Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Pilot Officer Alan Norman Macfarlane 1912-27/1/1938.

The War Memorial at Clydevale has a stunning view and a shockingly large number of names for such a small place - but the names are from the farming area around it as well as the village itself.  One of them is unique in the many war memorials I have seen over the years, commemorating a local man who died while preparing for the war to come.  



South Otago Aero Club

The executive of the South Otago Aero Club met on Monday night, the president (Mr R. R. Grigor) occupying the chair. Advice was received from the Unemployment Board that the club's application for assistance in extending the aerodrome was under consideration.

It was decided that the Department of Civil Aviation be asked to suggest plans for a hangar at the aerodrome. Arrangements were made for the executive to meet members of the Borough Council at the aerodrome to discuss proposed improvements.

The official opening of the aerodrome was tentatively arranged for early in the New Year. It was decided to seek the co-operation of the Otago Aero Club and the Defence Department in holding a pageant to mark the occasion. It was reported that all the flying pupils were making good progress, and that new pupils of a good type were enrolling for tuition. The secretary was instructed to convey the club's congratulations to Pilot A. N. Macfarlane on his appointment to the Royal Air Force. Reference was made to the departure from Balclutha of Mr R. D. Macdonald, who had been a valued member of the executive since its formation, and it was decided to forward to him a letter of appreciation.   -Otago Daily Times, 11/12/1935.


Cabled advice has been received that Air Alan Macfarlane, of Clydevale, who left for England early in December, has passed his final test and will enter the Royal Air Force in March. The young aviator is a member of the Otago Aero Club, and was among the successful competitors for the Otago Daily Times Scholarship last year. He subsequently qualified for his A licence under Flight-lieutenant Olsen at Taieri.   -Otago Daily Times, 2/2/1936.




Press Association — By Telegraph — Copyright LONDON, January 29. At the inquest into the death of Pilot-officer A. N. Macfarlane, eye-witnesses of the accident gave evidence that they saw the plane loop three times, after which they heard a crack that suggested that something had broken. Pieces dropped from the plane. Squadron-leader Tindall gave evidence that the bomber Macfarlane was using was too heavy to be looped at high speed, as there was a danger of the structure breaking. A verdict of accidental death was returned.

[A message published on Saturday stated: Saved by a parachute from hurtling to earth from a crashing aeroplane near Boston, Lincolnshire, Pilot officer A. N. Macfarlane, of the Royal Air Force, after floating four miles, lauded safely, but collapsed and died after walking a few steps. Possibly he was hit by the plane as he dived for his life.]

VICTIM A FORMER BALCLUTHA RESIDENT Pilot-officer A. N. Macfarlane was the third son of Mr and Sirs W. Macfarlane, of Rosebank, Balclutha. He was 25 years of ago, and left his father’s estate at Upper Clydevale a little over two years ago to join the Royal Air Force. After completing his period of training he was promoted to the rank of pilot-officer, and was looked upon as having a promising career before him. This is the second son that Mr and Mrs Macfarlane have lost under tragic circumstances, and much sympathy is felt for them throughout the district.  -Evening Star, 31/1/1938.




(From Our Own Correspondent), (By Air Mail) LONDON, Jan. 29. The third New Zealander to lose his life in an air crash in England within a week was killed at Tattershall Thorpe, near Horncastle, on January 27. He was Pilot Officer Alan Norman Macfarlane, of Clydevale, near Balclutha, Otago. Only a few days before two New Zealanders in a Royal Air Force Reserve School aeroplane were involved in a fatal collision in Hertfordshire. 

Flying-officer Macfarlane, who was attached to 44 (B) Squadron, Royal Air Force, was stationed at Waddington Aerodrome, Lincolnshire. The machine in which he was flying solo was seen to be in trouble and farmers saw the pilot jump from it. His parachute appeared to catch in the fuselage but eventually he got clear. The parachute opened and he seemed to land safely. Farmers and villagers rein to the spot but found him lying on the ground. He had apparently walked a few paces after landing and then collapsed and died. He had received severe injuries to the head. 

An eye witness expressed the opinion that he had been struck by part of the aeroplane as he jumped from it. The machine came down four miles away and was smashed to pieces. 

Pilot-officer Macfarlane left New Zealand in November, 1935, and he entered the Royal Air Force in February of the following year. He paid a visit to London just a few days before he was killed. -Otago Daily Times, 4/3/1938.

Alan Macfarlane's last flight was in a Bristol Blenheim - a monoplane bomber which was faster than contemporary fighter planes when first designed and beginning to enter service when he joined 44 Squadron.  It was a performer for its day, but not designed for aerobatics.


MACFARLANE.—In fond remembrance of our dear son. Pilot Officer A. N. Macfarlane, of No. 44 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Waddington, England. “Peace, perfect peace.”  -Otago Daily Times, 27/1/1940.

The reference to a second son "lost under tragic circumstances" is intriguing.  A quick search uncovered those circumstances - and they were indeed tragic.




(Special to Daily Times) BALCLUTHA, April 27. An inquest on the body of William Kingsley Macfarlane, who died in the Balclutha Hospital on Thursday morning, after being shot in the knee while deer stalking in the Blue Mountains, was held at the Balclutha Courthouse on Friday afternoon before Mr W. Kean, J.P., acting coroner, and a jury comprising Messrs S. V. White (foreman), T. Incrocci, W. Stewart, and W, Anderson. Constable Boyle conducted the inquiry on behalf of the police. 

Evidence was given by Dr D. G. Radcliffe, of Balclutha, who stated that he had gone to the camp to which the deceased had been carried after the accident, and had found him to be suffering from a wound in the left leg. The main artery had been severed and the thigh bone completely shattered. After tending to the wound witness had had deceased transported to the Balclutha Hospital. He was suffering greatly from shock. He lingered until the following morning, when he died at 5 o’clock. The actual cause of death was shock, accentuated by the long interval that elapsed before he could be medically treated. The wound was consistent with that caused by a softnosed rifle bullet. 

