Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flawed' VC memorial plan revised - Daily Telegraph

Memorials to honour every British Victoria Cross winner from the Great War are to be built across the country, after the government agreed to extend a “flawed” scheme, under which many recipients were excluded.

Jack and Len Godsiff - Portage Pass Memorial

On the memorial at Portage Pass are the names of two brothers, John Carrol Heathrington Godsiff (known as Jack) and George Leonard Godsiff (known as Len), who were both local men and the sons of David Henry and Fanny Louise Godsiff.

Jack was first to enlist embarking with the Canterbury Infantry Regiment on 14 August 1915.  

Jack served at Gallipoli and I found a copy of a letter dated 11 December 1915 reproduced by the Marlborough Express, which gave the reader a vivid account of the winter conditions soldiers suffered at Gallipoli:

"It was our week in the firing line, which means all night up and a snooze when possible in the daytime. The week commenced with a 'snorter' of a thunderstorm. Forked lightning played round our bayonets, and thunder was enough to deaden all other sounds.  I am satisfied that it can't thunder in New Zealand. The flashes fairly blinded us at times. The rain poured down, drenching us to the skin. It was cloudy next day and we were compelled to begin the coming night with wet clothes and no shelter. To make matters as uncomfortable as possible, early in the night it began snowing. This kept up for a day and a night. About 10 o'clock on Sunday night it ceased, and the weather began to freeze. So did we; by morning our outer clothing was like a board. It took us close on a week to thaw and my feet are still feeling the effects." 

After surviving Gallipoli Jack was killed in action during New Zealand's initial period on the Somme on 11 July 1916.  He was buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France.

Heartbreaking news for his family back in New Zealand having weeks earlier farewelled another son Len with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion. They must have hoped that his fate would not be the same as Jack's.

Len saw much action and won himself a Military Medal at operations near Polderhoek for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty:

Operations opposite Polderhoek 26th November to 1st December 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On 26th November 1917 this N.C.O was in command of a Lewis Gun Section in a forward sap, when the enemy attempted to raid. Although heavily bombed by the enemy he stuck to his post, kept his gun in action, and gave the greatest assistance in repelling the attack. L.G. 13 March 1918, p3254, Rec No 1795.

However in August 1918 with the war only months from the Armistice, Len found himself at the Battle of Baupaume where he too was tragically killed in action on 24 August.  He is buried at Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.  The Battle of Baupaume is a little known battle for New Zealanders  However according to Glynn Harper in his book 'Dark Journey'  it is a battle which deserves more of our attention.

"It is the only battle in New Zealand's history in which three of its soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross for their heroic action.  The Battle of Baupaume was the first time in history that New Zealand soldiers received supplies dropped from the air and it was also the first time that they faced a counterattack by German tanks.  More importantly, though, the Battle of Baupaume saw some of the toughest fighting of the war." Dark Journey, Glynn Harper, page 324

The Godsiff family back in Marlborough were reportedly surprised at their son Len's death as he had they thought he had only just returned from leave.  During 1918 two more of Henry and Fanny Godsiff's six sons were called up but as far as I can ascertain neither of them served. One at least making an appeal to the Military Board to be excused.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Champagne anyone? - Sotheby’s to Sell Moet & Chandon Champagne From WWI Era

Rudolph Dunstan Vavasour - Seddon Memorial

Rudolph Dunstan Vavasour was the second son of Henry and Bertha Vavasour's twelve children.  His father Henry was the 3rd son of Sir William Vavasour of Harewood Castle in Yorkshire (the family were descended from Saxon nobility) after arriving in New Zealand in 1871 he took up sheep farming in the Marlborough area where he purchased Ugbrooke Station in 1897 which comprised of  13,000 acres in the Awatere Valley.   The Ugbrooke homestead is today a boutique accommodation.

Rudolph (known as Rollo) was a Stock Agent of W.G. Turnbull in Masterton before he voluntarily enlisted with the NZ Army in March 1915 however, on his military record it states he was discharged before serving overseas on personal grounds (it does not elaborate as to what these grounds were).

Whatever the reasons for his discharge he was not to be deterred from enlisting and he took himself to England arriving in June 1915 where he obtained a commission in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA).  He time with the RFA was also short lived as he transferred to the Royal Flying Corp at the beginning of 1916.  From all accounts he saw a good deal of action in the air as his obituary taken from the Otago Daily Times illustrates before he succumbed to ill-health:

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After a period of convalescing he took up the role of flight instructor then in January 1917 he was admitted to the Royal Flying Corp hospital at 37 Bryanston Square, London with an appendicitis unfortunately the operation to remove the appendics proved fatal and he died on 16 January 1917.  

