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Otago Mounted Rifles, Egypt & Gallipoli. + France?


JoMH
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Hello,

Does anyone have information on the movements of the Otago Mounted Rifles between December 1914 and October 1915?

My grandfather, Rev Charles J H Dobson (9/633) sailed with Otago Mounted Rifles on the HMNZT No 5 "RUAPEHU". I gather he arrived at Alexandria on 3rd Dec 1914. [Edit 13/06/09 - Correction: Dobson sailed on HMNZT No 10 Arawa]

From then, I have been able to place him at "Hill 60", Gallipoli in August 1915 when he witnessed the shooting of Chaplain Grant as they toured trenches together.

I believe he contracted dysentery whilst at Gallipoli, and turned up in London (3rd London General Hospital) around 9th November 1915.

But I am looking to fill in some gaps for this particular period, if possible. So any information on the whereabouts and activities of the Otago Mounted Rifles during that time would be extremely helpful, and might make my large and very complicated jigsaw puzzle more intelligible... I am looking for general information, as well as details, so any small thing would help to give background.

(By the way, he was later with the 2nd Auckland Battalion while in France and Belgium.)

Joanna

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Dear Joanna

In brief, the OMR trained in Egypt from December 1914 up to May 1915 when the severe casualty figures from Gallipoli meant the Mounted Rifles from both NZ and Australia were drafted as infantry (i.e. without their horses) for service on Gallipoli. The OMR arrived in late may and fought the remainder of the campaign at ANZAC. Following the evacuation from Gallipoli, the OMR was sent to France as a Mounted Squadron for the NZ Division formed in early 1916, whilst the other 3 Mounted Regiments formed the NZMR Brigade and saw out the war in Egypt and Palestine. Curiously there was never an official history written about the OMR - the only combat unit not to be so remembered. Best reference is a wonderful book by Terry Kinloch - "Echoes of Gallipoli - in the words of New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen".

The OMR suffered terible casualties on Gallipoli and were effectively incapable of being a "functional unit" by the end of the August battles

I will post more details, but as the rain has stopped in Auckland, I need to mow a lawn or two....

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Mate,

According to members on the NZ Mounted Rifles webb site, a number of writers are at present working on a unit history of the OMR.

I have done some research on them but only during there fighting in France.

You could ask this question there or wait the books printing. but I would say that maybe some time later.

S.B

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Dear Joanna

In brief, the OMR trained in Egypt from December 1914 up to May 1915 when the severe casualty figures from Gallipoli meant the Mounted Rifles from both NZ and Australia were drafted as infantry (i.e. without their horses) for service on Gallipoli. The OMR arrived in late may and fought the remainder of the campaign at ANZAC. Following the evacuation from Gallipoli, the OMR was sent to France as a Mounted Squadron for the NZ Division formed in early 1916, whilst the other 3 Mounted Regiments formed the NZMR Brigade and saw out the war in Egypt and Palestine. Curiously there was never an official history written about the OMR - the only combat unit not to be so remembered. Best reference is a wonderful book by Terry Kinloch - "Echoes of Gallipoli - in the words of New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen".

The OMR suffered terible casualties on Gallipoli and were effectively incapable of being a "functional unit" by the end of the August battles

I will post more details, but as the rain has stopped in Auckland, I need to mow a lawn or two....

Many thanks for your summary.

I'll look up that book and see if I can order it. Strange the OMR didn't get an official history published. I wonder if it had something to do with the number of casualties...

Happy mowing - don't let the grass grow under your feet!

I look forward to further details when you have time.

Joanna

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Mate,

According to members on the NZ Mounted Rifles webb site, a number of writers are at present working on a unit history of the OMR.

I have done some research on them but only during there fighting in France.

You could ask this question there or wait the books printing. but I would say that maybe some time later.

S.B

Thank you Steve.

I've taken a look at the NZ Mounted Rifles website, and will see if I can register with them to post some questions there.

