Thursday, August 29, 2013

'Kiwi soldiers' diaries go online'

The diaries, photographs and records of thousands of New Zealand soldiers are being placed online to mark the centenary of World War I.

Private William Charles Falconer - Eltham War Memorial

Private William Charles Falconer a Telegraphist at the Eltham, Post Office before enlisting early in the war on 12 August 1914.  He embarked with the Main Body aboard the Arawa on 16 October 1914 with the Wellington Infantry Battalion.

It was aboard the Arawa that Private Falconer is accredited with first receiving a message which led to the destruction of SMS Emden, a German Imperial Navy light cruiser, which was raiding Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean and became the scourge of the Allied navies.

At the begining of November 1914 the Australian and New Zealand troop convoy was making its way to Gallipoli with a heavy escort when on 9 November the Emden captured a British radio station on Direction Island in the Cocos Islands.   The radio station managed to send out an SOS message before it was captured despite attempts by the Emden to block it.  It was claimed that message was received and picked up first by Private Falconer aboard the Arawa.  As a result the Australian light cruiser, HMAS Sydney was dispatched and the Emden was finally destroyed.  A more detailed account of the Battle can be found at the link below:

In New Zealand and especially in Taranaki the papers were full of praise for Private Falconer:
‘The following regimental order was issued by Lieut.-Colonel Malone, of Transport No. 10, immediately after the destruction of the Emden by the Sydney: "The O.C. troops wishes to draw attention to the fact that so far as is known the Arawa was the only ship, and certainly the only transport, to pick up the wireless message from Cocos Island which eventually resulted in the destruction of the Emden. The credit is due to Private Falconer, Wellington Infantry Regiment and Wireless Operator Raw. The former was on wireless duty at the time, and although unable to read the message in its entirety, picked up the words "S.0.S." and "Strange warship at entrance." He at once woke Wireless Operator Raw, who (although the Emden tried to block communication) managed to read the Cocos message through the Emden block. The information was passed through the Maunganui to H.M.A.S. Melbourne, and resulted in the destruction of the Emden. It will thus be seen that Private Falconer’ vigilance and attention to duty, and Wireless Operator Raw's ability and knowledge of his work achieved very important results, and should serve as an incentive to all ranks to do thoroughly whatever work is entrusted to them."’
Feilding Star,  26 January 1915

'...So Taranaki has had a hand in the destruction of the warship which for a long time was a dread to the Pacific'
 Hawera & Normanby Star, 16 December 1914 

Private Falconer was sadly killed in action at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915 and is remembered on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.  For his family to make matters worse his brother Lake Falconer, who was serving with the Australian army, was tragically killed around the same time between 6 August and 9 August 1915 and he is remembered on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.  

New Zealand Herald, Volume LII, Issue 16026, 18 September 1915, Page 9

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The First Blitz World War One - Zeppelins

Zeppelins: the beginning of modern warfare

"While the Blitz and the Battle of Britain are well documented and constantly appraised, people rarely talk about the ‘First Blitz’, the Zeppelin bombardment in World War One. But Dr Hugh Hunt, a Cambridge professor of engineering and the presenter of Channel 4's documentary Attack of the Zeppelins has been investigating it. As a story, he believes it is quite extraordinary." 

Private Ernest Bunn - Eltham Memorial

Private Bunn initially crossed my path whilst researching the Murchision Memorial in Otago.  Here is the link to his story

On further research an update to his story is warranted.   Private Bunn was captured at Fleurbaix on 21 February 1917 after a battaltion raid by the 2nd Aucklanders.  After the raid the Germans observed that the New Zealanders were attempting to rescue their wounded from No-Man's-Land and instead of firing on them ceased fire allowing the wounded New Zealanders to be rescued except those close to the German lines.  One can assume Private Bunn was one of the unlucky ones close to the German Lines.

