Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Private Raymond John Ambury - Bulls Memorial


Raymond John Ambury was born at Cheltenham, England on 17 September 1886.  He was one of four sons of Arthur and Emily Ambury.  The family had emigrated to New Zealand in 1893 where Arthur Ambury ran a successful drapers store with his brother. 

In December 1915 Raymond married Mildred Oxenham at New Plymouth, they had no children.  Prior to enlisting Raymond was an ordained Baptist minister preaching at Bulls: he was called up in the ninth ballot and embarked on 16 November 1917 with the 32nd Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Regiment.  He was initially posted to active service in France as a member of the No 1 NZ Entrenching Battalion, then in April he was transferred back to the Wellington Infantry Battalion.  On 30 August 1918 he was killed in action, aged 31 and is buried at Bancourt British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.  Below is an obituary from the Wanganui Chronicle:

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Wanganui Chronicle, Volume LXVI, Issue 17384, 21 September 1918

Raymond and his wife had barely spent two years together and she must have been heartbroken at the news of his death, their life together cut short.   For Raymond's parents the news of Raymond's death came only months after their son Arthur Ambury had been killed in a climbing accident on Mt Taranaki (known then as Mount Egmont).  Arthur had fallen to his death while attempting to rescue a fellow climber William Gourlay and by all accounts knew the risk he took while doing so.  Arthur was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal for Bravery which may have been of some consolation to his wife and their 4 children.  A memorial to Arthur's bravery was erected at Mount Taranaki and is still there today.

Both Raymond and Arthur were selfless in their sacrifice, as a member of the clergy Raymond was exempt from overseas service but when his name was called in the ballot he voluntarily went as a normal soldier and Arthur an experienced mountaineer knew the risk he was taking when he tried to save the younger less experienced climber.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Bell Brothers - Ngaruawahia memorial, Waikato - revisited



John Edward Bell and Alexander Law Bell where the sons of Edward and Mary Bell of Ngaruawahia. John was a bushman and Alexander a drover before enlisting, they embarked together on 17 April 1915 from Wellington with the field artillery as part of the 4th Reinforcements. 

Both served during the Gallipoli Campaign where Alexander was struck down with Diphtheria: after several weeks of treatment in the Middle East he was sent back to New Zealand at the end September 1915. Shortly after his departure his brother John was wounded on 4 October 1915 he recovered and after Gallipoli went on to France with the rest of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.   Back in New Zealand Alexander enlisted again in May 1917 and embarked for the second time with the 32nd Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA) on 21 November 1917. 

Sadly before Alexander was able to be reunited with his brother at the Front John was killed in action in Belgium on 17 June 1917, he was 27 years old and is buried at Strand Military Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.  The death of his brother would no doubt have been on Alexander's mind as he arrived at the Front.  Just over a year later Alexander himself died of his wounds on 9 August 1918 in France.  His age at death is recorded as 21 years on his CWGC (Commonwealth Grave Commission) entry.  I checked to see when Alexander's birth was registered which it was in 1897, if this was the year he was born it would have meant he was only 17/18 years old when he enlisted. Alexander is buried at Couin New British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

The story of two brothers enlisting together and not returning is sadly not a unique one on the: Ngaruawahia memorial alone there are five sets of brothers recorded who gave their lives.

Bulls Memorial - Manuwatu/Horowhenua

Officers of the 5th Wellington Regiment - Samoa 1914

We are lucky to have in our possession a photograph of officers of the 5th Wellington regiment who were part of the force which embarked to Samoa in August 1914.  My husband's great grandfather Captain R.L. Evatt is picture here sitting on the right end of the second row.

He had served in the Boer war where he contracted Malaria, which flared up again in Samoa.   He was invalided back to NZ in November 1914 and was discharged from active duty but eventually re-enlisted in 1916 and served on the Western Front.

War News - 1 September 1914

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Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 2243, 1 September 1914


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Corporal Ernest Ellis Islip - Maheno memorial


Ernest Ellis Islip born in 1894 in Milton, Otago was the son of Arthur and Elizabeth Islip. The family moved to Reidston Otago when Ernest was a small boy and for a time his father ran the Maheno Hotel.  At the time of enlisting on 29 May 1915, Ernest was a fireman working for the New Zealand Railways in South Dunedin (His brother Percy was a Station master and Hyde railway station, Otago).

Ernest embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 9 October 1915 and served for a time in Egypt.  Once in France he was promoted to Lance Corporal in December 1916 and he distinguished himself in January 1917 being awarded with a Military Medal Citation below:

London Gazette, 3 June 1919, p7005: For consistently good work before and during a raid on the 7 January 1917, south of Fleurbaix. For ten days prior to the raid he patrolled "No Man's Land". The information that he obtained with regard to the enemy wire, parapet, sentries and method of holding the front line was extremely valuable. During the raid he single handed rounded up ten of the enemy and with assistance succeeded in capturing them together with an additional catch of four. Strength of the raiding party 4 officers 111 o/rs.

In an entry on 3 February 1917 from the First World War diary of Brigadier-General Herbert Hart it  mentions that after attending a church parade with the 2nd Btn Rifle Brigade he (Brig-Gen Hart) presented Corporal Islip with a Military Medal "for good work in a recent raid (7th January)". 

