Memorial Plaque

Memorial Plaque fullThe intention to issue a plaque to the families by the UK government was being reported in NZ newspapers as early as January 1917. In the UK the Australian born Sir Reginald BRADE was chairman of a General Committee composing representatives of both Houses of Parliament and government departments most concerned, whose roll was to look at a way of commemorating the fallen in a more permanent way then the telegram from the War Office.

In much the same way as was done for the NZ WW1 service Certificate the design for this plaque was opened to the public by way of a competition. The total prize value was 500 pounds which would be shared out amongst the top designs. The competition was for a bronze plaque of around eighteen square inches which had to include the words “He died for freedom and honour” in the design. Competitors were advised that the design should be “essentially simple and easily intelligible”. It also had to have enough space within the design to include initials and surname of the fallen to be engraved. The competitors were required to be British-born subjects. Those entering the competition had to provide an unsigned wax or plaster model of the plaque and they could not submit more than two designs. The models of the plaque were required to reach the National Gallery in the UK before the 1st November 1917; this was extended to 31st December to allow overseas servicemen and artists in the dominions to participate.

More than 800 entries were received and on the 20th March 1918 the winners were announced. The winning design was by sculptor and medalist (designed the Air Forces gallantry medals, DFC, AFC, DFM etc) Edward Carter PRESTON (his initials-” ECP” appear to the right just above the lions front paw). There were 7 winners of the competition, though PRESTON had two winning designs earning him 250 pounds. One of the runners up, William MCMILLIAN, went on to design both the British War medal and Victory medal.

Memorial Plaque maker name In the first month after the war was over the first plaques began to be produced in December 1918 at the Government’s Memorial Plaque Factory in Acton at 54-56 Church Road, London. The manufacturing of the plaques at the Acton factory got into difficulty and the production was moved to the Woolwich Arsenal munitions factory in south London. The plaques produced at Woolwich have a capital letter W with a line across the centre of the W, forming a W and an A for the Woolwich Arsenal, set inside a circle on the otherwise blank reverse of the plaque.

Supplies of the Memorial Plaque started arriving in NZ May 1920. Base Records dealt with the distribution of the plaque to the next of kin and both the plaque and scroll would only be sent to the blood next of kin of the deceased at the time the memorials were being issued this could not be issued to another family member. There was no application that the family needed to submit.

The “Evening Post” newspaper reported that the number of plaques dispatched to families up to August 1929 was 17,000. The issue of the plaque was extended to cover former NZ servicemen that had died since the end of the 1st WW but before 1 September 1928, provided their deaths were attributable to war service. In these cases the family were required to write to Base Records if they wanted to receive a plaque & scroll. In 1929 the factory producing the plaque was set to close so the final list was set to be sent to the U.K. by the Defence Department on the 26th August 1929. In early August the Defence Department were advising families that any application received after the 31st August could not be processed and would be declined. The final batch of 1186 plaques was received by Base Records on 30th November 1929, though there does seem to be evidence in Archives NZ that there were at least another 16 plaques received in 1931.

In 1951 Base records received authorization to destroy 507 unclaimed plaques that were unable to be delivered. In 1963 the Army Liaison Staff in London were authorized to dispose of the remaining 17 unclaimed plaques still in their possession.

Inside the card cover the plaque is placed inside the envelope. The envelope has the Royal coat of arms embossed on it. Memorial plaque 3rd

Memorial Plaque name
 John BREEN enlisted in the 1st NZ Expeditionary Force on the 25 October 1915 and embarked for overseas service on the 4 March 1916, disembarking in Suez 10 April. After 3 days in Egypt he embarked for France where he was posted to the 14th Company, 2nd Battalion Otago Regiment. In June 1916 he received his first of two wounds when he was treated for concussion. He rejoined the battalion in August and by October was back in hospital with his second wound. He was back with his battalion again in November 1916 and it was almost a year from receiving his second wound when on the 1st October 1917 he was killed in action.

Breenoriginal Breen

Trentham Military Camp 1915 Postcard

Something different, a little change from my last few posts.

