The tiger ate my arm is no excuse!

A Canterbury trooper, 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles (Rough Riders)
A Canterbury trooper (not Leopold Acland), 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles (Rough Riders), preparing to depart for the Boer War (1899-1902)
This amazing story from World War I raises the “dog ate my homework” excuse to a whole higher level. “The tiger ate my arm” is no excuse for missing military service it seems. How would that play in these PC and health and safety conscious times? Leopold George Dyke Acland (1876 – 1948) was the author of a well known series of books – Early Canterbury runs and served in the First World War despite having lost an arm in a tiger attack.

Acland lead an adventurous life. He began his working life on high country stations Mt Peel and Cracoft Station. He then bought Glentanner Station near Mt Cook.  He served in the Boer War with the 3rd New Zealand Contingent known as the “Rough Riders”. In 1902 he joined an expedition to New Guinea.

After the war he sold Glentanner and briefly owned Lavercost Station at Amuri. He sold this in 1906 and went on a tour to India where he lost his left arm in a tiger attack. Acland’s obituary in the Press described the event. Acland, an English officer and an Indian sergeant major set out bait for a tiger that had been attacking local people. They managed to wound the tiger but while tracking it were suddenly attacked. Acland was dragged away by his arm and only rescued when the sergeant major managed to kill the tiger. Asked what he felt he replied “Oh! I felt no pain but what worried me was the stinking breath of the beast after it had been feeding on dead horse”.

From India he went to Japan and managed a shipping office in Kobe. After a trip on the trans-Siberian railway to Moscow and St Petersburg, he went on to London and then back to New Zealand buying more sheep stations – Braemar in the Mackenzie Country followed by North Clumbar at Hororata.

At this point the First World War came along and despite his missing arm he joined the Army Service Corps and won the Military Cross at Gallipoli. The NZASC was not usually a front line unit, providing logistical and administrative support, but at Gallipoli geography changed that. The army would not normally have taken a one armed man on overseas service but Acland had past army service and good connections so that was probably how he managed it. His later army service  on the Western Front was on the staff of General Alexander Godley (nephew of John Robert Godley) who was commander of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli and later on the Western Front. Acland rose to the rank of major, was mentioned in dispatches three times and was awarded the O.B.E.

Digitised map used to illustrate The early Canterbury runs Other stations he owned during or after the war included Loburn and Cecil Peak. He continued farming part of North Clumbar. Early Canterbury Runs was published in 1930 and revised in 1946 and he wrote numerous newspaper articles. He was famed for his wealth of stories (not all of them printable) about early days in Canterbury. He married his childhood sweetheart in 1935. In later years he lived at Hororata.

This man surely deserves a book and somehow dying at Number 50 The Esplanade Sumner, in 1948,  seems a rather tame ending.


Thanks to Richard Greenaway who asked the question of Te Ara “how come he was allowed to serve in the military?” and Te Ara for forwarding the fascinating information about Acland’s military record.