Passing time with Eris Parker

Cambridge WWI – 1915


The British navy, under Winston Churchill had tried to take the Dardanelles Straight through Turkey. This sea route was needed to get supplies to Russia. The British navy failed losing 3 ships and the French navy losing 2 ships. The next idea was for a military action to take the Gallipoli peninsular and secure this sea route from overland. The army was supported from the sea by 12 inch and 15 inch naval guns.

Major General Sir Alexander Godley was Commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Major Walter Alderman echoed Godley’s feelings, when he said to the 16th Waikato Company, as they waited off Gallipoli, “We are going ashore now: but I do not think that anyone is going to be killed today”. (Gallipoli The New Zealand Story  by Christopher Pugsley)

It was Sunday 25 April 1915 and the Auckland Regiment was the first of 3100 New Zealand men into battle at Gallipoli on that day. One third was either killed, wounded or missing.

‘Troops landed in lighters and small boats and in the majority of cases were obliged to jump into the sea waist deep. Packs were left on the beach when the Battalion moved up the hill and they were not seen again for two days. Three days rations were carried on the men, all transport remaining on the troopship. The Battalion was ordered to move forward up the hill and support the Australian Division which had landed some hours previously and were being heavily pressed. The Battalion became scattered along the firing line.’  (Auckland Regiment War Diary)

As they rushed onto Anzac Cove, two Cambridge men were never seen again.

Ernest Wilkin Cox

Ernest Wilkin Cox

Private 12/710 Ernest Wilkin Cox, the son of Edmund and Ann nee Wilkin, was born 11 April 1893. He was a farmer at Roto-o-rangi with an interest in rugby and rifle shooting and enlisted on13 August 1914 with the Auckland Infantry Regiment 16 Waikato Co.

It would be months later, after a Court of Enquiry, before their families were told that their boys were officially dead.

The Hon R Heaton Rhodes went to Egypt to enquire on behalf of the New Zealand government into several matters affecting the Dominion soldiers. He wrote to Mr E B Cox of Roto-o-rangi in January 1916:-

“In answer to your enquiry of September 7th, I have to inform you that on making enquiries from the Record Office here I find that your son 12/710 Private E W Cox, was reported by his unit as wounded and missing on 25th April last and this information was cabled to New Zealand. Owing to the severity of fighting and the rough nature of the country, much of which is covered with scrub many bodies of our brave men were never found, and I fear that your son was amongst these, consequently I regret that I cannot hold out any hope of his being alive. There are many of these distressing cases of ‘missing’ whose actual fate will never be known. The O.C. N Z Records here informs me that he has applied to Divisional H Q for authority to declare missing men as killed in action. This would relieve much anxiety and put an end to this cruel uncertainty.  With deepest sympathy for you in your loss,

Yours sincerely,

R Heaton Rhodes.” (Waikato Independent Cambridge 1904 – 1995)

Ernest was Killed in Action 25 April 1915 and is one of 456 New Zealand soldiers listed as missing on the Plugges Plateau Lone Pine Memorial.

At the Annual Meeting of St Andrew’s Anglican Church in May 1920 it is recorded – ‘The vestry in the name of all parishioners gratefully acknowledge the gift of a church site of half an acre at Roto-o-rangi from Mr and Mrs E B Cox in memory of their son Ernest who was killed on Gallipoli.’

Francis Asbury Paine

Francis Asbury Paine

The other soldier was Private 12/830 Francis Asbury Paine, son of Mr and Mrs Frank Paine also of Roto-o-rangi. Also a farmer and a member of the Roto-o-rangi Rifle club when he enlisted in Cambridge in 1914 with the Auckland Infantry Regiment 16 Waikato Co.

Francis Paine, had a twin brother Charles who also joined the army. Their father, Frank, who had seen service as a first class petty officer in the British Navy, sent his application Home indicating he was willing to serve again. With both sons away they were no longer able to manage their Roto-o-rangi farm so sold up and moved to Auckland.

Charlie was later wounded in September 1917.