Have had the card for a little while and every time I read it I have to smile. The guy that wrote this must have been a real character and a bit of a “chancer” with the ladies. I guess given the situation he was in taking a chance with a girl back home in Auckland was worth a possible slap on the face.

Here is what the card says:

“My Address is.


E Company

12 Reinforcements

Military Camp


13 January 1916

Nell Foster

Dear Miss,

I dare say you’ll say “the very cheek of me to write to you”, but you ‘ll most likely, or rather you ought to be proud to have a communication from (a soldier boy) ha! ha!

I fully intended to go over from the station and say “good-bye” before I went , but I was uneasy for fear I might lose the train. However, I reckon that every single boy that goes to war from Auckland is entitled to 1 or 2 sweet kisses from every girl in Auckland because it is they whom we go to fight for, is it not? So I’ll call and see you when I’m on final leave , don’t forget . Best wishes to you, from, yours truly,

P.G. Hansen


Like the fact he added the bit about being “single”, must have been an afterthought that he hoped would win the favour of Nell and get him those sweet kisses he was after.

The writer of the card was 11029 Percival Gordon HANSEN. He served both in Egypt and on the Western Front with the Otago Infantry Regiment. He survived the war and at the end was part of the NZ contribution to the Allied Occupation Army in Germany. He came back to NZ in 1919. Did he marry Nell? Would have made a great end to the story but… he didn’t. He did marry a lady by the name of Eva Isabel FRASER in 1921 and as far as I can find out remained married to her until his death in 1987 at the tender age of 93 (impressive). His wife lived for another 9 years and when she died in 1996 she was also 93.

Have not been able to find out who Nell FOSTER was but she kept this card so must have had some feelings for the cheeky soldier boy.


Golden Roll of Honour

Similar to the memorial scroll but this particular item is unofficial. These memorial “Rolls of Honour” have an interesting story behind them. They were a private fund raising initiative by a former Army Service Corps, Captain who had fallen on hard times due to the economic downturn of the 1920’s. It seems these unofficial rolls stared going out to the families sometime in the 1930’s and there is an indication that the request for payment was not received well by the recently bereaved.  There were warnings from the Minister of Internal Affairs appearing in local NZ newspapers in 1933 advising families that they should be cautious of sending money to unofficial overseas organizations and that recipients of the “Golden Scrolls” were under no obligation to purchase them. The letter sent, with the scroll, to the families said: “Dear Sir or Madam,
The sender of this letter and GOLDEN ROLL of HONOUR is an ex-British Soldier who, owing to the World-wide trade depression is out of employment and who cannot be re-employed here owing to the increasing number of un-employed of French nationality.
It is useless for me to return to England at the present time with my wife and family as there is so little employment for those at home.  I am therefore forced to find some means of earning my living; for there is no unemployment pay for Britishers over here, and so I have designed the enclosed Golden Roll of Honour …. The price of this Roll of Honour is only TWO SHILLINGS and SIXPENCE which I feel even the very poor will be glad to pay, to give it an honoured place in the Home and I trust that you will be able to buy this in spite of the difficulties that beset everyone at home at this moment.
If this meets with your approval will you kindly send me an ORDINARY POSTAL ORDER as soon as possible.
  I have no connection with any others who may have written you at any time.  This is the first communication I have sent to you. 
Thanking you in anticipation of your kind orders,
Yours faithfully,
Malcolm Cockerell
Ex Captain

(The above letter extract is from:

The center of this scroll features a pasted on extract from the Imperial War Graves Commission register. Below is the page from the register as it appears on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Young War graves

Here is a close up of the info from the register on the scroll: Scroll name

20593 William Edward YOUNG was a member of “A” company 3rd Battalion, 3rd NZ (Rifle) Brigade. He enlisted in May 1916, embarked from NZ for overseas service in August, was posted to the 3rd (Rifle) Brigade in France, December 1916, was wounded and rejoined his unit in June 1917 and then finally killed in action 12 October 1917.