Your help is very much appreciated.

Joanna

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am trying to find a copy of the book recommended by aconnolly:

Terry Kinloch's Echoes of Gallipoli - In the Words of New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen.

Amazon offers it at 75 pounds, and Abe Books shows no results.

Any suggestions for where else I might look with a chance of finding a better price please?

Joanna

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  • 3 months later...
Dear Joanna

In brief, the OMR trained in Egypt from December 1914 up to May 1915 when the severe casualty figures from Gallipoli meant the Mounted Rifles from both NZ and Australia were drafted as infantry (i.e. without their horses) for service on Gallipoli. The OMR arrived in late may and fought the remainder of the campaign at ANZAC. Following the evacuation from Gallipoli, the OMR was sent to France as a Mounted Squadron for the NZ Division formed in early 1916, whilst the other 3 Mounted Regiments formed the NZMR Brigade and saw out the war in Egypt and Palestine. Curiously there was never an official history written about the OMR - the only combat unit not to be so remembered. Best reference is a wonderful book by Terry Kinloch - "Echoes of Gallipoli - in the words of New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen".

The OMR suffered terible casualties on Gallipoli and were effectively incapable of being a "functional unit" by the end of the August battles

I will post more details, but as the rain has stopped in Auckland, I need to mow a lawn or two....

I've just been reading through your post again.

Did the OMRs actually stay at ANZAC itself for the remainder of the Gallipoli campaign? Or did they move about on Gallipoli? Do you know where exactly? I am wondering whether Dobson remained attached to OMR for the campaign - he was at Hill 60 in August.

Another GWF member has sent me a brief extract of a diary which mentions the OMR chaplain (though not by name). The period for the extract is July 1 - 26, 1915. I don't know what area it refers to, but will see if I can find out.

Thanks,

Joanna

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Dear Joanna

I will need to dig out some details, but OMR spent the campaign at ANZAC itself. Rev Dobson spent his time attached to the OMR but the nature of the fighting at ANZAC probably meant that as a Chaplain he probably served the needs of many rather than simply those of the OMR.

Andrew

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Andrew & Zack,

Thank you! Hard to find much, and I've been banging my head against a brick wall for a while.

Anything on OMR in Egypt or Gallipoli, however small, will be very gratefully received. Information on Rev Charles Dobson himself is (almost) beyond my expectations!

I gather from what you say, Andrew, that the OMR war diary may not give information that can indicate what Dobson was up to exactly - ie he wasn't necessarily with them day-to-day? The quote in "Men of Faith & Courage" has him touring the trenches on 28/08/15 at Hill 60 in company of Chaplain Grant who was Wellington Mounted Rifles.

I very much look forward to the results of your hunting and digging...

With best wishes,

Joanna

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Joanna,

I have just started a book by Peter Stanley "Quinn's post", skimming through the book The OMR seem to be mentioned often.

Colin.

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Hello Boysoldier,

Thank you for looking up the OMR in 'Quinn's Post'.

I read 'Quinn's Post' a few months back, so you got me rooting through the index and bibliography. I found mention of the Otago Battalion in the index, and in the bibliography, a 'Mr Justin Westenra, Otago Mounted Rifles' under the Peter Liddle Collection in Leeds. (I'll try and persue that one.) But no more on OMR. Am I missing something?

By the way, I found the book fascinating - for the sheer detail through focussing on one place. I admire and appreciate the way it was written - not least for his ambition to "write a military history without using any abbreviations."

Please let me know if I am indeed missing out on more references to the Otago Mounted Rifles.

With thanks,

Joanna

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As I mentioned Joanna I have only just started the book but when I have completed same will advise you. It maybe I was just lucky in comng across the Otago name several times, will advise.

Cheers.

Colin.

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Joanna

Some information on Charles James Hamilton Dobson for you.

