Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Canterburys and the Camel Corps on Hill 3039

Amman is now the capital city of Jordan and, in 1918, was the objective of British Empire forces fighting the Ottoman Empire in Palestine.  It lay across the Hejaz Railway which featured in the adventures of a certain Captain Lawrence.  It was on the route to the local administrative centre of Damascus and was dominated by Hill 3039.

The assault on Hill 3039 began on the morning of March 27.  Briefly, the units which took it, including the CMR and Camel Corps, were without artillery support.  This did not prevent them from taking the hill but meant that enemy artillery had no opposition when they shelled the hill in preparation for the counter-attack.  The full story of Hill 3039 can be found here.

There are five soldiers on my 1918 list who died on Hill 3039.

16375 Trooper Thomas Bowman, 29/8/1893-30/3/1918.

We take the following reference to the death of one of our district's boys from from a recent issue of the Wyndham Farmer: Quite a gloom was cast over the Edendale district when word was received that Trooper Thomas Russell Bowman had been killed in action in Palestine, on March 30. Trooper Bowman, who was 24 years of age. was the older son of Mrs W. Buchanan, Beaumont. Otago, and his younger brother Trooper James A. Bowman, is away with the 36th Reinforcements. The subject of this notice was educated first at Beaumont, and later at Lawrence High School. He took up office work, but for health reasons turned his attention to farming. When quite a youth he came to Edendale and worked on various farms in our neighbourhood. He spent about three years with Mr Charles Milne. "Thornlie Park" Edendale. There he was held in the highest esteem both as a workman and a personal friend for, without a doubt, his home training showed itself to advantage. One did not need to be long in the young man's company to find that he was a "home boy" and a well brought up one at that, Russell Bowman possessed a very taking way and his manly qualities endeared him to all who knew him. He was a first-class horseman, thus accounting for his enlisting in the Mounteds and he went away with the 17th Mounted Reinforcements. On arriving in Egypt he was transferred to the Camel Corps, where he remained till the last. A Christmas card got up by the Camel Corps, to send to friends at home, is inscribed with these beautiful lines: — 
"We fight for  those who love us; For those who love us true; For the Heaven that smiles above us. And awaits our spirits, too. For the cause that lacks assistance, for the wrongs that need resistance, for the future in the distance. And the good that we can do." 
"This, then, is the spirit in which Tr. T. K. Bowman laid down his life just in the prime of young manhood. New Zealand is the poorer through losing one of his stamp."  -Tuapeka Times, 1/5/1918

17388 Trooper John William Hugh Craig, 29/9/1893-30/3/1918.

"Advice has been received by Mr Wm. Craig (Awamangu) from the Minister for Defence (Hon. Jas. Allen) that his elder son, Trooper John Wm. Hugh Craig, was killed in action on March 30 in the Palestine campaign. Trooper Craig was born at Dunedin and educated at Sutton and Awamangu. After leaving school he worked on his father's farm at Awamangu. He enlisted and left with the 18th reinforcement draft, and after his arrival in Egypt was transferred from the New Zealand Mounted Division into the Imperial Camel Corps. At the time of his death he was 24 years of age. Widespread regret will he felt in Awamangu and Greenfield districts, where the deceased soldier was very well known and exceedingly popular."  -Bruce Herald, 18/4/1918.

Balclutha Cemetery

12597 Lance-corporal Hugh William Graham, 8/11/1895-30/3/1918.

Lance-corporal Hugh W. Graham, reported to have made the supreme sacrifice on March 30, was 22 years of age and a son of Mrs J. Graham, of Mataura Island. He was a native of Brighton, Otago, and received his education at Seaward Downs and the Southland Boys’ High School. Lance-corporal Graham was working on his mother’s farm at the Island up till his enlistment in the mounted section of the Eleventh Reinforcement. He was always a keen territorial; and was leader of the Boys’ Bible class and superintendent of the Sunday school at the Island. A brother, Trooper Jim Graham, of the Thirtieth Reinforcement, is also in Palestine, where he met Hugh a month before the latter’s death. 
-Southland Times, 10/4/1918

Balclutha Cemetery

46770 Trooper Walter McNeill, 23/8/1888-30/3/1918.

Walter grew up in Milburn, south of Dunedin, the son of Irish immigrants.  He was the Station Manager at Cattle Flat, on the Mataura River, when he enlisted. He left New Zealand in June, 1917.  He was posted to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles in September, 1917.

He was 30 years old when he died.

