Friday, September 7, 2012

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.


  1. Nick2707@hotmail.comFebruary 12, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    Just to add to this Arthur was born on 15 December 1877. He attended Highgate School (London N.6) from May 1888 to July 1894 and during this time, his parents lived at Elgin House, Highgate.

  2. I am the great grandaughter of Arthur Crawford. My grandfather James Temple Crawford was the little nine year old son when his father died mentioned above. Today being ANZAC day, I am especially grateful for the courage and sacrifice my great grandfather displayed. He will never be forgotten. R. Leofo Auckland 2015