Alan Norman Macfarlane said that he had been farming at Clydevale with his brothers. During the Easter holidays it had been customary for some of them to go deer stalking in the Blue Mountains, and this year he had arranged to go with his brother “King.” Each had a .303 rifle, and they were using softnosed bullets. They were out shooting each day until the date of the accident. After breakfast on the 24th they travelled about three-quarters of a mile from camp, and then separated. They heard a stag roaring, and the deceased went after it, while witness kept straight on, and came on another stag. He waited expecting to get a shot. The stag was below witness, and moving about. Witness thought he heard a movement in the bushes, and caught sight of what he thought was the blade of antlers, and fired where he thought the stag’s body would be. Immediately his brother called out, and witness dropped his rifle and ran to him. His leg was doubled up under him. Witness examined the wound, and with his brother’s belt made a tourniquet above the wound. Witness left to go for assistance. He telephoned Balclutha for a doctor, and his brothers. Witness explained how his brother was brought in from the mountains. The scrub was thick in parts where the accident had occurred, but there were clear patches, although the visibility was not good. There were places where one could not see a deer if it was only three yards away. Witness had done a lot of shooting in the last four years. His brother must have changed his plans to be where he was when witness fired, and witness thought he must have heard the same stag that witness heard. 

Evidence was also given by William Macfarlane, father of the deceased, and James Frederick Simmers, of Popotunoa, who was one of the party that carried deceased out. 

The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from shock, after being accidentally shot in the leg. A rider was added commending the action of deceased’s brothers and the others who had brought him out of the mountains. The acting coroner expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the deceased. 

The funeral of the deceased took place to the Balclutha cemetery to-day, the cortege including over 60 motor cars.  -Otago Daily Times, 29/4/1935.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Ernest William Venn 1879-20/10/1903.


A sad accident, which resulted in the death of Mr Ernest W. Venn, fireman on the railways, occurred between Lovell's Flat and Benhar yesterday. Mr Venn was fireman on the 9.50 a.m. goods train from Dunedin to Balclutha, and it appears that he was standing up on the tender when the train reached an overhead bridge, between Lovell's Flat and Benhar. He was struck on the head with considerable violence, the force of the impact being sufficient to throw him off the engine. When picked up he was quite dead, and, as the body was badly mutilated, it is more than likely that death was instantaneous. The body was brought into Dunedin by the evening train, and conveyed to the Morgue, where an inquest will be held this afternoon. The deceased, who was about 26 years of age, was a son of Mr Venn, stationmaster at Dunback, and one of his brothers is employed as in the Railway Department. Mr Venn was married only about two months ago, and the sympathy of the public will go out to his young widow, who has lost her helpmeet under such saddening circumstances.  -Otago Daily Times, 21/10/1903.


An inquest in connection with the circimistances surrounding the death of Ernest William Venn, fireman, who was killed when travelling on the morning goods train from Dunedin to Balclutha on Tuesday, was held yesterday afternoon before Mr C. C. Graham, coroner.

Sub-inspector Green represented the police, and Mr J. Millar was foreman of the jury. 

Walter Venn, railway guard, staled he was a brother of deceased, and identified the body. Deceased was a steady man in his habits, and not subject to fits of any kind. He was a married man, residing at Kensington, and was in good health when witness last saw him on Sunday evening. 

John Major, driver of the engine of the goods train, staled that deceased was fireman on the engine. Shortly before approaching the overbridge at 280 peg, north of Benhar, witness was speaking to deceased, who was then in the cab, and just after passing the bridge witness again turned to speak to deceased, but could not see him. Witness then went to look if he was on the outside of the engine, and as he could not find him he shut off steam. Witness noticed deceased's hat on the top of the coal, and at the same time the brakesman on the guard's van gave witness the stop signal. Witness obeyed a signal to push the train back about 300 yards, till he came to the overhead bridge, where he found the guard with the body of the deceased Venn. The body was removed into a covered van and carried on to Stirling. An examination of the bridge revealed no marks of deceased having struck it, but there were several blood spots on the tender and on the van next to the engine, and on the buffer beam of the engine there were marks indicating that deceased's boot had struck it when falling. It was part of deceased's duty to go up on the tender and trim the coal down when necessary. Venn had been fireman with witness for nearly three years, and would be aware of the position of the overhead bridge. Deceased was not instructed by witness to go on the tender when the accident occurred, the train was travelling at the rate of 10 to 12 miles an hour. The height of the bridge from the top of the coals on the tender would be about 6ft clear. Deceased was about 5ft 8in. He was quite dead when witness came up to him. His neck and one arm were broken, and there was an injury to the jaw. 

In answer to Sub-inspector Green, Witness said another fatal accident had occurred at this bridge, a man standing on the top of a carriage being killed. 

In reply to a question by Mr Graham, it was stated that there were 18 similar bridges between Clinton and Waitaki. 

Robert Burke, railway guard, in charge of the 9.50 a.m. goods train to Balclutha. on the 20th inst., said deceased was fireman on the engine, and when passing Benhar bridge he noticed his body lying in the water table. He gave instructions to the brakesman to put on the brake, and signalled to the driver to stop. When witness ran back to the body deceased was quite dead, and blood was issuing freely from a deep scalp wound on the back of the head. The body was lying about 10 yards south of the bridge. There was no jerk of the train to indicate that anything unusual had happened. 

To the Police: It was not usual for the driver to whistle when the train was passing under an overhead bridge. There were blood marks on the back of the tender, as though deceased had fallen behind it. 

The Coroner said the accident seemed to be one caused, as was sometimes the case, by those who were accustomed to be in dangerous positions becoming less careful than ordinarily. It seemed that deceased had overlooked the presence of the bridge, and there could be no hesitation in coming to a conclusion that death was the result of pure accident, and that there was no blame attachable to anyone. 

A Juryman suggested that some warning should be given by the driver when coming to such bridges, and Sub-inspector Green said a more necessary precaution would perhaps be the raising of the height of the bridges. 

The Coroner, on consulting a map prepared by the department, said he observed that the particular bridge where the accident happened was a foot higher than the roof of the railway tunnels. 

A verdict was returned to the effect that deceased met his death through coming into contact with a railway overbridge, he being knocked off a train while in motion. The jury further found that no blame was attachable to anyone.  -Otago Daily Times, 22/10/1903.

Late Advertisements

MRS E. W. VENN AND RELATIVES wish to THANK the Fellow-citizens of the late Ernest W. Venn for their kind Sympathy in their recent bereavement.  -Evening Star, 31/10/1903.