Fairfax Cemetery, Milton

12663 Trooper James Charles Willocks, 24/3/1892-30/3/1918.

Private James Charles Willocks (a son of Mrs M. Willocks, Hillend district) is reported as wounded and missing on March 30th, in the Mesopotamia campaign. He was engaged in Messrs Dalgety and Co.'s office at Balclutha prior to enlistment.  -Bruce Herald, 11/4/1918

Trooper James Charles Willocks (reported wounded and missing) is the younger son of Mrs and the late Mr James Willocks, of Stony Creek. Trooper Willocks was born at Stony Creek, and received his education at the Balcutha District High School. After leaving school he was engaged for a time at farming operations, but later joined the staff of Dalgety and Company Limited, at Balclutha. He was in the employ of this firm prior to his enlistment with the 12th Reinforcements. In December, 1916, while serving with the Canterbury Mounted in Egypt, he was wounded, but after three months in hospital rejoined his unit. From that time he had been with the British, forces operating in Palestine.  -Evening Star, 13/4/1918.

Balclutha Cemetery

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

41981 2nd Lieutenant George Malcolm, 24/9/1895-28/3/1918.

George Malcolm grew up at Enfield, to the west of Oamaru and was a law student at the University of Otago when he enlisted in the Army.  He had already become a Bachelor of Arts, being named "senior scholar in mental and moral philosophy."  He was in the same Battalion of the Rifle Brigade as Alfred Birchall and died on the same day.  Maybe they died at the same time.

George was 22 years old when he died.

Oamaru Old Cemetery

53121 L/cpl Alfred Urmson Birchall, NZRB, 9/2/1892-28/3/1918.

Alfred Birchall grew up at 648 North Road, North East Valley, Dunedin.  When he was 20 his father bought a farm over the the hill, at Maungatua on the Taieri Plain.  Alfred worked on the farm with his father.

Northern Cemetery, Dunedin

He enlisted in the middle of 1917 and by November of that year he was a Rifleman in the 4th Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade.  Two months later he was promoted to Lance-corporal then spent some time in hospital - the remark against this in his record says: "Accidentally injured on duty.  Disciplinary action not necessary."  He was discharged to duty on February 20th.

March of 1918 saw the NZ Rifle Brigade behind the lines near Ypres.  They marched, practised and worked on the preparations for the expected German offensive.  On March 20 and 21 their area was shelled by German artillery using high explosive and gas.

I have been unable to find the details of Alfred's death.  The Brigade seems not to have been in action on March 28th.  Perhaps it was an unlucky German shell.



BIRCHALL.— In loving memory of our dear son, Alfred Urmson Birchall, who was killed in action in Franco on March 28, 1918. 

And when God saw his work on earth was done 
He gently called to him: "My son, My son, 
I need thee for a greater work than this; 
Thy faith, thy zeal, thy fine activities 
Are worthy of My larger liberties"; 
Then drew him with the hand of welcoming grace, 
And side by side, they climbed the heavenly ways.   - Otago Daily Times, 28/3/1919.

Monday, 26 March 2018

55462 Private William Henry Feather, 5/2/1885-28/3/1918.

William Feather was a farm labourer in Cheviot when he joined the Army in May of 1917. He had been married for just under two years, and had a boy named Alick. Two months' training saw him for for the battle but needed to spend a month in hospital not long after his arrival in England.  He left for France at the end of 1917.

William was part of the 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment  which was thrown into the gap which had been driven in British lines by the attacking Germans.  They marched off to find the enemy at noon on March 26, with platoons separated by 100 yards and behind a screen of scouts.  They reached the abandoned British trenches which had been dug two years before, which was a great piece of luck.  Had the Germans arrived, removing them from a ready-made trench system would have been a difficult job.

The night of the 26th was quiet and there was no interference in the small mount of work needed to make the old trenches ready for the enemy attack.  Fighting patrols were put out ahead to observe and harass enemy positions.

The morning of March 27 began quietly.  German shells began to fall at about 9am, light at first and becoming heavy and joined by mortar and grenade fire.  Then, at noon, the infantry attack came.  William's Battalion took the heaviest weight of the attack and it is likely that it was then that he died.

His son Alick lived to the age of 82.

East Taieri Cemetery, Allan Steel photo.

FEATHER — In loving memory of Private William Henry Feather,killed in action, March 27th, 1918. "There is one link death cannot sever — Fond remembrance lasts for ever." Inserted by his loving wife. - The Press, 27/3/1919.

35642 Lieutenant Arthur Frederick Banks Laidlaw, 22/8/1889-27/3/1918.

Private advice was received from the Minister of Defence last evening to the effect that Second Lieut. A. F. Laidlaw had been killed in action on March 27. This is the second son of Mr Robert Laidlaw, sen., of Herne Bay, to make the supreme sacrifice. On the 17th day of the same month only two years ago the sad news was received that Lieut J. R. Laidlaw, R.N.F.C, had been killed in an aeroplane accident. Now his brother, Arthur has fallen fighting in the great cause. Lieut. A. F. Laidlaw volunteered in the early stages of the war for the Artillery, for which he studied hard for months, but when it was found there was a surplus for that branch, at the suggestion of the authorities, he willingly transferred to the infantry. 