Surname DOBSON

Given Name Charles James Hamilton

Category Nominal Roll Vol. 1

Regimental Number 9/633

Rank Chapl-Capt

Body or Draft Main Body

Unit or Regiment Otago Mounted Rifles

Marital Status S

Last NZ Address Diocesan Office Nelson

Next of Kin Title John Howard

Next of Kin Surname DOBSON

Next of Kin Address Alexandra South Otago

Source: Nominal Roll

QUOTE ONE:

Chaplain Dobson had had a varied and adventurous life. Born at Westport on 25 November 1886, he received a commission in the senior army cadets in 1911. In 1913 he was ordained into the Anglican priesthood and appointed to the Marlborough sounds, where he performed phenomenal feats of walking; in 12 months he walked over 3000 kilometres around his scattered parish, sleeping some nights under trees or rocks. He left New Zealand with the main body 1 NZEF in 1914 and was with Chaplain Grant on Gallipoli in 1915 when the latter was killed. Wounded on Gallipoli he recovered in time to see further service in France. “The padre was one of the few main body men still surviving and had had a long war experience. He was well-known for his courage and sang-froid." In 1918 his deeds earned him a MC: “During an attack the 2nd Battalion Auckland regiment was heavily shelled prior to its advance. The Regimental Medical Officer, Capt H Simcox, and many of his men became casualties. Mr. Dobson immediately took charge of the situation, establishing a regimental aid post, organise stretcher bearers and himself priest wounded men under intense fire, and with few facilities. His example of gallantry and unselfish devotion to duty were the admiration of all who came in contact with him”. (Citation to award)

In 1919 before returning to New Zealand he served for a time as vicar of Middlesboro, England, working in the slums. He became Vicar of Richmond, Nelson in 1920 and Mangatainoka in 1921 and returned to Europe in 1922. At Smyrna, in Turkey, he greatly distinguished himself by his rescue work in a blazing fire. Dobson later took up the position of chaplain to the English community and was born, attached to the British embassy.

On 6 May 1930 he died of typhoid fever complicated by pneumonia, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery at Lisbon aged forty-three. The loss of chaplain was severely felt by the British colony, who subscribed generously to a fund for his widow and three children. So passed to his rest one of the more colourful figures of the New Zealand Chaplains Department in World War I.

Source: Men of Faith and Courage: The Official History of New Zealand's Army Chaplains by J Bryant Haigh. Page 73

The Rev Charles James Hamilton Dobson (C of E) was one of 14 Padres awarded the Military Cross in World War I. He was also one of 12 Padres mentioned in dispatches for bravery.

QUOTE TWO

Dobson, Charles James Hamilton 3/633A (formerly 9/633)

MC

Reverend, NZ chaplains Department, attached 2nd Bn, Auckland Regiment

LG 2 December 1918, p14289

During an attack the Battalion was heavily shelled prior to its advance. The regimental met medical officer and many of his men became casualties. Mr. Dobson immediately took charge of the situation, established a regimental aid post, organised stretcher parties, and himself dressed wounded men under intense fire, and with few facilities. His example of gallantry and unselfish devotion to duty were the admiration of all who came in contact with him.

MID Reverend, N.Z. chaplains Department, attached 2nd Battalion Auckland Regiment

LG 28 May 1918, p6205, Rec No 1933

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the attack at Gravenstafel on 4 October 1917 he went forward with the Battalion and rendered great assistance to the wounded. Throughout this action and at all other times he has shown a fine example of courage and devotion.