Bitrhs Deaths and Marriages

VENN. -On the 20th of October (accidentally killed on the railway), Ernest William, the beloved husband of Annie Venn, of Wilkie road, Caversham, and third son of W. J. and Martha Venn, of Dunback; aged 24 years. Deeply regretted.   -Otago Daily Times, 6/11/1903.

Palmerston Cemetery.

The driver of the train from which Ernest Venn fell in 1903 died a few years later, in 1908.



(By Telearavh — Press Association.)

DUNEDIN, Yesterday

At an inquest held on the body of John Major, engine-driver, who committed suicide at Mosgiel railway station on Saturday, the evidence showed that deceased suffered keenly from domestic troubles. On a piece of paper found in deceased's pocket was written: "Good-bye, Ellen. I hope God will forgive you as I have forgiven you. I still love you with all your faults. I will end this life on arrival at Mosgiel to-day. I am quite sane." Letters setting forth deceased's troubles were addressed to Mr Widdowson, S.M. The jury returned a verdict of "Death from buliet wound, inflicted during temporary insanity."  -Wairarapa Daily Times, 8/12/1908.



Domestic troubles Preyed on His Mind.

A Bullet Ends it All.

"December 5; 1.15 pm, train to Mosgiel: — Good-bye Ellen. I hope God will forgive you as I have forgiven you. I still love you, with all your faults. I will end this life on arrival at Mosgiel today, I am quite sane."

After writing this tragic good-bye, to his wife, John Major, engine-driver, drove his train as usual on Saturday afternoon to Mosgiel. There was nothing remarkable in his manner as the train rattled along. He was very quiet, not speaking to his fireman unless spoken to, but he had been like that all the week. It was known that he suffered from insomnia, and his taciturnity excited no suspicion. His mate never for a moment imagined that the heart-weary man beside him had determined to set out on that last awful journey that knows no return. But the unhappy man's mind was made up irrevocably. Before starting from Dunedin he had asked the guard, Alexander Waugh, what time the train would arrive at Mosgiel and what time it would leave there. On being told, the driver remarked, "Oh, there will be plenty of time then." As soon as the train pulled up at Mosgiel, Driver Major left the engine without speaking and went straight to the station lavatory. He was never again seen alive. A shot was heard, and when William Jones, Acting-Stationmaster, went to the lavatory he found the dead body of the driver huddled up on the floor. There was 


behind the right ear, and a revolver lay beside deceased's right hand. 

At the inqjuest, held at Mosgiel on Sunday, before Mr J. F. Leary, J. P., and a jury, it was made pitifully plain that the unhappy driver had for some time past been tortured by terrible mental agony on account of domestic affairs. Whether there was any real ground for this mental storm and anguish this paper cannot say, but the letters written by the driver and found on his dead body proved beyond doubt that his troubles were only too terribly true in his own mind. In addition to the note quoted above, Constable Walton found a letter on the body addressed to Mr H. Y. Widdowson, S.M. In this deceased had set out his troubles in detail, concluding with an appeal to the magistrate to take care of his daughter Nora. Other letters, all detailing deceased's domestic sorrows, were found addressed to Mr Widdowson, and they clearly showed that the unhappy man was in a state of mind that would quite account for the dread insomnia and despair. The jury, without retiring, returned a verdict that death was due to a bullet wound, inflicted whilst deceased was temporarily insane.

The dead driver, John Martin Major, was 52 years of age and came of good family. He was the only son of James Major, C.E., and grandson of the late James Major, Queen's Counsellor, Londonderry, Ireland.  -NZ "Truth," 12/12/1908.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

David (Davey) Gunn, 18/9/1887-25/12/1955.






[Per United Press Association.] INVERCARGILL, January 1. A Fox Moth plane carrying five persons crashed in the surf while attempting a landing at Big Bay on Wednesday. One passenger was killed and all the other occupants were injured. The machine was taking a party to Franz Josef Glacier and was making a halt to drop one passenger at the trampers’ hut at Big Bay, on the West Coast, about 30 miles north of Milford Sound. As the plane was landing the engine apparently stalled, and eyewitnesses saw the machine nose-dive into the surf from a considerable height. Those in the plane were: — 

— Killed. Sutton Jones, aged 21, a journalist employed by the ‘Southland Daily News,’ of which his father, Mr Walter Jones, is editor. 

— Injured. Sister Catherine Buckingham, of the nursing staff of the Southland Hospital, fractured right thigh, fractured left forearm, fractured pelvis, and scalp wounds. 

George Ross, aged 31, of Clyde street, employed by Carswell and Co. Ltd., a fractured left, thigh. 

W. E. Hunt, of Wallacetown, a son of Sir William Hunt, severe bruises. 

A. J. Brawshaw, of Beatrice street, the pilot of the plane, severely cut on the head. 


The accident as described by eye-witnesses to the Invercargill doctor who flew to Big Bay when the news was received, occurred with startling suddenness. The plane was expected by trampers at the hut in Big Bay. They were to be joined by one of the passengers, and they saw it approach about 4 o’clock. It was clearly visible above the sandhills, which, however, obscured their view of the beach. It was approaching the beach to land, when suddenly it seemed to go into a straight dive, disappearing behind the sandhills. Realising that it must have crashed, the onlookers rushed on to the beach and found the plane wrecked in the surf near the shore.

The pilot was able to help in the rescue of the passengers, in particular Sister Buckingham., who had to be carried ashore. A stretcher of sticks and flax was improvised, and the injured were taken to the trampers’ hut, some hundreds of yards across the sandhills. 

Mr Jones, who had suffered, a blow on the head, was unconscious. He was extricated from the wreckage and brought to the beach, where efforts were made by artificial respiration to bring him round, but these were unavailing. It is thought that the blow he received immediately the plane crashed was such that he never recovered consciousness. 

Fortunately, among those at the hut was Nurse Robins, of Invercargill, who, with the assistance of Miss Mehaffy, also of Invercargill, and Mr David Gunn was able to make the four injured persons as comfortable as possible until the arrival of a doctor by plane. 

Sister Buckingham and Mr Hunt were brought back to Invercargill, and Mr Ross to Mossburn by the Southland Aero Club’s planes last evening, Mr Ross being transferred to ambulance at Mossburn.