Entering camp as a private, he quickly gained his stripes as corporal, then sergeant, and in the examination for commissions he secured second highest marks, and was duly gazetted second lieutenant. Finally he left the Dominion as adjutant of the troopship in which he sailed. After only four weeks in England he was drafted across to France, where he has since been in the firing line. It is clear from the cable that he is only one of many who met death in the present big offensive. Such is a brief resume of the military career of one of New Zealand's sons. He leaves a young wife and baby girl and a family who have now to mourn the loss of two sons. In business he was associated with the deceased Lieut. J. R. Laidlaw
 and Mr. Robert A. Laidlaw, head of the well known firm of Laidlaw Leeds, who is now the sole surviving son of the family." - Auckland Star, 9/4/1918.

St Clair School Hall

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin

NB: His brother, John, will be the subject of a further story.   I was initially confused when I saw the initials RNFC on his stone in the southern Cemetery and a little research based on his rank of Sub-lieutenant showed that the RNFC (Royal Naval Flying Corps) did not exist.  This aerial service of the Royal Navy was the Royal Naval Air Service until its amalgamation with the Army's Royal Flying Corps on April 1st, 1918.  For some reason, the papers reporting John's death used the letters RNFC and the family and/or stonemason making the inscription followed suit.

37054 Lieutenant Douglas Leslie Robertson, 27/5/1889-27/3/1918.

Douglas Robertson grew up in the farming area of Lovells Flat, South Otago.  He gained a Master of Arts at theUniversity of Otago and became a teacher, reaching the position of Senior assistant at the Whanganui Technical College.  He was keen to join the Army from 1914 but his wife was in bad health and he delayed enlistment until September of 1916.  They had been married just a few months before the outbreak of war.

He was promoted to Lieutenant by the time he sailed with the 16th Reinforcements and was drafted to the 2nd Battalion of the Wellington Regiment.

Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin.

The Wellingtons were pushed into the gap in British lines which had been forced by the initial assault of the German Spring Offensive, Operation "Michael," which had been launched on March 21st.  Contact with the enemy was made on the 26th and Douglas' death is recorded by the Official History of the Wellington Regiment:
"The enemy made numerous attacks against the New Zealand line during the day (27th) and, striking against its position about 7 o'clock in the evening, on a front of 1500 yards mid-way between the refinery and Hebuterne, 2nd Wellington was forced to give ground. Hawkes Bay Company (Captain G. H. Hume, M.C.) which had lain in reserve all day, was now called upon to counter-attack. That company advanced shortly before, 9 p.m.; but, hardly had it gone any distance at all, than it ran into a large party of the enemy armed with machine-guns. Hawkes Bay fought well, killing about sixty of the enemy and capturing five machine-guns; but that company's own casualties were heavy, and it was unable to re-establish 2nd Wellington's line, in this counter-attack, three officers of Hawkes Bay Company, viz., Lieuts. J. K. E. Jackson, D. H. Donaldson and E. C. Clifton were, wounded, while earlier in the day, Lieut. D. L. Robertson (Wellington-West Coast Company) had been killed. Altogether 2nd Wellington that day had the following casualties; 4 officers, 69 other ranks."

Douglas was 29 when he died.  His wife's health failed her and she died a month after her husband.

38840 Corporal Magnus Larnach, 15/4/1883-27/3/1918.

The following biography of Magnus Larnach is used with the kind permission of Geoff Adlam of the NZ Law Society.

Northern Cemetery, Dunedin.

