Monday, June 10, 2013

Rifleman Peter Campbell - 'Soldierly Sympathy' - Hawera Memorial

The handsome kind face pictured above is Rifleman Peter Campbell he enlisted on 28 May 1915 and according to his records was only 20 years old.   He embarked on 9 October 1915 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.  Once in France he was attached to a Light Trench Mortar Battery in June 1916 and  was killed in action on 15 September 1915 on the Somme.  Peter's story is like so many who served in World War One, however his story became much more vivid to me when I came across an article from the Papers Past website printed in the Hawera & Normanby Star, 6 December 1916 entitled 'Soldierly Sympathy'.  Below is an extract from the beginning of the article:

Some of the letters written from the front concerning men killed in action are, in expression, models of manly sympathy and fineness of feeling.  They indicate the existence of a real spiritual brotherhood between officers and men, show how brave and entirely noble many of the rank and file are, and how sincerely such qualities are appreciated by officers and comrades all round...

The article continues in the same vein and three letters of sympathy are printed at the end of the article addressed to Peter Campbell's mother.

The most detailed letter was sent by Corporal Stanley Richards dated 27 September 1915.  Tragically three days after writing his letter to Mrs Campbell Corporal Richards was also killed in action. Below is an extract from his letter:

...Peter died at his post on the gun, facing the enemy. The gun was struck by a shell and death was instantaneous. Peter was a brave lad, and at all times reliable and steady while under fire.  He was a good lad, clean living, and sunny natured; naturally he was well loved by the boys of the battery, I myself was proud of my gun crew, and loved them, every one. You will believe me, Mrs Campbell, I mourn the loss of your boy from the bottom of my heart, and I ask that God may be very near to you tonight that he will bring solace and comfort unto you. You have reason to be proud of your boy, …

I hope that someone wrote such a letter to Corporal Richards family.  The other two letters to Mrs Campbell were from his commanding officer Lieutenant Wallace C.F. Sumner and Chaplain Clement Houchen who won a Military Cross for gallantry while tending to the wounded under heavy shell fire at Flers, and was with  an advanced dressing-station during the battle at Messines.

The full article can be read at the link below:

Sadly for the Campbell family Peter was the their second son to be killed in action Peter's elder brother John was killed at Chunuk Bair on 8 August 1915.


  1. Thank you for this. These men were my grandmother's brothers. I knew of their service and but did not know details of their passing bar that one had died at the Somme and the other in service. My mother died late 2011 and would have been so touched to have known this information; they would have been her maternal uncles. I believe that had not been living in NZ for many years before their departure, having arrived from Campbeltown, Scotland. Thank you again! Phillipa Dudley

  2. Thanks for this. These men were my grandfathers brothers. They were the sons of Jeanie and Peter Campbell and were born at Gayfield Place, Campbeltown. In 1912 Peter had a married brother Angus living in Normanby and his brother John was a Government contractor living in Auckland since 1908. Their uncle a Edward McMillan a successful gold miner in the Nevis Valley was accidently drowned in the Waikaia River and it was from this estate that Peter, his parents and siblings Catherine, Marion, Annabelle, Mary, Edward, James and Alan all came to Hawera in 1914 aboard the Arawa. On arrival in Wellington the Arawa was turned into a troop carrier. In Campbeltown John was a purser merchant service and Peter a house painter. Peter was living in High St and employed by Tingey and Co Hawera as a house painter when he enlisted. Both men are recorded on the Campbeltown, Scotland War Memorial as well as THE sites where they were killed. Thanks again. Alex Campbell