Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lance Corporal Charles Basil Beeson - Remuera Memorial

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-B1912.

Lance Corporal Charles Beeson was the son of George and Joanna Beeson, he was born and educated at Waiorongomai in the Bay of Plenty on completion of his schooling he became a teacher and prior to enlisting in May 1916 he was teaching in Matamata where by all accounts he was well respected.    His father passed away in 1909 and his mother lived at 81 Clonbern Road, Remuera at the time of Charles's enlistment.  He was one of four of nine sons who served in World War One.

Charles embarked with the 8th reinforcements as part of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 23 September 1916 aboard the Pakeha.  Charles came close to surviving the war but was sadly killed in action on 8 September 1918 at Havrincourt, France most likely from machine gun fire or a sniper.  He was buried at Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France.

The photo of Charles above depicts a confident and happy man and this is surely how his family would have remembered him.  A photo taken of him in September 1918 would most likely have told a very different story one of a battle weary, aged man waiting for the war to end.
Charles's three brothers who served survived the war, Alfred Victor Beeson was invalided home to New Zealand before the end of the war.  Gordon Ivan Beeson who was signed up in 1918 never left New Zealand and Ernest Stanley Beeson who was in the USA enlisted with the Aviation Corp of the USA. He returned to New Zealand after the war.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Costar Brothers - Papakura Memorial

Far away from those who loved them
Comrades gently laid them to rest
In far away graves they are sleeping
Two of God's bravest and best

In the pride of early manhood
Like the dawn of a beautiful day
They fought with the bravest of the brave
In the thickest of the fray

Every night when the sun goes west
And the toil of the day is done
How I long for the boys who we all loved well
And the smile of the lads that have gone 

The poem above was inserted in the New Zealand Herald on 9 December 1918 in memory of the Costar brothers by their family on the one year anniversary of the death of Walter Costar.

Reginald (known as Reg) and Walter (known as Wally or Walt) Costar were the sons of Matoaka and Sarah Costar farmers in Karaka.  Their father arrived in New Zealand in 1865, he was born on the journey from London aboard the Matoaka somewhere in the Atlantic hence his parents named him Matoaka Atlantic Costar.

Walter embarked with the 9th Reinforcements on 8 January 1916 before enlisting he had been employed as an electrician with A & T Burt of Auckland. He was first wounded on 19 June 1917 but soon recovered and was back in the field before the end of June 1917.  He was awarded the Military Medal for 'Bravery in the field'.  I found an account in the New Zealand Herald dated 12 February 1918 which stated that:

'Fitter Costar was awarded the Military Medal for repairing a gun under heavy shell fire and for rescuing a comrade whose gun have been blown to pieces'

On 5 December 1918 Walter was wounded a second time with fatal consequences.  He died of his wounds on 9 December 1917 aged 24 years and was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.

His brother Reginald embarked with the 26th Reinforcements on 12 June 1917 when he disembarked at Devonport, England on 16 August 1917 he was immediately hospitalised with Measles.  Once recovered he was sent to Codford camp and then to Sling Camp where he would have received the news of his brothers death.  He finally embarked for France in December 1917 attached to the Auckland Infantry Battalion, however by February he was back in hospital with Influenza. Once recovered he rejoined the Auckland Regiment in March 1918. 

On 13 September 1918 Reginald was wounded in the thigh and admitted to the advanced dressing station of the 3rd New Zealand field ambulance.  He died of his wounds the same day aged 22 and is buried at Serre Road Cemetery No 2, Somme, France.

The family continued to remember the boys in the New Zealand Herald on the anniversary of their deaths for many years to come including through the second world war.   

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Frozen in time: see WW1 soldier's room left untouched for a century - Daily Telegraph

Take a look inside the French World War One soldier's room which has been preserved in time for almost 100 years since his death on the battlefields of Flanders - an amazing story.