Source: Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914 to 1918 by Wayne McDonald p 86

QUOTE THREE

Chaplain Major Grant’s death

The following letter, featuring Dobson, was received by Mrs William Grant from Chaplain Capt Blamires, gives a detailed account of the historic and self-sacrificing death the Chaplain Major W Grant:

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

Chaplain’s Department

Damel Jelek Bair, Gallipoli Peninsula,

August 30, 1915

Dear Mrs Grant,

I'm writing as a friend of your husband’s, for we were in camp at Oringi (1913) together, and have been side-by-side in the Mounted Brigade at Zeitun and during the last days of the splendid work here. To know him was to admire his manliness and high sense of Christian duty and service. He has died the noblest death while knowing the danger and ministering to others. A few words concerning his last days will, I'm sure, be of interest to you and yours. I write in pencil, as ink is unobtainable. We are linked up again on Thursday morning, August 26th, and had a long talk over our experiences and work. He was most anxious for news of his boys. We attended that afternoon a Mounted Brigade parade, when General Godley spoke of the coming battle and charge. Next morning we visited the field ambulance dressing station, close to the fight firing line, and arranged our work as far as possible. The major looked pretty well, very tanned. He turned in early for a good sleep. Next morning, August 27, he went through his correspondence and left everything in order. I could see that everywhere he moved and spoke cheery words of greeting, he was highly respected and esteem by officers and men. Together after the heavy bombardment we went out of the trenches, and till late at night assisted in bringing in wounded, giving them comfort, assisting the doctors, and praying with the dying. At midnight I persuaded him to turn in for a sleep in his dug out. He had stood the strain of former battles, and I was in a fitter form, so he remained till the main rush was over. Again on Saturday morning we went out, accompanied by Chaplain Captain Dobson, who had just arrived. At the dressing station we parted to pursue different routes through the trenches, looking for wounded needing assistance and to encourage the brave boys in the fight. At 12.30, hearing that there were possibly wounded among the bushes, I crawled over the trenches and sought amongst the brambles in vain, and I roll back into the trenches unseen at 12.45. At that very time in another part, the brave husband of his death.

He had gone in another direction with Dobson, and they went unwittingly along an old trench beyond our guards. There they found two or three wounded Britishers and a wounded Turk, all lying among dead Turks in a shallow trench. They ministered to their immediate needs and promised to send help. Thinking others might be further on, they thought of proceeding a little further, but they got into Turkish trenches, and suddenly Turks appeared around a “V” corner, and seeing strangers, fired. It is not believed they knew they fire on Red Cross helpers, for Turks had given our wounded water. They probably thought a charge was coming. The first shot knocked the Major over, and Dobson escaped unhurt. We were not allowed that day to go out and search for traces of him. We expected he had been taken prisoner, and would be well treated. But at night the Australians took more ground, and Major White on Sunday morning (29th) sent for Captain Dobson to go with him in search. I Went with. We were not greatly molested, except for an occasional shot, and on reaching the trench immediately saw that death had mercifully been instantaneous, were shot having entered the neck just above the chest. We reverently brought him to a sheltered spot, but could not until night-time get the body sent out owing to snipers. The work was completed at night. We have brought the body to a quiet resting place in the gallery close to his dug out in Damel Jelek Bair. I have sent word to Chaplain Captain King, and tonight the last rites will be observed. As they were at work the Major said, “This is the valley of the Shadow of Death.” “Yes,” replied Captain Dobson, “but if one is to go there are worse ways of going.” “This is the best way,” was the Major’s emphatic rejoinder. That was practically his last word. He used to speak to the men about playing the game and following the way of Christ. He has done so most worthily himself. We deeply mourn his loss, but glory in his heroism and faithfulness. God richly comfort you and yours, and the Church in Gisborne. We shall erect a cairn of stones to mark the resting place.

With sincere sympathy, I am your faithfully, H L BLAMIRES, Chaplain-Captain (from Wanganui.)

PS On the day preceding the end the Major and I were photographed together by our dug out. I will send you a copy when I get it developed, also one of the quiet Dere where rests his body. HLB.

Source In Memorandum Chaplain Major William Grant His Letters from the Front Page 89 to 91

Note the description of William Grant’s death by Blamires is at variance to what is described in Terry Kinlock’s Echoes of Gallipoli page 245 where Grant is described as being ‘bayoneted’ not shot.

