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Remembered Today:

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Ivor Edward Champion

(First attempt at a blog).  


Born in Westbury Wiltshire on 4th February 1876 his family lived at Horsecroft Farm Bretton, in 1879 and 1881 he was joined by siblings Stanley and Maurice. The farm is still an equestrian facility and no doubt Ivor grew up playing and working with horses as in 1901 he joined the West Somerset Imperial Yeomanry and spent the next two years in South Africa during the 2nd Boer War.


At some stage after 1902 Ivor emigrated to New Zealand where, still unmarried he worked as a Clerk/Gardiner at Te Parae, Masteton on North Island two hours from Wellington. This address is a large homestead built in 1905 in extensive gardens with stables and a ten acre lake, Ivor was employed by G C Williams whose family four generations on still own it and make it available for weddings and such. (Pic below).


On 24th November 1914 following the outbreak of World War I Ivor (now 38 years and 9 months old) attended a military medical and on 15th December was enlisted into the Otaga Infantry ‘D’ Company at Grantham military camp. On completion of basic training the recruits were marched 27 miles between camps over three days on the Rimutaka Hill Road.


On 13th February 1915 Ivor boarded a transport ship bound for Egypt arriving there on 27th March 1915 as reinforcements for defence of the Suez Canal and the Gallipoli Campaign. On arrival in Egypt Ivor and the rest of the replacements were assigned to Companies as the Regiment was now renamed Otago Battalion, Ivor was posted to 10th Company (North Otago). Until this point the Otago Battalion had been in reserve for a defensive line on the east side of the Suez Canal which had seen action with Turkish Forces. Training commenced for the broken and steep terrain which they would encounter at Gallipoli, strength being the focus. On 10th April 1915 they sailed from Alexandria on TS Annaberg, a captured ship which was described as “filthy beyond description" and lousy which probably meant the men had louse infestations before ever entering a trench where these insects were part of life. After three days at sea the ship arrived at Mudros in the Greek islands, a staging post for the campaign.


On 25th April 1915 landings occurred at five designated beaches on the southern tip of the Peninsular and one on the Western shore, which was designated ANZAC Cove. The first assaults all occurred before 10 a.m., between 2.30 and 4 p.m. the Otago troops landed and were ordered to cover the left flank which had become bogged down at Plugge's Plateau. Due to disorganization in these early stages the Otago's did not go into the line together but filled gaps where needed. Heavy fighting ensued throughout the day and night and despite lack of artillery support several counter attacks were repulsed.


On 26th April Otago's positions were subjected to extensive bombardment but at least they were now supported by two guns and naval ships. Ivor and his comrades were sent to support Australian troops who were holding Steel's Post, so called for the Major in charge of that location. This led to two days of heavy fighting at the end of which the Anzacs held their positions, had created the required beacheads, but had not reached their ultimate objectives and did not control the heights.


The campaign settled to static trench warfare, failed in its main objectives and the Peninsular was abandoned in January 1916. Allied deaths for the campaign was 56,000 which includes 8,709 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders, 25th April is a national day of remembrance in both countries.


On 3rd July 1915 Ivor was evacuated to Malta with sickness and detained in No 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, from here he was shipped to England where he was hospitalised with pneumonia. On release from hospital Ivor was posted to a Depot and remained there until rejojning his unit in Egypt where they were based at Moascar Isolation Camp, a training base for ANZAC troops. During this time the Otago Infantry was re-organised into two Battalions as part of the newly formed New Zealand Division. 1st Battalion to which Ivor was posted to became part of 2nd Infantry Brigade and 2nd Battalion to 2nd Infantry Brigade effectively splitting the Otago formation in two. On 6th April 1916 the Battalion embarked Egypt to France.


On arrival in France the New Zealanders were sent to the Armentierres sector, this was largely seen as a quiet section of front used to acclimatise new units and train them in trench warfare on the Western Front. They found the trenches and defensive wire in need of improvement and mounted patrols to prevent raids.  As part of the preparations for the main offensive of 1916 on the Somme, diversionary attacks were mounted in an effort to take German attention from the main assault. The New Zealand forces mounted several trench raids and by the time they were relieved in August 1916 had suffered 2,500 casualties of which 375 were killed.


Following relief Ivor and his comrades underwent a period of refit and training, in September 1916 they moved South to join the Somme Offensive. The men entered the front line to take part in the 3rd phase of the offensive known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette commencing on 15th September. At 6.20 a.m. men of 2nd Brigade left their trenches and successfully assaulted the German first line, 2nd Brigade leap flogged through and captured the German Flers trench system on the left of Flers village. The final objective of the day a communication trench called Grove Alley was not taken but the following morning 1st Brigade rectified that. The cost was high, 1200 wounded or missing and 670 dead or dying.


The next phase of the offensive was the Battle of Morval, the objectives were three villages (Morval, Gueudecourt and lesboeufs) which were the final unachieved objectives of phase three. The New Zealand Division made two assaults on 25th and 27th September, during this second assault Ivor was killed.


Ivor's body was recovered and buried at Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial near Longueval, Somme District. This cemetery now contains 5569 New Zealand soldiers of which 3796 are unidentified, there is also a memorial wall naming over 1200 men of the New Zealand Division who fell during the Somme Offensive. On 6th November 2004 the remains of an unidentified soldier were exhumed by CWWGC staff from plot 14, Row A, Grave 27 and later laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial, Wellington.


Ivor was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals, these and the Memorial Plaque and scroll were forwarded to his next of kin, his mother Mrs Martha Champion, Warren Cottage Brean. His name was also added to the Brean Memorial at St Briget's Church Brean, Somerset.








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