Amazing photographs from the Daily Telegraph of the poppies surrounding the Tower of London

Take a look at this amazing sight a real tribute to those who fell in WW1

2nd Lieutenant Gordon Gerald Harper - Waiau Memorial, Canterbury

Second Lieutenant Gordon Gerald Harper was born in Christchurch the sixth son of George and Agnes Harper of Christchurch.  The Harper family were a well known Canterbury family and a deeply religious one - Gordon's grandfather Right Rev Henry J.C. Harper had been the first  Anglican Bishop of Canterbury (Agnes Harper Gordon's mother was a Roman Catholic and the children were baptised Catholic).   When Gordon enlisted with his brother Robert, known as Robin, in August 1914 they had been a sheep farmers in Waiau, North Canterbury.  Gordon had recently been selected to be the Reform Party candidate for Riccarton however he withdrew his candidacy before embarking. 

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Press, Volume L, Issue 15071, 12 September 1914

Both Gordon and Robin embarked with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles as part of the Main Body on 16 October 1914.  Another brother Philip Hamilton Harper who had served in the Boer war also embarked with the Main Body. Once at Gallipoli all three brothers saw plenty of action.  Philip took part in the Anzac day landing and Gordon was wounded at Suvla Bay on 21 August 1915 with a gun shot wound to the neck and medically evacuated to England.

Gordon and Robin were both awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.) for their actions at Suvla Bay.  Their citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry between the 21st and the 30th August, 1915, at Kaiajik Aghala (Dardanelles), when in charge of machine guns. He invariably displayed great bravery and devotion to duty. L.G. 11 March 1916, p2746.

Both brothers were also Mentioned in Despatches (M.I.D.): in connection with operations described in General I. Hamilton's dispatch dated 11 December 1915. L.G. 28 January 1916, p1210.
In a letter printed in Glyn Harper's book 'Letters from Gallipoli' Gordon writes to his mother of his concern at leaving his brother Robin behind in Gallipoli:

"What worries me more than the pain is having to leave Robin behind still in a very dangerous place.... Robin deserves the V.C. carrying me out of the trench to the doctor..."

Whilst in England Gordon received his commission and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in October 1915.  He also received the news that Robin too had earned a commission and that he had been invalided to Malta which came as a great relief to Gordon knowing that Robin was away from the firing line.  Philip too was invalided and a letter written by Gordon to his mother mentions that he had seen Philip in England recovering from gastritis.

By January 1916 Gordon was back in the Middle East and reunited with his brother RobinOn 9 August 1916 Robin together with his horse would again carry his brother wounded from the battlefield.  Sadly this time Gordon's wounds were fatal and he died a few days later on 12 August 1916 in Cairo hospital. Below is an extract from the 'History of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, 1914-1919' which recalls the event:

A great fight was put up by the machine guns. Lieut. Gordon Harper, the gallant commander of the section of machine guns attached to the Canterbury Regiment, was mortally wounded and brought out with great difficulty by his famous brother, Captain Robert Harper, O.C. Machine Gun Squadron.

In a letter from Robin to his parents George and Agnes after Gordon's death recounts Gordon's last words to him:

"I am not the least afraid of death but it is only for Mother and Father and the others that I am thinking"

Robin was heartbroken at the death of his brother telling his parents in the same letter:

"he was more than a brother if that's possible... the last 2 years... we have fought side by side all the time"

In Gordon's personal effects which Robin sent home to his parents was a rosary that Gordon had apparently carried with him to the operating theatre in the Cairo hospital where he died.  Gordon was a devout Roman Catholic and I am sure his family and especially his mother were comforted by the return of the Rosary beads. In many of his letters to his mother Gordon had often mentioned his faith, telling her in a letter dated Sunday, 25 July 1915 that:

"Robin and I are safe and sound so far, thanks I am sure to the continued prayers sent up for us by you and so many at home..."

In a further letter dated 22nd August 1915 he mentions how Father Dore had heard their confessions before Gordon was medically evacuated from Gallipoli (in August 1915).  He also told his mother how  "I never forget to say the two hymns of the Vespers and Compline every night as they are so appropriate."

Gordon was 31 years old and was buried at Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.   Robin and Philip sadly missed the funeral. Although Robin did arrange his brother's headstone and hoped that one day his parents would see Gordon's resting place.

I found this wonderful tribute to Gordon in 'The Press' newspaper by one of his old school masters Mr O.T.J. Alpers, which gives us a real insight into Gordon's personality:

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Press, Volume LIII, Issue 16081, 11 December 1917

Robin survived the war despite being badly wounded in November 1917. He was by then commander of the machine gunners he was wounded three times and carried to safety. In Terry Kinloch's book 'Devils on Horses' there is an account of his rescue by Sgt Sydney Emmerson:

'...worked his (Sgt Emmerson) machine gun until it was disabled, then picked up his wounded officer, ran down the hill and swam with his officer across the river to safety.'