Frank Paine senior wrote in December 1916:- “I understand that a set of paintings are to be shown in Hamilton shortly, from the brush of Mr Moore-Jones, himself a sapper in the New Zealand Engineers. I would strongly advise those who have heard of the deeds of the Waikato boys not to miss seeing the sketches of Sapper Moore-Jones. Here we have a man combining the artist’s soul, with the soldier’s spirit, and having faced the Turks and Germans, shoulder to shoulder with our boys, his pictures possess a living tone and colour in them peculiar to an eye witness. When listening to the excellent lecture explaining the pictures, many a father and mother whose lads have fought and died for us, will understand the extra-ordinary odds our lads had to face, and can almost hear the cheers of the Waikatos’ as they stormed almost perpendicular heights hundreds of feet high. Personally with all my reading and letters of enquiry, nothing brings the bravery of our bonny lads so vividly as these valuable pictures.”

Francis junior was listed as Killed in Action 25 April 1915 on Plugges Plateau, Lone Pine Memorial.

The Auckland Battalion had started landing men at 8 30am in lighters and small boats and they scrambled ashore under heavy shellfire.

12/846 Private A C C ‘Bert’ Robins of Cambridge wrote to his parents – “The fight was most furious, and all played the game. The Turks held a most difficult position for us to take, as we had to force a landing, and there were big, rugged ranges immediately ahead. We landed early on Sunday morning, under heavy fire from our battleships. All made a name for themselves straight away, charging and rooting the Turks out of a very difficult place.

“Well, they never stopped until they were over two high ridges, although our attacking line was very thin, as men being landed had to work very hard to catch up to the front. Anyway, a fighting line was eventually made, and a good defence was organised, this being all that was asked of us. The New Zealanders suffered severely, owing to the place they were holding, the old 16th coming in for a little more than their share. All officers were wounded or killed.” (Waikato Times published in Hamilton.)

12/255 Sergeant Thomas La Trobe Hill was employed in his father’s chemist shop in Cambridge before he enlisted. He left with the Main Body and landed on Gallipoli with the first New Zealanders at 10am on 25 April 1915.  He recorded in his diary on 25 April 1915, ‘Anzac Cove Landed 10a.m. under heavy shrapnel all day. Heavy casualties’.

In his book ‘The Auckland Regiment’, 2nd Lt O E Burton wrote – ‘Away down Artillery Lane Dr G Craig, and his devoted little band, Wishart, Shewring, Stacey and Hill were doing splendid work. It was a heart breaking sight; wounded men lying about in hundreds and no provision made for them.’

The Auckland Battalion became scattered along the firing line where Lieutenant John Peake was wounded – ultimately losing his right arm. ‘At one stage Lieutenant H H S Westmacott recalled that he thought he saw Peake and Allen directing some of the company off a wrong spur to Plugge’s Plateau.’ (Gallipoli The New Zealand Story by Christopher Pugsley.)

‘Lieutenant Peake was impressed with the magnificent behaviour of the New Zealand non-commissioned officers and men during their first experience under fire. He felt they showed the greatest resource and daring, and there was no hanging back on the part of anybody.

“He said a mistake had been made as to their landing place at Gallipoli. It was a good job there were no entanglements, but there was a steep cliff, and the artillery and machine guns played havoc with them. All the officers were soon out of action, but the non-coms, and privates filled their places immediately. They traversed ‘Dead Man’s Gully’ and took the hill which the 16th Waikatos still held. Great difficulties had been experienced. The water was poisoned, and they had to take a supply from Alexandria to Malta. The Turks were good fighters, and there were no atrocities like those perpetrated by the Germans. Their snipers were excellently hidden, and were splendid shots. The 16th Waikatos upheld the traditions of the Waikato equal to Rewi Maniapoto, whose motto was ‘We will fight for ever and ever’.’ (Waikato Times published in Hamilton.)

25 April 1915            Weekly News 50 years ago 21 April 1965

Pte W H Rhodes of Amberley (16th Waikato)

‘We New Zealanders, especially the Auckland boys, have been badly cut up. My company is in a terrible mess. Our major is wounded, our captain is shot through the lungs and Lts Allen and Baddeley missing.