The attack of Bellevue Spur on 12 October 1917, part of the 1st NZEF participation in the Passchendaele offensive, was one of the blackest days for NZ in the 1st WW. Preparations for the 12 October attack on Bellevue Spur, especially the positioning of the supporting artillery, could not be completed in time because of the mud. As a result, the creeping barrage was weak and ragged. Some of the shells dropped short, causing casualties among the New Zealanders waiting to advance. To make matters worse, the earlier artillery bombardment had failed to breach the obstacle presented by the German barbed wire. Another key target, the Germans’ concrete pillboxes with their deadly machine-guns, were also left largely undamaged. The toll was horrendous. There were about 3700 New Zealand casualties, of which 45 officers and 800 men were either dead or lying mortally wounded between the lines.

Photographs of grave markers

An interesting item sent to the next of kin by the Imperial War Grave Commission (became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1960) are these folios with photographs of their family members grave marker.

The Imperial War Graves commission had a team of photographers taking these photos which were sent to the family free of charge. Reading through late 1920’s newspapers it is interesting to read warnings to families not to send money to people, not approved by the Commission, advertising to take photos of headstones and place wreaths and such on the graves. There were also concerns that some unscrupulous photographers were risking damaging the headstones by rubbing mud into the carving to make the name and other information stand out in photos.

Urwin ft 1     Urwin inside 1Inside the folio are two photos of the grave markers. Looks like the original marker was changed to a much more permanent marker and I guess it was just done at the right time with the photographer on hand to get shots of both.

Urwin cards 1

The back of these photos shows that on at least one it could be used as a postcard.

Urwin cards back 1

This is the photograph of the grave of 12/3176 William Edward URWIN who was killed in action on the 03 July 1916 and buried in Cite Bonjean military cemetery, Armentieres. Urwin was part of the 1st battalion Auckland Infantry Regiment.


The Official History of the Auckland Regiments records; “1/Auckland went into the l’Epinette sector on June 21st, occupying trenches 73, 74, 75 and 76, the strong points SPX and SPY, Willow Walk and Buterne Farm. Willow Walk, Plank Avenue and Japan Avenue led to the front line, which was held by the 15th and 16th Companies. Everything went well until the afternoon of July 3rd, when the Germans commenced to range with a big naval gun. This was an ominous sign. At 9 p.m. a coloured flare went up from the enemy rear line. There was a feeling of impending danger. At 10.30 p.m. hell suddenly broke loose. Every kind of missile rained down upon the front line. The parapet was blown in, dug-outs smashed, men killed, wounded and buried alive. For an hour the noise continued, the detonations filling the night with sound, the flashes lighting up the darkness. The Huns were about to raid. It was impossible to move about, but every man grasped his rifle, crouched down beneath what shelter was left, ready to leap up and fire as soon as the barrage lifted and the raiders should endeavour to push in. The air was heavy with smoke and fumes and the smell of phosphorus.”

After the shelling came a enemy probe then when that was beaten back then there was a break of about an hour then came another shelling barrage, after the second barrage came the main raid by the Germans. The Aucklander’s managed to withstand the hour long attack but “Altogether it had been a very bloody and expensive business, 33 O.R.’s being killed, 1 officer and 63 O.R.’s wounded. and 5 O.R.’s missing.”

This first folio shows the early marker for Urwin and interestingly another filo was sent to the family later on with another photo this time showing the final headstone.


Here is a similar folio that was sent by the Australian’s. This was sent to the widow of 3266 Alfred Metcalf CAPPER who was born in Opotiki, NZ. He was a member of the 53rd Battalion and died on the 25 July 1916 as the result of wounds received on the 19 July.

Capper inside

The 53rd Battalion was raised in Egypt on 14 February 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the Australian Imperial Force. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 1st Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 1st, the 53rd was predominantly composed of men from the suburbs of Sydney. The battalion became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.

The battalion arrived in France on 27 June 1916, entered the front line for the first time on 10 July, and became embroiled in its first major battle on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on 19 July. The battle of Fromelles was a disaster. The 53rd was part of the initial assault and suffered grievously, incurring 625 casualties, including its commanding officer, amounting to over three-quarters of its attacking strength. Casualty rates among the rest of the 5th Division were similarly high, but despite these losses it continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector for a further two months.