Magnus Larnach was killed in action on the Somme in France on 26 March 1918. He was aged 34. He is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France.
Magnus was born in Dunedin on 15 April 1883. His parents were Isabella Scott and David Larnach JP. His father was a businessman who was involved in many commercial and other organisations in Dunedin, and was a cousin of the Hon W.J.M. Larnach.
Magnus attended the Ravensbourne and Albany Schools. He passed the Junior Civil Service examination in 1899 and was employed by the government in Dunedin on leaving school. He was an excellent gymnast and gave public demonstrations as a member of the Dunedin Gymnastics Club. After a few years Larnach began to study law. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1911 and moved to Auckland in December 1911 to manage a branch office of the Auckland law firm Parr and Blomfield.
At some stage Larnach traveled to England with his father, and he was there at the end of July 1913, returning to New Zealand early in 1914. He returned to Auckland and resumed practice with Parr and Blomfield, appearing regularly in the Auckland Police Court. He was called up for military service in March 1916 and reported for training several months later. One of his last appearances was in July 1916 in the Supreme Court before Hosking J, representing the wife of a soldier missing at Gallipoli, in a motion for leave to swear to his death. 
His medical report on enlistment shows Larnach was 5 foot 8 tall (1.73 metres), weighed 144 pounds (65.3 kg) and had blue eyes and dark brown hair. Larnach was promoted to Sergeant on 23 January 1917 and embarked from Wellington with the 25th Reinforcements Auckland Infantry Regiment, A Company on 26 April 1917.
On arrival at Devonport in England on 20 July he proceeded to Sling Camp and received the inevitable automatic drop in rank to Corporal. This rank was confirmed on 28 August. He left for France with the Auckland Infantry Regiment 1st Battalion on 26 October and was in action on 7 November. He was attached to an Australian tunnelers division on 7 December before rejoining his unit on 4 January 1918. He was detached to Brigade School on 5 January and rejoined the battalion on 3 February.
On 26 or 27 March Larnach was killed in action during fighting around Hebuterne after New Zealand's forces had been rushed to Amiens to assist in repelling the German offensive. There was heavy fighting throughout the night of 26/27 March near the Serre Road and it is likely that this is when Larnach was killed.
He is remembered on the Auckland Lawyers' Memorial Tablet. 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

33192 Sergeant David Gordon Swan 19/6/1879-26/3/1918

David Swan was a tailor in Auckland when he enlisted in the army, which is why a Dunedin-born man was enrolled in the Auckland Infantry Regiment.

He was born at Gateshead in England shortly before the family emigrated to New Zealand.  He enlisted in the army in August of 1916 and was promoted to Corporal about a year later, attending specialist training courses for his new rank.  He made Sergeant on March 19, 1918.

His military records show he was killed on the night of the 26/27 March.  This was during the height of the first phase of the German Spring Offensive.  On their way to the line Swan's Battalion, the 1st Auckland detrained at the little railway station of Hangest sur Somme - a familiar sight for the veterans of the battles on 1916 - in the small hourse of March 25.  The 1st managed to get on board the trucks heading for their next destination, beyond Amiens and eventually bivouacked at Dernancourt.  The 2nd Battalion had to walk.

That morning the 1st Aucklands tramped towards the front - it was the turn of the 2nd Battalion to be taken by truck.  As the Regimental History puts it "One thing only was certain, and that was that where the march stopped there the fighting would begin. Men were desperately tired and footsore, yet scarcely anyone dropped out."  The signs of activity were reached - artillery, a few wandering soldiers looking for their units, a squadron of light tanks.  The Aucklands were being marched into the gap torn in British lines by the advancing Germans.  They were joined by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and soon were in action.

The German forces had dug in, waiting for their artillery and supplies to catch up with them and glad of a rest from a stunning advance.  The 1st advanced up the Serre Road, past a couple of 18 pounders which had been making a fighting retreat for the past four days.  Three hundred yards more and two German machine guns opened up.  The Battalion deployed, began to advance and began to take casualties.  What followed was a busy few days of action, best read in the Official History here.  The Germans were victorious but were running out of steam.  Behind their lines the looting of British store (army rum was a favourite) and general disorder was beginning to slow the Offensive.

During that confused time, Sergeant David Swan was killed in action.  He was 39.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin, Allan Steel photo

9/336 L/Corporal John Stanley Clark, 3/3/1893-25/3/1918.

John Stanley Clark began his war in the Otago Mounted Regiment and ended it mounted on a bicycle.  At least, that was his unit when he died.  He left Port Chalmers in the first transports for the war on October 16, 1914.  He went with his Regiment to Gallipoli and was admitted to the hospital on Mudros Island in July 1915. 

Before enlistment, John was a partner in a local Waitati grocery store.  He began the partnership in 1913 with James Jenkins but the war intervened and James went bankrup in 1915.
 His service

He was part of the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Infantry Regiment when it attack German positions on September 15, 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.  Losses from German machine guns were very heavy, almost all of the 126 men of the OIR who were killed that day were from the 2nd Battalion.

After the battles of the Somme, on November 14, John was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid).  Presumably this was part of recovering from the Regiment's losses and preparing for the arrival of reinforcements.  Of the roughly fifteen thousand NZ troops in the field, just over ten thousand were killed, wounded or missing after the Battle and experienced soldiers were needed in higher ranks for the field training of the coming reinforcements.

