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Messines Ridge British Cemetery: Case #1 - Unknown New Zealand Officer


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This carries over from the topic regarding the Messines Ridge British Cemetery:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277165-messines-ridge-british-cemetery/

This was originally Posted Sunday at 06:57 and later moved to this new topic.
  On 30/11/2019 at 08:14, laughton said:

COG-BR 2015103 a selection of unknown officers - also check on the NZ 27394

 

The officers of the NZEF lost 7 June 1917 that have no known grave:

 

surname forename rank regiment unit #
MacFARLANE DUNCAN BUCHANAN Captain New Zealand Rifle Brigade 3rd Bn. 3rd '23/7'
ANDERSON FREDERICK ANDREW Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn. '15445'
COBB JOHN WESLEY Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1st Bn. '10/35'
COOPER ALLEN CLAUDE Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 6th (Hauraki) Coy. 2nd Bn. '12/321'
PALMER PERCIVAL JAMES Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn '5/118A'
PILLING EWEN GEORGE Lieutenant Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1st Bn. '8/1601'
THOMPSON WILLIAM PHILLIPS Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 12th (Nelson) Coy. 2nd Bn. '15468'

 

The officer's remains were found at 28.U.4.a.8.3. Looking at who else was recovered in that area we have a UNZS at 28.U.4.a.6.2 from the Auckland Regiment on COG-BR 2015107. A number of other UBS but no other named men in that area. From the McMaster map, that location is on the east side of Septieme Barn, however on a detailed trench map it is on the Zareeba Road just east of where the "Track" crosses leading up to Hun's Walk.

 

To narrow this down, the precise location of each officer would need to be checked in the war diaries. The other dates also would need to be checked as Captain F. R. Foster was also lost on 8 June 1917. I thought, perhaps like the Canadians, there were no Second Lieutenants. They did but all five (5) lost in action have known graves. The three (3) buried in the Wulverghem area cemetery were all found to the west of Messines.

 

List of unit war diaries is on this page: https://www.archives.govt.nz/search-the-archive/what-we-have/whats-been-digitised . It would appear that not all the diaries have been digitized as of this date. For now, it appears best to use the unit histories to try and narrow down the options:

 

McMaster Map [Ypres] 28image.png.8d54369db15ce7760c9207ecc64c2b2f.png

Trench Map wo297_0815

image.png.2c1dfeeb0479692226761a61ff64386a.png

 

Edited by laughton
fixed CWGC link to Second Lieutenants
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These are the links for the unit histories:

Within the first one I checked (THE HISTORY OF THE CANTERBURY REGIMENT, N.Z.E.F. 1914 - 1919 CHAPTER IX. — THE BATTLE OF MESSINES) there was a map showing the lines on 7 June 1917. The format of the lines in the upper right corner may not be the clearest, but if you follow them you can see the remains of the New Zealand Officer were found at the Green Line (the farthest on the right), south of Huns Walk.

WH1-CantP021a.jpg

 

On web version of the Canterbury history where it says page 164 we note:

Quote

At 8.40 a.m. (zero plus five hours thirty minutes) the barrage began to move on again, and nine minutes later the Black Dotted Line was taken by the 1st Brigade, and posts established there. Shortly after 1 p.m. the enemy were seen massing on the Green Line for a counter attack. An artillery barrage was put down. and the attack was broken up before reaching the Black Dotted Line.

 

From this it would appear that the Officers of the Canterbury Regiment were not in the area where the remains were recovered. That does not mean it is not a Canterbury Officer, as at this time I was working on the "assumption" that the casualty occured on the 7th. Sadly, the history tells us that the Rev. Father McMenamin was killed that day while burying the dead. It is also reported that "the missing men were all subsequently accounted for".


Page 168 tells us the Canterbury regiment is move eastward on the south boundary, which places them in sector 28.U.16 .a-b, just west of the British Front Line marked for 18 June 1917. This is about 2,000 yards south of where the Officer's remains were found. I have inserted the approximate TMC for the key places noted. This is now about 12 June 1917.

Quote

The ultimate objective assigned to the 2nd Canterbury Battalion was the southern half of the brigade objective, as far north as a road which ran west from Warneton 28.U.12.c, and passed five hundred yards north of Sunken Farm 28.U.11.a.7.0. The buildings of La Truie 28.U.17.a.5.0 and Sunken Farms were accordingly included in the objective; and before these were reached, Fuze Cottage 28.U.10.c.5.2, Thatched Cottage, Flattened Farm, and Au Chasseur Cabaret 28.U.17.a.1.4 had to be secured. 

 

One thing this information does tell us is that they New Zealanders were in the right position to have seen Captain Fitzherbert and Lieutenant Battersby's plane come down (this topic). We have been looking for ground level confirmation as to the fate of that plane. Australian war diaries had made note but the New Zealand documents have not been checked.

 

At this point I took a quick look at the MISSING OFFICERS over an extended date of 7-22 June 1917:

  • Captains: McFarlane on the 7th and Foster on the 8th
  • Lieutenants: only those lost on the 7th as previously detailed (CWGC Link)
  • Second Lieutenants: this picks up Collins (4th Bn 3rd NZRB) and Hall (2nd Bn Auckland Regiment) on 9 June 1917

Based on the information in the Canterbury History it would appear that the three Lieutenants can be excluded as candidates, at least until the other regiments are checked.

 

To be continued .....

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Next stop, the Otago Regiment at Messines, as only Lieutenant Pilling is a candidate. The details are in Chapter 5 page 159. You have to go to page 168 to get into June 1917.

 

Made a quick check at this point to make sure there were no Officers Missing in the period prior to 7 June 1917. The database tells us that there were only six (6) New Zealanders missing between 1 January 1917 and 6 June 1917, none of which were Officers (CWGC Link). There were none prior to 1917.

 

For those not fluent with the overall planning of the 1917 offensives (me included!) the first part of the next section starting at page 169 gives a good overview of the plans, as well as the topography page 171 of the area. The text also details to tasks assigned to each of the regiments.

Quote

The attack of the Corps was divided into two phases, as follows: 1st—The attack and capture of the Black Line, which extended across the forward side of the village of Messines; 2nd—The attack and capture of the Green or Oosttaverne Line. The first phase was to be carried out by troops of three Divisions disposed side by side, namely, the 3rd Australian, the New Zealand, and the 25th, from right to left. The second phase was to be carried out by the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions; and to this end the 4th Australian Division was to pass through the New Zealand and 25th Divisions and capture the Green Line opposite the fronts of those Divisions. The New Zealand Division, being in the centre of the Corps front, was thus entrusted with the honour of capturing Messines Village. In the allotment of tasks within the New Zealand Divisional area, the 2nd Infantry Brigade and the 3rd (Rifle) Brigade were committed to the capture of the first and second German lines on the forward slopes of the ridge and the village of Messines itself.

 

The missing Lieutenant E. G. Pilling must be one of the men in this photograph:

WH1-OtagP023a.jpg

 

The 1st Otago was initially northwest of the village of Messines, as they refer to being at Birthday Farm 28.O.32.c.0.5. You can also see that on the Blue Line in the map shown in the previous post for the Canterbury Regiment.

 

I do not see any reference in the Otago history of them moving to the Green Line on 7 June 1917, the area where the remains of the Unknown New Zealand Officer were recovered.

 

Interestingly, the history does not list Lieutenant Pilling as one of the officers killed?

Quote

The losses sustained by the Regiment in the Messines Battle were as follows:—lst Battalion—Killed, three officers and 30 other ranks; wounded, three officers and 189 other ranks; recorded as missing, 17 other ranks. The officers who fell in action were: Lieut. N. L. Forsythe, and 2nd-Lieuts. C. F. Wilkie and A. J. Tiddy

 

Pilling has a diary (this link).

 

It appears that he was buried where he fell, early in the day (this link):

Quote

On 7 June 1917, in the early stages of the Messines offensive, the 23-year-old Pilling was killed in action while leading his men forward. Shot through the head, he died instantly. Pilling was buried where he fell and the site of his grave was eventually lost.

 

They buried him at the foot of Messines Ridge (this link). That article says he grave was 100 yards east of Stenebeque Stream, 50 yards north ot the Wolverylem-Messines Road. His body was found "well up the hill". Allowing for the difference in the spelling of the locations, I would say that places him due south of Birthday Farm at 28.U.1.b.9.8. That would be on the 40 contour mark. If that is correct, he is not the unknown officer but most certainly we should look for a set of remains recovered from that location!

 

ewen-pilling.jpg?itok=I182IsGz

 

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Next stop, the Auckland Regiment at Messines: (starts page 140) - Looking for Lieutenants Cobb and Cooper.

 

They report sending out patrols to the Green Line at 9:40 am which reported that the wire in front had been cut (page 148).

 

This text provides a lot more detail as to trench names, which can be matched on the trench map [wo297_0802] which is Ploegsteert 4B April 1917

 

2nd Auckland (Cooper) is noted between Ungodly Trench and Unbearable Trench 28.U.3 central, so heading in the area where the remains were recovered. At 3:10 pm they take Owl Trench and Owl Support, so they are moving right through the area, however the trenches run north-south through O.34 and U.4. The remains are at 28.U.4.a.8.3, which is at the south end of Owl Support, where it changes to Uncanny Support. They are losing a lot of their men from shorts from their own artillery.

 

The death of Lieutenant Cooper (2nd Bn) is referenced in the text (page 150). There is no mention of Lieutenant Cobb (1st Bn).

Quote

Throughout the battle Captains Holland and Tilsley, Lieutenant Fitchett, of 1/Auckland, and Lieutenants Tuck, Frank McKenzie, Stewart and Lorie, of 2/Auckland were a great source of inspiration to their men. That very brave and able soldier, Lieutenant Cooper, was killed. Sergeant Calame, of 1/Auckland, and Sergeant-Major Gordon, of 2/Auckland, especially distinguished themselves.

 

Two pieces of the puzzle now tell us it is most likely that it was one of the two Lieutenants of the Auckland Regiment that are the remains that were recovered. There were others of the regiment found in that same area and so far they are the only unit that is directly referenced as being in that area. Each of the 1st and 2nd Battalion both lost three (3) Officers.

 

The CWGC database has only four (4) Auckland Officers listed as dead, three (3) of the 1st Bn and one of the 2nd Bn (Cooper). There are no COG-BR for these men. That raises the question as to the other two officers of the 2nd Bn, perhaps recorded on another date? One could be 2nd Lt Hall recorded as 9 June 1917. The other I believe mentioned previously was Captain Foster on 8 June 1917. None are mentioned by name.

 

surname forename rank unit # cemetery / memorial grave
COATES RANDOLPH EDWARD OSWALD Lieutenant 1st Bn. '12/59' UNDERHILL FARM CEMETERY A. 9.
COBB JOHN WESLEY Lieutenant 1st Bn. '10/35' MESSINES RIDGE (N.Z.) MEMORIAL  
COOPER ALLEN CLAUDE Lieutenant 6th (Hauraki) Coy. 2nd Bn. '12/321' MESSINES RIDGE (N.Z.) MEMORIAL  
McCORMICK WILLIAM RAYMOND Lieutenant 1st Bn. '12/4305' LA PLUS DOUVE FARM CEMETERY III. A. 13.

 

1980444618_MessinesTrenchNames.jpg.3159eb1eebd5c8226b5c736d1e2b6d5d.jpg
Edited by laughton
highlighted trench map details so easily found later
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To complete the preliminary review, I needed to check on Captain D. B.  MacFarlane of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (starts page 191). The details of the battle are in the next section of the history (starts page 194).

 

A learning point for me, the Rifle Brigades referred to bayonets as "swords".

Quote

So the time passed slowly on through the long darkest hour before the dawn. Some relief came at 3 a.m., when bayonets, or as we have it in Rifle Brigades, "swords," were quietly drawn from their scabbards and fixed. Now only ten minutes remained. (page 198)

They are in the south sector of the formation, as they refer to "in the enemy salient at Le Petite Dome Farm" (page 200). For the moment, I assume that was Le Petite Douve Farm, as I don't see the other. That is also where Ulna Support Trench is located. The text tells us that Captain MacFarlane is leading "C" Coy of the 3rd Battalion (page 201-202). They are well into the south sector as they refer to Ulster Reserve Trench which is in 28.U.9.d, south of La Douve RIver. That places them 1,500 yards southwest of where the remains were recovered.

 

They refer to the 2nd Auckland sending out patrols to the Green Line, past the Black Dotted Line. This agrees with what was found previously.

 

The 3rd Battalion suffered high loss of Officers, however they are not mentioned by name:

Quote

According to custom, a fair proportion of the company, platoon and section commanders had been left out of the line, involving in many cases the throwing of added responsibility upon the shoulders of subordinates. Moreover, the casualties, though not on the whole heavy, were severe in the ranks of the leaders. In the 3rd Battalion alone, one company had lost all, and another company three of its officers before 4 a.m., and by the time the final objective was reached only nine officers in the whole battalion remained effective. (page 203)

That, I believe, takes us back to the remains being for one of the Auckland Regiment Lieutenants.

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  • 1 month later...

Great research so far! I'm especially interested in Lt. Pilling's case - normally, you find a burial and start searching for names, but now you've found a name and need to start searching for burials!

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Always keeping a look out for Lt. Pilling's! It has worked in the past, as just this past year Private Montanelli appeared, 5 years after the search started (this link).

 

In the process of working on an Ox & Bucks case this week, I was stumped by an unknown man. More out of desperation than anything, I did a basic GOOGLE search and found him. So why not try that again, and sure enough there was more information on the web about the missing men.

 

There is a personal site/blog for Jack Cobb, authored by someone like myself, a great nephew of the Lieutenant. Lots of good information there: (including photos and documents)

http://theyserved.blogspot.com/p/john-w-cobb.html

 

One thing that I did not know is that he was Second Lieutenant Cobb and was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant, the rank reported by the CWGC. This happens in many cases and it has a significant impact on the research, as the COG-BR documents (if applicable) would have him still as a Second Lieutenant or would mention "star" instead of "stars" for his rank. It was reported that he was buried by his colleagues but his grave was lost: (this becomes an important point in this case!)
 

Quote

The 1st Battalion advanced to the right of Messines village, towards the road from Wytschaete where they attacked and captured several German trenches. Although the Germans were in retreat early in the day, they regathered composure, and as the day wore on their artillery attacks on the allied forces increased. By the end of the battle, more than 700 New Zealanders, including Jack, were dead and approximately 10 000 Germans were reported missing. Of all the New Zealand battalions, the 1st Battalion suffered the most casualties.

Jack was 25 years of age when he died. His colleagues buried him, however, after further bombing, the exact location of his body was lost. Jack had served for 2 years and 293 days in total. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. His military record says that the promotion applied from 11 May, 1917. 

 

Unfortunately, the original COG-BR 2015103 refers only to an "Unknown New Zealand Officer", as determined by the tunic. There is not mention of the "star" or "stars" designating the rank. However, that is good information, as we might find that information elsewhere. The blog had the link to his service record and his personnel file.

 

This quote from the Great Nephew would appear to have the 1st Battalion on the east (right) side of the village of Messines moving in a north-northeast direction. If that is correct (to be confirmed) that would have them moving from 28.U.3 to 28.O.33. That is away from the area where the remains were recovered at Huns Walk.

 

Then do the same for Allan (or Allen?) Claude Cooper gives his records here: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/674719.

 

Side note:

I did not know, but tried it and it worked, that you can use the FireFox "DownThem All" program/app to get the complete file instead of viewing it page-by-page. You would use this (https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/674719/[1:64]) to get the file (the [1:64] is the important piece you need). That gives you the HTML file which is not a "clean" as one would like, but it you then take the address for the first and last image, you can get a new batch download file https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_func=stream&dps_pid=FL22520[675:713] that does give the images only (here it is the [675:713] that is important. Now you have all the images and can go through them quickly with any image viewer, the same as if they were COG-BR documents. It would appear the documents are not always in the correct order, thus you may have to bracket the file numbers to get all the ones you want and then check them and discard the ones that are not related.

 

It would appear that John Wesley Cobb was also promoted posthumously, so the same applies to both men. In both cases they also refer to them as "Vice Lieutenants" prior to promotion, a term I have not seen before but it makes sense. Looking at his file and the Officer COmmanding records, it would appear that all the deceased Second Lieutenants and Vice Lieutenants (they have both) are posthumously promoted.

 

There is some promising information here, to follow in the next post.

Edited by laughton
fixed typos
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Within the record of Lieutenant Cooper, in more than one location (here for example), there is a direct reference to his burial. In both cases the burial report is as follows: (I have added that it is Map 28)

 

Buried reference map 28.O.33.b.35 200 yards S.S.W. (south-southwest) of Despagne Farm. Serial Number of Grave No. 24

 

That is some distance away from where the remains were located at 28.U.4.a.8.3. There is a good McMaster map for that here:

[Messines Region, Wytschaete Ridge] Here is a marked extract, so now we know these are not the remains of Lieutenant Cooper.

(note that shows 220 yards SSE instead of SSW so had to be corrected)

 

949930679_CooperBurialSite.jpg.fabc8707bf17d0ae519f05a2255821c3.jpg

 

https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_func=stream&dps_pid=FL10930044

 

DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_func=stream&d

https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_func=stream&dps_pid=FL22520709

 

DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_func=stream&d

 

Edited by laughton
SSW not SSE on map; fixed broken link
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I may have missed a beat in this case! I have been looking at the Regimental Histories because not all the war diaries are available. What I really need to be doing is looking at the placement of the New Zealand Infantry Brigades at the time they are Messines, as they appear to be structured on that basis. See the LLT New Zealand page. I see now that it would not make sense to say it was likely men from the Auckland Regiment, given that the 1st and 2nd Battalions were in different New Zealand Brigades. Then I need to expand the search to include all the New Zealand Officers lost in the Messines area, not just the ones from 7 June 1917. Might also have to go into Divisional Troops.

 

This is a summary of what is on the LLT but it may only refer to what it was set as in February-March 1916 - I am not sure! NOTE: that turns out to be important as this table on deals with the ORBAT prior to the reorganization.

 

Regiment 1st Brigade 2nd Brigade 3rd Brigade 4th Brigade Divisional Troops
Wellington 1st 2nd   3rd  
Canterbury 1st 2nd   3rd  
Auckland 1st 2nd   3rd  
Otago 1st 2nd   3rd  
Rifle Brigade     1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th    
Machine Gun 1st 2nd 3rd 5th 4th
Trench Mortar 1st 2nd 3rd 4th  
Pioneers         Pioneer
Mounted         Otago Mounted Rifles
Other          

 

The available (digitized) war diaries are listed here: https://www.archives.govt.nz/search-the-archive/what-we-have/whats-been-digitised

 

From there we would now have access to these ones that we need but not the others: (the bullets show the path to the main document)

I can start with the 1st Brigade War Diary and see what level of information it has and then find out when or where we can get the others.

 

Now that I have it sorted out how to get the war diary pages, I am once again confused as in the H.Q. 1st New Zealand Brigade it has theem relieving the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the line with this formation:

  • Brigade H.Q.
  • 1/Auckland
  • 2/Auckland
  • 1/Wellington
  • 2/Wellington
  • 1/M.G.Co.
  • 1/L.T.M.Bty.

 

Wikipedia tells us that there was a "swap" of battalions during a reorganization that appears to have occurred in early 1917: (this page)
 

Quote

The division, now reattached to II ANZAC Corps, moved north in mid-October and replaced the 5th Australian Division at Sailly. It remained here, patrolling the sector and mounting raids, into February 1917.[41] The men of the division had become fatigued through their service on the Western Front. While the 2nd and Rifle Brigades soon recovered, the 1st Brigade, having many Gallipoli veterans, continued to struggle as did Johnston, its commander. Consequently, Russell sent him on leave and reorganised the brigades.[42]

The 1st Brigade swapped its two South Island battalions (1st Canterbury and 1st Otago) with the two North Island battalions (2nd Auckland and 2nd Wellington) of the 2nd Brigade. This placed all the North Island battalions in the 1st Brigade while all the South Island formations were in the 2nd Brigade.[43] The four artillery brigades were reduced to three by distributing the batteries of the fourth amongst the others, one of which came under the direct control of II ANZAC Corps.[42]

This period also saw the formation of the 4th Brigade in England,[43]

 

On "Z" Day 7 June 1917 we have the 1st and 2nd Auckland Battalion placements from the war diary as:

  • 1st Auckland - Hanbury Support 28.U.1.c south of Calgary Avenue 28.U.1.c & d.7.a
  • 2nd Auckland - Midland Support South 28.T.6.c

 

Those locations are both about 1,000 yards south-southwest of Messines. Calgary Avenue runs along the bottom of T.6 and U.1, which are adjoining squares.

 

The objective of the 1st Brigade was to establish and consolidate the BLACK and the BLACK DOTTED line, which you can see in the sketch provided in a previous post. That puts them in a line to Fanny's Farm and Despagne Farm, which I now see is marked in the sketch. That is where they buried Lieutenant Cooper of the 2nd Battalion. The war diary of what happened seems to tell of a different path as it reports that 1st/Auckland capture two 77mm field guns at 28.U.3.d.3.9 and 28.U.5.b.3.2, which is on the path to the remains at or through 28.U.4.a.8.3.

 

2nd/Auckland at Moulin de l'Hospice 28.U.2.a.7.9, which is due east of Messines. They were going out to establish the Black Dotted Line, so heading to 28.O.33.b&d. That places 2nd/Auckland too far north from where the remains were recovered, in agreement with where they said they buried Lieutenant Cooper. That leaves us with 2nd Lt. John Wesley Cobb as the prime candidate, as he was in 1st/Auckland where they captured the two field guns.

 

The casualty report for the period 7th to 10th June is listed in the war diary as 1 Officer from 1st/Auckland and 3 Officers from 2nd Auckland. None are listed as missing. The detailed list names both 2nd Lts. Cobb (NKG) and McCormick (KG) as KIA 7 June 1917 with 1st Auckland. For 2nd/Auckland it names Lt. (A/Capt) Foster and 2nd Lt. Cooper KIA 7 June 1917 and 2nd Lt. Hall KIA 9 June 1917 (so not on above list for 7th).

Edited by laughton
updating details in stages; added note in red about ORBAT
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It appears that I also failed to include the men of the Wellington Regiment in the first pass of the analysis. In June 1917 they are now in the 1st Brigade. They were in the initial list of HISTORIES, I just didn't check them.

The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919 | NZETC

 

I see now whey I did not check that regiment, as there are NO MISSING OFFICERS. Here is the complete list from 1 May 1917 to 31 July 1917, from which you can see they are all missing in June 1917, except for Baxter on 30 July 1917. That most certainly is an "outlier" data point. I will have to check on him.

 

I will check on all the others to see if their records have any reference to their burial, as was the case with Lieutenant Cooper.

 

surname forename death rank regiment unit Researched location
FOSTER FREDERICK RATHBONE 8/6/1917 Captain Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn.  
MacFARLANE DUNCAN BUCHANAN 7/6/1917 Captain New Zealand Rifle Brigade 3rd Bn. 3rd  
ANDERSON FREDERICK ANDREW 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn.  
COBB JOHN WESLEY 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1st Bn. 28.U.3.d.3.9 and 28.U.5.b.3.2
COOPER ALLEN CLAUDE 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 6th (Hauraki) Coy. 2nd Bn. 200 yds SSW 28.O.33.b.35
PALMER PERCIVAL JAMES 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn  
PILLING EWEN GEORGE 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1st Bn.  
THOMPSON WILLIAM PHILLIPS 7/6/1917 Lieutenant Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 12th (Nelson) Coy. 2nd Bn.  
BAXTER ROWLAND THOMAS 30/07/1917 Second Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn.  
COLLINS WILLIAM EDWARD 9/6/1917 Second Lieutenant New Zealand Rifle Brigade 4th Bn. 3rd  
HALL HARRY FREDERICK 9/6/1917 Second Lieutenant Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Bn.  
TENNENT ROBERT 26/06/1917 Second Lieutenant New Zealand Rifle Brigade 2nd Bn. 3rd  
Edited by laughton
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Just to clarify:

The 1st and 2nd Brigades were completely reorganised in January 1917, so that 1st Brigade consisted of all North Island regiments (Auckland and Wellington); 2nd Infantry Brigade the South Island (Canterbury and Otago).  The 3rd (Rifle) Brigade remained unchanged (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Rifle battalions). And, to confuse things, the 4th Infantry Brigade was formed in March 1917. It had a battalion from each of the regiments (ie 3rd Auckland, 3rd Wellington, 3rd Canterbury, 3rd Otago), keeping the 1916 approach [Note the 3rd applies to the battalion, not the brigade!!!!]

This arrangement continued for the rest of the war, excepting the 4th Brigade was disbanded early in 1918. This change was not welcomed at the time, but realised as an administrative efficiency.

 

And for further confusion, a company from each 'local' regiment was raised for each battalion (so  by mid 1917 there were three '3rd (Auckland)' companies, for example). The company numbering is an artifact of an earlier regiment system in which there were about 25 'regiments' around New Zealand.

 

The New Zealanders themselves at the time admitted that their regiments were confusing to everyone!  And it has certainly caught out a number of military historians - Ian Passingham in Pillars of Fire, among others, has read the start of Stewart's The New Zealand Division - 1916, but not the beginning of the 1917 chapter and so has the 1916 structure in his ORBAT!  And others I think have just used Passingham... Whoops!

 

And LLT simply fails to recognise the 1917 change.

 

1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades, battalions, and companies, 1917

Brigade

1st Infantry Brigade

2nd Infantry Brigade

Battalion

1st & 2nd Auckland

1st & 2nd Wellington

1st & 2nd Canterbury

1st & 2nd Otago

Company

3rd Auckland

6th Hauraki

15th North Auckland

16th Waikato

7th Wellington West Coast (“West Coast”)

9th Hawkes Bay

11th Taranaki

17th Ruahine

1st Canterbury

2nd South Canterbury

12th Nelson & Marlborough

13th North Canterbury and Westland

4th Otago

8th Southland

10th North Otago

14th South Otago

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Hi, this looks interesting work, but I am a little confused about exactly where you are looking for whom as I only picked up on this thread and there are too many posts to get a sense of where things are at. And I think some of your reasoning might be misaligned by not taking account of the changes to the brigade formation (above).

 

I do have copies of all the NZ units' war diaries for Messines, and I have also mapped where they were on the battlefield, often down to company level. Same for the Germans. The diaries are not in an easily transmittable form, and the maps are drafts for a book I am supposed to be publishing this year on NZer, Australians and Germans at Messines 1917 and so not for public airing just yet, quite apart from still needing to be worked on by my cartographer!

 

However, if you give me a quick summary table of your queries I can get back to you.  Might speed things up.  Happy to help if I can.

 

Note that the NZers did not go into the Owl or Owl Support trenches (Green Chain and Green Lines) in the afternoon.  A couple of patrols went out close to them, but that was it.  The afternoon was totally an Australian affair.

