Monday, 26 February 2018

8/2733 Private Victor Manson Spencer, 1/11/1894-24/2/1918.


That's the first thing you see when you view the army records of Victor Manson Spencer.  Although he is commemorated on the war memorial at Bluff, his family would have kept a bitter secret about their lost boy.

Victor grew up in rural Otautau and was working as an engineer in the port town of Bluff when he volunteered for the war in 1915.  He wasn't a model of obedience as a soldier and was given seven days "FP" (Field Punishment) number two and forfeited 21 days' pay for being absent at roll call in June, 1916.  FP number 1 was usually being tied to a fixed object such as a fence of pole and was called "crucifixion."  Number two was being tied or fettered but still marching with one's unit.

He was wounded in the field the next month and had a few days in hospital before returning to the Otagos.  He must have done something serious shortly after that as he was struck off the Otagos' roll in September 1916 due to being sent to a military prison, Number One Military Prison, at Rouen.  He was sentenced to 18 months and served half of that before having the rest of the sentence suspended when he rejoined his unit on 15/6/1917, in time for the Battle of Paesschendaele.  You can only imagine what a military prison had to be like as a deterrent measure to make soldiers prefer facing the trenches and enemy shelling.

He was then recorded as absent from August 13th, 1917 to January 12th, 1918.  This was the desertion for which he was tried and shot.

His record goes on to show the bare bones of the story of his apprehension, trial and execution: "Was sentenced after trial by FGCM (Field General Court Martial) to be shot for deserting His Majesty's Service...Sentence was duly executed."  "Deserted HMS 13/8/17 until apprehended by Military Police on 2/2/18 - Guilty - to suffer death by being shot.  Sentence duly carried out."

He had only a brief wait for the formality of his sentence being confirmed by his ultimate commander, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig.  For Haig, it would have been an easy decision to make.

He was shot at 6.40am, on February 24th, 1918.  He was the last of five New Zealanders who were shot for desertion.

Victor was one of the soldiers who were pardoned by the Great War Act of 2000.  The purpose of the Act was ‘to remove so far as practicable, the dishonour that the execution of those five soldiers brought to those soldiers and their families’.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said, during the ceremony for the presentation of medals and documents of military service to the families of the pardoned soldiers:  "Military discipline of the day could only recognise dissent or shell shock as the offences of mutiny or desertion, punishable by death by firing squad. In today's ceremony we honour the memory of these three soldiers who volunteered to serve their country.

"Now we can remember their service and sacrifice with pride and sorrow whenever New Zealand commemorates those who died in war, and in the service of peace," 

Section 8 of the Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Act reads thus:
Pardon of Private Spencer
Private Victor Manson Spencer, regimental number 8/2733, a member of the 1st Battalion, Otago Regiment,—
(a) who was charged with having committed on 13 August 1917 the offence of desertion; and
(b) who was, by a Field General Court Martial held on 17 January 1918, convicted of that offence and sentenced to death; and
(c) who was again sentenced to death on 29 January 1918 after the Field General Court Martial had revised its finding and had convicted him of having committed the offence of desertion not on 13 August 1917 but on 25 August 1917; and
(d) who was, after the sentence of death imposed on him on 29 January 1918 had been confirmed, executed by firing squad in accordance with that sentence on 24 February 1918,—
is, by this Act, granted a pardon for that offence of desertion

Honour the 600! 1060 Sergeant Major John Bevin of the 8th Hussars, 1831-11/5/1892.

John Bevin, Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  Photo, Allan Steel.

An interesting article appears in the Nineteenth Century for May, written by one who took part in the Balaclava charge, and who tells the following story of the late Sergeant-major Bevin, of the Otago police: — "A strange thing happened this afternoon. Private John Bevin, of the 8th Hussars, had been having his wounds dressed. A Russian cavalryman, who was lying on the opposite side of the hut, and who had two desperate sword cuts on the head, and three fingers off, had been looking hard at Bevin for some time. At last he got up and crossed the floor, and made Bevin understand that it was he who had cut the Russian about so severely. Bevin cheerfully owned to the charge, and pointing to the fragment left of his own right ear, gave the Russian to understand that it was he who had played the part of St. Peter, whereupon the two fraternised, and Bevin had to resort to much artifice to escape being kissed by the battered Muscovite.  -Oamaru Mail, 24/8/92.

John Bevin was a long way from the Crimea when he dropped into a fatal diabetic coma in May of 1892.  He was also a long way from County Cork, back in Ireland, where he was born in 1831.  He was a carpenter's apprentice when he joined the 8th Royal Hussars - the "King's Own" in 1849.  In 1854 he sailed with his Regiment to Bulgaria, to fight the Russians.