‘My platoon officer, Lt H H S Westmacott (an old Christchurch boy) is seriously wounded in the arm and back, and Lt Peake has an arm nearly blown off.

‘The men have been game against the greatest odds.’

The Anzacs held their position and on 26 April Auckland Battalion congregated and entrenched on Plugge’s Plateau. (Named after Lieutenant Colonel Plugge, New Zealand’s Commanding Officer.)

‘But with the night came no peace. The Turks attacked with renewed vigour – reinforcements had arrived for them. Blowing trumpets and shouting “Allah!” they surged forward. Our fellows ran to meet them, cursing in good round English and very bad Arabic. Up there in the tangled gullies many a strange duel was fought that night. When not actually fighting, men dug for their lives. Then on would come the Turks again, shovels would be dropped, and the attack repelled.’

The Auckland Battalion had the most serious losses. Sixteen of its 28 officers were killed or wounded. In the 16th Waikato Sergeant R F Ward was the sole surviving senior NCO; all officers were casualties. ‘In his diary he recorded that on the 26th he was directed by Colonel Plugge to get together all the 16th Waikato men he could find and let Plugge know how many had survived. Sergeant Ward found 34 of the company of 226. Thirty more struggled in the next day. 122 had been killed or wounded, 37 were missing.’

The first newspaper report appeared 28 April 1915. There were congratulations for brilliant work well done, but in the beginning of May the country was following the campaign, impressed more with the seriousness of the situation and the long list of casualties.

Cambridge WWI – Something to Remember

Tom Hill recorded in his diary –
31 October 1914 ‘Still at anchor in Albany harbour. Took some photos of Pyramus and Philomel as they left on return trip to New Zealand.’
1 November ‘Left Albany at 7.30 a.m. Next port of call Capetown.’
2 November ‘Have been sleeping on deck last four nights. A fairly high sea is running with indications of a storm coming. It is a great sight to see over 40 ships close together.’

Jim Watson recorded in his diary –
28 October 1914  ‘Arrived in Albany there we joined Australian Transports a dreary place.’
1 November ‘Leave Albany. 42 ships in all.’
6 November ‘Entered tropics.’

The ten warships were Maunganui, Tahiti, Ruapehu, Orari,  Limerick, Star of India, Hawkes Bay, Arawa,  Athenic and Waimana  accompanied by H M S  Minotaur, H M S Psyche,  H M S  Philomel and H I J M S Ibuki as escorts.
There were 380 officers and 8188 men accompanied by 3820 horses. More companies followed soon after.

004-PC-1-Oct 004-PC-2-Oct

13/479 Trooper Jim Watson

Diary – 22 September 1914


‘Farewell in the Domain, Auckland. Embarked on Star of India.’

24 September ‘Sailed from Auckland 5pm.’

25 September ‘Woke up in morning and found ourselves back in Auckland harbour.’

28 September ‘Troops disembark and go to Takapuna. Had a good time at Takapuna.’

The Main Body set sail on 24 September 1914 and included 35 Cambridge men.

However, the convoy was ordered to wait for a more powerful escort and returned to Auckland. Several days were spent at Takapuna and Panmure and eventually the convoy sailed on 16 October 1914.

Women’s Patriotic League

The local Women’s Hospital and War Fund Committee, with Mrs Isabella Gow as president, swung into action as soon as the war was announced. Dutch Auctions were held at private homes with nearly £100 being raised.
They helped raise money for a Hospital Ship, books and comforts for the training camps, and made up parcels for the boys overseas.

(In 1909 the women of Cambridge formed a Ladies Patriotic League and urged the need for establishing a scheme of universal military training. This committee is thought to be the first group of women in New Zealand to urge universal military training following the example of many British women. They also appealed to the women of the Dominion to assist in contributing towards the cost of a Dreadnought.)