The pilot, Mr Bradshaw, who had an air taxi license, was a frequent visitor to Big Bay, which, although easily accessible by plane, is in the heart of wild, unsettled country, and is very difficult of approach by land. 

It was 24 hours before the news of the accident reached Invercargill, and this was made possible only by an extraordinarily fast overland crossing of 21 hours from the scene of the accident to the nearest telephone at the upper end of the Hollyford. 

Such a trip usually takes three days, but Mr David Gunn, a farmer, of Martin’s Bay, near Big Bay, did it in less than one day, doing much of his travelling through the night. 

The wrecked plane, a Fox Moth cabin machine, was purchased by the Southland Aero Club in 1932, and had just been overhauled and certified as in perfect order. It was under hire to Mr Bradshaw for a month, with, the option of purchase at the end of that period. The loss is not covered by insurance. 


News of the accident was received in Invercargill shortly before 4 o’clock on Thursday afternoon. Two Southland Aero Club planes, one carrying a doctor, left about 4.30 for Big Bay, each making the trip in about 90 minutes. It was essential that the machines should leave on the return trip in time to make a landing at the aerodrome before dark, so that all the doctor was able to do was to give such immediate attention as was possible within the short period to make the patients comfortable for the journey to Invercargill by air. The first machine carried back to Invercargill Sister Buckingham and Mr Hunt, and arrived at about 8.30. Before darkness fell, the other machine, with Mr Ross, could get only as far as Mossburn, where an ambulance was sent. Sister Buckingham and Mr Ross were taken to the Southland Hospital, and Mr Hunt went first to his home and then to-day to a private hospital. 

Two trips were made pack to the city from Big Bay to-day, one plane bringing back the doctor and Mr Jones's body, and the other Mr Bradshaw. Mr Jones had served for four years on the reporting staff of the ‘Southland Daily News.’ He was educated first at Waihopai School and then at the Waitaki Boys’ High School. During his five years at Waitaki he represented the school at cricket, in which in his working years he continued his active interest, playing for the Union Club. He found time also to play frequently as a member of the Invercargill Lawn Tennis Club and of the St. John’s Badminton Club. 



The journey made by Mr David Gunn immediately after the plane crashed at Big Bay was described by those who were at Big Bay as an amazing feat, and the doctor said that by his covering the journey —usually made in four days — in 21 hours, much of it by night, Mr Gunn had possibly saved two lives.

One of the eye-witnesses of the accident, Mr Gunn did a big part of the rescue work. His knowledge of bushcraft was invaluable in the building of an improvised stretcher that made it so much easier in the carrying of injured passengers over hundreds of yards of sandhills to the trampers’ hut. 

The rescue work completed, Mr Gunn set out on his tramp of nearly 40 miles for help. He walked four miles to Lake McKerrow, rowed 13 miles on the lake; and then walked, or rather climbed, 14 miles of track across the main divide, arriving at the Public Works camp telephone, placed at the camp in Hollyford Valley for emergency use, almost 24 hours after the accident had occurred. Only those who know the nature of the rough mountain country could appreciate the merit of the trip, and the almost superhuman speed with which it was done. The doctor said that experienced trampers would regard three days as very fast time for the trip, but Mr Gunn, who had previously worked untiringly in the rescue of the injured, made it in less than one day. The feat could not be praised too highly, and the quick time in which the news of the mishap had been sent to Invercargill had enabled much-needed medical assistance to be at Big Bay within a day.


An inquest into the death of Sutton Jones, the victim of the crash at Big Bay, was opened to-night, and was adjourned sine die.

The acting-coroner, Mr James Ward, referred to the work of Dr L. C. McNickle, medical superintendent of the Southland Hospital, who flew to Big Bay yesterday. Mr Ward said the district was fortunate that' it had a “ flying doctor.”

It was reported to-night that the condition of Sister Buckingham and Mr G. Ross was satisfactory, and that Mr W. E. Hunt was fairly comfortable and his condition was quite satisfactory.  -Evening Star, 2/1/1937.

Durham St Cemetery, Invercargill.


A tribute of admiration will be paid throughout New Zealand to Mr. David Gunn, farmer, of Martin's Bay. Feats of physical endurance such as that by which he took the news of the aeroplane crash at Big Bay to the outside world, and so possibly saved two lives, are seldom called for in these softer times, and there is a prevalent suspicion that the number of men capable of performing them is smaller than it used to be in pioneering days. But this time, at least, the occasion produced the man. The story of David Gunn, who accomplished in 21 hours a journey that usually takes three days, should be told to every child in the Dominion, and told in terms which will convince every one that such feats are more admirable and inspiring than the exploits of film stars, "he-men" wrestlers and speedway "kings." And Mr. Gunn should not be left without a tangible memento of the occasion. If it is impracticable to provide him and his few neighbours with a telephone service, it should be possible to equip the district with a radio transmitting set of the simple kind which has proved invaluable in the interior of Australia, especially when it is necessary to summon a "flying doctor."  -Auckland Star, 2/1/1937.



Mr David Gunn, the Martin's Bay farmer who figured prominently in the rescue work after the aeroplane crash at Big Bay last Wednesday, is a former resident of Waimate. According to the doctor whom Mr Gunn summoned from Invercargill, Mr Gunn had accomplished an almost superhuman feat in covering 40 miles of bush and mountain country in less than 24 hours to reach the nearest telephone. Mr Gunn, whose mother and sister live in Innes street, was educated at Waimate High School, and took part in cricket and football. He continued his active interest in cricket for several years after leaving school. He has been at Martin's Bay for five or six years now, and is 49 years old. His mother is a well-known resident of Waimate, being a link with the first pioneers of the district.  -Press, 5/1/1937.




(Per United Press Association) INVERCARGILL, May 1. An inquest was held to-day before Mr J. Ward, J.P., and a jury of four concerning the fatal air crash at Big Bay on December 30. Evidence was given by the pilot, Mr Bradshaw, and the passengers. 

Mr Bradshaw stated that when he was preparing to land the machine stalled and he attempted to gain control, but the low altitude made this impossible. 

The jury found that Walter Sutton Jones met his death when a plane piloted by Bradshaw crashed. 

Mr R. C. Kean, chief inspector of aircraft, indicated that a departmental inquiry would be held later. 