8th "King's Own" Hussars uniform

From there he went to the Crimean Peninsula, was present at the Battle Of Alma - an infantry battle - and charged in the Light Brigade attack on the Russian guns at Balaclava.  He was taken prisoner after the charge and eventually exchanged for Russian prisoners held by the British.  In all, he was wounded 18 times during the war - none of them seriously though he carried a slit on his ear to the end of his days.

When the 8th Hussars were put on a peacetime basis they reduced their numbers and Bevin was discharged.  He declined an offer of ten pounds from a fellow Trooper who wanted to change places with him and went to Victoria, where the gold rush had begun. In Victoria, he joined the goldfield police and was recruited for the Otago Armed Constabulary by its organiser and first commander, St John Branigan, arriving in Dunedin in 1861.  One of his duties as one of "Branigan's Troopers" in those early years of the Rush included the escorting of the gold convoy through Central Otago to the bank at Dunedin.

Constable Bevin quickly showed his competence and was promoted to Sergeant Major after a year in Otago.  He was awarded two pounds from the "Police Reward Fund" in 1869 for the "zeal and perseverance" shown with another constable in the detection and arrest of a pair of forgers.  He was awarded the Police Long Service Medal in 1887.  He was popular with Dunedin's citizens, from the Judges on the Bench to those they judged - ...his fairmindedness softened even the natural antipathy of the criminal classes to a police officer into a reluctant admiration. - 14/5/1892 Otago Daily Times.

He was also awarded a unique distinction in 1882 by some of Dunedin's citizens.  The Evening Star reported: The Mayor said that he was unexpectedly called upon to make the presentation, and was unprepared to do so. The duty he had now to perform was more pleasing than anything that had fallen to his lot during his ten months in office, and he had much pleasure in being requested to take part in tho ceremony. He referred in glowing terms to the pluck shown in the Crimea by the British soldiers, and said that if again called on Sergeant-major Bevin would be equal to the occasion. In future historical records this encounter would stand out pre-eminent. The presentation, which consisted of a very handsome silver cup, would bear this inscription; "A tribute of respect and esteem to Sergeant-major Bevin from many Dunedin friends, to remind him of the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Light Brigade's charge at Balaclava." And on the reverse side: "At present in the Otago Constabulary, and late of the 8th Royal Irish Hussars." He had also much pleasure in presenting a silver negligee and locket to Mrs Bevin.  In conclusion he expressed the hope that Sergeant-major Bevin would be long spared to keep his present position in this community. — (Applause). Sergeant-major Bevin said that the presentation was quite unexpected on his part. It was only two or three days ago that Mr Graham called on him with reference to the matter. It was contrary to the service regulations for an officer to be permitted to receive a gift, but Inspector Weldon kindly acceded permission. The speaker then made a long statement as to the service his corps performed in this war. He defended the Earl of Cardigan from aspersions which had been cast on his character, and said that that gentleman was in no way to blame for the charge. The men had simply done their duty, and those who had survived would be equally pleased with himself at the forethought and kindness of the people of Dunedin as manifested on the present occasion.

1882 cup, Collection of Toitu Otago Settlers Museum

An interesting example of John Bevin's experience as a policeman comes from the "Otago Witness" of 1889: At the City Police Court on Monday morning an elderly man of seedy appearance was charged with drunkenness. He presented himself in court with a bundle of second-hand books in a strap under his arm, and appeared to be a travelling bookseller. He was somewhat voluble of speech; and bore on his countenance the unmistakable signs of long dissipation. On being asked how he would plead he said, "I am guilty, but under most peculiar circumstances." The Bench naturally desired to hear all about the matter. Then, in a tone which he evidently meant to be pathetic the victim of circumstances related his griefs. He had lost a nephew he said, by some disaster on board an American man-of-war, and he felt sad at heart. He had, indeed, been very sad for a long time, and consequently took a "little drop," but a small quantity of drink had a terrible effect upon him. He then asked the bench to be lenient with him as he had a large family, and had to work hard to keep them. Here his emotion, apparently overcame him, as he drew forth his handkerchief and wiped away his tears.  Sergeant major Bevin, who had come into contact with the accused in an official capacity on a number of previous occasions, informed the bench that whenever the accused came before the court his plea was that a death, or a birthday, or something of that sort had proved too much for him. This caused accused to plead with the Sergeant major not to be too hard upon him. "You military men," he said, "are always hard, whether in peace or in war." The Bench inflicted a fine of 10s, with the usual alternative. The disconsolate one asked for time to pay, and this being conceded he bowed and respectfully thanked the bench. As he left the court a gleam of satisfaction at his "success" was discernible on his rather dirt-begrimed visage.