More to come

Zack

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Joanna

The Otago Mounted Rifles (dismounted) didn't arrive on Gallipoli until 20 May 1915. There is no reference in Terry Kinlock's book to Dobson. A photo follows - not a great one but one nevertheless.

Zack

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Hello Zack,

All I can say is "thank you" - and it doesn't feel like quite enough!

Some of these are new to me - notably the reference to Gravenstafel 04/10/17 and Blamires' letter to Mrs Grant.

QUOTE ONE

Bryant Haigh's date for Dobson's time in Middlesbrough is incorrect. He went there in 1923, after escaping to Malta as a refugee with his family from the fire at Smyrna in September 1922. The destruction of Smyrna and his part in rescue work is quite a story in itself and he wrote two reports on it. But this strays out of the remit of the GWF - though if anyone is interested, I can give more information.

QUOTE TWO

Dobson, Charles James Hamilton 3/633A (formerly 9/633)

MC

Reverend, NZ chaplains Department, attached 2nd Bn, Auckland Regiment

LG 2 December 1918, p14289

During an attack the Battalion was heavily shelled prior to its advance. The regimental medical officer and many of his men became casualties. Mr. Dobson immediately took charge of the situation, established a regimental aid post, organised stretcher parties, and himself dressed wounded men under intense fire, and with few facilities. His example of gallantry and unselfish devotion to duty were the admiration of all who came in contact with him.

Source: Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914 to 1918 by Wayne McDonald p 86

I often wonder what action the above refers to - ie when was it where was he?

MID Reverend, N.Z. chaplains Department, attached 2nd Battalion Auckland Regiment

LG 28 May 1918, p6205, Rec No 1933

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the attack at Gravenstafel on 4 October 1917 he went forward with the Battalion and rendered great assistance to the wounded. Throughout this action and at all other times he has shown a fine example of courage and devotion.

Source: Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914 to 1918 by Wayne McDonald p 86

And this is new to me. Another GWF member had put him at Broodseinde for 04/10/17.

[Edit: I now see these names - Gravenstafel or Broodseinde - are often used and interchanged for the same action. Though Gravenstafel seems more correct in terms of 2/Auckland.]

From his war file I can add:

Spec mention in despatches by F M Sir Douglas Haig for [??] "& gallant service & devotion to duty" during the period Sep 25th 1917 to [??] Feb 24/25 dated 9.4.18

Awd M C

For [??] of Gallantry in the Field NZEF 6.689 Ldn 30.9.18

Blamires' letter is a real treasure. I found a photo of Grant's grave (collection Alexander Turnbull) and will try and find it and post a link.

Thank you for posting the photo. I have one original photo of my grandfather - in Lisbon - also hard to distinguish his features! But from the posted photo I can get an idea of him through body language which is very interesting.

Once more, many thanks - and more thanks - still doesn't feel like quite enough...

Joanna

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Here is Bryant Haigh's version of Chaplain Grant's death. It starts with a description of Grant.

"At fiftysix, he was a tall father figure to the troops and as Presbyterian Chaplain to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, he had endeared himself to the men by his ability to talk as a friend with the most irreverent and uncouth soldier. His activity in looking for and assisting wounded on the terrible ridges and gullies of Gallipoli made him a familiar sight throughout the whole NZEF.

On 28 August 1915 in company of the young Chaplain Dobson, he was touring the battered trenches on Hill 60, tending and comforting the wounded until the stretcher-bearers could get to them. As the two men worked their way along the trench from one group of New Zealanders to the next they passed unkowingly beyond the last man in the line, who himself did not realise that he formed the left flank of the New Zealand position. As they toiled on through the maze of shattered trenches they rounded a traverse and came face to face with the party of Turkish soldiers. Only a fraction of a second passed before the Turks fired and Chaplain Grant fell - too short a time for the Red Cross armbands worn by both chaplains to have been noticed and respected. The Turks angrily waved Dobson away as he stood, shocked and staring, at Grant's body.