Private Bunn as mentioned in my earlier blog was repatriated as a prisoner of war to Chateau D'Oex in Switzerland. Below is a cheerful letter by Private Bunn from Switzerland published in the Hawera and Normanby Star on 16 April 1918.

Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXXIV, 16 April 1918, Page 8

He died at the Hotel La Soldanelle, Chateaux D'Oex on 7 July 1918 at 5:45am from Influenza.

Today Hotel La Soldanelle is luxury holiday apartment complex.  For those prisoners of war who were interned there in World War One far away from the German Camps and the Front from where they had been captured it too may well have felt like luxury.

Sources: Auckland Infantry, Peter Cooke, John H. Gray & Ken Stead; Private Ernest Bunn's Military Record, Archives New Zeland and Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.

Victoria Cross hero excluded from commemoration

A Victoria Cross recipient killed in World War I will be excluded from commemoration activities because of a "loophole".

Lieutenant Lionel Edward Grimstone - Eltham Memorial

 Lionel Grimstone is also remembered on the Alexandra Memorial which I visited in January 2012.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Eltham war memorial, Taranaki

Eltham War memorial was unveiled on 11 November 1926 by the Honorable O.J. Hawken, Minister of Agriculture.

Frank Jennings Rule - Patea Memorial

Frank Jennings Rule born in Australia was a school teacher at Hunterville School before enlisting on 15 August 1914.   He embarked with the Main Body attached to the Wellington Infantry Battalion.  He was promoted to Corporal and then Lance Sergeant on 7 May 1915, he most likely would have gained a commission had he not been severely wounded on 8 May 1915 receiving a gun shot wound to face.  He was eventually transferred to the 5th Indian hospital at Alexandria, where he died of his wounds on 26 May 1915 aged 26 years he is buried in the Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.
For the Rule family back in New Zealand the news of Frank's death would have been devastating but sadly the family would suffer again when a second son Lieutenant William Bramwell Rule (also a school teacher) was killed in action at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 aged 25 years.  William's body was never identified and his is remembered with so many others on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Short Life and Death of Lieutenant Ralph. D. Doughty MC.

As a result of a story on my research in the Taranaki Daily News I heard from a reader who has a great website on his family's history including that of Lt Ralph Doughty from Stratford.  Take a look at the site it is amazing that five of Lt Doughty's diary's survive today.

Private James Carradus - Patea Memorial

Sir John Grey Special Collection, Auckland Library, AWNS-19170208-44-21
Private James Carradus born in Patea was the son William and Ellen Carradus.  He enlisted on 18 September 1916 when he gave his year of birth as 1896 making him 20 years old.   According to my research like many young men keen to enlist he was most likely younger than he claimed.

William and Ellen were married in 1899 and according to the births, marriages and deaths register they had six children the first born in 1900 and called William. This could well have been James as his middle name may have been James and he was called James to avoid confusion with his father (that's my theory!) This would make James only 16/17 years old when he enlisted too young to go to war.

In December 1915 he married Mary Hannah and in June 1915 a daughter was born (most likely the reason for the marriage so young).

By the end of October 1916 he was at Trentham Camp but within 2 weeks of arriving he had died of Meniningitis at the Cottage Hospital, Trentham.   His body was taken back to Patea and is buried in the Patea Cemetery.  A tragic ending for such a young man.  On the Commonwealth Graves Commission database his age at death is 18 years old.

I would love to know more about the photo of him above.  Looks to me like he is in a cinema usher's outfit, was there a cinema in Patea at this time?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Commemoration of Commonwealth Victoria Cross

Response to claims that recipients of the Victoria Cross from Commonwealth countries are not being recognised in next year's plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Germany intervenes in WW1 commemoration debate - The Telegraph

Germany has intervened in the debate over how to mark the centenary of the First World War, with a call for Britain not to make its commemorations too celebratory.