The Rev. Thomas Burns Memorial, the Octagon, Dunedin.  Hocken Library photo.

Sergeant Major John Bevin's last appearance on duty, after nearly 31 years' service, was at the handing over of the Reverend Thomas Burns memorial in the Octagon, Dunedin.  No one who saw him there would have thought he had little time left on earth.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

63324 Private Michael Flannery, 11/9/1888-23/2/1918.

From an account of the send-offs for local men from the Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette: "The next was the send-off of Michael Flannery, a favourite of the district. There was a very large gathering and an enjoyable evening was spent in song and dance. During an interlude the opportunity was taken to present Mick with a very handsome purse of £l2 odd, in which Mr Kant acted as the speaking man. This makes the third son out of this family, the only remaining son failing to pass."

Mick Flannery's send-off was the sequel to an appeal made to the Military Service Board, sitting at Alexandra in May 1917, in which he claimed that his job as manager of the family farm and other properties at Poolburn - comprising 4740 acres in all - was a vital one to the country.  His father stated that he was under doctor's orders not to spend the coming winter on the farm.  Two of his four sons were already gone to the war.  His appeal was dismissed but his enlistment deferred.  Mick was able to plant his wheat before leaving for the War.

Flannery family grave, Omakau Cemetery.

Mick left New Zealand that November and was marched into the Otago Infantry Regiment's 4th Reserve Battalion at Sling Camp, Salisbury Plain, on January 9th, 1918.

On February 2nd, Mick was admitted to Tidworth Hospital with a diagnosis of rubella, or german measles.  A week later he was listed as "seriously ill" then two days later "dangerously ill."  On the 23rd just after 4am he died in the isolation ward, of scarlet fever and bronchial pneumonia.  Was there a misdiagnosis in the case of Private Michael Flannery?  And, with the lack of anti-biotics for treatment, would it have mattered?  At least they got his religion right, the Rev. W Skinner RC is recorded as conducting Mick's burial service.

Sir John McKenzie - the forgotten memorial

On top of a hill not far from Palmerston can be found the remains of a memorial erected to the memory of the late Sir John Mckenzie.

Remains?  you might say - I thought that had been restored.  And you would be correct.  The Mckenzie memorial that is visible from  Palmerston was restored a few years ago.  But I'm talking about the previous one.

John McKenzie, while Minister of Lands, was responsible for breaking up the huge squatter estates which had been established in the early years of colonial New Zealand.  He put men on the land - an estimated seven thousand farming families - laying one of the foundations for New Zealand's frozen meat trade.  

He had grown up in Scotland and one of his earliest memories was seeing the inhabitants of Glen Calvie, huddled around small fires on a rainy Saturday, in the grounds of Croick Church but too proud to enter the building itself which would be disrespectful.  These were victims of the Highland Clearances, some of the last to be dispossessed of lands they did not own by a Chieftan they trusted to lead and care for them.  The messages that some of them scratched in the diamond-shaped panes of the church's windows can still be seen.  He never forgot the sight and strove to make New Zealand a place where a working man could own his own land.  Some of the large landholdings he had broken up, however, were portions of Maori tribal land, and he has been criticised for doing to the Maori what the Clearances had done to the Scots.  All that can be said in his defence is that the tribe of capitalists called "land sharks" were much more rapacious and less trustworthy.

Sir John McKenzie, in younger years. Hocken Library photo.

He was knighted by the Governor General shortly before his death from stomach cancer in 1901.  Immediately after his funeral, which was a remarkable performance of Scottish tradition - real or imagined - there was talk of errecting an impressive memorial to him, on top of Puketapu Hill, where McKenzie had first shepherded sheep for Johnny Jones and where the current memorial stands.  The Memorial Committee eventually decided on a different location - Pukehiwitahi, a hill named for one of the crewmen of the ancestral waka, Arai te uru.  It also overlooked McKenzies house where lived, was knighted, and died.

So it was upon that hill, atop the conical peak immediately to your left when you drive over the low rise just south of Shag Point, that the Premier, Richard Seddon, and a crowd of the great and the not so great, gathered in November of 1902.  The speechifying commenced and the politicians of those days did like to speechify.  I will attempt to convey the sentiment without imitating the length of those speeches.
Richard Seddon, Premier of New Zealand, arrives at the top of the hill.  I have a feeling he took the horsedrawn option for the 200m or so climb.  Hocken Library photo.

Richard Seddon unveils the memorial's inscription tablet.  Hocken Library photo.