The Cambridge District Contingent Fund was initiated by Mr Samuel Adams of ‘Waterside’ to assist the boys who left from the area. Mr M E Gibbons was secretary of the Cambridge Branch of the Soldiers’ Gift Fund and asked for volunteers to send monthly parcels to the men overseas.

8 August

13/459 Trooper Alf ‘Cocky’ Swayne, 13/728 Corporal Tom Phillips, 13/332 Trooper J Robert C ‘Fergie’ Ferguson, 13/461 Trooper Fabian Sperry and 13/479 Trooper Jim Watson, who were all territorials in the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles, enlisted on the next Saturday night and were off on a great adventure to serve God, King and Country.

First Five Men

First Five Men

11 August

They received orders from headquarters in Hamilton to be medically examined by Dr Walter Stapley and then go into camp. Bob Simpson (Lieutenant with the Auckland Mounted Rifles) was the local marshalling officer and the first batch of men enlisting went to Hamilton under his charge on 11 August 1915.

15 August

One Cambridge volunteer, Arthur W McNeish was drafted to the Samoan Force with the wireless section. He was among 1413 men who had left New Zealand on 15 August in the Moeraki and the Monowai.

As territorials, the Cambridge men went fully equipped with rifle, bandolier, uniform, two blankets and messing gear. They also supplied their own horse, saddle, bridle and horse cover and set out to ride from the drill hall in Fort Street to the Hamilton horse bazaar, which was the assembly point.

Before leaving Cambridge they stopped near the Jubilee Fountain (near the Post Office) and were fare-welled by a handful of people including the mayor Mr George Dickinson.

From Hamilton the contingent of men and horses travelled by train to the concentration camp at Potter’s Paddock, now Alexandra Park, Epsom. On arrival in camp the horses were inspected by a veterinary surgeon (Major Lyons). If the horse passed the inspection the owner was paid £25 and the animal became the property of the Defence Department. Any horse which did not pass inspection was returned home and another horse supplied by the army.

At Epsom, army pattern horse equipment was issued. The privately owned bridles and saddles were placed in sacks and returned home, or if a buyer was found, sold on the spot.

As Alf Swayne left for camp he bought a saddle from Dick, Browning & Co a saddler in Duke Street. It cost him £4 5/- and he sold it in Auckland for £5 – but never got paid.

The men were allotted their regiment numbers and Auckland Mounted Rifles had the prefix 13/ before their numbers.

A few days later between 50 and 60 infantrymen left Cambridge for Hamilton en route for Epsom. They joined the 16th (Waikato) Company, one of four making up the Auckland Regiment.

Alex Beange                           Ed Boyle                                 Robert Chambers

Andrew Cornaga             Victor Cornaga                       Ernest Wilkin Cox

Angus B Crickett                  William Crickett                    Charles J Hally

Tom LaTrobe Hill                 Fred Keeley                            Leslie T Keeley

William D Kemp              Martin McDermott                 William McLiesh

George F McNeish            James McNeish                      John H McGarry

Aubrey C Ollard                     Henry R Ollard                       Francis A Paine

David J Pearson                      Holger B Randrup                 M Roy Roberts         

Charles S Sharp                      Fabian Sperry                         Alan Strawbridge

Samuel J Stewart                    Alf J Swayne                          Alexander Thomason

Fred C Thorpe                        Jim W Watson                          Alexander Walker

Brian Willis                            Leslie Young

Cambridge World War One – Something to Remember

The beginning of World War One was announced from the Cambridge pulpits in New Zealand on Sunday evening 2 August 1914. Britain was at war with Germany.

001--PO 001

There was not much work done the next day as the townspeople waited around the Post Office for more news.


Bob Chambers, who was employed by Geo Clark and Sons was already in Hamilton and was the first Cambridge man to sign up.

Cambridge Cavalry Volunteers

Parker, Runciman and Fisher

Parker, Runciman and Fisher

The troublous times of the 1870s led to the formation of a volunteer force of cavalry from among the settlers. Troops were formed in Cambridge, Hamilton and Te Awamutu and these proved their worth when Te Kooti was on the rampage and during the scare following the murder of Timothy Sullivan in 1873.