Ernest was killed in action on 19 May 1917 at Messines, Belgium he was 23 years old and by all accounts he was a brave and popular soldier.  His military medal was finally presented posthumously to his brother Percy in January 1918.  I found an extract from a letter from Rifleman Hugh McCullough who embarked with Ernest in October 1915:

CORPORAL ISLIP  The following are a few extracts from Rifleman Hugh McCullough's letters to his mother in Christchurch from France concerning Corporal Ernie Islip, who was killed in action on May 19, and who worked with the railway service in Dunedin before enlisting:-  "Ernie is as brave a lad as you will find. He distinguished himself by leading his men through barbed wire entanglements. He won the Military Medal for bravery in January.  I cannot tell you how or where he was killed, as it is against the censorship regulations; but he died a hero it fairly broke me up to see him. His loss will be greatly felt by all in the battalion, as he was one of the best men they had. Everybody has a good word to say about him. He was very popular, and the best mate I had since leaving New Zealand."   (Hugh McCullough had also worked for the NZ Railways before the war in Dunedin, he survived the war).

Ernest is buried at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium.  I found a touching story in the Otago Daily Times dated 10 February 2014 reporting on how descendants of Ernest Islip planted an oak tree at the Maheno Memorial grove, 95 years after others were planted in memory of the fallen.  Ernest had missed out during the original planting as his family had moved away from Maheno. The oak tree planted had been grown from an acorn taken from the original trees. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Ceremony - 1914 Occupation of German Samoa

National commemoration to mark the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand occupation of German Samoa. Held on the Court of Honour, The Cenotaph, Northern Façade.

When war broke out in Europe in August 1914, Britain asked New Zealand to seize the German colony of Samoa as a ‘great and urgent Imperial service’. This commemorative service recognises the duty and sacrifice of those involved, and acknowledges the close personal and political connections between Sāmoa and New Zealand today.

Friday, 29 August 2014 

4.15pm - 5.20pm


Auckland War Memorial Museum, Domain Drive,
Auckland Domain, 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

War Horse Ride: meet the soldiers paying a mounted tribute - The Telegraph

A group of British soldiers serving and retired wearing recreations of original costumes are honouring the cavalry heroes of 1914 by taking part in a 100-mile horse ride across France. Check the link out below:


War news - 26 August 1914

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Wanganui Chronicle , Issue 20155, 26 August 1914

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Colonist, Volume LVI, Issue 13557, 26 August 1914

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 Marlborough Express, Volume XLVIII, Issue 200, 26 August 1914

Sergeant Alexander Cruickshank - Maheno Memorial


Alexander Cruickshank (known as Sandy), was the eldest son of John and Isabella Cruickshank born in Maheno in 1893.  In 1914 the family relocated to the Marlborough region.  Sandy Cruickshank was a farm labourer at Waihaorunga, Waimate in Canterbury before enlisting in February 1915 and embarking on 13 June 1915 with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion (CIB).  After surviving the Gallipoli campaign unharmed, he was twice wounded in France.  Firstly on 16 August 1916 with a gun shot wound (GSW) to the knee.  Soon back in action in Belgium at the front he distinguished himself between 1 - 4 October 1917 and was awarded the Military Medal (Citation below).    

Operations Gravenstafel - 1st October to 5th October 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. The non-commissioned officer did excellent work during the fighting of October 1st - 4th. His Platoon was ordered to construct and hold a line of small posts on the night of the 2nd and 3rd of October. He gallantly led his men to their position and under heavy shellfire supervised their work, and formed a strong line in an excellent position. His work was of high importance and of great value to the defence of the position assigned to his Company. L.G. 17 December 1917, p13201, Rec No 1331.

On 12 October 1917 at Passchendaele he was wounded for the second time together with  his brother David Cruickshank (CIB).  Both were admitted to hospital in Boulogne and convalesce at Hornchurch in England. 

By May 1918 both brothers were back in France with the CIB until on 26 May 1918 when Sandy was wounded for a third time.  Sadly it was not a case of 'third time lucky' he had received several fatal GSW's and died at the No.1 NZ Field Ambulance on 26 May 1918.  Sandy had served through almost the whole war and certainly saw his fair share of action but with only months of the war left his luck ran out.   He is buried at Louvencourt Military Cemetery, Somme, France he was 24 years old.  I hope his brother David was there to see him laid him to rest and say goodbye.  

As the last few months of the war raged on David Cruickshank was reported missing in September 1918 (a worrying time for his family back in New Zealand) they finally learnt his fate after the war was over later in November 1918 when it was confirmed by the Red Cross that he had been taken prisoner of war on 30 September 1918.  He was released from capitivity on 11 December 1918.  His family must have been overwhelmed with relief. 

Sandy Cruickshank's Military Medal was presented to his mother at a ceremony in December 1919.

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Oamaru Mail, Volume XLIX, Issue 13767, 26 May 1919
Papers Past

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mapiu War Memorial Gates - King Country

On my way to Ohakune on Friday I stopped to take photo of the memorial gates at Mapiu.  They are in need of some restoration (hopefully they will get some during the centenary).  There are no names on the memorial but there is a poignant extract from a poem by war poet Rupert Brooke.

The inscription on the right post includes an extract from III The Dead by Rupert Brooke:

Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.
Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

War News - 24 August 1914

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Colonist, Volume LVI, Issue 13555, 24 August 1914, Page 5 

Sergeant Alexander Ledingham - Maheno Memorial


Alexander Ledingham was born in Maheno in 1875 one of the eight children of George and Margaret Ledingham.  He was a carpenter by trade and served in the Boer War.  By the outbreak of WW1 he had married Isabella Cook of Wellington in 1907.  Keen to do his duty again he enlisted with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on 11 January 1916 just over a year later, he was killed in action at the Battle of Rafah on 9 January 1917, aged 41 years old.  He is buried at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

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North Otago Times, Volume CIV, Issue 13787, 25 January 1917