Towards the bottom of the page , just above the medals info, the service file records that the above photograph was sent to the widow on the 25 May 1920.

Capper 3.jpgCapper 3



NZ WW1 Certificates of Service

in May 1918 NZ Newspapers were announcing that the UK War Office had approved the award of a special certificate of honour to be called the “King’s Certificate” for those discharged through wounds or disabilities incurred on active service or directly attributable to “the action of the enemy”. The Certificate was designed by Punch Artist Bernard PARTRIDGE. This certificate was available to be issued to members of the 1st NZEF. To apply soldiers discharged prior to 16 December 1918 had to write in, stating the grounds of their application, to Base Records, Wellington.


Below is the NZ Service Certificate to the same man. The above was issued to all members of the Commonwealth that was discharged due to wounds the NZ Certificate was only issued to the kiwis.


The NZ Government made a  decision in early 1919 to issue a similar looking certificate to the one signed by the King to all discharged servicemen who had served in the 1st NZEF (this was being reported in the Herald newspaper in February 1919). Interestingly the initial intention was to have two types of certificate, one for those who served overseas and one for those who only served for a year or more in NZ. Mid way through 1919 adverts appeared in newspapers advertising a competition for the design for these certificates and was opened up to local artist and designers. The prize for the top eight designs would have a share of 100 pounds. The entries for this design had to reach the Government Printer before noon 1 September 1919. On the 6 October 1919 the winner of the design for the overseas certificate was announced(winning 50 pounds), he was Robert HAWCRIDGE. At the same time as this winner was announced it was also mentioned that a suitable design for the Home Service certificate could not be found and that another round of the competition would be opened. I have never seen a certificate for NZ Home Service so can only assume a design was never approved and they were never issued. Robert HAWCRIDGE , whose name appears near the right hand bottom of the certificate, was born in Yorkshire and was a noted lithographer and book illustrator. At the time of the competition he was the Director of the Dunedin School of Art, a position he held until his death in January 1920. The finalized design was printed by the Government Printer in Wellington and started going out to former service men in late 1920 (the Evening post was reporting that by 16 November 1920, 25,000 certificates, of the expected 80,000, had been issued). Former servicemen were not required to apply for the certificate but were expected to complete and return a confirmation of service form (form BR 388). Copies of these little yellow and white forms are usually found glued to the front of the History sheet on the service file. These forms were also used for the final engraving details on the service medals (example of the form signed by Michael, below).


Not all NZEF service men were issued a certificate, however, there were some who were disqualified from having them issued. These included men found guilty and court marshaled for desertion, men discharged on account of misconduct or on conviction by civil power or on being sentenced to penal servitude. Interestingly when the five New Zealanders who where executed for military offences during the 1st WW were posthumously pardoned by the NZ Government in 2000, their families were issued with their medals and a new version of the service certificate by the NZDF. A new certificate was created by deleating a serviceman’s details from an original and then reprinting. These certificates still had the original Minister of Defences name, Allen and are still signed by the then Governor General, Liverpool.

The illuminated certificate was not intended to be issued to the next of kin of deceased 1st NZEF soldiers as it was believed, at the time, that the memorial plaque and scroll more than adequately commemorated their service than a certificate would. However in early 1922 the then Minister of Defence, HEATON RHODES, announced that there had been a change to this decision and that Cabinet had now approved the issue of this certificate to next of kin. The certificate for discharged personnel was amended with the details of war service being changed to record place and date of death. The Minister advised families that there would be a delay in issuing these certificates as it was intended to wait until all the medals had been issued. There was no application for the posthumous certificate of service as Base Records already had recent next of kin information, including address details already on file.

Below is the letter from the Minister of Defence Sir R HEATON RHODES that was sent to the next of kin along with the illuminated certificate for soldiers who died in service. This particular letter is dated 04 September 1922.

Illuminated cert letter

WW1 Certificate of service full

WW1 Certificate of service date died


Below is the tube this scroll was posted to the family in.

