be heard in London.  10,000 Germans were killed as a result of the explosions.

Allied casualties to begin with were light but as the Germans began to reorganise themselves the number of casualties grew.  By 9 June, 1917 when the New Zealand Division was relieved it had suffered 3,700 casualties, 700 of whom died.

Remembered below are five young New Zealand men all aged 25 who are listed on the Eketahuna Memorial and were killed in action on 7 June, 1917 at Messines. 

Rifleman Edwin Christensen was the son of Danish immigrants  Lauritz and Nielsine Christensen, of Putara, Eketahuna, he worked with his father on the family farm at Putara.  Edwin Christensen enlisted on 29 May, 1916 and embarked from Wellington aboard the 'Devon' on 25 September, 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.   The ship arrived at Devonport, England on 21 November, 1916 and the troops were marched into Sling Camp on the same day.  Whilst at Sling camp Edwin qualified as a marksmen.  On 7 June, 1917 Rifleman Christensen was killed in action at Messines aged 25 and is remembered at the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium.

Lieutenant John Wesley Cobb was the son of Harriet Sophia Cobb and the late Mr Cobb of Palmerston North.   He worked as a carpenter for A.G. Hoar of Eketahuna and was keen to enlist doing so on 19 August, 1914 at Masterton and embarking with the Main Body on the 16 October 1914.  At Gallipoli he was wounded receiving a gun shot wound to the thigh.

After he recovered he rejoined his unit on 28 August, 1915 and was promoted to Company Sergeant Major on New Years Day 1916.  Before embarking for France he was transferred to the Auckland Infantry Battalion and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant.

Once in France 2nd Lieutenant Cobb was attached to the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company - his carpentry skills would have been put to good use building the supports in the tunnel shafts and later he was attached to the NZ Tunnelling Company.  During January 1917 he rejoined the Auckland Infantry Battalion in the field and in May 1917 was promoted to a full Lieutenant.  At Messines on 7 June, 1917 aged 25 years he was reported missing believed dead and then on 9 June, 1917 confirmed killed in action.  He is remembered at the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium.

By the time of his death Lieut. Cobb was an experienced soldier who had seen much action.  The photograph of him printed in the Auckland Weekly News after his death shows a man much changed from 1915.  In the photo above Lieut. Cobb is gaunt looking and his eyes have a sad, haunted look about them, reflecting the horrors he has witnessed.

Below is a notice from the Poverty Bay Herald reporting his death.  The relative mentioned at the end of the notice was George Lynch Cobb http://100nzmemorials.blogspot.co.nz/2011/07/private-george-lynch-palmerston-north.html a cabinet maker from Palmerston North and a member of the NZ Medical Corp who drowned at sea whilst aboard the hospital ship 'Marama' during a storm on 27 May 1917:

Advice has been received in Palmerston that "Lieut. John Wesley Cobb, son of Mrs Cobb, and brother of Mr R. C. Cobb, of Palmerston, is missing, and is believed to be  killed. Lieut. Cobb was a Main Body man, with a long record of service. He was a carpenter by trade and enlisted when war broke out from Eketahuna. He was in camp at Awapuni with the Main Body as a sergeant in the Ruahine Regiment. He was wounded on Gallipoli, and after recovering returned in time for the evacuation. Later he went to France, where he saw heavy fighting, and won a commission. He was transferred to the Australian Tunnellers, eventually joining the 1st Auckland Infantry Battalion, 15th company. His relatives will have general sympathy in their loss, especially as it follows closely on the reported death of another member of the family on active service. 

Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLIV, Issue 14326, 16 June 1917

Private Thomas Edward Hodgins son of Thomas and Mary B. Hodgins, of Cambridge St., Pahiatua and a farmer embarked on 15 November, 1916 with his brother Charles Henry Hodgins both were assigned to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. On 7, June 1917 aged 25, Private T. Hodgins was killed in action at Messines and like many others is remembered on the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium.

Private Graham Groves Matheson the son of William Brooklyn Matheson of Tiratahi, Eketahuna was the sole school teacher at Pirinoa.  He initially volunteered in 1914 but was rejected as medically unfit because of eye trouble.  However he finally embarked on 26 June, 1916. Once he reached France he was attached to the 1st NZ Light Trench Mortar Battery.  He was killed in action on 7 June, 1917 at Messines, I found a small account of his death posted on the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University, Wellington and the delightful picture of the man himself below:

... he got safely through with the rest of his gun crew, and they had dug themselves in, but the German gun fire in the night was very heavy, and he was killed by a shell. 

G. G. Matheson 

Lance Corporal Enoch Sutton born in Darlington, England came to New Zealand in September 1914 aboard the 'Ruahine" most likely as an assisted immigrant. As his mother was a widow and had six children to care for Enoch likely left hoping for a better life.  He found work as a grocer's assistant for A.H. Herbert in Alfredton but soon enlisted on 15 February, 1915.  He embarked with the Wellington Infantry Regiment on 14 August, 1915 and arrived back in England in September only a year after he had originally left.  Wounded in action on 20 July, 1916, once recovered he rejoined his unit at the end of August 1916.  He was killed in action on 8 June 1917 at Messines aged 25 years and is buried at the Messines Ridge, British Cemetery, Belgium.  After his death his mother came to New Zealand in 1921 and settled in Lower Hutt.  I also discovered his younger brother Stanley Sutton had also immigrated to New Zealand and served with the NZ Division and survived the war.

Sources used: Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum, NZETC Victoria University Library, Wellington, NZ National Archives, Papers Past, Ancestry.com, Find my Past.com, Department of Internal Affairs Historical Birth, Deaths & Marriage.