In Cambridge there were 60 active members of this force led by Captain James Runciman, which served for eleven years until disbanded in 1882. Lieutenants were John Fisher and Richard Parker and Sub-Lieutenants were Robert Kirkwood and William Howie.

Their great value was in the confidence given to settlers and their families and as a deterrent to any hostile action.

All members were well mounted and uniformed and armed with carbines, revolvers and swords. Regular drills and occasional field days with neighbouring troops were held.

10 Star Redoubt Cambridge NZ

Von Tempsky's Drawing of Cambridge

Von Tempsky’s Drawing of Cambridge 1864

Cambridge Redoubts

The first redoubt built by Cameron in 1864 was on either side of the Waikato River at Pukerimu (near St Peters School). When Tamihana left Te Tiki o te Ihinga-rangi at Pukekura, early 1864, the British moved in and called it ‘The Crow’s Nest’. The garrison from the 3rd Waikato regiment disliked the monotonous routine and bad food and a threatening mutiny was quelled.

Difficulty in navigating the Waikato River beyond its junction with the Karapiro Stream, led to the selection of Cambridge as the chief redoubt and headquarters of the regiment. The wide stretch of water offering good anchorage and the series of flat topped terraces suitable for defence made the site eminently suitable for a military base.

13 July 1864 Cambridge was named after the Commander in Chief of the British Army – the Duke of Cambridge and the men started building the Ten Star Redoubt. A month later headquarters moved from Pukerimu.

Gudex Memoral Maungakawa NZ

Gudex Memorial Maungakawa NZ

Gudex Memorial Maungakawa NZ

Standing at the Gudex Memorial in the Maungakawa Reserve many visitors have enjoyed the view and the peaceful surroundings. On a clear winters day you can see the snow on Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki (Egmont).

The stone obelisk was erected in memory of Mr Michael Christian Gudex MBE, MA, MSc, (teacher, scientist and horticulturists) for his contribution to the preservation of New Zealand’s natural resources.

The reserve was created under the guidance of the Lands and Survey Department in 1953 and the Maungakawa Scenic Reserve Board – a voluntary group – received much benefit from foundation member, Mr Gudex in help and advice.

Seven acres were set aside from the reserve to become GudexMemorial   Park with an unveiling ceremony on 23 June 1968.

The area – the site of the former Te Waikato Sanatorium – still had evidence of the old world garden planted in the 1890’s when Mrs Sophia Thornton and her family were in residence.

Walnuts, camellias, rhododendrons and clumps of snowdrops were all mingled with the surrounding bush, and only a little landscaping and the provision of some facilities were necessary.

This has become a place of tranquil beauty with bush walks, a picnic area, native bush and birdlife, a place to contemplate, an artist’s mecca, a tourist attraction, a place to study natural science and geography.

Soft Stone Headstones

William Clare

William Clare


The soft stones of William Clare, Jane Qualtrough nee Bell and Elizabeth Williams, would disintegrate if some vandal scrubbed them with a wire brush or blitzed them with a water blaster.

Captain William Clare married Jessie Mackintosh in Bombay about 1847 and they had 3 children.

William enlisted in the 3rd Waikato Militia in 1863 arriving in Cambridge New Zealand in August 1864 with a detachment of 450 men. The land was covered with fern and ti-tree scrub and he was the first to build a permanent residence. He and his family made Cambridge their home.

William died 10 December 1878 aged 64 and was buried at the CambridgeCemetery at Hautapu. About three hundred people attended his funeral.


Jane Qualtrough, wife of Thomas, died in childbirth 13 December 1879. She was 23 years old.

“She is gone the delight of all who e’er knew her

Her remains are consigned to the dark silent tomb

She is gone and in sorrow has left us to wonder

That all flowers so fair should be nipt in thy bloom.”

Her headstone is under a camellia tree.

Mrs Elizabeth Williams nee Mata was the mother of Mrs Mary Ann Tucker and they farmed on the outskirts of Cambridge West.

Elizabeth died 19 June 1886 aged 73 years.


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