He was buried with full military honours at St Thomas of Canterbury, Fulham, London, SW6 7HW.  Sadly for the Vavasour family back in New Zealand he was not the first member of their family to be buried at St Thomas's.  Henry and Bertha Vavasour's fourth daughter Bertha was attending boarding school in London when after a short illness she suddenly died on 17 March 1915 aged 17 years.  She was laid to rest at St Thomas of Canterbury and I imagine the brother and sister are buried together.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand Henry and Bertha Vavasour's eldest son 2nd Lieutenant George Marmaduke Vavasour was set to embark with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 14 March 1917.  George was amongst the attacking force at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. He was killed in action and like many who fell that day he has no known grave. His passing is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

While researching the story of Rudolph Vavasour is occurred to me that this story could have been one we see so frequently on our TV screens or read about in a book.  An ancient English family of noble origins settling in the hinterland of New Zealand. No doubt the family has many stories to tell apart from their tragic loss through WW1.

Saxilby couple find World War One medal in back garden - BBC NEWS

What a great story wish my gardening sessions were as exciting.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Portage Pass Memorial - Marlborough

Leslie Reid Bremner - Palmerston North Memorial

Rifleman Leslie Reid Bremner, previously posted missing, now reported killed in action on the Somme on September 15, was the eldest son of Mr. R. J. Bremner, Kings View Road, Mount Eden. He was educated at the Caversham and Otago Boys High Schools, Dunedin, later at the High School, Palmerston North, and finished his education at the Auckland Boys Grammar School. He matriculated while attending the latter school, and was attending University classes at the time of his enlistment in the Rifle Brigade. His father is well known in commercial circles through his long connection with Wright, Stephenson and Company, Ltd., in Dunedin and Palmerston North, and until recently as manager of their local office." (Auckland Weekly News, 29 March 1917, p. 48)

Leslie Reid Bremner was the eldest son of Robert James Bremner and Annie Bremner.  Leslie was born on 13 October 1896 and enlisted on 16 October 1915 only a few days after his twentieth birthday.  He embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 5 February 1916.  He was originally reported missing but later reported killed in action on 15 September 1915 on the Somme during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.  On his military record I found evidence given by Rifleman John Fisher as to his death which reads as follows:

"On September 15 Rfm Bremner went over the top of the assembly trenches near High Wood in the same section as I was.  I saw him just before we reached Switch trench where several of the section were...
I saw someone that I took to be Rfm Bremner lying on the ground but did not make sure. Have never seen him since.  The man I took to be Bremner had red hair like Bremner's"

Such first-hand accounts give us a glimpse of the chaos on the battlefield and how difficult is was to keep track of the wounded and dead.

Rifleman John Fisher survived the war and returned home to New Zealand, he died in 1957 in Hamilton.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Garbett Brothers - Murchison Memorial

Alfred Louis, William Richard, Amos Henry and Henry Ernest Garbett were the sons of the late Henry Garbett and Eleanor Jackson (formerly Garbett) all were born in Lyell, Westport.  Their father had died in 1905 and their mother remarried and moved to Murchison. 

By the end of 1916 they had all left for the war Henry on 8 January 1916 , Alfred on 5 February 1916 and Amos and William together on 29 July 1916.  

Once in France Alfred and Henry found themselves at the Somme on 15 September 1916 where during the battle Alfred was one of the 602 New Zealand soldiers sadly killed in action that day (1) and Henry was wounded receiving a shrapnel wound to the left forearm.  In the meantime Amos and William were making their way with the 15th Reinforcements towards England.   I wonder how and when they heard the terrible news of their two brothers?  Once they had disembarked in England I hope they were able to pay a visit to their brother Henry who had been admitted to Brockenhurst Hospital.  

Together with the profound grief Amos and William felt they must have been filled with the mixed emotions of revenge and trepidation as they too headed for the front.  

On 7 June 1917 at Messines Amos was killed in action a double blow for the Garbett family.
For the rest of the war Henry Garbett was plagued with 'debility' which today we might call Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or even Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  William Garbett was also plagued with ill health including diarrhea and scabies which no doubt was a result of the appalling conditions soldiers had to live in.   They returned to New Zealand without their beloved brothers whom were never forgotten and I found many 'In Memoriam' entries on Papers Past for Alfred and Amos including the entry below inserted by their sister, which I feel says it all:

GARBETT.—In sad and loving memory of my dearly loved brother, Rifleman Amos H. Garbett killed in action at -Messines, June 7th, 1917. 

Often do my sad thoughts wander,
To a grave so far away 
Where they laid my loving brother, 
Just a year ago to-day. 

He sleeps beside his comrades,
In a shallow grave, unknown, 
But his name is written in letters of love
In the hearts that he left at home.

Inserted by his loving sister, M E, Downie, Murchison.

(1) 'On my way to the Somme, New Zealanders and the bloody offensive of 1916' by Andrew MacDonald, page 109

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nurse C A Holgate - Seddon Memorial, Marlborough

Charlotte Annie Holgate (nee Whitehouse) was born in New Zealand in 1861 to Thomas and Margaret Whitehouse.  Thomas Whitehouse was an earlier settler to New Zealand arriving in Wellington in 1841 and for many years ran a grocery store in Cuba Street Wellington.

After finishing school Charlotte trained as a teacher eventually taking up the position of Headmistress of Thorndon Infant School, Wellington a post which she resigned from at the end of 1886.  Presumably she gave up the post to marry Joseph Holgate in March 1887.  Their marriage was short lived as Joseph sadly died from heart disease in December 1891, they had no children.