John's military records show a number of hospital admissions for illness during his period of service.  War fatigue and illness might have been the reason for his being transferred to the NZ Cyclists Battalion in February of 1918.  The Battalion was formed to perform the duties of mounted infantry but on two wheels rather than four legs.  Like their horse-mounted equivalents, they weren't much use in static, trench warfare.  While waiting for the Germans to attack they were being used for second line duties, digging trenches and burying telephone cables against the shelling to come.

Waitati Cemetery, Allan Steel photo.

"As usual the Battalion supplied a number of men for traffic control duties in forward areas. This work was strenuous and responsible, and during March all forward road junction received particular attention from the enemy long range guns, the post in YPRES being well "straffed."' Whilst on duty there Private J. S. Clark was killed and several of our men wounded during the month." NZ Cyclists Battalion,  Official History.

A brief note on John's records states: "multiple legs buttock face," referring to his wounds - a sad epitaph for a Gallipoli veteran.



CLARK - On March 25, died from wounds "somewhere in France," Corporal John Stanley Clark (Main Body, N.Z.E.F.), third dearly beloved son of Charlie and Agnes Clark, Double Hill, Waitati; aged 25 years.

His warfare's o'er, his battle's fought.
His victory won, though dearly bought,
His fresh young life could not be saved,
He slumbers now in a soldier's grave.  -Otago Daily Times, 6/4/1918.



CLARKE - In loving memory of Lance-corporal John Stanley Clark (Main Body), who died from wounds in France on March 25, 1918.
This day brings back sad memories
Of one we loved so dear.
-Inserted by his loving parents, sisters, and brothers.  -Otago Daily Times, 26/3/1921.

CLARK — In loving memory of a dear husband and father, Charles Clark, Waitati, who died April 14, 1931. And Stanley Clark, who was killed in France March 25, 1918. “Too dearly loved to be forgotten.” — Inserted by their loved ones. 
CLARK. — In loving memory of our dear father and grandfather, who passed away at Dunedin April 14, 1931. Resting where no shadows fall In perfect peace he awaits us all. — Inserted by his loving son-in-law, daughter, and grandchildren, Leith Valley.  -Otago Daily Times, 14/3/1934.

13932 Driver Walter Rae Kedzlie, NZFA, 19/8/1890-25/3/1918.

Walter Kedzlie was a farmer from Halfway Bush, near Dunedin.  He won a special prize for drawing from Wakari School at age seven, and again the next year at eight.  Walter worked on the family farm on leaving school and enlisted in the army in early 1916.  He was drafted to the New Zealand Field Artillery and enrolled as a driver.


At the end of May, 1916, Walter returned from training on embarkation leave and was formally farewelled at his old primary school, along with a fellow soldier, James Dixon (another casualty of 1918).  Walter was presented with a wristwatch and a set of tobacco pipes. Mr James Torrance, chairman of the local school committee, in suitable terms made the presentations on behalf of residents. The ladies provided refreshments at the function, and the troopers expressed themselves as greatly pleased with the kindness shown them. -Otago Daily Times, 27/5/1916

At the end of August, 1917, Walter was admitted to a London hospital with tuberculosis of the lungs - described as "pulmonary phthisis."

Pleasant Valley Sanatorium, Hocken Library photo.

Walter returned home to Dunedin at the beginning of January, 1918.  He was sent to the Pleasant Valley Sanatorium with acute tuberculosis.  He lived only a couple more months and died almost exactly two years after enlistment.

Southern Cemetery, Dunedin.


Thursday, 22 March 2018

45245 Rifleman John James Shennan, 9/9/1895-23/3/1918.

"Though only eight days have elapsed since the 24th Reinforcements left Dunedin, the send-off of the 25th to-day was quite as hearty and enthusiastic. This would not be the case were the function merely a military spectacle. The public soon tire of anything' that is only show. In these farewellings there is a blood interest. The men going away are everybody's sons and brothers. Even the sonless feel the thrill. The boys of the 25th made as good an impression as any of their predecessors. They were a manly-looking lot of fellows, full of spirit, and as cheerful as possible, and cheers were constantly interchanged between them and the crowd."  -Evening Star, 11/1/1917.

John James Shennan was a farmer from Berwick, and son of a farmer.  He was called up, uniformed and sent off for training with the cheers of Dunedin citizens and the music of the Dunedin Highland Pipe Band in his ears, from the march between the Kensington Drill Hall and Dunedin Railway Station.

"We are here at this time to say farewell to another body of splendid men who are going forth to fight the battles of their country. Men, we are heartily sorry to say farewell to you. With your fathers and your mothers, we are filled with sorrow. Why? Because you men are our best and dearest. The men who have gone, out from our shores and tho men who are going out are the very flower of our country. We cannot afford to lose them. We also regret to have to say farewell on account of the occasion that is calling you away. We are sorry to think that any people calling themselves a Christian people should be engaged in such a tyrannical war against our loved land. We are sorry to think that any people should have fallen so low in the eyes of the nations of tho world as is the case with the Power we are fighting. There is one word I wish to say specially to you, especially in the present circumstances. I want you to remember that you are going out in a cause that is righteous. I want you to remember that yours is a cause that is just and right. According to the philosophy of the German nation might is right. As a matter of fact their one formula has been Might is right. God is going to show to these people that might is not right, but that right is might. I have been reading scriptures and I have been reading history for 40 years and I find that a great many of England's greatest soldiers were Christian men, and I believe that many of those I am addressing at the present moment are Christian men. Cromwell and his Ironsides, prior to engaging in battle, engaged in prayer and sang psalms. They never went into battle without going down on their knees, and they were never beaten. I tell you our Empire is going to win, and I want you to remember that the power belongeth unto God. Never forget that the power is in the hands of the Almighty. Now, lads, if you are. true to God, God will be true to you, and no man will stand in front of you. The best man is the man who trusts God, whether in civil or any other life, and that is the man who lives a life of prayer. I hope that before long we shall hear of a crushing victory and a lasting peace, and that we shall welcome you all home again. We are proud of you as New Zealanders, and just as proud of the men who have gone before you. Go forward, not in your own strength, but in the strength of your God " (Applause.) -Mr Jones then engaged in a short prayer. -Evening Star, 11/1/1917. 

With training completed, John and others of the 25th Reinforcements left New Zealand for Europe on April 26, 1917.

West Taieri Cemetery, Outram.  Allan Steel photo.

James was wounded with a bullet in the stomach on March the 13th, 1918.  The Rifle Brigade was still waiting for the anticipated German offensive on that day so he would not have been wounded in battle as such.  I've found no further details in his army records.  He might have been part of a trench raid, he might have been hit by a German sniper.  He might have been shot by accident by a nervous or careless comrade.  Wounded on the 13th and died on the 23rd means it would have been a long, painful death.  He was in the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens, France - I hope there was plenty of morphine on hand.  He was 22 years old.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

2/1667 Corporal Amede Rocard, NZFA, 22/3/1893-19/3/1918.

Amede Rocard was born, one of twins, in Dunedin.  Both of the twins, Amede and Auguste, went to the war, enlisting early in the year of 1915.  Both were blacksmiths before they enlisted.  Amede left Dunedin from the Railway Station on April 17th, one of Otago's contribution to the 6th Reinforcements, cheered on by a large crowd and lauded by Dunedin's Mayor and senior clergy.

He became part of the 6th Howitzer Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery, his rank recorded as "Corporal/Shoeing Smith."  In those days of horse-drawn artillery, his job was a vital one.

NZFA units being inspected by the General Officer Commanding, General Roberts.

In April of 1916, he embarked on the troopship "Minnewaska" and landed, with his battery, on the soil that his father had left in the 1870s.  The Field Artillery were in France for the "Big Push" - the Battle of the Somme, in which the newly trained armies of Britain and her empire would break through the German lines and, assisted by the cavalry, return to open-country warfare and chase the enemy all the way to Berlin.

But the Germans had had almost two years to prepare their defence.  A German Army motto, cherished by its Generals was: "More sweat, less blood."  Their defence against the weeks of preliminary bombardment by British Artillery was deep, concrete-lined shelters.  There the troops would sit while the world above them was turned to hell by high explosives.  When the barrage lifted there was enough time to clear the steps, bring up their machine guns and ammunition belts, and greet the soldiers who had been told there was a good chance they would be walking, unopposed, through the ruins of the German trenches.

The Battle of the Somme opened on July 1st.  One and a half million shells were fired by British forces at German positions.  Many of the shells were shrapnel - ineffective against men in shelters but it was hoped that the German wire wold be cut by it.  New Zealand soldiers entered the Battle in September.  Two of the German defensive lines had been breached.  A third remained, plus a lightly made fourth.  A strong push against these could produce the decisive breakthrough.

The Field Artillery played their part and could judge the success of the advance by their being pushed forward to new positions on September 10th.  Batteries fired at trenches, observation posts, supply roads, at any movement seen across no-man's-land.  Gas shells were also fired.  

But the cost was high.  In eight months at Gallipoli, the New Zealand Army had lost nearly 2800 men.  In 45 days on the Somme, the toll was approaching 2100.  Three assaults were made by New Zealand troops but German reserves and German artillery were always there to stop progress.  And it rained.  The assault of the British Armies on the Somme was called off in November.

Rocard served with his Battery through the equally dark days of "Third Ypres" or Paesschendaele in 1917.  When the "Kaiserschlacht" of 1918 opened, his Brigade was in the area of Ypres town and remained there in support while the other two Brigades of the NZFA moved out.  The 2nd's expectation of remaining in support was overwhelmed by events and they found themselves fighting a rearguard action.  The Official History describes the event which took the life of Corporal Amede Rocard: "The old wagon lines near Dickebush were occupied on the 16th of March, Brigade Headquarters going to Halfway House, and on the following two days the 5th, 9th, and 6th Batteries went into action in the neighbourhood of Birr Cross Roads, and the 2nd Battery near Kit and Kat. On the 19th the wagon lines were heavily shelled by high velocity guns, the resultant casualties to men and horses being so severe as to necessitate the establishment of temporary lines near Hallebast Corner."

Amede's twin brother Auguste, survived the war and died in 1959.

The Huts Cemetery, Ieper (Ypres) 

The Rocard family grave, Northern Cemetery, Dunedin.

ODT, 19/3/1921

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

49355 Sapper Thomas Willoughby Dryden, 22/9/1894-14/3/1918.

Thomas Dryden grew up on Duke Street in North Dunedin.  He was a bricklayer, working for his father, when he found his name on the call-up list on the 14th of February of 1917 so I suppose it was logical that he was eventually enrolled in the New Zealand engineers.  

He attended the send-off for the Otago portion of the 27th Reinforcements on March 8th at the Kensington Army HQ.  180 men listened to a short speech from Colonel E R Smith, followed by a few more which were reported thus:

"Colonel Smith said he had seen every reinforcement away from Dunedin except one, and by this time had expended all his 'dont's.'" He would sum it all up in two words to them — "Keep fit." If the Germans had any idea that the furthest outpost of the Empire could, at this stage of the war, send away such a fine, strapping lot of men, it would give them something more to think about — (Applause.) He referred to a few unfortunate lads who had set out with the fullest intention of doing all they could for the Empire, but had been unable to get beyond Trentham, owing to broken health, and their hopes had ended in severe disappointment. He reminded the men that each, from the youngest to the oldest, possessed his own will power, and he urged them to retain full control and not be led into trouble. In conclusion. Colonel Smith stated that the Territorials were now mostly lads of 18 or 19, and on behalf of that force he wished the reinforcement every success in their training, journeying, and campaigning, and finally a safe return to this side of Taiaroa Heads. — (Applause.)

"Mrs Macfie addressed the men on behalf of Miss Downie Stewart (president of the Otago and Southland Women's Patriotic Association). She said that the men were the living answer to Britain's call to her sons to come forth to make a combined and gigantic effort to crush and eternally cripple the enemies of civilisation. They were proof that our enthusiasm had not cooled, nor our determination weakened to carry on to an honourably victorious finish this unprecedented world struggle. Every one of us must unite and respond with all our hearts in doing and giving whatever was needed to bring victory. With the good help of the men of the Empire, Europe would never belong to Germany. The issue lay in the hand of God, who was a moral ruler, and on the side of the people whose cause was just. The men who were about to depart had for their ideals the historic and immortal achievements of those who had gone before them, and the women had no doubt that the men would regard the solemn trust as a stern duty, and to keep untarnished the glorious record of New Zealand's sons. — (Applause.)

— Miss Stewart, who was absent through the persistent indisposition of her soldier brother, had deputed her to convey the association's wishes for the best of luck all along the line, and to wish the men what they trusted was but "au revoir," and also to say that each one of them would receive a field kit on board the transport and a dominion parcel every month after arrival at their destination, the latter containing foodstuffs, smokes, etc., also disinfected muslin shirts, which would wage war on the animal life. Lastly, the hon. secretary (Miss Jean Burt) had made arrangements with the War Contingents' Association in London whereby they would receive a change of day and underwear when they were on furlough in England. All these were gifts from the women and children of Otago and Southland.—(Applause.)— The speaker advised the men to keep in close touch by letter with their good mothers, wives, and all loved ones, and to let their sweet memories be ever a safeguard when temptation assailed their path, remembering that their own and all other women, were daily working and praying for their speedy and safe return. —(Applause.) On the conclusion of Mrs Macfie's speech, the men gave hearty cheers for the Women's Association.

Then it was the Mayor's turn, and it's possible that his speech was more for the public than the troops... 