Lieutenant George Alexander Robbie - Patea Memorial

George Robbie the son of James and Isabella Robbie was born in Canterbury in 1875.  He pursued a career as a school teacher and in 1909 he was appointed Headmaster at Patea District School.

He married Edith Emily Johnston in 1904 at Nelson Cathedral and as far as I can find they had no children.  From what I can gather from newspaper clippings he was a popular and active member of the Patea community.

In May 1915 he notified the Education Board of his intention to volunteer he was approaching his fortieth birthday.  He enlisted on 14 July 1915 and embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 13 November 1915.  He gained a commission and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in December 1916 and was transferred to the Wellington Infantry Battalion.   He was killed in action on 21/22nd July 1917 he was 42 years old.  Below is an account from  'The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919' reproduced on of the action which led to his death:

'It was left to Ruahine Company to discover on the night of the 21st July, what wiring he had been doing in the hedgerows. We knew there was a machine-gun post behind the hedge, in a corner of the field opposite No. 3 Post, and at midnight a detachment of the First Light Trench Mortar Battery, under Lieut. R. K. Nicol, fired sixty Stokes bombs into the position, and at ten minutes past twelve, the 15th Howitzer Battery N.Z.F.A., placed three salvos at a point about 200 yards behind. The machine-gun was evidently hit by the Stokes, because it was not brought into action by the enemy. The Stokes gun is liable to fire so rapidly that eight bombs are in the air together, and the effect of sixty bombs exploding in a very short space of time can be imagined. Directly Lieut. Nicol ceased fire, Lieut. G. A. Robbie led forward his fourteen men and struck the hedge about 150 yards from the corner. They found it heavily wired, and exchanged bombs with some Germans on the other side; apparently with some effect, for groans were heard. Here, unhappily, Lieut. Robbie was mortally wounded by a bullet from a rifle fired through the hedge'

Once the action was completed a stretcher was sent for to collect Lieut. Robbie but unfortunately he died before it got to him.  He was buried the next day.  Today he lies in the Mud Corner Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

In April 1918 a large photograph of George Robbie was unveiled and hung at Patea District School by the community, I wonder if it is still there today?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Researching Patea Memorial

Halfway through my research on the names on the Patea Memorial.  Would love any information anybody has on any of the those remembered on the Memorial.  Thanks

Thursday, August 15, 2013

HMS Monitor in Portsmouth dockyard

HMS Monitor, launched in 1915 and used to ferry British and Common-wealth troops during the Gallipoli campaign, is currently docked in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Great War, Battlefields of the Western Front iphone app

 What a great idea!

Comment is free Britain's first world war centenary plans show a reluctance to face history

An interesting article from The Guardian newspaper in UK with the opinion of how the British government seems intent on avoiding any serious debate about the war and its causes.

The British medic, the US Doughboy and the French post mistress: Tale of WW1 love and bravery

Patea War Memorial - Whanganui

The Patea war memorial has plaques remembering those who died in WW1 from the surrounding district such as Whenuakura, Opaku, Kakaramea, Alton, Hurleyville and Manutahi.  The plaques were originally on memorial gates but were removed from their original position in the 1950's. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A "fighting family" - Whangamomona War Memorial.

A correspondent writes to the Taranaki News: Sometimes I see in your valuable paper reference to good fighting families. These references must be as balm to the parents. There is one family of five boys in New Plymouth, that I would like to mention. Then there is the Casey Boys late of Purangi. Four of them, Jim, Bert. Tom, and Will, were all wounded in France, and Joe was killed in France. Mrs Moles has also had a son-in-law invalided home from Gallipoli. I think these families of game boys deserve some praise.

Feilding Star, Volume XIII, Issue 3207, 3 April 1917, Page 2

The term 'Fighting Family' was often used in the press during WW1 to described a family with several members serving in the forces.  The family of the late Micheal Edward Casey and Sarah Moles were one such family with five sons who served in WW1.  The family originally from Oamaru had lived in the Taranaki region for a time.