This scroll commemorated the service of 25/600 Bryce CLIVE. He was wounded in action on the 24 September 1916 and died as a result of his wounds on the 2 October 1916. He was buried at Heilly Station Cemetery.

B Clive fileGravestone

You might notice that this headstone has two names on it, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website notes that this was because “The burials in this cemetery were carried out under extreme pressure and many of the graves are either too close together to be marked individually, or they contain multiple burials. Some headstones carry as many as three sets of casualty details”

From the same website here are two documents relating to the headstone and grave.

Bryce was a casualty of the NZ Divisions first action on the Western Front when it took part in the Somme.

On 15th September 1916 the New Zealand Division began their assault at the Somme. They attacked at dawn, advancing heavily laden across ‘No Man’s Land’ to fight the enemy hand to hand in a maze of trenches. When they withdrew on 3-4 October 1916, 1560 men had died and 5400 were wounded. By the time the battle ended, stopped by mud and exhaustion in November 1916, over one million British and Commonwealth men had been killed or wounded for only a few kilometres of ground taken.

Below is a map showing the advances made by the NZ Division from 15 September till 3 October 1916. This map is from the excellent resource NZ’s service file notes that at the time he was wounded he was serving in “D”Company, 3rd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB). The official History of the NZRB records from the period 18 to 25 September; “The Brigade remained in Divisional reserve until the night: of 18th/19th September, when it moved forward into the intermediate area, with the 4th Battalion in Switch Trench and the remaining battalions in rear. Heavy rain had come on during the 18th, and the shattered surface of the country rapidly deteriorated into a sea of mud. During the following week the Brigades relieved one another in succession. The weather was too unfavourable for operations beyond small affairs of outposts, but no adverse conditions were permitted to interfere with work devoted to extending and improving the saps, strengthening the posts, and preparing generally for either continuing the advance or withstanding counter-developments.”






WW1 Memorial Scroll

Have had in interest in collecting items, both official and un-official, that were used to commemorate the fallen. Think these items are very touching and guess they may have been of some comfort to the family that could not have the body of their loved one back home or who where unable to visit the grave or memorial containing their loved ones name.

Memorial scroll full

In October 1917 it was announced in The Times newspaper that the committee had decided also to issue a commemorative scroll to the next of kin. The scroll would be printed on high quality paper, size 11 x 7 inches (27cm x 17cm).

By January 1918 the wording on the scroll was being discussed. The committee found the choice of words very difficult and asked for advice from numerous well-known writers. Among those approached for suggestions was Rudyard Kipling, whose only son John was missing in action, believed killed, at the Battle of Loos in late September 1915.

The accepted wording agreed by the committee was:

“He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who,
at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten.”

The text was to be printed in calligraphic script beneath the Royal Crest followed by the name of the commemorated serviceman giving his rank, name and regiment this time individually written in calligraphic script.

Below is the letter sent to the next of kin to confirm receipt of the scroll. Interesting to note that this acknowledgement letter is printed on an obsolete form. Proof that recycling is not new, or perhaps NZ Defence was ahead of its time :-).

Also the kings condolence slip that was sent with the scrollMemorial Scroll Buck palace

Bland 1Bland

The above image is from the service file of Robert William BLAND, the man this scroll commemorates, and shows that this scroll was sent to his mother Annie Maria BLAND in Auckland in 1921.

RW Bland

Robert BLAND died on the 7th September 1918 as a result of wounds received. When he died he was serving as a member of the 12th (Nelson) Company, 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment.