Sgt Emmerson won a D.C.M. for his actions but tragically he died of disease on 19 October 1918 in Palestine he is buried at Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel.

Robin Harper was decorated several times during WW1 receiving a Distinguished Service Medal (D.S.O.), Military Cross (M.C.) and the D.C.M. he won with his brother.  He was also M.I.D. three times.  He went on to serve in WW2 returning to Egypt for a short time which must have been a very emotional and poignant time for him.  He died at the age of 85 in 1972.  His wife Barbara edited letters sent by Gordon and Robin during WW1. A copy is held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and have been invaluable in putting this piece together.

Philip Harper survived the war too however he died after complications from a fall aged 50 in 1933.

Following in his brothers footsteps a further brother Eric Tristram Harper embarked for the Middle East with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles on 31 May 1917.  Eric was a former member of the All Blacks from 1904-06.  He married Beatrice Randall at Westminster R.C. Cathedral, London in 1913 returning to New Zealand shortly after and at the time of enlisting they had two small children.   Eric was sadly killed in action less than a year later in Palestine on 30 April 1918 at the age of 40 years old.   Eric is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel.

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The Harper family undoubtedly served their country well and I am certain George and Agnes Harper were proud of all their sons but it had come at an enormous cost with the death of two sons.  To add to their grief a further son Edmund died of illness in 1917 at home in New Zealand.  He had served in the Boer War with Philip and another brother Cuthbert.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

War News - 28 October 1914

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  Evening Post, Volume LXXXVIII, Issue 103, 28 October 1914

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Otago Daily Times , Issue 16216, 28 October 1914

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sapper Edgar Boucher - Remuera Memorial

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 New Zealand Herald, Volume LV, Issue 16848, 13 May 1918

Sapper Edgar Boucher born in Tauranga was the eldest son of Ernest and Anna Boucher and was educated at Kings College, he was also a member of the College Rifles.  At the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was employed as an assistant surveyor by Thomas McFarlane in Victoria Arcade, Auckland. He quickly volunteered his services leaving with the Samoan Advance Party on 15 August 1914 attached to the Signal Company.  Some months after arriving in Samoa he secured a position with the Goverment Survey Department as an assistant surveyor in January 1915.  Later when the call went up for volunteers for Gallipoli he returned to New Zealand and re-enlisted in October 1915 embarking with the 9th Reinforcements, New Zealand Engineers on 8 January 1916.

After Gallipoli in France, Edgar was wounded in the left leg on 25 July 1916 returning to his unit on 29 September 1916 once recovered.

On 12 October 1917 Edgar was laying cable under heavy shellfire at Passchendaele.  Like many other New Zealand men at the end of the battle he was missing.  A court of enquiry was held to determine his status in May 1918 which concluded he was killed in action.  One of the soldiers to give evidence at his enquiry was Sapper Norman H. McKenzie below is part of his statement taken from Boucher's military record:

"The last time I saw Sapper Boucher was when he was taking shelter from the shelling near Fleet cottage...I saw him crawl out of sight and if he remained he was certainly killed as the shelling was intense",+1914-1918%22

Edgar was 24 years old and is remember on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium with the many other New Zealander's who went missing on that fateful day.  

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lieutenant William Archibald Buchanan - Remuera memorial, Auckland


William Buchanan was the only son of Archibald and Edith Buchanan of 27 Victoria Avenue, Remuera.  He was educated briefly at Clifton College, Bristol and then at Kings College, Auckland.  After school he headed to Sandhurst intent on a career in the Indian Army.  While there war broke out and William enlisted with the Connaught Rangers keen to do his bit and embarked for the war in France where he was badly wounded on 25 April 1915. He was then declared medically unfit for service however after recovering he was accepted into the Royal Flying Corps and obtained his pilot's licence on a Maurice Farman Biplane on 14 April 1916 he was only 21 years old. 

A few weeks before his 22nd birthday he was killed on active service as a result of a flying accident,  He is buried in Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire.