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MaggieP

Roland Justus Hill - Otago Regiment NZEF

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MaggieP

I am looking for information on 8/1056 Captain Roland Justus Hill, my husband's great uncle who was the son of noted Victorian artist Justus Hill who lived in Acton/Ealing. Roland had moved to New Zealand a few years before WW1 and enlisted in the NZEF. He received the Military Cross for gallantry and was then mentioned in despatches in 1917 and was killed on March 3rd 1918. This we know from an obituary in the Acton Gazette and the War Grave Commission entry.

Today I received a copy of the Official History of the Otago Regiment by Byrne and hoped to find the circummstances of his death. We were amazed to read:-

A tragic affair occurred in the 2nd Battalion lines on March 3rd. Captain R. J. Hill, M.C., and 2nd-Lieut. D.

McLean, M.M., were fatally shot without apparent reason by a private of the Battalion Transport, who, presumably

insane, subsequently shot himself. A funeral service held in the Hondeghem Cemetery on the following day was

attended by representatives of each Company and of other branches of the Division.

So poor Roland died as the result of an internal tragedy. It would be great to know more and perhaps have a picture of this forgotten family member. It would also be nice to know how he won his MC and the circumstances of his MD.

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KevinBattle

Hello, MaggieP, quite by chance I have begun expanding on the Acton Roll of Honour and have just been comparing the RoH of about 718 Names with all the reports in the Acton Gazette.

There was a report of a Mention in Despatches carried in the 15/6/17 edition, and I believe that he lived at Shalimar Gardens Acton. The report of 1/3/18 notes the award of his MC. The Gazette has many photos but I haven't a notation of such against Captain RJ Hill, but I shall be returning to Ealing Central Library shortly and will see what more there is.

This level of detail is remarkable, thank you for posting and if I may, can I include this information?

I don't have access to his Medal Index Card or other information such as the London Gazette where such awards were noted, but I'm sure another Forum Pal will be along shortly to fill in any gaps.

If you haven't already done so, it might be worth calling up the Cemeteries option (change it in the "Casualty" box) for Hondeghem cemetery and see if any other NZ entries around that date appear. It might provide the name of the man who shot himself, another little piece of the puzzle. Don't bother, just done so myself, only 9 burials, just Hill and McLean, no others 03/03/18. Incidentally I thought officers were awarded the MC but 2nd Lieutenant McLean is shown as MM..... maybe a promotion from the ranks?

I'll let you know if anything of interest is in the Gazette.

Regards, Kevin

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(nzef)

Hi,

In case you havent seen the citations

M.C

Quatermaster and Honorary Lieut, 2nd Btn, Otago Reg.

L.G 1 Jan 1918, p53, Rec no 1184

Operations Messines 7th to 12th June and operations opposite Warneton 14th to 19th June 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and deovotion to duty. As Quatermaster to his battalion this officer has displayed the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty in personally taking forward rations and supplies up to the front line, he himself superintending their distribution under heavy shellfire. His energy and initiative have at all times invoked the highest praise and it has been mainly due to his efforts that the fighting men in the front line have never run short of food or water. He is deserving of special disinction.

M.I.D

L.G 1 June 1917, p5429, Rec No 633

British Front Armentieres and Operations Somme 20th September - 2nd October 1916. This Officer has held the appointment of Quartermaster to his Battalion for the past 11 months and has carried out the duties with conspicuous success. On all occasion the Battalion has been well fed and equiped and especially during the operations on the Somme. Lieut Hill was untiring in his efforts to ensure that the men in the front line recieved their rations, water and ammunition regularly. This he never failed to do and personally accompanied the rations to the Battalion dumps under heavy shellfire to ensure their safe arrival.

Accidentally killed (shot by soldier), France 3 March 1918

From Honours & Awards to the NZEF in the Great War by Wayne McDonald

Cheers

Grant

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KevinBattle

Thank you both. I see that they had difficulty in correctly spelling Justus and took the logical route to "Justice"

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MaggieP

Thank you everyone for the replies so far. It is great to see the citations. I am now awaiting Roland Hill's service records from New Zealand.

Thank you Kevin especially for your knowledge of Acton. Justus Hill senior and many of his family did live at 40, Shalimar Gardens Acton. According to the obituary (1925) of Justus senior, as well as losing his son Roland, he lost another son Air Mechanic Harold Hill who was wounded in France by a bomb 0n 26th September 1918 and died on 4th October 1918. The obituary was in The Acton gazette - not quite sure of the date, but obviously soon after his death. A daughter was recorded as dying of shock during an air raid sometime in 1917-1918.

We know nothing more about these other family members than I have written above. We found out these facts from a visit to Ealing Libray to see the Justus Hill collection of paintings and the archivist Jonathan Oates had kindly found some WW1 facts for us. You are welcome to use whatever you like of the information and we will welcome any more information on the Hill family of Acton/Ealing.

Thank You.

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KevinBattle

MaggieP, it's a small world, as I have been spending time with Jonathan going through the Acton Roll of Honour, photographing each page then transcribing all 718 and fleshing out where possible.

No doubt you have the CWGC info on Harold?

Name HILL, HAROLD. Rank: Air Mechanic 1st Class. Service No: 221241

Regiment/Service: 1st Aeroplane Supply Depot Repair Park Royal Air Force

Age: 32. Date of Death: 04/10/1918

Additional information: Son of Justus and Hannah Elizabeth Hill, of Acton.

Grave/Memorial Reference: IV. E. 13. Cemetery: Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille

You may know that Park Royal is just a short distance North of Acton. As yet I haven't got that far into the alphabet to have much more info, but will see what the Acton Gazette archives contain. Flight magazine generally has a good deal of information, but I can only find a Cadet H Hill died in the 29th September edition, which is a week earlier than the date given on the CWGC site. The RAF Roll of Honour published each week seems to only show Officers or Cadets, no lower ranks at that stage of the War. If I get any more, I'll obviously post,as no doubt will other Forum Pals who may have useful information to contribute.

You may also note a couple of my recent postings on here have been with regard to Jonathan and his recent book on Unsolved London Murders!!

Cheers, Kevin

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Guest Sue D

Dear Maggie, and contributors,

I hope you are still active on this forum.

i have inherited some letters written to my Great Aunt by soldiers billeted with her family during WWar I.

among them are some from Rowland Hill, Otago Battn, NZF in England in 1917, prior to his departure to France.

I also have a small photo.

I don't know if there was more than one serviceman of this name in the Otago batallion, or if this could be your relative?

Sue D 

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pukman

I had a short article ,that was published in the New Zealand Military Historical Societies ,journal ,volume 40 ,March 2015 .It was about this ''tragic affair'' .If anyone wants a scanned copy ,PM me .Cheers Iain D

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MaggieP
14 hours ago, pukman said:

I had a short article ,that was published in the New Zealand Military Historical Societies ,journal ,volume 40 ,March 2015 .It was about this ''tragic affair'' .If anyone wants a scanned copy ,PM me .Cheers Iain D

Roland was our great uncle, and we discovered this sad story 7 years ago. Amazing to see the full papers now released, and yes we would love a scanned copy of the journal article. We do accept that in wartime it would do no good to know that a private had gone berserk and murdered his officers......just very sad. And yes I did trace Roland's granddaughter (now sadly deceased) and shared with her her English background, and she sent me documents and a picture of his MC.

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Martyn61

MaggieP 

 

interested to know if any other New Zealanders are mentioned in the letters you have?

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NZ War Graves

Phootgraphs of both graves from this tragedy are on our website www.nzwargraves.org. His service record shows Roland Justice Hill. 

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PaulGane

Hi Maggie,

 

Are you still looking for information on Captain Roland Hill? I am trying to find out more information. 

 

He is also my grandfather's uncle. My grandfather being Terry Blake (South African).

 

I have a letter, photo and badges from Captain Hill from WWI. The letter was written in July 1917 only a few months before he was tragically killed.  

 

Paul

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Moonraker
Posted (edited)

Hullo, Paul, and welcome to the Forum. Maggie last visited us on April 11, 2017. I'll try to send her a Private Message which she may, or may not, pick up, to alert her to your post.

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker

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MaggieP
4 hours ago, PaulGane said:

Hi Maggie,

 

Are you still looking for information on Captain Roland Hill? I am trying to find out more information. 

 

He is also my grandfather's uncle. My grandfather being Terry Blake (South African).

 

I have a letter, photo and badges from Captain Hill from WWI. The letter was written in July 1917 only a few months before he was tragically killed.  

 

Paul

Yes Paul, we are always interested to hear more about Great Uncle Rowland. His full birth name was Rowland Justus Hill, but the Otago regiment made that Roland Justice. Would be interested to know where your grandfather is in the tree, and to see copies of the letter and badges. In return, I am sure we have information and copy documents and pictures we can give you, once we have a clearer idea of what you know and have. Do get in touch Regards Maggie

 

 

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PaulGane

Hi Maggie,

 

I believe my grandfather's father (Frederick Ernest Blake) was married to Edith Hill. Roland Hill must have been her brother...? How many siblings were there? 

 

Edith Hill must have moved to South Africa before the war began but she died soon after it in 1924? 

 

I have attached a photo of a letter Roland Hill wrote to my grandfather in July 1917 together with his photo and numerous badges he sent... We also have a Justus Hill painting in our house. 

 

Would love to know more about what you know...

 

Paul

 

 

 

Captain Roland Hill - letter, photo and badges.jpg

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MaggieP
On 19/04/2017 at 22:32, NZ War Graves said:

Phootgraphs of both graves from this tragedy are on our website www.nzwargraves.org. His service record shows Roland Justice Hill. 

 

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MaggieP

His birth certificate shows him as Rowland Justus Hill (his artist father was Justus), as does his marriage certificate. Roland was often spelt with a W in Victorian times

Probably the clerk made the  mistake when he signed up and it didn't bother him since the sound was right.

Regards

Maggie (Petch)

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MaggieP

Thank you for your reply and a photo of the letter and other items. Could read much of the letter,but missed a few bits where there had been folds. Really exciting to see something he had written. If you can ever get a slightly better copy that would be wonderful. Would love a picture of your Justus Hill painting - we have quite a few, and photos of many more, 

I have tried attaching some items to this mail, but Word documents aren't accepted and I didn't get anywhere with photos.

Anyway Edith Florence born 1880 was Justus Hills first child of 13. I have now copied below the general info  I would have given you the Word reference to. Sorry it's long winded, and concentrated on Justus's son Rowland Justus who died in WW1. If we can find any other way of better communicating, I can send you more family information, pictures etc. 

For all I know you may be in the UK.

 

Family Background-Rowland Justus Hill

Rowland’s background is interesting, so I’ll provide some detail for interest, although it’s probably not quite so useful for your Edith.

His grandfather, George Teil Hill was a tailor in rural Oxfordshire, until one evening he attended an evangelical meeting was converted on the spot, abandoned his business, parked his wife and baby with her parents and went to Glasgow to train as a Baptist minister. Once trained, he set up his ministry in the depths of London dockland and co-founded the Seaman’s Christian Friends Society, an international charity that operates to this day.  George picked up his family life, and he and wife Mary raised two sons and two daughters. The youngest, a boy born in 1848, was Justus Hill.

Justus, perhaps wanting to escape a life built around the church and charity, travelled to the East and spent time in China before he settled down, but his true calling was to be an artist. His father’s work in the East End had led to an acquaintance with Charles Dickens, and through this useful contact it was arranged that Justus should be trained by George Cruikshank, who was Dickens illustrator. Justus became a successful painter in oil and water colour, regularly exhibiting at the Royal Academy.  He married and in keeping with the large families of the time he and wife Hannah had thirteen children. Rowland Justus born in 1885 was the ninth child.

Rowland Justus

Rowland, perhaps inheriting his father’s wanderlust, worked as a ship’s steward from early 1902 until late 1908, going to South and East Africa, and latterly to New Zealand.  He obviously liked the country, or maybe the residents, as he left the sea and stayed in Wellington.

His daughter (Phyllis Mary) was born 01/11/1909 in Wellington, son (also Rowland Justus) was born 08/01/1911 in Timaru. Rowland married Catherine Hughes in Dunedin on 16/05/1910.  Perhaps not a conventional sequence but they seemed settled. Rowland worked as a steward and waiter.

Outbreak of War in Europe

With the outbreak of war, Rowland enlisted as a private in the Otago regiment and came back to Europe with the NZEF.  He was in Egypt for a few months, then on the Somme where he was promoted to Lieutenant and was mentioned in dispatches.

After the Somme offensive, he was promoted to Captain and became Battalion Quartermaster. He served in Operations Messines and opposite Warneton in June 1917. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty.

Sad Demise

On March 3rd 1918, the battalion was briefly stood down from fighting, and Rowland and another officer were tragically killed. While at the front, as quartermaster Rowland could obtain additional manpower to ensure that the front was kept fully supplied with all that was needed. Being briefly stood down Roland was unable to keep his entire complement of men. Thus, one of the men was told he would be returning to his old company, which he realised would entail him returning to the front line. The man, private Avon John Roderique, became deranged, and pulling a revolver he had secreted (presumably stolen from a dead German), he shot the bearer of the message, Second Lieutenant Duncan McLean and then found the Captain – Rowland Hill – and shot him too. Both officers died instantly, and Roderique then shot and killed himself.

The two New Zealand officers, both holders of gallantry medals are buried in a rural churchyard, Hondegham in France. They had a funeral with full military honours since they were away from the front – a sad end for two very brave men. The poor man, who did the killing, was not buried with them but is instead in Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery.

The subsequent enquiry relates the story in detail, including word for word conversations. However, summarising the event a month later, Roderique is listed as accidentally killing the officers (and himself) in the course of his duty. The two officers have a cause of death – Accidental Death on Active Service.  The result is understandable, as it would do no good in war time for it to be known that a soldier had killed his own officers. 

Afterwards

The immediate result was sadness for all the families involved. 

Rowlands father Justus, never painted again. He then lost another son in WW1 – October 1918, and in the last two years of WW1 he lost two officer brothers of his daughter in law, two daughters (one from shock during an air raid and one from flu) and his wife.  He died in 1924 in an asylum.

Rowland’s widow Catherine did remarry in time, to a Thomas Holland, but she had no more children. The children grew and Phyllis (the elder) married Peter Poleson who was from the Shetland Isles, and they had two children, Catherine and Margaret – I was informed that by 2010 Peter, Phyllis and Margaret had died.  Rowland (junior) married Rosena Campbell 02 September 1937, Mary their daughter was born 19 November 1937, but sadly Rosena didn’t recover from the birth and died 17th December 1937 – very sad. Mary married Maurice Jones and moved to Australia. We were in touch with her until her death in 2014 and I am still in touch with Mary’s granddaughter Jessie. I have provided her with all the info I have including about 30 pictures of artist Justus’ pictures.

The two officers are perhaps not as much remembered as they would have been if they had died in battle. We have visited Hondegham, a tiny village, and while the graves have the standard War Grave headstones, they are not so well looked after – covered in green lichen in the last pictures. Understandably Rowland is not really remembered in the UK or France, but there are records in New Zealand and the Otago daily newspaper printed a full article on the centenary of the deaths.The other officer Duncan McLean was of Scottish extract, and I have been in touch with a descendant in Canada.

For our family, the greatest personal news that came out of the sad story, besides us being able to go to France and honour his grave, was that four years after I had written to a New Zealand Newspaper to try and trace Rowland’s descendants, with no luck, or even confirmation that it had been printed, we received an email from an Australian family who had read the still-on-line letter and thought I might help them with their own family research. A little delving and we had found my husband’s sister, who had been a family secret and adopted at birth. So unwittingly, research into Rowland resulted in trip to Australia to meet our large family over there, and with whom we are in constant contact.

 

 

ROLANDJ.HILL.jpg

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PaulGane

Hi Maggie,

 

I managed to attach a photo of our Justus Hill painting. It is one of a set of three. My uncle has the other one but i am not sure where the last one is...

 

My email is paulblake1983@gmail.com - if that makes things easier.

 

Thanks

Paul

Justus Hill Painting.jpg

Justus Hill Painting 2.jpg

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