The Sir John McKenzie Cairn in all its pre-1917 glory.  Hocken Library photo. 

Grave of Sir John McKenzie

Alfred Lee Smith, Member of the Legislative Council and president of the gathering began the speaking, the end of which was greeted with great applause:

"What an example does his life present to the youthful political aspirant. Step by step he won his way. His determination, his exhaustless energy, and an incomparable zeal for the cause he had espoused carried him rapidly to the goal he had in view. Difficulties were swept aside, opposition was quelled by the irresistlble force of success. Withal, notwithstanding his forceful action in public life, how gentle, forbearing, and sympathetic a man he was in private. Those who had the privilege of intimacy in his home must have noticed how much he conduced, to the completeness of hie domestic felicity. Our thoughts and sympathy will go out to that widowed lady and her fatherless family who shared with him the anxieties of his strenuous life, for there has gone from them a kind and loving husband, an affectionate parent, and a wise counsellor. May they find some consolation in the reflection that he had served his country with his best powers, And there are others who, though unconnected with him by ties of kinship, have good reason to remember and esteem the name of John M'Kenzie. The homesteads of the settlers planted on the soil by his efforts will ever be monuments to the wisdom and forethought of our great land reformer. Let history, in impartial tone, do him and his policy justice, and then there shall be no need for the indulgent criticisms of posterity. Long may this massive pile of rough-hewn stone—typical of the sturdy and vigorous-minded man to whose memory it is erected—survive the storms and stress of time, and be a shrine at which the youth of generations to come may learn the lesson of a nobly industrious life, and for centuries be a beacon to signalise that here was the home of a man who bestowed upon New Zealand's public life the priceless gifts of unsullied honour, true patriotism, and transcendent ability."

The Chairman of the Memorial Committee, the Honourable J Rigg then recounted to those assembled the details of the steps which had culminated in the gathering at the top of the hill.

The Premier, Richard Seddon followed with a half hour speech which recounted the life and career of his late friend, before unveiling the tablet on the cairn which detailed the life of the late Sir John and is a copy of those details on his gravestone in Palmerston Cemetery.  The McKenzie family were then presented with a handsomely bound copy of the Committee report and a minute's silence was observed by all present before the assembly dispersed.

Sad to say, the "massive pile of rough-hewn stone" collapsed one night, fifteen years later.  It was little reported, possibly due to more important happenings in Europe in that year of 1917.  Some locals say the memorial was undermined by rabbits.

The current memorial, seen from near the old one

Remains of the Cairn - south side
Remains of the Cairn - north side

Sunday, 18 February 2018

45507 Rifleman William Harley, 1893-18/2/1918.

Report of the departure for camp of the Dunedin contingent of the 25th Reinforcements for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force:

"Before leaving the Drill Hall Colonel Smith addressed a few words of advice to men as to their work and conduct in camp and on active service. He besought them to attend diligently to their drill and their musketry. He spoke honestly, he said, when he stated that they were physically as fit a draft as any that had gone before. "He would like to see them beat all records at Trentham for shooting. Another thing he asked them to do was to write home to their relatives. 

''Boys," concluded Colonel Smith, "I would ask you to live straight, go straight, and shoot straight. As General Birdwood said, 'the only good Germans were the dead ones' Go, therefore, and create as many good Germans us possible. Good-bye, boys God-speed, and a safe return to your friends." 

The Mayor (Mr J. J. Clark) added a few words of appreciation on behalf of the citizens of Dunedin. At the beginning of the war, he said, there were some who had thought that colonial soldiers would be good for only garrison duty, or something of the sort. History had proved otherwise. They who were going knew what they were up against, and he was sure they would do just as good work as their glorious comrades had done at Gallipoli and in France, and would bring further honour to New Zealand. He wished them God-speed and success. At the call of one of their number the men gave three hearty cheers for Colonel Smith, and three for the Mayor. A few men returning to camp from leave also left by the train."