The official history of the Canterbury Regiment, records that on the 5th to 7th September the 2nd Battalion was in the area of Havrincourt Wood. On the 6th September the official history says “At mid-day, patrols from the leading companies of the 2nd Canterbury Battalion were pushed forward to Havrincourt Wood, and reported the enemy was still in the western edge, but that parties were moving back, wearing full packs. By 5 p.m. the western edge of the wood had been made good, and patrols were well in advance. The wood here consisted of very large trees, with thick undergrowth, and great caution had to be exercised by the patrols for fear of ambushes. By 7 p.m., however, the battalion was well into the wood and, in close liaison with the units on its flanks, was working forward. At 10 p.m. the leading companies were in touch with the enemy, whose machine-gunners held a line of trenches inside the eastern edge of the wood and west of the Trescault-Metz road. At daylight on September 7th the 12th Company and the accompanying two platoons of the 13th Company occupied the trenches on the eastern edge of the wood, from which the enemy had withdrawn just before dawn. Fighting patrols were pushed forward at noon (7th September) by the 12th and 13th Companies, and the portion of the wood west of the Trescault-Metz road was secured. During the day the eastern edge of the wood was heavily shelled by big guns, and casualties were numerous.”


NZ Artillery Athletics trophy

Time for something a little different. Picked this up a few years ago now and mainly picked it up because of the link with Bernard FREYBERG plus it is a cool looking little thing.

Originally a 25 pounder shell case that has been cut down and converted into a trophy. Also looks like it was an ashtray at some point before the cigarette holders were lost accidently, or removed on purpose.

25 pdr ft

The New Zealanders crossed the Izonso River on 1 May 1945 and reached Trieste the next day just as the German forces in Italy surrendered unconditionally. It should have been a final moment of glory in the Italian campaign – a chance to savour the end of the war in Europe on 8 May and relax before a speedy return home. Instead, it proved a ‘helluva way to end a war’, as one soldier recorded in his diary. The fortunes of war had pitched the NZ Division into an international hot spot, as Trieste became the setting for the first inter-Allied clash of the post-war era in Europe (start of the Cold War). The city was the focal point of a bitter territorial dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. Only after the problem was resolved diplomatically at the highest Allied levels, with the Yugoslavs reluctantly withdrawing from the city in mid-June, were the New Zealand soldiers able to relax.

25 pdr sde

25 pdr bse

I am not a ammo/shell case collector so this is what I have managed to locate online with regard to the markings:

25 PR = Ordnance Quick Firing 25 pounder (field gun)

II = Mark two

RM/C = Robert Mitchell and Co., St Laurent, Quebec, Canada (manufacturer)

CF = either Cordite Full Charge or Charge Full (does seem to be conflicting info about this)

1944 = Year manufactured

Lot 26 = Lot number

On the primer have only managed to decipher the 7/44 = July 1944 (date of manufacture)

25 pdr inside

This cup was awarded to Leslie Anthony MCPHEE. Leslie served in both the Pacific and Italy. In the Pacific he took part in the 3rd NZ Division’s actions on Treasury and Green Islands, in the Solomon Islands chain. He returned to NZ in June 1944 and was posted to the 14th Reinforcements of the 2nd NZEF in December entering Egypt in January 1945. In March 1945 he arrived in Italy and was posted to the 4th Field Regiment, NZ Artillery. He arrived back in NZ in January 1946 and was discharged 21 February 1946. He died in July 1984.The medals he was awarded for his service were: 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and NZ War Service Medal.


Non DPM Civilian Uniform

Was lucky to find an example of the civilian shirt and trousers to put in my collection. These civilian “uniforms” are cut in the same pattern as the normal NZ military DPM uniform (now replaced by MCU).

These civilian non- DPM (disruptive pattern material) tended to be worn by NZ Members of Parliament or other such dignitaries when visiting overseas deployments of NZ military personnel.

Below is a photo of some of these dignitaries in Afghanistan in 2003 visiting a NZ Provisional Reconstruction Team. The lady with the sunglasses is former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark. At least five of the people in this photo are wearing these non DPM sets.

Helen clark

Here is the shirt with a normal DPM shirt for comparison.

You can see with the placement of the pockets on both sleeve’s, the patch bellows pockets on the chest and even the hidden zip closing under the front buttons that this shirt is cut exactly the same as the DPM shirt.

The trousers for comparison too. Both have the large belt loops and the one pocket on the right rear hip, with simple button closing and two pockets on each lower thigh.

The fly closing shows one difference, the civilian example is missing the “pajama” cord round the waist but otherwise they both same.

Manufacturer labels on the civilian shirt and trousers.