Friday, May 17, 2013

Captain Herbert Henry Christophers - Ohakune Memorial - updated

Captain Herbert Christophers was one of four sons of Anthony and Juliet Christophers, Invercargill who served during world war one.  All four were educated at Southland Boys' High and by all accounts were keen sportsmen.

At the outbreak of war Herbert was employed at the Railway Engineers Office in Ohakune as a draughtsman.   Keen to serve he quickly enlisted on 11 August 1914 and embarked with the Samoan Advance Party on 15 August 1914.  He was placed in command of the Railway Engineers company in Samoa.

Wireless Locomotive—converted from seagoing engine.Photo by A. J. Tattersall, Apia. 
Smith, S.J. (1924). The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914-1915. Wellington: Ferguson & Osborn.  

The photo above seems to show Herbert sitting in the centre in front an engine in Samoa.

Herbert return to New Zealand after he contracted Dengue Fever in Samoa and married Mary Dodds at St John's Church in Ohakune in August 1915  They spent a few precious months together before Herbert embarked again this time for France on 9 October 1915. 
Meanwhile one of Herbert's elder brothers Victor James Christophers had enlisted embarking with the Otago Mounted Rifles as part of the Main Body on 16 October 1914.  Sadly he was killed in action on 31 May 1915 aged 29 years at No.2 Outpost Gallipoli.  Victor was well liked by his fellow soldiers.  In Terry Kinloch's book 'Echoes of Gallipoli'  Victor's death is recorded by a fellow soldier William Pyle.
'Poor old Vic Christophers was shot dead... last night... Vic's death is hard on any one who knew him.  He was one of the best chaps I ever knew & us fellows who were pals of his are very cut up...' 

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1915 - No known copyright restrictions 

Victor was buried at the No.2 Outpost Cemetery, Turkey.
Just over a year later Herbert too was killed in action at the Somme on 2 June 1916 aged 27 years. His family in New Zealand would have recently received the news of his promotion to Captain in March 1916 which was then overshadowed by the news of his death a few months later.   He was buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France.

In April 1917, Anthony and Juliet Christophers watched another son embark for France. No doubt they fearing for his safe return.   

Julian Anthony Christophers embarked with the 25th Reinforcements on 26 April 1917.   Before enlisting he was employed as a manager at Dalgety and Co. in Wairoa, Hawkes Bay.  He was married with a young daughter.   While serving with the Canterbury Infantry Regiment he was seriously wounded on 5 December 1917 with wounds to his back and abdomen.  He died from his wounds on the same day and was buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Poperinge, Belgium.   

Portrait, Julian Anthony Christophers (45998) Auckland Weekly News - No known copyright restrictions 

Reginald Gillon Christophers a Surveyor and Civil Engineer in Dargaville was married with two sons.  He was the last of the Christopher's sons to embark on 5 June 1918 with the 38th Reinforcements.  Once in the UK he was attached to the Otago Infantry Battalion and left for France early in  September 1918.  Reginald's war was short lived and tragically on 13 October 1918 he died of a neck wound received in action on the same day.  He is buried at Beaulencourt British Cemetery, Ligny-Thilloy, France, he was 36 years of age.

One cannot begin to imagine the grief felt by the families of the Christopher brothers.  For them the war had been devastatingRemarkably all four brothers have known graves, which may have been of small comfort to their family back in New Zealand.   

Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, Volume XIV, Issue 700, 22 October 1918, Page 3

The story of the brothers was recently brought to life by Lynley Dear the archivist at Southland Boys High School.  In 2010 she published a book called the 'Poppy Boys' which despite the change of surname in the book in based on their lives.


  1. Hi Helen.

    Thank you for your post on my grandmother's cousins the Christophers. Have you seen this article about them?

    WWI fascinates me as does genealogy, so I understand why you have created your blog.

    Best wishes,
    Maureen Lee

  2. Thanks for your comment Maureen it is always great to hear from descendants.

  3. Thank you Helen. I am the grandson of Reginal Christophers and I was named after Herbert. (my birthday falls on the 30th of May and i was to be called Victor but they settled on Herbert who fell a year and a few days later.) Just this weekend, I have been to Ohakune and placed a poppy on the memorial there where Herbert's name is remembered. He used to live in Conway St so when I go past on my way up the mountain I think of Herbert. I went to Gallipoli and visited Victors grave. I went to the location where he was shot by a sniper on Walkers Ridge. Thank you for this blog post