A Fox Moth plane carrying five passengers crashed in the surf while attempting to land at Big Bay on the West Coast, about 30 miles north of Milford Sound, on December 30 of last year. Mr Sutton Jones was killed and the other occupants were injured. The machine was taking a party to the Franz Josef Glacier and was to make a stop to drop one passenger at the trampers’ hut at Big Bay. The injured people were: Sister Catherine Buckingham, Messrs George Ross, W. E. Hunt, and A. J. Bradshaw, the pilot.

The accident occurred with startling suddenness. The plane was approaching the beach to land when suddenly it seemed to go into a straight dive, disappearing behind the sandhills. Realising that it must have crashed the onlookers rushed on to the beach and found the plane wrecked in the surf near the shore. The injured men were carried to the hut and made as comfortable as possible until the arrival of a doctor by plane from Invercargill. Later, they were taken in two aeroplanes to the town. The journey made by Mr David Gunn, who lives at Big Bay, immediately after the plane crashed was described at the time as an amazing feat, and by his covering the journey — usually made in four days — in 21 hours, much of it by night, he possibly saved two lives.  -Otago Daily Times, 3/5/1937.


An inscribed tablet of black granite, commemorating Mr David Gunn’s remarkable feat in securing aid for the victims of the Big Bay aeroplane accident on December 30, 1936, is now in position in a boulder in a prominent spot at the junction of the main road leading to the Homer Saddle with the proposed road along the Hollyford Valley to Martin’s Bay. It was from the public works camp at the junction of these roads that Mr Gunn telephoned for assistance. The inscription on the tablet reads: — This tablet was erected by the people of Southland to commemorate the magnificent journey made by David Gunn, of Martin’s Bay, to bring aid to the sufferers in the aeroplane accident at Big Bay on December 30, 1936. Mr Gunn made the journey from Big Bay to this point, a distance of 56 miles over bush tracks, in 20 hours. Through the “Southland Times”, a fund of £74 17s 6d was subscribed in order that Mr Gunn’s feat might be suitably recognised. The sum has been disbursed as follows: — Cost of tablet and engraving, £l9; Cost of erection of tablet, £6 5s 6d; balance handed to Mr Gunn, £49 125.  -Ashburton Guardian, 28/1/1938.


(P.A.) INVERCARGILL, Sept. 15. Mr. David Gunn, a 63-year-old hero of many recorded and unrecorded rescues of trampers and others isolated or injured in the Lower Hollyford Valley today was among the rescued. 

On Wednesday evening he fell from the top of a 200 to 300 ft. cliff. His fall was broken by a ledge 12 feet down where he lay all night with several broken ribs and facial injuries. 

He was found at 10 a.m. yesterday by his assistant Mr. James Speden and conveyed with difficulty to his base. 

Mr. Speden then left for Marian Camp to notify the Ministry of Works staff and assistance was called from Dr. L. G. Bell, Lumsden, who requested an ambulance from Invercargill. 

Dr. Bell and a party from Marian Camp reached the injured man early yesterday afternoon, and after giving him attention, conveyed him by stretcher four miles to an access creek where the ambulance was waiting after a 153-mile journey from Invercargill which was reached about 3 a.m. today. 

Looking remarkably well despite his injuries and lack of sleep for two and a half days, Mr. Gunn was visited early today by a man whom he rescued no later than Easter of this year. 

One of his most dramatic exploits was a 17-hour journey from Big Bay to Camp Marian in December, 1936, with news of an air accident in which one man lost his life and several were injured.  -Gisborne Herald, 16/9/1950.



(P.A.) INVERCARGILL, This Day. Descriptions of South Island scenic attractions, published in the English magazine, “Field,” were sufficient to start a number of English people packing their bags. They are coming to New Zealand shortly for the express purpose of visiting the Hollyford Valley, an organiser of tours in that district, Mr David Gunn, said to-day. He did not know when the party would arrive, and he expected it to be fairly small. However, there was a strong possibility of another party coming from Malaya with the same intentions. These tours are the result of an article written by Dr. Owen Fitzgerald, of Oamaru. Trout fishing, apparently, is a strong inducement.  -Ashburton Guardian, 28/10/1950.

Tourism soon became a lucrative pursuit for Davey Gunn, although the lasting effects of his 1950 injuries hampered him.  Davey died on Christmas Day, 1955, while fording a river by horse with a 12-year old visitor behind him.  The horse stumbled and fell.  When the horse stood up again, neither rider was to be seen and their bodies were never found.  Davey's son, Murray, carried on his father's tourism concern, with Gunn's Camp - a converted Public Works camp bought by Davey in 1951 -  becoming a well-known start or end of a Fiordland tramping expedition.  At time of writing, the Hollyford Road to the Camp has been closed for some time after a massive downfall of rain damaged roads in the area and made the Camp unusable.  

David Gunn was a mass of energy, physical andmental, always on the move from daylight till well after dark. As soon as he woke to find it daylight he was up and about, and I have been wakened by him arriving at the Barrier from deadman's at 2.30 in the morning, for him quite a common experience. He possessed a quiet sense of humour which found expression in sly digs at his companions. The singing and parties he arranged at the different camps will be well remembered, although Dave himself was usually too busy attending to the catering to take part. He was always confident in the success of his own projects, and this confidence was communicated to those about him, calming any anxiety for the trials ahead. Although his manner appeared easy-going, behind his shy smile lay patience and firmness.

Although he was not a member of the Club, those who met him soon found that his thoughts were not only fo rthe valley but embraced all who tramped the tracks, climbed the mountains, studied the wildlife, or simply admired the ever-changing scenery. Full of dreams for the area, he pressed for an investigation of an oil discovery at Madagascar Beach, while just recently he commenced forming a private air-strip, flying in a bulldozer piece by piece and tackling the tough project of transforming a bush clearing near Martin's Bay into a landing ground. About that time, when for once he was not the usual fit Dave, he mentioned that he would like to end his days at his favourite spot, by the placid waters of the tidal river at Davy's his quarters near Martin's Bay but - the river low, the weather fine, an unexpected stumble by a usually sure-footed horse - it was goodbye to a fine friend.  -G Speden, NZ Alpine Journal, June 1956.

710 Private Wilfred Knight, AIF, 6/4/1890-(27-29)/4/1915.

Wilfred Victor Knight was the first New Zealander to die on the battlefield of Gallipoli.  Actually, he did not die there, but he received his fatal wound in the first days of teh battle.  How do we know that he was the first New zealander?  Despite the confusion of the early days of the campaign it can be known because Wilfred arrived before any other New Zealand forces.  Wilfred, living in Australia when war broke out, enlisted with the Australian Army.

Early mentions of a younger Wilfred indicate a young man of spirit:


We are indebted to "Polly Wog" for the following interesting account of the above social event: — 

The bachelors' ball is our most important social function and is looked forward to by all as the event of the year, and only something specially outrageous in the way of weather can mar its success when the date is once fixed. The present year's ball was held on the 10th inst., over 50 couples attending. Frozen snow had been lying on the ground for the previous fortnight and a slight thaw had just sufficiently broken it up to make everything sloppy underfoot, the night was clear and cold, and everyone turned up in good spirits. Previous balls had surpassed this one in the way of elaborate dressing, but none were more enjoyable. The bachelors spared no expense or trouble to make the evening a success. The hall was prettily decorated with curtains and foliage, and the catering, which was in the hands of Mrs Wilson, left nothing to be desired. It is rather a pity that the committee did not insist on fancy dress only. Most of those present took advantage of the notification "plain and fancy dress" to turn up in ordinary attire. The few who donned fancy costume, however brightened up the room wonderfully with the colors they sported. Amongst the ladies Miss Lizzie Bertenshaw made the only serious attempt at disguise in the character of a school-mistress and scored decidedly, while Miss Nellie. Webb as "poppies" displayed the bright red of that flower to advantage, the effect being helped with a liberal distribution of Shirley poppy blooms over the costume. Miss Tree, from the Waipori bush, was a charming streak of happiness and. smiles in white silk and filled the bill very appropriately as a woodland fairy. Very few of those not in fancy dress made any serious attempt at elaborate dressing, and it would be difficult to pick the best. Miss M. Black and Miss Emmy Cartwright both caught the eye in different compositions of cream silk, while Miss M. Lomas (white silk), Miss Nellie O'Brien (pink silk), Miss Bollon and Miss A. Mclntyre (white silk) all looked well in the running. Misses Howell (from Lee Flat), white silk blouses and dark skirts; Miss Nellie Searle, white; Misses Amy, Elsie, and Agnes Crowley, white; Miss Annie Crowley, dark grey costume; Miss Geary, white; Miss Mclntyre, white blouse and dark skirt; Miss Nicholson, brown costume; Miss Minnie Todd, silk blouse and brown skirt; Miss S. Webb, green patterned costume; Miss Hynes, dark grey; Miss Annie Dunbar, white silk blouse and green skirt: Miss Reeves, white dress. The gents seemed more inclined to display their charms in unusual costumes, and their efforts added not a little to the gaiety of the evening. The greatest success in the way of disguise was scored by Mr Wilf. Knight as "Miss Smith." In an elaborate lady's toilet he took part in several dances before the gents discovered in their partner one of their own "sect." He played his part to perfection, and, as his identity became known, caused no little merriment by his lady-like conduct. Mr R. J. Cotton, Lord Nelson, Mr James Cotton, a King Charles courtier; Mr Bosker-Piper, as a Highlander, looked stalwart enough to push a truck; Mr Pearson, fireman; Mr Chas. Nicholson, Pierrot; while Mr Kirkwood, as a footballer, looked charming in new boot laces and a necktie. Mr Johnson, as a gravedigger from "Hamlet," cultivated a becoming air of sadness, but worked off the gloom in a little speech of thanks to the bachelors for their turnout. The gathering broke up at 5 a.m. with everyone sorry to leave it.  -Tuapeka Times, 18/8/1906.

Cycling and Montoring Notes

Messrs J. H. Smith (manager of J. G. Ward and Co., Gore) and W. H. Fleming (of Fleming and Co., Ltd., also of Gore), who are touring the goldfields, arrived at Waipori on the 12th inst. in a 6 h.p. De Dion Bouton motor car. This is the first motor car to reach Waipori, and its appearance caused no little excitement. It is no very easy matter fot a motor to traverse the Bung Town road. After submitting to the attentions of the amateur photographer, Messrs Smith and Fleming kindly gave a number of the school children and seme, of the "grown-ups" a ride on the good stretch of road between the township and the school. Both young and old, some of whom had never before seen a motor car, were highly pleased to be able to say they had ridden in the first car that came to Waipori. Next morning Messrs Smith and Fleming, along with Wilfred Knight, jun., whom they kindly invited to accompany them, drove to the Waipori Bush, where they were courteously received and hospitably treated by Mr Keon, the engineer in charge of the Dunedin City electric power-works, and shown through the power-house and over the works. The party were pleased to find their car was also the first one to visit the Waipori Bush.   -Otago Witness, 21/11/1906.

Local and General

At the last meeting of the Loyal Waipori Lodge (Bro. S. J. Gare in the chair) letters were read from N.G. Bro. G. S. Knight and V.G. Bro. S. Wm. Knight resigning their offices as they had joined the Expeditionary Forces. A letter was also read from Bro. W. V. Knight, who is in New South Wales, stating that he had joined the forces at Sydney. Bro. George Russell moved, and Bro. R. H. Blackmore seconded, "That the resignations be accepted with regret and that this Lodge expresses its high appreciation of the self-sacrificing devotion to the welfare o£ the British Empire shown by Bros. E. S. Knight, S. W. Knight and W. V. Knight in joining the Expeditionary Forces which are to be used in this the greatest war the world has ever known." The action of the district executive in voting £100 to the War Fund was approved of. Permanent secretary F. W. Knight was appointed delegate to represent the Lodge at the district meeting to be held at Oamaru on 23rd and 24th September.  -Tuapeka Times, 19/9/1914.

Photo from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19150513-38-24 

With the Australians in Egypt


We have been permitted to make the following extracts from letters from Wilfred W Knight, First Battallion, First Infantry Brigade, Australian Expedionary forces, a son of Mr F W Knight, Waipori.