William Harley was the fifth son of William and Tamar Harley of 27 Jackson St, St Kilda, Dunedin.  He grew up in a working class area of town and worked as a clerk.  He joined the Army in January of 1917 and shipped out to Europe that July.  He spent a few days in hospital with some sickness or other from the sixth to the ninth of February and then rejoined his unit, the 3rd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

The Brigade's Official History say this about the time and place of William's death - I have not found anything more specific: This was a good sector, the driest and quietest occupied by our Brigade since June of the previous year. The defensive works, however, had not reached a satisfactory stage of advancement. Particularly was this so on the left, where the 3rd Battalion's front line, 1,000 yards in length, consisted only of a series of detached posts. Taking advantage of the fine weather then prevailing, a special effort was put forth by both the forward units to bring about the desired improvement. Excellent results followed. The 4th Battalion brought to completion the works that had been suitably laid out but not developed. Within a week the 3rd Battalion had dug 1,000 yards of now trench along its front, together with the necessary communication saps, had erected 500 yards of wiring and 700 yards of revetting, and had laid over 700 yards of duck- walk. But the 3rd Battalion were not content with this achievement. Sergeant J. W. Clayson with his patrol had been reconnoitering No Man's Land during daylight, and had succeeded in marking down the whole of the enemy's posts opposite the battalion front. On the information so gained a peaceful advance was planned, and in one night the battalion established four posts from 300 to 450 yards beyond its new front line, wired and garrisoned them, and linked them up with a continuous belt of wire entanglements.

The Rifles were relieved by units of the west Yorkshire Regiment on the 23rd of February.  William had died five days before.  A sniper?  Maybe.  Perhaps nobody now knows.
PAGE 265
Anderson Bay Cemetery, Dunedin. DCC photo.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Samuel Saltzman, OBE 1881-22/6/1963.

The 1990s were a wild was the time I ran for Mayor of Dunedin.  Although not done entirely seriously, it was a real education for me.  It was also a whole lot of fun.  In an era when Winston Peters ran on a platform of "a vote for me is a vote to kick National out of power" - then helped them form a government, and when Jenny Shipley proclaimed herself the first NZ female Prime Minister - and declined to ask the people for a mandate to rule, I could claim to be the only honest politician in the country.  But enough about me...

At the campaign launch a woman approached me and said that, if I promised to raise a memorial to Samuel Saltzman, I would have her vote.  I was more than happy to make that promise.  But who was Samuel Saltzman?

Samuel was a tailor.  He was a Polish Jew, born in Kurow (not the one in the Waitaki Valley) in 1881, and apprenticed to a tailor at the age of thirteen.  It was a hard life in small-town Poland and Samuel decided to make the move to Warsaw, about 250km away.  Things weren't much better in the city and he and a friend decided to try their luck in Britain.  Arriving in London almost broke they followed a man carrying half-finished clothes through the streets to a tailoring business.  Their hunch paid off and they were employed by the tailor for whose business the clothes were bound.

Conditions were still hard for Samuel but he was able to save a little money and head to the New World.  He arrived in Canada and made his way to the US, working and travelling south until he found himself in New York.  There he specialised in ladies' tailoring.  Finding that work had become seasonal, he began to use his off-season time in travelling.  Eventually he found himself in California and from there, having read a newspaper story extolling the virtues of the colony of New Zealand, he sailed for Wellington.  His skills saw him employed within a couple of hours of landing.

He eventually went into business for himself as a ladies' tailor first in Christchurch and then Greymouth.  His 1910 advertisement in the Greymouth Evening Star stated that: "As a practical LADIES TAILOR and CUTTER (he) has opened a Ladies' Tailoring establishment in Greymouth, and being in close touch with the latest PARISIAN FASHIONS, and carrying stocks of the newest designs of Cloths, Worsteds and Serges in all shades will be in a position to supply garments of elegance and taste and of the choicest fabric, and bearing that touch of refinement which so much conduces to grace and attractiveness. S. SALTZMAN makes a close study of each client, and with his long experience as a SPECIALIST, is able to suggest just the shade of fabric required and to impart that delicacy in CUTTING which produces a garment of artistic beauty."

In February 1917 Samuel closed up and moved to Dunedin, setting up shop in George Street.  He prospered and began writing cheques for worthy causes, both local and not so local.  Here is a list of them:

October, 1935.  1000 pounds for the Grey Hospital Board for a TB block.  "During his residence in Greymouth, he says that he received all the hospitality and support one desired from citizens and he considered it a duty and a privilege to be able to express his appreciation of such support in some tangible way."

October, 1935.  1000 pounds to the Dunedin Hospital Board for instruments to be used in the eye, ear and throat theatre.

March, 1936.  1000 pounds to the Dunedin Methodist Central Mission for the children's health camp at Company Bay.

May, 1936.  1500 pounds to the Waitaki Hospital Board for an open air children's ward - eight beds, a playroom and solarium.

May, 1936.  3000 pounds to the Waipiata TB Sanatorium for the erection of an administration block.  "...Mr Saltzman is making the money available at once. Mr Saltzman is a most public-spirited citizen, for other institutions have recently received substantial gifts from him.”

Waipiata Sanatorium.