 

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WhiteStarLine

Every work day I walk past the original wooden sign to Stinking Farm displayed in our foyer, one of the 1st Auckland points (yellow circles).  The red dots are casualties mentioned by Richard and the green dots 2nd Auckland.  The pins are for features such Fanny's Farm and Despagnes Farm (just out of picture NE of Fanny's Farm.  The New Zealanders covered a lot of ground.

image.png.85c82c7aff2400f81f94d883a84fb629.png

Contemporary locations are:

image.png.5eb9f5dfeb06e2292e335710946f0d75.png

Contemporary trench map depiction (28SW 1:20K OCT 01 1917) is:

image.png.1e11a3728aa5847b5e73c24b0ec2280a.png

Reference: National Library of Scotland via http://preview.tmapper.com

 

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@JeffMcN:

 

Thanks for you offer to assist. Also to Bill for adding the his markings. You may have figured out that I am a Canadian, so part of the process for me is to learn the organization of the various Commonwealth Forces, as we find UNKNOWNS from all nations. It is a learning process for me, so I appreciate any assistance (and corrections!) that arrive from that national experts.

 

The topics I have on the UNKNOWNS are really "Iterative Analysis", so others can follow along if they wish and so that I can go back - sometimes months later - to pick up on where the research was going, before the new evidence was uncovered. Many also follow along to see how they can use the process to track down a person they are researching. A typical example here is the issue with the incorrect table from Chris's LLT New Zealand Division. I could just delete that now and put in the correct one, or I can leave it as an example "for others" to be aware of how the research can go astray if you get some wrong information. I see it best, at least for now, to leave it as an example, note the error and insert the corrections. I make as many mistakes as anyone, but as my dad often told me "Son, you learn from your mistakes, but sometimes I think you are learning too much!".

 

This case is one of "eliminate the impossible". Which Officers that have NO KNOWN GRAVE (NKGs) were nowhere near where the remains were recovered at 28.U.4.a.8.3, which is shown on Bill's overlay as one of the "red dots" (the southerly one). The other red dot is where the references say where Lieutenant Cooper (2nd Auckland) which I believe eliminates him as a candidate. The problem I have now then is that Bill's green and yellow dots are the reverse of what I was expecting. I will have to return to that later, as I must now depart.

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"Thanks for you offer to assist. Also to Bill for adding the his markings. You may have figured out that I am a Canadian, so part of the process for me is to learn the organization of the various Commonwealth Forces, as we find UNKNOWNS from all nations. It is a learning process for me, so I appreciate any assistance (and corrections!) that arrive from that national experts."

 

I will see what I can do. The NZ Division organisation is not straightforward - the NZers admitted that it was rather confusing to everyone at the time. Hugh Stewart (1921). The New Zealand Division 1916 - 1919: A Popular History based on Official Records. Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited. is the standard history of the Div, but is a turgid read. He gives original divisional structure in February 1916 (p14-16), but many recent historians miss the reorganisation of the divisional artillery and infantry brigades in January 1917 (pp 140-41). LLT simply omits it. I got very confused in the beginning of my research, reading one structure, but finding unit diaries suggesting something else! So I would not feel too bad!!!

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To clarify, you just want to know what units passed/fought over the red and yellow dots in 7-8 June 1917 as marked on the October 1917 trench map? Will get onto it in the next day or two.

 

Bear in mind that every single battalion of 1st, 2nd and Rifle brigades was fielded that day, which is quite remarkable but also means a lot of men on the field. And importantly, especially around Messines itself, more than a few men were quite out of position, most 'obviously' Sgt Sam Frickleton who won his VC a good 250 metres beyond where his battalion was supposed to have stopped for the day and he had his men with him. The day was much less ordered than the regimental or divisional histories might have us believe! So you might well be looking at probabilities rather than certainties. The unit histories are not precise on where officers fell, if mentioned at all, either, which does not help.

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Here are the 2nd Brigade and 3rd (Rifle) Brigade boundaries.
1st Oatago, 1st Canterbury; 3rd Rifle, 1st Rifle all went to the Brown Line, the western edge of Messines. 10th Company, 2nd Otago advanced on the left flank up to Red Line V-U (the left flank ran to a different timetable, the flank hanging for the most part on account of different timetable to 25th Division on its left.

2nd Canterbury and 4th Rifle took Messines to the Yellow Line

Note: rest of 2nd Otago was in reserve around Moulin d'Hospice U.2.a.8.9. - apart from a platoon attached to 2nd Canterbury to help clear its portion of Messines.

          two companies of 2nd Rifle were attached to 4th Rifle to clear its portion of Messines.

To Yellow Line - battalions.png

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The 1st Brigade was responsible for taking the Black and Black Dotted lines.

2 companies (3rd and 6th) 2nd Auckland took the dotted line, having moved around the north of Messines. Its other two companies spent time digging trenches.

The New Zealand Division's part in the Battle of Messines was completed by morning tea on the first day! (A little hyperbole there as they fought further south opposite La Basse-Ville at the end of the battle, but true enough of the battle as originally planned.) However, about 3/4 of casualties resulted after this time, when the NZers came under ongoing artillery fire during 7th and 8th June.  Troops were only slowly thinned out.  But this means that bodies might not correlate with objectives etc as some troops were moved about to try to reduce casualties.

 

I will address your coloured dots soon. But in the meantime, hope this helps a little.

To Black Line - battalions.png

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Following up on this case and I found an outlier on the Messines Ridge Memorial:

 

Second Lieutenant John McGregor, 2nd Bn. Otago Regiment 16 April 1918

 

Can't be - the Otago Regiment was in France in April 1918? Turns out to be a CWGC inaccuracy or incomplete record. Here is his file:

 

https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE13777975

 

He had influenza in early 1918 and when discharged he went to the 2nd Entrenching Battalion at Abeele, Belgium.

 

Back to the CWGC database to see who else was lost from that unit at that time in Belgium. Ninety (90) men, of which fourty-three (43) are listed on the Messines memorial. There are another twenty-one (21) on the Buttes Memorial (if lost near Polygon Wood). Some were found near 28.H.19.d.7.7 and 28.H.21.d.5.5, with mixed linkage (disc identifications) to different infantry battalions. The location is southwest of Ypres and due south of Vlamertinghe, well behind the lines. That might have been a medical facility - otherwise not sure what they are doing in that area? Others were found at 28.H.33.c.5.5 and 28.N.4.a.0.7, which is south of Dickebusch. In general, they are all far to the northwest of Messines where the remains were recovered. I have not checked the war diary, nor do I know if it is currently available.

 

I have sent a note to the CWGC about McGregor's posting. I am not sure if he was transferred or attached. Apparently he was "attached" as his on-line records still show him as 2nd Otago. Those records are also incorrect, as they list his death as the Somme, France - probably as that is where they knew the Otago's were at the time, not catching the link to the Messines Memorial.

 

original.jpg 320760?rendering=original.jpg

 

 

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7 hours ago, laughton said:

Following up on this case and I found an outlier on the Messines Ridge Memorial:

 

Second Lieutenant John McGregor, 2nd Bn. Otago Regiment 16 April 1918

 

Can't be - the Otago Regiment was in France in April 1918? Turns out to be a CWGC inaccuracy or incomplete record. Here is his file:

 

https://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE13777975

 

He had influenza in early 1918 and when discharged he went to the 2nd Entrenching Battalion at Abeele, Belgium.

 

Back to the CWGC database to see who else was lost from that unit at that time in Belgium. Ninety (90) men, of which fourty-three (43) are listed on the Messines memorial. There are another twenty-one (21) on the Buttes Memorial (if lost near Polygon Wood). Some were found near 28.H.19.d.7.7 and 28.H.21.d.5.5, with mixed linkage (disc identifications) to different infantry battalions. The location is southwest of Ypres and due south of Vlamertinghe, well behind the lines. That might have been a medical facility - otherwise not sure what they are doing in that area? Others were found at 28.H.33.c.5.5 and 28.N.4.a.0.7, which is south of Dickebusch. In general, they are all far to the northwest of Messines where the remains were recovered. I have not checked the war diary, nor do I know if it is currently available.

 

I have sent a note to the CWGC about McGregor's posting. I am not sure if he was transferred or attached. Apparently he was "attached" as his on-line records still show him as 2nd Otago. Those records are also incorrect, as they list his death as the Somme, France - probably as that is where they knew the Otago's were at the time, not catching the link to the Messines Memorial.

 

original.jpg 320760?rendering=original.jpg

 

 

Hold your fire, ehoa mai! 16 April is a significant day for New Zealand, though completely overlooked!

 

Although the NZ Division was sent down to the Somme again, New Zealanders were caught up in the fighting around Ploegsteert in April 1918 German Operation Georgette - Battle of the Lys, their units earlier hived off from the Division to become Corps or Army units. These include the 2nd (Army) Brigade of the New Zealand Artillery, and the 2nd NZ Entrenching Battalion. The gunners were covering 25th Division at Ploegsteert Wood on 9 April. The 2nd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion, of which nearly two thirds were new drafts, was caught up in the fighting at Méteren, west of Bailleul on 16 April. Two companies were involved in a desperate attempt to reinforce the line against a determined attack by IR 96. After-action reports gave conflicting views of events but the Germans broke into the defences on the left and quickly smashed the rest of the line. With Germans on both flanks, the left New Zealand company fought its way back, but the right company, nearer Méteren, held on too long and lost 100 as prisoners, ‘a number which by far exceeded the greatest aggregate total captured by the Germans in any one action from the Division’.[ii]

McGregor presumably unattached after his time in hospital was sent to join the Entrenching battalion? If his body was lost at Meteren, then his name would be at Messines Memorial to the Missing as it is the nearest NZ memorial. (cf Armentieres).

 

Baker, The Battle for Flanders: German Defeat on the Lys 1918, 145-46.

[ii] Stewart, The New Zealand Division 1916 - 1919: A Popular History Based on Official Records, 378.

 

 

Edited by JeffMcN
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I agree, all I am suggesting that his record should show: (new addition in red)

 

Thanks for the "heads up" about Meteren! I would have not known to look at burials in northern France. I see for April 1918 there are 50 in Belgium, 12 in France and 1 in Germany. Some are listed in the documents as 2nd Entrenching, some as their original infantry unit.

 

It would be interesting to read the POW statements of that period: https://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=24428686 (there are many others)

Second Lieutenant MCGREGOR, JOHN

Service Number 39400

Died 16/04/1918

Aged 24

2nd Bn.
Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F.

att'd 2nd Entrenching Battalion

Son of John and Rachel Jane McGregor, of 58, York Place, Dunedin. Native of Dunback, Otago.

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"It would be interesting to read the POW statements of that period: https://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=24428686 (there are many others)"

getting rather off-topic, but I agree - rather a good idea. And Meteren is only 16 km from Messines/Mesen, my specialty area, so I can make a case! Small matter of time - other prior commitments, but actually more problematic is that Archives NZ is changing its visiting hours, open to the public only in the mornings so that they can digitize their collection in the afternoons. Which is rather a waste of half a day if you come from out of town like I and my colleagues do. I guess the Meteren material will be low on the priority list for digitizing, so sometimes towards 2050?! (and we won't even start on their daft records reorganisation: their new ceo does not understand that archives are not libraries and so the material is organised very differently.)  Anyway, give me some time and I will have a look next time I am down in Wellington.

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14 hours ago, JeffMcN said:

getting rather off-topic

 

No, not really. I am interested in those particular POW reports with reference to what happened to Second Lieutenant John McGregor. We have found with both Canadian and British cases (Bec can answer about Australia) that there are two key sets of documents that often reveal the fate on an missing Officer:

  1. POW interviews that refer to what happened that day, whether the officer was captured with the group, or perhaps even that he was buried by the enemy,
  2. Officers Files (don't know if these exist for New Zealand) that contain details, often from fellow officers, about the fate of the missing man.

McGregor does have an ICRC record, not always easy to find, when they are included with the Australians:

https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/1840850/3/2/

 

From that we know that there is a German Record PA29840. The Germans had recorded that 2nd Lieutenant McGregor of the 1 Otago and 2nd Entrenching Battalion had fallen at Metern and was buried there on 18 April 1918.

 

file front side E/04/01/C_G1_E_04_01_0150/C_G1_E_04_01_0150_0042.JPG

 

Those documents eliminate McGregor as a candidate for the remains recovered at Messines, but had they not been recorded, the other reports may have held the clue.

 

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On 22/01/2020 at 05:16, laughton said:

I agree, all I am suggesting that his record should show: (new addition in red)

 

Thanks for the "heads up" about Meteren! I would have not known to look at burials in northern France. I see for April 1918 there are 50 in Belgium, 12 in France and 1 in Germany. Some are listed in the documents as 2nd Entrenching, some as their original infantry unit.

 

It would be interesting to read the POW statements of that period: https://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=24428686 (there are many others)

Second Lieutenant MCGREGOR, JOHN

Service Number 39400

Died 16/04/1918

Aged 24

2nd Bn.
Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F.

att'd 2nd Entrenching Battalion

Son of John and Rachel Jane McGregor, of 58, York Place, Dunedin. Native of Dunback, Otago.

I have copied all these POW statements if there are particular ones you are interested in.

Nga Mihi

Roger

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Thanks Roger, but for now they are not needed as we know he was buried at Meteren. If and when the NZ Archives digitize the rest of the war diaries, this work will be much easier. There are a few other NZ cases pending as well, in each of france and Belgium. I try to make sure they are all on my main list (https://www.greatwarforum.org/blogs/entry/1750-categories-of-the-unknown-cases/).

 

Earlier in this topic (post #2) I missed one of the links for the online texts:

 

This text helps considerably in putting all the pieces together, which is of great value for a Canadian not familiar with the great work of the New Zealand Division! The relevant text that relates to the battle starts at about the page 181 break:

Quote

The role allotted to the Division was the storming of Messines, the consolidation of the Black Line within the New Zealanders' boundaries, the establishment of a series of Strong Points on the Black Dotted Line, and the capture of any enemy guns within their area. These objectives fell naturally into 3 phases, firstly the capture of the trenches on the west slope and of the village with the ring of trenches immediately surrounding it, secondly the capture and consolidation of the Black Line, and thirdly the establishment of the Strong Points on the Black Dotted Line and the capture of the guns. 

 

If I have the battalions in the correct location the text refers to their assignments: (inserted battalions in red)

Quote

The 3rd (4 Rifle Brigade Battalions) and 2nd Brigades (1st & 2nd Canterbury; 1st & 2nd Otago) were ordered to carry out the first phase and the 1st Brigade (1st & 2nd Auckland; 1st & 2nd Wellington)  the second and third.

 

The naming of the trenches based on their location was new to me (page 187):

Quote

For purposes of facilitating intelligence work, the German trenches had been give names beginning with the letter of the map square in which they were located. The New Zealand attack fell mainly in the square U and partly in the square 0, and the trenches of the front line system (the Blue Line) were from south to north know as the Ulna Ulcer Uhlan, and Oyster Trenches and Supports. Towards these the 2 battalions in each brigade now moved abreast, accompanied by their machine gun detachments. In the Rifle Brigade to the south were the 1st Battalion on the right and the 3rd Battalion on the left, the latter being strengthened by 2 platoons of the 2nd Battalion, which was in brigade reserve. In the 2nd Brigade, 1st Canterbury was on the right and 1st Otago on the left.

 

The trenches that are listed in the text extract above appear to be those on the east side of Messines in O33 and U3. As you move further east, to where the remains were recovered at 28.U.4.a.8.3 we find:

  • O34: Oxygen, Owl, Owl Support
  • U4: Uncanny, Uncanny Support & Undulating, Undulating Support

To me it appears that the Officer's remains were recovered at the Uncanny Support Trench south of Huns Walk and north of Undulating Support Trench.

 

Skipping forward to page break 197 we pick up on the 1st Brigade:

Quote

he two 1st Brigade assaulting battalions left their assembly trenches shortly before 4 a.m. 1st Auckland moved on the right and 1st Wellington on the left. 2 light trench mortars accompanied the former and 3 the latter.

 

page break 201 - extracts

Quote

Meanwhile the 2nd Auckland companies. who had followed the 2 leading battalions of the 1st Brigade had been halted since 5 a.m. at the Moulin de 1'Hospice. 

On the right a 1st Auckland platoon pushed a post 200 yards down Unbearable Trench. The other 4 Strong Points were established further north, each by a platoon of one of the two 2nd Auckland companies. The other company was retained for the moment behind the Black Line.

On its conclusion, patrols of the other company of 2nd Auckland, who had rested behind the Black Line, moved out to reconnoiter the ground as far as the Green Line.

 

Not much more appears past this point, in reference to the identity of the loss of the Unknown Officer. It would appear only 2nd Auckland is in the correct area, so once again the issue of Cooper being buried well to the north, outside of their area?

 

I am missing something somewhere!

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