On Board ship Afric. We left Sydney on Sunday, l8th October, and arrived at Albany on 24th October. The New Zealand fleet arrived two or three days later. They anchored at the entrance to King George Sound while we were well down towards the town. We iwent alongside the wharf and took in water which occupied us nearly all day. The battalion went for a march through the town, but as I was on guard I missed the parade. We were in Albany exactly 1 week and left there on Sunday, 1st November, along with the New Zealand fleet. The complete fleet was a grand sight, there were thirty-eight transports in three lines along with the escorting warships. One steamed full speed to the left of us and on out of sight, whilst the other three got on that side and steamed up and down the lines. About an hour aiterwards we got a "wireless" that, H.M.A.S. Sydney had engaged the Emden and caused her to beach herself, and was then after the collier. We then got word that she had removed the crew of the collier and then sank her. Things went along as usual after that till we got to Colombo on November 15th, another Sunday. Colombo is a lovely looking place. There are some big buildings, half Oriental in style, nestling among trees of all shades of green. The New Zealand ships went near the wharf here, but we anchored in the bay. I was impressed with the sight of an English war ship, an Australian, (the H.M.A.S. Sydney) a Japanese, and a Russian, all lying alongside of each other. Natives came alongside selling fruit, &c., and others dived for coins thrown overboard.

We left Colombo on the 17th and steamed over a sea like glass till we came to Aden, sighting the island of Socotra on the way. Wie arrived at Aden on the 25th November. It is the most barren-looking place I have seen. We anchored a good way out from the town. The New Zealand fleet left us here and we did not see them again till we got to Suez. We left Aden on the 20th and had an uneventful trip through the Red Sea. After leaving Colombo the firemen were unuble to keep up steam and parties of the soldiers were told off to give them a hand. We arrived at Suez on 1st December and saw the New Zealand fleet there, but they left the day we arrived. We left Suez on the 2nd December at mid-day, passing close by a huge French battleship. The entrance to the Suez Canal is very interesting. We passed within a stones throw of three or four blocks of Government buildings right on the point. After entering the canal it is real desert country on both sides except about every five miles where there is a station or Gare surrounded by trees. The canal is 87 miles long and guarded by Indian troops who gave us a cheer as we passed. They are Ghurkas and look like smart soldiers. They are dressed in khaki, with short pants (like football pants), and stockings. Their knees are bare. There were barbed wire entanglements at some places.

We arrived at Port Said early on December 3rd and berthed alongside the town all day. In the evening we shifted to about two miles from the town. We had a good view of the main street from where we were, and it was very amusing to watch the natives. The Native troops are peculiar - a number of them are on guard on the wharf; they carry rifles and are dressed in a blue uniform with red facings and brass buttons, small leather gaiters, red fez caps, and white haversacks. They are fairly big, pitch black, and they look well. The town is patrolled by Ghurkas. I have taken a fancy to them, they are short, sturdy, jolly fellows.

At 7 a.m. on the 6th December we arrived at Alexandria. All the New Zealand boats were there. No 7 H.M.N.Z.T., the Limerick, was lying about 100 yds from us - she had artillery on board. We learned semaphore signalling coming over so I signalled to her to find who was on board. A man signalled back and said he was Sergt. Robinson from Invercargill, whereupon I asked him if he know my brother Fred at Invercargill. He answered "Yes," and signalled also that he had played football with Fred for two seasons. I told him I had another brother on the Ruapehu and he replied that he would look him up. I cannot see No. 5 or No. 9 N.Z. troop ships. The harbour is big and there are troopships all over the place. Inside the breakwater is very busy. We cannot see much of the town from where we are, but on our left is a big Eastern looking building which looks like a temple, or palace. We are to go on shore tomorrow (Sunday) on church parade. If I go I shall have a chance to post this letter. We are under active service conditions now, and the sentries are armed with ball amimunition. This afternoon three of our men got down a rope into a boat and were going ashore when the sentry fired at them, and if you had seen the way the Egyptian boatman turned and rowed back you would have laughed. He looked as if trying to break the world's record. I notice the New Zealanders on the Limerick are going ashore, but no such luck lor us. 

We disembarked at Alexandria on the 8th and went on to Cairo by train. The whole way the line runs over the delta of the Nile, every inch of it cultivated. The crops are mostly corn, vegetables, and sugar cane. The people are very primitive in their ways; they plough with a couple of water buffaloes and a wooden plough. There are roads all along the railway line. You pass camel trains and donkeys by the dozen. The women carry the loads and the men walk ahead. If they have a donkey the man rides and the women walk behind. We passed some villages all made with dried mud with flat roofs, and goats and hens were to be seen running about on the roofs. We arrived at Cairo in a shower of rain. Each man walked past a stall and was given a roll of bread, a bit of cheese, and a mug of cocoa — the best cocoa I ever tasted. This was donated to us by the French residents. The bread was in rolls about 18in long and 2 1/2in in diameter — just like you see it in the moving pictures. We then entrained and went to our camp at Mena, ten miles from Cairo and close to the Pyramids. The train runs through a part o£ the native quarter which is very dirty. We crossed the Nile on a fine bridge and ran through cultivated land till we came to the town of Gizeh where the zoological gardens are, then on to the terminus at the foot of the rise that the Pyramids are built on. We had to march about half a mile after leaving the train to reach our camp which is right under the shadow of the Pyramids. The camp is on the sand and when you stand with your back to Cairo there is nothing but sand as far as you can see. The New Zealanders are camped at Heliopolus, four miles on the other side of Cairo from where we are. I went into Cairo last night and got lost, but I wandered round till I found myself again, and got back to camp about 11.30 p.m. The whole of the Australian contingent with the exception of the light horse are camped here; there are about 16,000 of us. This will give you some idea of the size of our camp. This is only a rough note I am writing to let you know where we are. We are not settled down yet. I forgot to mention that I have already had a ride on a camel. You can hire one for half-a-day for 4s and take it out yourself without a driver.

Mena Camp, Dec. 26th. It is reported that we are to leave for France in about six weeks' time, but somehow I don't think we will; they are making this camp too permanent to leave it soon, big wooden mess-rooms have been built and two concrete reservoirs, and have also installed pumps. They are making stone roads about the camp with the aid of a steam roller. The stone is got from a quarry about half-a-mile from the camp. It is brought on tram lines with iron trucks that side-tip like those that were used at the O.P.Q. mine, perhaps the camp is intended for the second and following contingents. The French residents at Cairo are very enthusiastic over us and do all they can to help us. I have spoken to a good many of them and most have relatives at the front. Of the rest of the white population the majority are Italian, Greek, or Armenian; there are not many English residents. The tramways are run by a Belgian company, whilst the railways are run by the State. The tramcar I went into town on yesterday was composed of a motor and two trailers, and there were nearly as many passengers on the roof as were in the cars. We caused a great deal of excitement all the way, the Natives gazing at us with amazement, thinking, I suppose, in their minds, that we are as mad as hatters. They are a very easy-going people; if there is no room in a car they sit down and wait for the next one, every street we passed through, hundreds of native children and men ran out to see us go by and followed us till there was a great crowd behind us laughing and yelling, while the white people looked on in amusement.

I have been inside the big Pyramid, it is marvellous. There are galleries and tunnels running in all directions, exactly in the centre are two big vaults where an ancient king and queen are buried. In the king's chamber the stone coffin is still there. The Pyramid is built of big blocks of a kind of granite of which there is none to be seen in any of the surrounding country. In the king's chamber there is a block measuring l1ft by 5ft by 8ft. In an underground temple is another block 16ft by 16ft by 5ft. All the pillars in this temple are single blocks of granite about 3ft square and fully 16ft high. Our Captain marched our company (F) over to the old Sphinx and we had a group photograph taken with the Sphinx as a background. On Christmas Day all our company put in 3s each and we had a real good dinner.  -Tuapeka Times, 17/2/1915.

From Our Boys in Egypt

Trooper Wilfred Knight, of the Australian Expeditionary Force, writing to his parents (Mr and Mrs E. Knight, Waipori) under date March 13th, 1925, says- 

"The Third Contingent of Australian Light Horse arrived on the 10th March. They are camped right opposite our battalion. The Third Infantry Brigade left here a couple of weeks ago for the Dardanelles it is supposed. We were each given a pair of puttees and new boots the other day, and a cap like the New Zealanders have. We are being well stocked with clothes. It has been very warm lately and we do all our work either in the early morning or in the evening as it is too hot about mid-day. We have not been doing much lately, but what we have done has been very interesting, such as trench digging, bomb proofs, &c, and different strategical schemes which are fully explained to us. I was in Cairo last Sunday and saw Eric (his brother) and Syd, (his cousin) and Leonard Bloss who is in the Medical Corps. They are looking well and I am in good health myself. I don't go into Cairo so often as I used to: first, because the novelty has worn off and, second, the camp is a town in itself. There are two vaudeville shows (branches of Cairo ''Kursaal''), two picture shows and dozens of shops (temporary wooden buildings), these being branches of Cairo firms. Newspaper boys are around morning and evening with the latest papers. At night the camp is a bright scene with the picture shows all illuminated with electric lights, the shops with gas, and the light of the different cook fires.

''There was a bit of fighting on the canal with the Turks up to the end of February. Some of our troops were engaged in it but I think everything is quiet there now. I saw a batch of Turkish prisoners in charge of some English Territorials in Cairo the other day. They were a miserable looking lot. They had no uniforms and most of them were in rags. With the hot weather have come swarms of flies which are very tormenting. I hope we are not here for the summer. I am going to Cairo to see Eric. Judging by the way things are going I think it will be the last time we will see one another in Cairo. I have sent lots of postcards home but have not been told if they were received. Some of them were sent before Christmas. Our mail is irregular; we sometimes get letters posted in February before those posted in January.  -Tuapeka Times, 1/5/1915.

Wilfred's Cenotaph, beside the Waipori Cemetery, above the Waipori town site.

The 1st Battalion landed at what would later be called Anzac Cove at dawn on April 25. An eye-witness' impression was presented in "The History of the First Battalion, AIF, 1914-1919":

"Having landed waist-deep in water, we made a dump of our packs and  and reformed companies in close column of platoons. From this point we moved off up the hillside in file, generally in single file.  We carried, in addition to our ordinary equipment, two extra bandoliers, a shovel, and half a sack of SAA (small arms ammunition). This - plus a steep hill and a hot day - resulted in a fairly fagged condition; 'exhaustion' would be the word for it, had it not been for the excitement and heavy months of training behind us. We advance over several small hills in this way, and halted. There was a little shrapnel. I thought it ineffectual stuff, with no moral effect. In fact, I was becoming contemptuous of it until a man away from me was hit. He explained forcibly how it hurt, his arm being broken. My opinion then changed entirely and I decided it was dangerous stuff and wished the Turks would stop. Rifle fire so far had not worried us much, most of it being indirect and falling, making a sharp cracking explosion over one's head, a phenomenon we put down to 'dum-dums' (expansive bullets)."

It was at this early stage that Wilfred Knight was wounded. He was taken aboard ship where he died and was buried at sea.

New Zealand


Per Press Association. Dunedin, May 2. The Hon. J. Allen, has received a telegram from the Defence headquarters at Melbourne stating that Private W. V. Knight, son of F. M. Knight, Waipori, but who was with the 1st Australian infantry battalion, died between April 27 and 29 from wounds reecived in action in the Dardanelles. Mr Allen has received a cablegram from Alexandria that Lieut. Frater, of the Auckland division, died on April 30, from wounds received on a hired transport.  -Stratford Evening Post, 3/5/1915.


(SPECIAL TO "THE PRESS.") DUNEDIN, May 3. Private W. V. Knight, with the Australians, who died of wounds, was 25 years of age, and was educated at the Otago Boys' High School. He has a brother with the New Zealand Forces. When Mrs Knight received the news, she said: — "Well, I have no regrets, because he died for a just cause, and if I had a dozen sons I would not object to everyone of them going to fight for King, country, and the flag of liberty." The brothers met at Cairo. 

Private Wilfred Victor Knight, who joined the First Infantry Brigade, Australian Expeditionary Force, when the war broke out, was the second son of Mr and Mrs Frederick William Knight, Waipori, and was 25 years of age. (Says the "Otago Daily Times"). He was educated at the Waipori Primary School, and subsequently at the Otago Boys' High School. Being a young man with an adventurous spirit, the deceased left his home about four or five years ago, going to Australia. There he was engaged for a time in mining pursuits, and then he took a turn at sheepfarming. He afterwards was engaged on the tramways in Sydney as a conductor, and passed an examination as a motor driver. He also went tp sea for a little while. When the Australian Expeditionary Force was mobilised, he volunteered and was accepted.    -Press, 4/5/1915.