Monday, May 20, 2013

Catchpole - Hawera Memorial

On the Hawera memorial the names of A.C Catchpole and E.W. Catchpole are inscribed. I assumed two brothers so I started to research.

Alfred Cornwall Catchpole enlisted at Mokoia, Hawera 21 December 1914 and embarked with the 3rd Reinforcements, Auckland Mounted Rifles on 14 February 1915. Transferred to the Wellington Mounted Rifles in Gallipoli Alfred was killed in action on 27 August 1915 aged 24 years during the final disastrous attack on Hill 60.  Alfred is remembered on the Hill 60 (New Zealand) Memorial, Hill 60 Cemetery, Turkey.  As a resident of the Hawera district it would seem natural his name appears on the memorial.

E.W. Catchpole led me to Edward Westell Catchpole who seemed to have no affiliation with Hawera. Born in Westport, Edward had been a miner at Blackball when he enlisted.  His next of kin was his sister who resided in Westport.  Why was his name inscribed on the Hawera memorial?  Further research of Catchpole's who served in WW1 led me to Thomas Eric Catchpole who turned out to be the brother of Alfred Catchpole. He too was killed at Gallipoli so one wonders if it is his name that should be on the Hawera memorial?


Thomas Catchpole embarked with the Auckland Mounted Rifles as part of the Main Body on 16 October 1914.  He was killed during the Chunuk Bair offensive on 8 August 1915 and is remembered on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial.  On Papers Past I found several letters from Thomas printed by the Hawera & Normanby Star.  I loved the account in the letter below of how the "Indians" shared their food with him.  I imagine this was his first experience of curry. A strange place and time  to experience a new culinary delight.

Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXIX, 10 September 1915, Page 5

The letter above was printed after Thomas had been killed.  Below is a link to a further extract from a letter from Thomas which was enclosed in an unusual manner and highlighted the shortage of paper that soldiers experienced during the war.  Whilst the letter itself was written on paper the envelope was "...a piece of khaki stitched round the edge and fastened by a shirt button."  Kiwi ingenuity at its best!

I discovered a third brother who served at Gallipoli being James Henry Catchpole who also embarked with the Main Body on 16 October 1914 with the Wellington Mounted Rifles.  For James, losing two brothers during the campaign must have been heartbreaking.   I have no doubt all three brothers looked out for each other as a further letter by Thomas printed in the excellent book 'Letters from Gallipoli' edited by Glynn Harper mentions how Thomas "..was very anxious about Jim all Sunday ..., but he turned up Monday morning without a scratch, but with two bullet holes in his cap."  James was undoubtedly the lucky brother and was promoted to Sergeant during the August offensive. He left Gallipoli physically unscathed but I am sure mentally he must have been filled with grief and sadness as he sailed away from the Peninsula where his two brothers laid in unknown graves.

On the Somme James received a Commission on his 21st Birthday the 27th September 1916.  He went on to be awarded a Military Cross at Messines.  Below is the extract from the London Gazette dated 16 August 1917 with the details:

2nd Lt James Henry Catchpole, Pnr Bn.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of a tractor line which was supplying batteries with ammunition he showed the most untiring energy in successfully carrying out the work by day and night, although the line was steadily shelled for over a week and was continually being wrecked.  His fine example was a great inspiration to all ranks.

Whilst on leave in England he married Winifred Mary Chapman.  James survived the war and returned to Hawera with his new wife in 1919.

The mystery still remains as to whether it was Thomas Eric Catchpole, brother of Alfred Cornwall rather than Edward Westrell Catchpole, who should be inscribed on the Hawera Memorial.

Edward Catchpole was invalided out of the war as a result of wounds received in action. He returned to New Zealand only to die of influenza in Westport on 7 November 1918.  He was 45 years old.

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