October, 1936.  6500 pounds to the St Johns Ambulance, to build their headquarters at the base of York Place.

May, 1937.  3000 pounds to the South Otago Hospital Board for a TB block.

November 1937.  275 pounds to the Dunedin Hospital for further equipment at the eye, ear, nose and throat theatre.

April, 1939.  7 pounds, 7 shillings to the NZ Scottish Regiment (Otago Unit) equipment fund.

June, 1939.  10 pounds, 10 shillings to the Sir Truby King Memorial Fund.

November, 1939.  25 pounds to the Dunedin Centennial Appeal.

March, 1940.  1200 pounds to the Dunedin Jewish Congregation for the purchase of a residence for the minister.

March, 1940.  1000 pounds to the War Expenses Fund.  (Interest-free loan for the duration plus 12 months.

March, 1940.  500 pounds to the Otago Provincial Patriotic Council for soldiers' welfare.   "As a citizen of the British Empire I deem it my duty to help at least in a monetary way those young and valiant men who arc willing to sacrifice their lives for their country's cause.  I therefore enclose a cheque for £500 for the patriotic fund which may be disposed of in whatever direction you may consider necessary. I may also say that, should any occasion arise when my help is required, I shall deem it my duty to assist in whatever way possible." - S Saltzman, letter to the Council.

November 1940.  100 pounds to the London Relief Fund

As well as his more official donations, Samuel aided many of Dunedin's poor during the Great Depression of the 1930s with donations of blankets, food and coal.  He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1939 ("For benefactions to humanitarian institutions in the Dominion of New Zealand.") and in an interview of that year for the Otago Daily Times said: "When I sat at my easy chair beside the fire in the winter time in those years, I could not enjoy my own fire. I had to do something so that others could share that comfort.”

Samuel retired from business in 1946 and lived in the Leviathan Hotel until his death, hit by a car outside the Otago Medical School in Great King Street, Dunedin, in 1963.  He died of shock and concussion at the age of 82.

“I have only served in the way it has been possible for me to help.  While money may satisfy the physical needs and the individual comforts it will not give happiness unless it is judiciously applied. It seems to be part of a great immutable law that help given to others invariably brings happiness to the giver.” - Samuel Saltzman.

St John Ambulance Building, Dunedin.

PS:  According to his obituary, the friend with whom Samuel Saltzman sailed to London also went on the the United States and became a millionaire film-maker in California. Born in Poland as Schmuel Gelbfisz, later calling himself Samuel Goldfish and then Goldwyn.

8/1610 Lance Corporal Robert Rae, 5/1/1885-16/2/1918.

Robert Rae was 32 when he died of his wounds at the Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Poperinghe, Belgium

He'd been interested in "military matters" from a young age in School Cadets and was an early volunteer for the Army.  He left New Zealand on February 14, was wounded in the back and head at Gallipoli on August 8, 1915 and returned to the family home in Mornington, Dunedin to recover.  He rejoined the Army as part of the 10th Reinforcements in March, 1916.

It would have hurt a lot when he sustained the injury - my guess is from a trench mortar round - which badly broke his thigh - a compound fracture.  It would have hurt a lot, lying in the trench waiting for the stretcher bearers.  It would have hurt a lot, lying on the stretcher being bounced past fellow soldiers whose faces wore a combination of sympathy, relief it wasn't them and fear that they might be next.  NZ soldier turned politician (and excellent writer) John A Lee's description of his being taken to a nearby hospital after having his hand shattered - and being frequently dropped as his bearers sought shelter from falling shells - was so vivid I could barely read it.  It would have seemed to be an eternity of pain until Robert reached the Clearing Station and received his first shot of morphine.  It is possible that the relief of morphine was the last thing he experienced.

2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, 

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  Photo: Allan Steel


Monday, 12 February 2018

The Princes Lubecki of Poland

There is a Polish Prince buried in Dunedin's Southern Cemetery.  In fact, there are two.  (There's a Russian Princess at Anderson's Bay, too - but that's another story.)

Prince Alois Konstantin Lubecki was a descendant of Prince Rurik, a Norseman or Viking whose family ruled what became the Kingdom of Russia from the 9th to the 17th century.  Prince Alois descended from a branch of the family which had settled in Lithuania and, after the union with Poland, effectively became a Pole.

The Lubeckis held large estates in the east of Poland and Alois put everything at risk when he supported the attempt by many Poles to establish some kind of independent state in the 1830 November Uprising.  Poland had been divided up between its three large neighbours - Austria, Prussia and Russia - by the end of the 18th century, and had briefly known a kind of independence under Napoleon.  Russian Poland had a constitution - but that was little more than a document and Russia's rule was becoming more and more dictatorial.

