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Remembered Today:

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery Case #3: Unknown Sergeant New Zealand Regiment


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This case comes from the review of the COG-BR documents for the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery here:



From there we have this information already, first my text and then the reply from Reg (Don Regiano):



An unknown New Zealand Serjeant (or Sergeant in NZ?) with an number 18070 (COG-BR 2460209) found at 57c.S.5.c.0.4. There is a Serjeant Thomas Siddle 23/1807 on the  CATERPILLAR VALLEY (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL that probably fits that to a tee. He is with the Otago Regiment, so I would have to check out their location on 15 September 1916. The other candidate is from August 1918 (CWGC Link). He is in grave 14.A.21 and there is another Serjeant in 14.A.29 - so two Serjeants?





According to the set of maps accompanying Trevor Pidgeon's "The Tanks at Flers", the disposition of 2 Otago at the start of the advance and the line of attack was very much in S. 5. c (although the accompanying text refers to Otago Trench as being their front trench, this being just inside S. 11. a and crossing S. 5. c at point 0. 1).  The reference 5. c. 0. 4 (Cross Trench)  is slightly further west of the extreme western end of where they lined up (and arguably just inside 47th Division's area) - not allowing for slight mapping errors.  2 Otago were themselves the most westerly of the NZ forces and lined up D-C-B-A companies from west to east.




The service file for Sergeant Thomas Siddle is available online:



He had only been a Sergeant for 10 days.


Here is the link for the records, which I have yet to investigate in detail:





This series describes records created and received by the 2nd Otago Infantry Battalion. This unit was part of the New Zealand Division during the First World War.

The 2nd Otago Infantry Battalion was formed in Egypt in January 1916 from a cadre of officers and NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] from the 1st Otago Infantry Battalion. The regiment served as part of the 2nd New Zealand Infantry Brigade for the duration of the war.

Only a fragment of the unit records survive. These records have been arranged into three sub-series - 80/1 War Diaries, 80/2 Routine Orders, and 80/3 Unit Records.


It has been a while since I used the New Zealand war diaries, so I can't remember if I actually saw them "live" or if someone looked them up? This form seems to be for ordering:



There are also the unit histories in the archives:




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  • 1 month later...

In the process of sorting out the case files this morning I noticed that the information for this Serjeant was changed on GRRF 1980327, as compared to what it was on the COG-BR 2460209.


It changed from "18070 Unknown Sgt. N.Z.R." to "Unknown New Zealand Soldier". That may be because they could not find a Serjeant with that number. Note that our proposed Serjeant has an extra "0" on the end of his number. They may not have seen that similarity in 1920 when the documents were prepared. Note also that there were no numbers prior to the "18070" to have it as the candidate "23/1807".


Odd that they kept the Serjeant in grave 14.A.29 but dropped the Serjeant in 14.A.26?


For September 1916 there were 76 New Zealand Serjeants lost (CWGC Link). Of interest to this case:

  • seven (7) are in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery (CWGC Link)
  • thirty-eight (38) are on the Caterpillar Valley Memorial (CWGC Link)
  • one (1) is on the Arras Memorial, strange as he was not KIA in 1917, he was an Engineer (CWGC Link)

If we look at the 7 in the cemetery, we can see that the GRU did show some flexibility on interpreting the numbers: (I have also included the TMC for confirmation of the area)

  • Adams (Aukland) 12/292 was reported as 1292, found at 57c.S.5.b.6.4
  • Baxter (Otago) is correctly reported as 8/3810, found at 57c.S.11.a.1.3 (see Reg's note above about Otago trench at 57c.S.11.a)
  • Compton (Canterbury) was reported as 871 not as 6/871, found at 57c.M..29.d.9.7
  • Davies (Auckland) was reported correctly as 12/3293 but as "Dous", found in a group at 57c.S.5.b.5.3
  • Dodd (Canterbury) does not show a number on the COG-BR, found at 57c.S.5.c.2.7 (note on same page another Unknown NZ Sergeant in the same location)
  • Dunlop (Auckland) 12/829 appears as 12829, but as 6th N.Z. Rifles (name on ground sheet) found at 57c.N.19.a.0.1
    • he is with another fellow "12/308" (COG-BR1981250) and we have a Private Llewell missing with a number "12/3083" - another close miss or match?
  • Field (Pioneer) has the correct numbers 9/1007 but initially appeared as a soldier of the Rifle Brigade, round at 57c.S.11.a.1.1

This might be another one of those cases, if it ever made it to review, that the CWGC or higher authority would say that the case manager in 1920 may have known something that we do not know today, thus we can not over rule that earlier decision.


We could argue that the number was not exact, but as the list shows above, they made that error several times (Adams, Compton, Dunlop). In some cases they did not even have a full or partial number (Dodd). All together that is more than a 50% error rate for the GRU.


For now it appears this has to go in the "Possible" file.

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