"The Mayor of Dunedin (Mr J. J. Clark) said the presence of so many citizens was evidence of their desire to honor the men who were going to fight. He assured the men that they were leaving the city with the confidence of the people that they would worthily uphold the honor of New Zealand and bring added lustre to the glorious name of the men from under the Southern Cross. The far-flung Empire was united and filled with a mighty determination that no matter what the cost there could be only one end to the war, and that was the absolute overthrow of Kaiserdom, with a complete victory for Britain and her Allies. Victory could only be gained by the heroic self-sacrifice and magnificent power of our fighting men. The men they were farewelling that day would show they were possessed of the same heroic strong courage as the men of Anzac. Our object must be to so demolish Germany that she would never again be a menace to the world and attack us in the battle for commercial supremacy. Not only to-day, but long after the victory was won on the battlefield, had we to do our share in keeping Germany out of our Empire. The public must let Parliament see that legislation was required that would make it impossible for the antiBritish Britisher to import or sell German goods into this dominion. We knew that there were people who would forget all patriotism when profit was to be made, and buy the goods of our cruel foes if they could procure them a little cheaper. What was the use of our men going to fight Germany if those who stayed behind were not prepared to do their part and prevent Germany, when the war was over, from taking the trade from our own Empire. 

"Men of Otago and Southland," said the Mayor, in conclusion, "we wish you God-speed in your mission. The glorious achievements of the men of the Silver Fern and Golden Wattle have written deep in the annals of our nation a story of valour and magnificent exploits that will rank among the glories of our Empire. Anzac is the coping-stone of Imperialism. I am certain that you men of the 27th will match the heroism of those comrades of yours who have done such famous work for the nation. We wish you God-speed and good luck, and a safe and speedy return to our land to receive the welcome you will have earned. — (Loud Applause.) 

Chaplain-major Gray said the men who were departing that day had been called on to defend their hearths and their homes. It was their duty not only to prevent Britain from being conquered, but to defend New Zealand, and to prevent this fair land, where we had enjoyed so much peace and plenty, from falling as a prize into the hands of the aggressor. The infamous deeds, the barbarity, and the cruelty of the enemy, who had respected neither the infirmity of old age nor the feebleness of childhood, nor the sanctity of woman — had desecrated churches, and violated all that Christians held sacred — had made the name of Germany to stink in the nostrils of humanity. The men who had gone already had been greater history makers. The history of their deeds in this war would be read with thrilling hearts and glorying pride by generations of New Zealanders yet unborn, and men and women in all parts of the world a century hence would trace their lineage for one drop of blood that would link them on to the heroes of Anzac or of the Somme. The men might rest assured that hundreds of thousands would pray for them. The speaker concluded by saying: "Be true to your own higher instincts. Try to follow the voice of conscience, and avoid everything that you would be ashamed to speak of when you return, and may you all return more than conquerors through Him that loved you." 

The departing soldiers were then marched on to the station, and'the train left at the appointed time, the men being enthusiastically cheered as they went away. Lieut. S. S. George and Sergeant-major Reeves were in charge of the men on the train.  - Otago Daily Times, 9/3/1917.

"led into trouble" - "a safeguard when temptation assailed their path" - "avoid everything that you would be ashamed to speak of when you return" - the more genteel readers of the Otago Daily Times in 1917 might have their ideas of what was alluded to in those veiled phrases.  But Army authorities were estimating that about 7000 NZ men were catching one or another kind of venereal disease each year of the War - beginning with their visits to the "native quarter" of Cairo on their arrival in Egypt in 1914.  The problem of diseased soldiers, and what to do with them when war was over and there were fewer polite reasons not to release them into New Zealand society, became a difficult one after November 1918.

Dryden family grave, Northern Cemetery, Dunedin

Thomas' unit, the 1st Field Company of the NZ Engineers was employed in the New Zealand sector of Flanders, preparing for the expected German attack.  Three defensive lines were planned, to enable the Germans to be held up while reinforcements were deployed.  Strong and permanent field emplacements were made for the artillery, with equally strong rear positions made for the heavy units for retirement and redeployment in the event of an enemy breakthrough.  Observation and command posts were made and telephone wires laid.  The Engineers worked hard and there was much work for them to do.  It was a race against time and the enemy.

In January, 1918 and also in March, German long-range heavy artillery - thought to be borrowed from or operated by the German Navy - began to do damage behind the British lines.  It is possible that Sapper Dryden was seriously wounded by a shell from one of these guns.  He was taken by stretcher bearers of the No. 1 Australian Field Ambulance to a casualty clearing station where he died.

"Died of wounds Mar. 18.1918 wnd head comp fract" is the note on Thomas' record.  A compound skull fracture.  It was a common practice in wartime for a dead man's mates to tell his nearest and dearest that their loved one died without pain - no matter what they had seen and heard of his dying agonies.  In the case of Thomas Willoughby Dryden, it would likely have been the truth.