Albert Leo Casey (Bert) - 12/2238
James Edward Casey (Jim) - 2/980
Thomas Raymond Casey (Tom) - 10/3854
William Bernard Casey (Will) - 24/1349
Francis Joseph Casey (Joe) - 24/74

Remembered on the Whangamomona Memorial is Francis Joseph Casey (Joe) previously a labourer in Whangamomona for H. Rawlinson and the youngest of the brothers.  Underage when he enlisted, he stated he was born in 1894 when he was most likely born in 1896/7.  He embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 9 October 1915.  He was only 20 years of age when he was killed in action on 15 September 1916 with no known grave he is remembered on the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France.  

Tom and Will Casey were both wounded during the same battle on 15 September 1916 thankfully they both recovered and survived the war as too did Bert Casey who had been wounded earlier in July 1916.

Jim Casey was the first of the brothers to enlist and embarked with the 2nd Reinforcements on 14 December 1914.  However he was invalided back to New Zealand in May 1915 with Sciatica and discharged in September 1915 at Trentham.   In October 1915 he attempted to re-enlist, however he failed to mention that he had already served.  When it was discovered that he had made an incorrect statement he faced a court-martial in May 1916.   In his defence he stated that "I did this with the intention of getting back to the front".  I found nothing on his military record which revealed whether he was convicted or not.  I find it incredulous that he should have been reprimanded in such a way when his only thought was to get back to the Front and most likely his brothers.  He never returned to the Front as far as I can tell.  

Tragically on 11 May 1917 Jim Casey was killed in Rotorua as a result of electrocution while working.   He was buried in Rotorua with full military honours something I am sure he would have wanted. 

Information gathered from Papers Past, NZ Archives, Auckland Museum Cenotaph Database.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Military Heritage Day 2013 & 96th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele

Military Heritage Day will be held on Saturday, 12 October 2013 at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland.  This year it will coincide with the Commemoration of the 96th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele which will be held in the First World War Hall of Memories (on the second floor), the ceremony commences at 11.00am.

We will remember them

'The millions who went to the Western Front displayed a courage that deserves to be immortalise.'  These words say it all I think! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thomas Bernard O'Connor - Raetihi War Memorial

Thomas O'Connor was a farmer at Raetihi before embarking with the 5th Reinforcements, Wellington Mounted Rifles on 13 June 1915.  He saw plenty of action at Gallipoli as well as on the Western Front and he no doubt lost many friends during this time, no more so than at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917.  It was at this battle that he won his Miltary Medal, citation below.

London Gazette, 28 January 1918, p1406, Rec No 1718: Near Passchendaele on 12th October 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led a section after it's Officer had been wounded and worked untiringly regardless of his life to engage machine guns and snipers.

After seeing so much action his luck ran out on 18 July 1918 when he died of his wounds.  It was reported that he was hit by a shell just before he was due to go to England to qualify for his commission.  Thomas was 23 years old and is buried at Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, Somme, France.

Below is an account of Thomas's service and death:

Free Lance, Volume XVIII, Issue 949, 19 September 1918, Page 4

Raetihi War Memorial - Whanganui

The Raetihi memorial gate is situated at the Raetihi cemetery, 42 men are remembered on the memorial from the surrounding area and some from further afield who came to the area to work in the many sawmills around Raetihi.  

Raetihi suffered more than most during the war years as on 18 March 1918 the town was almost wiped out by a disastrous bush fire, a large proportion of the towns buildings and many sawmills were destroyed.

'...farming was badly hit in a district that was busily engaged in conserving winter fodder. Tens of thousands of farm animals were killed, and thousands of hectares of farmland burnt. The sawmilling industry, too, suffered a setback from which it took years to recover. Nine active sawmills were destroyed, making over 300 out of work. Horopito was totally destroyed. More than 120 houses had been lost, 58 of them in Raetihi, and 60 commercial premises destroyed...'