Charlotte it seems was not one to sit around and I am guessing that it was after her husbands death that she departed for England where she trained to be a nurse and a midwife at the Middlesex Hospital, London.  On completion of her training she took up the position of District Nurse firstly in London's West End and then in the poor district of the Royal Albert Docks in the East End of London.  Before finally leaving England she qualified as a masseuse.

On her return to New Zealand she was appointed by the Red Cross Association in 1903 as District Nurse for the sick and poor of Wellington.  She approached the role with vigour, tirelessly making a positive difference to those she treated.  Below is a link to an article which recounts some of her experiences.  The article was a response to a comment made by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Richard Seddon who proclaimed "There is no poverty in New Zealand".

She resigned from the position in January 1905 and set up a Private Maternity Hospital for women in Wellington until April 1911 when she took an extended trip to England.  On her return to New Zealand in November 1912 she took up the position of District Nurse in Seddon. 

When war broke out in 1914 Charlotte Holgate was 53 years old but age was no barrier to Charlotte and at her own expense she embarked on the Ionic in December 1914 headed to Europe with the intention of offering her services at the Front.   She enlisted with the French Flag Nursing Corps (F.F.N.C.) in France working in military hospitals firstly in Lesieux and then Neufchateau, Vosges.

The F.F.N.C. was established in 1914 in Britain to supply trained nurses from Britain and the Commonwealth to French military hospitals.  In France most nursing up until WW1 had been carried out by nuns as it was deemed unseemly for French girls to take up nursing as a career and as a result there was an urgent need for qualified nurses at the Front.

The scale of the medical care needed after the bloody battles of World War One could not have been imagined by Charlotte and the relentless work took a toll on her health and in September 1915 she was invalided back to England.  Yet she still hoped to recover and get back to the action. Unfortunately this was not to be the case and she remained on the South Coast of England in poor health until she passed away on 20 August 1920.

By all accounts Charlotte Holgate was a hard working, energetic and well liked person.  She actively strove to help those less fortunate than herself by nursing and educating the poor and sick in London and New Zealand.  She was also a member of the Society for the Protection of the Health of Women and Children in New Zealand.  When she embarked for war in 1914 she was laden down with donations of clothes and monies for Belgian refugees and the soldiers fighting.

Whilst her contribution to the war effort was limited in time she deserves our respect and admiration.  For a widow of 53 years of age to volunteer at her own expense was undoubtedly admirable. The standing and respect held for her in the community of Seddon was reflected by their remembrance of her on their war memorial despite the fact that she passed away two years after the war ended. Nurse Charlotte Holgate deserves to be remembered.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seddon War Memorial - Marlborough

Seddon war memorial was unveiled on 25 April 1926.

James Snook Carradus - Patea Memorial - Update

I was delighted to hear from a member of the Carradus family who was able to confirm that the uniform James was wearing in the picture above was indeed a cinema ushers uniform.

They also informed me that James was in fact born in Patea in 1898 to Ellen Snook who married William Carradus in 1899 and James was given the Carradus name. 

Trooper Gilbert Sutherland Flavall & Rifleman Frederick R G Babbage, Eltham Memorial, Taranaki


While searching through Papers Past for information I often come across accounts of the fond farewells given to soldiers by their local communities before they finally embarked for war.

Those close to the soldier/s departing must have been filled with a mixture of emotions whilst trying to enjoy the dancing and singing which was present at such send-offs.  Local communities were clearly proud of their contributions to the war effort and of those leaving to do their duty for "King and Country".   In appreciation gifts were presented to the departing soldier to mark the occasion, some useful and some of little use at all such as silver grooming sets (a must have for a rat invested, muddy trench at the front) but as the old adage goes "it is the thought that counts".

At the residence of Mr S Death Trooper Gilbert Sutherland Flavall of Eltham was farewelled and presented with an "illuminated wrist watch"  by Mr Babbage who " ...hoped than when he learnt the time in the trenches from its face it would serve to remind him of the anxious faces...waiting for his return".  Mr Babbage's son Rifleman Frederick Babbage would soon be presented with an identical watch before his departure a few months later.

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Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXXII, 28 May 1917, Page 4

Trooper Sutherland embarked with the Wellington Mounted Rifles on 7 June 1917 headed for Palestine.  He was sadly killed in action on 1 April 1918 during an ambush by Circassians villagers at Ain es Sir, Jordan.   His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem War Cemetery.

Rifleman (Rfm) Babbage son of Frederick and Mary Babbage embarked on 16 November 1917 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.  Days before the relief of Le Quesnoy, Rfm Babbage volunteered on for a raid on two enemy posts at 2:00am on 30 October 1918 during the raid he was wounded and he died later in the day he was 22 years old and is buried at Solesmes Communal Cemetery, Nord, France.  The Babbage Family received letters from his commanding officer Lieutenant Gordon McGhie and Private John Rankin which I have reproduced below. 

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Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXXIV, 28 January 1919, Page 8