Dobson later, in company with Chaplain Blamires, led a party to recover Grant's body. It was buried in a gully on the side of Hill 60, with Blamires conducting the service. After the war the grave could not be identified, and today Grant's name is among those listed with no known grave on the New Zealand Memorial on Hill 60. There is also a plaque to his memory in St Andrew's Presbyterian Church at Gisborne."

Joanna

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It would be interesting to know what Terry Kinloch's version of Grant's death is in "Echoes of Gallipoli" as a comparison to Bryant Haigh's. I looked for a copy on the internet - and found something very expensive. Here in France, I am far from libraries which may have the book, though I will be in London in June, and hope to track it down then.

Joanna

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QUOTE TWO

Dobson, Charles James Hamilton 3/633A (formerly 9/633)

MC

Reverend, NZ chaplains Department, attached 2nd Bn, Auckland Regiment

LG 2 December 1918, p14289

During an attack the Battalion was heavily shelled prior to its advance. The regimental medical officer and many of his men became casualties. Mr. Dobson immediately took charge of the situation, established a regimental aid post, organised stretcher parties, and himself dressed wounded men under intense fire, and with few facilities. His example of gallantry and unselfish devotion to duty were the admiration of all who came in contact with him.

Source: Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914 to 1918 by Wayne McDonald p 86

I often wonder what action the above refers to - ie when was it & where was he?

I can answer this now.

30th August 1918, Bapaume.

"It was decided without delay to attack the enemy in their new position on the line Fremicourt-Bancourt-Riencourt, which they had organised on the high ground that ran in a northerly direction from Riencourt behind Bancourt to the Cambrai road...

"The attack, which was on a wide front, was to go forward at dawn on the 30th August. On the left the 42/Division was moving on Riencourt, and on the right 1/Wellington had Fremincourt as their objective. Just before zero Major Sinel received information from the English troops that they would be unable to move for some little time. In accordance with instructions received from Brigade, 2/Auckland were thereupon held back, although the rest of the advance continued as arranged. The German artillery opened up at once, and a heavy barrage was put down on the sunken roads in which the Aucklanders had assembled. Many casualties occurred. Major Sinel and Major McClelland were both slightly wounded, but were able to carry on. Dr. Simcox, who was with the Battalion while Dr. Harpur was on leave, was severely wounded. Padre Dobson took over the aid post and superintended the care of the wounded through the rest of the fighting."

Page 239 The Auckland Regiment. O E Burton

Joanna

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Joanna

Terry Kinlock reports Grant's death in similar fashion to Haigh, but does not refer to your Grandfather.

Andrew

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Given the difference in the description of William Grant’s death by Blamires and that described in Terry Kinlock’s Echoes of Gallipoli page 245 where Grant is described as being ‘bayoneted’ not shot it may be that the padre was trying to protect the sensitivities of Mrs Grant. That is by saying Grant was shot, and death was instantaneous sounds a lot better that telling the widow that her husband had been bayoneted and may have taken some time to die.

Zack

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Yes, I suppose it's possible that Grant was bayoneted and the idea of a quick death fabricated to save the widow's feelings. I've heard of this practice before.

I wonder what Terry Kinloch's source for his information on the event was?

Joanna

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Joanna

The bayoneting story seems rather confusing. According to Terry Kinlock’s page 245 note he quotes Major A H Wilkie in his book History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment (1924) “p 66” it’s actually pages 65,66 and 67 and there is no mention of Grant’s death by bayoneting in Wilkie that I can find. The other page 245 reference Terry Kinlock lists is “Andrews p 130.” Not certain who this is – could T Andrews author of Kiwi Trooper: the story of Queen Alexandra’s Own Wanganui Chronicle Wanganui 1967. On the other hand it could have been a story that Francis Twisleton (also quoted in Terry Kinlock) related in the Andrews book. Grant’s body was lost.

Perhaps Terry who is a GWF member could elucidate?

Zack

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