Alois was a General in the Polish National Army and, with the collapse of the uprising, left his homeland for Dresden in Saxony.  After a period of serious illness, he moved to France and then to England.  There he met and married Laura Duffus in 1836 and, possibly inspired by his brother in law Reverend John Duffus, sailed with him to Sydney, Australia, arriving in October 1838 and settling in Parramatta.  Their first child, Jean Konstantin, was born soon after arrival but their fortunes did not prosper and Alois was unable to find work.

The Lubeckis opened a school for young ladies in 1840 at Gough House in Parramatta.  The young ladies were taught the basics and, for an extra fee, could be taught pianoforte, singing, drawing, French or dancing.

The school flourished and so did the Lubecki family - Alois Duffus Lubecki was born in 1841.  But at the end of that year there was a depression and the school was broke by March, 1842.  Alois suffered a nervous breakdown and the family moved to Sydney.

Two daughters were born in Sydney and the family shortly moved to Melbourne where Alois worked as a confectioner while Laura taught.  Alois Junior joined the Victorian Civil Service as a trainee telegraph operator in 1862.  In June, 1863 the family sailed for New Zealand and settled in a house on the corner of George and Union Streets in Dunedin.  Alois senior died the next year after several years of bad health and his son Jean inherited the title of Prince.  Jean died the next year and was buried next to his father and so the title went to Alois junior.

Alois and Jean in the Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.  Photo: Allan Steel.  The headstone has recently (2021) been restored.

Madame Lubecki, as she continued to be known, opened another school for young ladies in Dunedin and followed that profession until 1895 when she moved to Nelson.  She died, aged 86, in 1901.  "Princess Lubecki (wrote the papers) of late had not, by reason of her age, been able to lead an active life, but in earlier years it was her pleasure and wont to be engaged in good works, and her goodness of heart and charity were such that to hear ill spoken of anyone was to her painful."

Eden Bank House, demolished 1966.  Hocken Library photo.

Alois Junior became Officer-in-charge of the Dunedin telegraph office in 1865 and worked at his post for thirty years.  He was instrumental in the arranging of the first telephone call in New Zealand - between Dunedin and Milton on February 2nd, 1878.  Alois' superior, who gave the order for the call was named Charles Lemon and Dunedin's telephone poles were inevitably called "Lemon trees" by its citizens.

Dunedin Telegraph Office - photo from "Transpress NZ"

Alois' later life was described by a friend, Judge Sir Frederick Chapman, after Alois' death in 1926:

"One of my first acquaintances when I arrived in Dunedin in August 1872, was Mr. Lubecki. He was then chief official in the Telegraph Office, where he commenced and ended his official career. I had taken a keen interest in Polish affairs ever since the rebellion of 1863, when I was at school, an interest which I have never lost. Since then I have written many articles on Polish affairs, but I am bound to say that few read them. I never met anybody in New Zealand, save Mr. Lubecki, with whom I could discuss such matters. Between us the fate of Poland in the past was a matter which we frequently discussed, without however, a glimpse of daylight to the future.

"Having retired from the Government service, Mr. A.D. Lubecki paid a visit to Poland. He told me that he enquired whether it was possible to recover any of his father's property. The answer was 'No'. The property of a Polish insurgent which was forfeited by the Imperial Government has never been restored. In less material matters he received much attention. At the Consulate in London, whither he went to have his passport signed, he was treated as a Russian noble.

"At Warsaw, Mr. Lubecki on one occasion received a visit from a Russian noble who had called by order of the Czar, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, to tell him that a command had come from his Imperial Majesty to General Gourko, Governor of Poland, to make an official call on the New Zealander and to intimate the Emperor's cousin who resided in Warsaw, would also call on 'Your Highness'. The modest civil servant from the nether world tried to disclaim this form of address. 'Your Highness cannot disclaim your title when in His Imperial Majesty's Dominions.' was the reply. After that 'His Highness' had to accustom himself to the honour. The Russian Governor, by the Emperor's orders, placed a carriage at his disposal and every sort of attention was used to reconcile him to the situation. He visited many of the great Polish families penetrating even into Austrian Poland, and was everywhere warmly received and duly accorded his rank as a Polish noble. The Herald's College at Warsaw presented him with an official pedigree, showing his descent from the great Ruric. Many years afterwards he revisited Poland, travelling far out to the east where one of his cousins held a great estate. He lived to see his father's native country restored to freedom and independence."  -New Zealand Herald.

Alois Duffus Lubecki died at Helensville on July 25th, 1926.  With him died the line of the Princes Lubecki of New Zealand.

