The First World War Battle of Beersheba was fought in Palestine 100 years ago.
Our digital collection includes the diary of Edward Aubrey. He served from 10 February 1916 to 19 February 1919. He served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 19th Reinforcements, New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. Edward took part in the Battle of Beersheba, and was wounded on 5 November 1917. Part of his left leg was amputated.
1917 November 4 Sun
Releived [sic] 6th MR.
heavy casualties here today
1917 November 5 Mon
Wounded 12-30 mid day
1917 November 12 Mon
Operated on again to have tubes put in my leg & knee fixed up a little
1917 November 13 Tues
Another operation on Nov 19th to have my leg off
Edward Aubrey spent the rest of the war in medical care in Egypt and Britain. He came back to New Zealand after the war and went farming in the Omarama area, on land won in a ballot as part of a Returned Soldiers’ initiative.
A recent addition to our digital collection: Letters and memorabilia from the Clarkson family. This small collection of letters and memorabilia from Frank (William Francis) Clarkson to his sister Margaret Clarkson (Garton), 1918 and a letter written by Emerson Clarkson, Palestine, to his sister Lydia, in 1917.
Librarian Sue Colyer has inside knowledge of these letters:
I have always treasured these letters as they are all I know of these particular uncles. Sometime after Emerson returned from the war and the time he died in 1948 he quarrelled irrevocably with the rest of the family and his name was never mentioned again and everybody who might have known what it was about is now dead. I only discovered looking at his military record that he had received commendations in the field. He sounds like a man of action as in his letter he is grumbling about how boring it is behind the lines, how far they have to walk to get water for the horses and how they “all” prefer it at the front (yeah, right!).
Emerson Clarkson served from September 1914 to September 1919, in Eqypt and the Balkans and was awarded the British War Medal (1915) and the Victory Medal. He died in 1948.
One of his letters talks about practising fighting techniques such as bayonet fighting and live bomb throwing:
“…they are giving us plenty of work to refresh our memories before going back to the front line where we do nothing but patrols. We all think that being in the front line is a long way better than here.”
Poor old Frank, his younger brother, was killed shortly after these letters were written, but it is nice to know he had such a good time in England visiting rellies and clearly drinking too much. I would love to know what the advice was he sent to George (my father, and the youngest of the very large family). In January 2016 I was bemused to find Frank’s medals on sale on Trade me by an Australian vendor and have no idea how they got there but the family never had them as far as I know, although I do have a copy of his “soldier’s penny” – the bronze plaque that the next of kin of every British empire service person received.
Frank Clarkson was born in Christchurch in 1896 and died in France 27 March 1918. He enlisted in April 1915. He was wounded on September 1915, in the Dardanelles, then in October 1916 and again in 1917. Each time he convalesced in London and Boulogne and returned to the front. By 1916 he was fighting in France. At his death he was a Lance-Corporal with the First Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.
Of more interest to me – as they were a huge part of my childhood – were their sisters, one was a school teacher and three lived very adventurous lives as nurses travelling overseas from the 1920 to the 1950s. They specialised in the private nursing of wealthy patients, including royalty, in Europe and the USA and eventually lived through the Blitz in London, nursed on ambulance trains in France in WWII, before returning to New Zealand and opening a popular cake shop on Strowan Road.
It will be a change to do something instead of sitting in a trench. I believe it will be our last scrap here as the men need a month’s or two month’s holiday and I believe the General has definitely promised the NZ & A troops a spell. They need it.
(Priest’s diary, PCol-Priest-084)
A diary kept by Arthur Francis Lester Priest (1893-1915) from late 1914 to August 1915. The diary documents his experience in the first World War. The collection includes some memorabilia kept with the diary: a letter, newspaper clippings, postcard and photograph.
After weeks of anxiety Mr and Mrs J. S: Priest of Chorlton have found that their youngest son, Lieut Lester Priest was killed at Gallipoli on August 8th. It appears that Lieut Priest was wounded in the terrible action held that day and was being carried down to the base hospital on a stretcher when a shell wounded the two stretcher bearers and wounded Lt Prtest mortally. He lived for a quarter of a hour after the disaster and asked for a cigarette while smoked. Chaplin McMenamin who returned by the Willochra last week was with him when he died and speaks in high terms ol his great bravery. He said he knew he was dying, but it was the death he would have chosen above all others. In June last his death was reported and he read his own obituary notioe. The sad part of the whole thing is that in some way his real death was not officially reported and his relatives were only told he had been wounded a second time. Since that date they had been enquiring in every hospital and naturally were unable to locate him. The late Lieut Priest was 21 years of age …
And visit First to Surf celebration at New Brighton this weekend, to commemorate 100 years since a display of surfing by Duke Kahanamoku in New Zealand.
The party then went to New Brighton, where an exhibition of surf-riding and swimming by Kahanamoku, in company with members of the New Brighton Surf Club, had been arranged. Unfortunately, the rollers were too short for a real exhibition of surf-riding. A long, strong roller, sweeping right into the beach, is required for this, but the rollers at New Brighton this morning were short, breaking too soon. However, Kahanamoku gave as good a display as was possible in the circumstances, and certainly taught members of the Surf Club something of the art of surf-riding. His position as he lay on the board was very graceful. Once he tried to stand upright on the board as he came shooting in, but the roller broke,as he did so and he capsized. One or two other similar efforts failed for the same reason. He showed a few of the other fancy touches of surf riding, manipulating the board in various ways as he rode it.
Maria Rohs with father Frederick Rohs. Lyttelton Harbour, Governors Bay, 1961. Entry in the 2014 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ Kete Christchurch PH14-184.jpg