Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Matakohe Memorial - Northland

Article image 

Article image 
New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 17980, 4 January 1922, Page 4
Papers Past 

I came across the Matakohe war memorial by chance on a drive back from the Far North last year.  The memorial is well place on a hill overlooking the land beyond, on which many of those inscribed on the memorial would have farmed on before enlisting and embarking for war.

The memorial was unveiled on 3 January 1922.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New look Cenotaph Database

I love the new look of the Cenotaph database from Auckland Museum.  Congratulations to all involved.  I especially like how we can all contribute to the site. Take a look. 

Private Harry McKillop - Mt Eden War Memorial

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1916 - No known copyright restrictions 

Harry McKillop and his brother Gordon were both young boys when orphaned in 1902.  Their father Arthur, was killed as a result of a railway accident at Mt Eden in February 1900 and their mother Annie dropped dead on the street, most likely from a heart attack in 1902.  The boys were then taken into the care of their maternal grandmother and raised at 27 Virginia Avenue, Mt Eden.  

After finishing school they sought careers at sea.  Gordon with Huddard, Parker & Co. and Harry with Union Steamship Company.  When war broke out they were keen to enlist despite their young ages.

Harry (the eldest of the two) enlisted first in February 1915 aged 19.  Embarking with the Auckland Infantry Battalion on 13 June 1915.  At Gallipoli he was invalided to hospital in Malta with exhaustion in reality he was most likely suffering shell shock/shell concussion.  His recovery was slow and he was sent to England in September 1915 where he spent time at Bethnal Green Hospital. 

In July 1916 the powers to be decided, he was once again fit for military service and he rejoined his unit with the Auckland Infantry Battalion in Armentieres, France.  Shortly afterwards he was wounded in action on 27 September 1916, receiving a gun shot wound to chest.  He was admitted to the 38th casualty clearing station where he died aged 20, on 6 October 1916.  He is buried at the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l'Abbe, Somme, France. 

Meanwhile his younger brother Gordon despite being only 18 years of age had enlisted and embarked on 27 May 1916 arriving in England in July 1916.  Gordon no doubt was looking forward to being reunited with his brother in France.  Sadly however he did not leave for France until late in October 1916, after his brothers death.  Gordon survived the war  and was discharged in April 1920 only 20 years old.  After returning to New Zealand he married and eventually moved to Australia where he died in 1978 aged 80.

In Harry's military record I found a short typed note requesting that in the event of his death a message be sent to his Aunt (Miss L. Ross) asking that:

"If Gordon,  comes back safe give him my ring, watch and pen and tell him to always keep them"

I hope that Harry's wish was carried out and that today they are the treasured possessions of Gordon's descendants.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bert & Syd Rinaldi - Waiau Memorial, Canterbury

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1916 - No known copyright restrictions

Herbert Edward Rinaldi and Sydney Thomas Rinaldi (known as Bert & Syd) were the two eldest sons of Edward and Margaret Rinaldi of Waiau.  Both boys were born in West Eyreton in Canterbury and educated in Waiau and after leaving school were employed on local farms in the area.

At the outbreak of war both were keen to enlist.  Being the eldest Bert was first enlisting in February 1915,  just 20 years old.  He embarked with the Field Artillery on 13 June 1915.  After a few months in the Middle East, Bert sailed for France aboard the 'Minnewaska" on 5 April 1916.  Once in France he was soon at the Front where during the first Battle of the Somme he was killed in action on 17 September 1916.  He was buried at Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz, Somme.  Bert's family would have been devastated at the news of his death,  especially as their second son Syd was already on his way to France.  

Syd like his brother was also keen to enlist, doing so just after his 20th birthday on 1 May 1916.  He embarked with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion on 21 August 1916, disembarking in the UK towards the end of October.  After a spell in Sling camp he left for France on 15 November 1916.  On 7 April 1917, five days before his 21st birthday, Syd was killed in action near Messines, Belgium.  He was buried at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.

As I have said before we can only imagine the grief felt by the Rinaldi family, losing two sons so young and in less than a year.  I came across a lovely description of Syd in 'The Press' dated 27 April 1917:

"... a young man of quiet retiring disposition, and of sterling qualities, and was most highly respected throughout the district"

Such words I'm certain could be used to describe many of the young men who left New Zealand to serve in World War One, keen to do their duty, fighting a war thousands of miles away, not knowing the horrors that lay before them.

Both brothers are remembered on the Waiau Memorial.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

2nd Lieutenant Lionel Matthew Tansey - Ohakune Memorial

Prior to enlisting in September 1915, Lionel Tansey who was 30 years old, had for several years been a solicitor in Ohakune in partnership with Thomas A. Harris.  His parents Michael & Frances Tansey were farmers at Raetihi.

Lionel embarked from Wellington on 5 February 1916 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) aboard the 'Ulimaroa'.  His younger brother Frank Ellis Tansey embarked from Wellington on the same day also with the NZRB aboard the 'Arawa'. 

On arrival in Suez the brothers were reunited aboard the 'Alaunia' on which they embarked for France on 7 April 1916.  Once in France Lionel fell sick and was hospitalised for a short time. He rejoined his unit, the 3rd Battalion NZRB, at the beginning of July 1916 where he would again be reunited with Frank who was also part of the 3rd Battalion. 
On 15 September 1916 the Battalion took part in the the First Battle of the Somme at Flers-Courcelette.   The Battalion was part of the NZ 3rd Brigade of whom 2800 were deployed that day.  By the end of the day 308 of the 3rd were killed and 892 wounded including sadly Frank Tansey who was one of those who died.  All together 602 New Zealanders died on 15 September 1916, 43% of them from the 3rd Brigade.  Of some comfort to the Tansey family back in New Zealand was the knowledge that Frank's body had been recovered and buried in the A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers. Many of the dead that day were never recovered or identified.  Frank is also remembered on the Raetihi memorial.

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1916 - No known copyright restrictions 

Despite his brother's death or maybe because of it, Lionel rose quickly through the ranks eventually receiving a commission in the field and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 15 January 1917 being transferred to NZ Machine Gun Corps.  On his military record he was described as a:

" Very capable officer with a good command of men"

After enjoying leave in the UK from 10 September 1917 Lionel rejoined his unit in the field on 24 September 1917.  He then saw action at Passchendaele where on 12 October 1917 he was severely wounded by machine gun fire in the left shoulder.  Invalided back to the UK the shoulder proved slow to heal and he was transferred from hospital to a convalescent home in Brighton, Sussex.  Eventually he was given 3 months sick leave and sent back to New Zealand in April 1918.   In New Zealand Lionel's health deteriorated due to him contracting TB. At his own request he was admitted to the Mona House private hospital on Carlton Gore Road in Auckland.   On 12 March 1919 at the age of 33, Lionel died at Mona House.  His body was returned to Raetihi where he was buried in the cemetery.  

After Lionel's death Thomas A. Harris, with whom he had been in practice with as a solicitor in Ohakune, made sure that whoever acquired his business at a later date would keep both the names of Harris & Tansey in the name of the firm.   This was no doubt a form of remembrance to Lionel and Harris's son Roy who had been killed in action on the Somme on 5 April 1918.  

Both Lionel and Roy are remembered on the Ohakune Memorial.

Sources: From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth, John H. Gray, 
Auckland Cenotaph Database,
Papers Past, National Library of New Zealand,