The Lubecki grave at Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson.

Friday, 9 February 2018

48855 Private Charles Cecil Halstead, 6/6/1894-10/2/1918.

Charles Halstead was a brought up in Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, and was a farm worker at Fairlie, just up the road, when he was enlisted in the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.  He appealed his call-up on February 6th, 1917, stating that the farm could not run without him but his appeal was dismissed.

He left New Zealand in June, 1917, and joined the 1st Battalion, CIR, on December 19th at Howe Camp near Rouen in France.

His record states that Charles was killed in action.  But the Canterbury Infantry Regiment's Official History doesn't show them as being in action on that day.  The closest reference before Charles' death is that on the night of the 8/9th of February the 1st Battalion relieved units of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the Polygon Wood area of the Paesschendaele sector.

Pleasant Point cemetery.


HALSTEAD — In loving memory of our dear son, Charles Cecil Halstead, who was killed in action in France, February 10th, 1918. 

One less at home. 
The charmed circle broken — a dear face 
Missed day by day from its accustomed place. 
But cleansed, and sacred, and perfected by grace. 
One more in heaven, One less on earth. 
Its pain, its sorrow and toil to share, 
One less the pilgrim's daily cross to hear, 
One more the crown of ransomed saints to wear, 
At home in heaven. 
— Inserted by his loving parents and sister.  -Timaru Herald, 10/2/1919.

15272 Corporal William Williamson, 7/7/1889-10/2/1918.



A farewell concert was tendered to Private William Williamson (now Corporal), of the 15th Reinforcements, on July 20. Although the weather was anything but favourable, a large number assembled in the school to bid him farewell and God-speed. A musical programme having been gone through, Mr E. Davis presented the departing soldier, on behalf of those present, with a wristlet watch, suitably inscribed. Private Williamson in a few appropriate remarks thanked all present for their kindness to him. After supper had been partaken of the floor was cleared for dancing, which was kept up for a few hours." - Clutha Leader, July 18, 1916.

Williamson left New Zealand for Europe in November, 1916, enrolled in the Otago Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, D Company.

The Official History of the Otago Infantry Regiment describes the 1st and 2nd Battalions as returning to the front on February 8th, 1918, at Polygon Wood.  They were engaged in strengthening their defences for the next few days, especially putting up barbed wire.  On the 12th, enemy artillery gave them some attention.  On the 10th, William was killed.  He was 28.

Waitati Cemetery, photo by Allan Steel

WILLIAMSON.— In loving memory of 15272 — Corporal William Williamson, who was killed in action in Belgium on February 10, 1918. 

His King and Country called him, 
That call was not in vain, 
On Britain's roll of honour 
You'll find our hero's name. 
- Inserted by his loving father and mother, sisters and brothers.  -Otago Witness, 12/2/1919 and ODT, 10/2/1919.


WILLIAMSON — In loving memory of Corporal William Williamson,15th Reinforcements, killed 10th February, 1918, at Ypres, the dearly beloved second son of William and Mary Williamson, Waitati (late of Ratanui, Catlins). 
We miss you most who loved you best.
 — Inserted by his loving father and mother.  

WILLIAMSON — In loving memory of our dear brother, Corporal Wm. Williamson, who was killed in Belgium on February 10, 1918. 
In a distant land he lies 
At rest in a soldier's grave; 
His battles fought, his name enrolled 
On the scroll of the deathless brave.
— Inserted by his loving sisters and brothers, Ratanui. -Otago Witness, 17/2/1920.

IN MEMORIAM. WILLIAMSON. — In loving memory of Corporal William Williamson (15272), beloved second son of William and Mary Williamson, who was killed in action in Belgium on February 10, 1918. 
A light is from our household gone,
A voice we loved is stilled;
A place is vacant in our home,
Which never can be filled.
— Inserted by his loving father, mother, sisters, and brothers.  -Otago Daily Times, 10/2/1921.



WILLIAMSON — In loving memory of Corporal William Williamson, (15th Reinforcements), who was killed in Belgium on February 10, 1918, beloved second son of William and Mary Williamson, Waitati. 
Four years have passed, our hearts still sore, 
As time rolls on we miss him more. 
His welcome smile, his loving face; 
No one can ever fill his place. 
— Ilnserted by his loving parents, brothers, and sisters. -Otago Daily Times, 10/2/1922.



WILLIAMSON — In loving memory of 15272 Corporal William Williamson, who was killed near Ypres on February 10, 1918. 
Oh! for the touch of a vanished hand, 
And the sound of a voice that is still.  -Otago Daily Times, 11/2/1925.