ALTON WWI SOLDIERS
Alfred John ADAMS, Sapper, 26369
Son of John and Emily Adams
George Henry ALLEN, Private, 14546
Son of Thomas and Mabella Allen
Cyril ALEXANDER, Rifleman, 33048
Son of Mrs Holdway, Alton
Charles Edward ARMSTRONG, Rifleman, 28415
Son of John and Eliza Armstrong
George Francis ARMSTRONG, Gunner, 2/840
Son of John and Eliza Armstrong
William Robert ARMSTRONG, Pte, 31201
Son of John and Eliza Armstrong
Ernest BOWDITCH, Private, 8074
Brother of Harry Bowditch, born in England
Harry Lock BOWDITCH, Private, 71437
Brother of Ernest Bowditch, born in England
Samuel EDGECOMBE, Private, 63841
Born in England
Harold Jubilee FOREMAN, Trooper, 65656
Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Foreman
William George FOREMAN, Private, 56760Son of Thomas and Elizabeth Foreman
Walter Henry GREEN, Private, 28122
Son of William Henry Foreman & Elizabeth Frances Green
Bertie Sydney HIRST, Private, 22800.
Son of Sydney and Elizabeth Hirst
Albert John HODGE, Trooper, 57794 (3rd gen, son of Richard) (Charles & William’s nephew)
Son of Richard Henry and Rosetta Mary Ann Hodge
Charles HODGE, Trooper, 57849 (2nd gen, Son of Henry) (William’s brother)
Son of Henry and Elizabeth Hodge
Frank Thomas HODGE, Rifleman, 22801, (3rd gen, Son of William)
Son of William Thomas and Alice Hodge
Harold Henry HODGE, Bombardier, 50510, (3rd gen, Son of Harry) (Charles & William’s nephew)
Son of Harry and Laura Ellen Hodge
William Thomas HODGE, Sergeant, 15725, (2nd gen, Son of Henry) (Charles Brother)Son of Henry and Elizabeth Hodge
Albert Job LEIGH, Private, 20367
Son of Edith Leigh, London
Horatio John NEILSON, Lance Corporal, 59697Son of James and Elizabeth Neilson
Edward Francis NICKEL, Rifleman, 52869
Son of Fredrick William and Nellie Nickel, husband of Ida May Nickel, nee Hunt
Harold PALMER, Rifleman, 48068
Son of Alfred Thomas and Mary Palmer
Thorley SYMES, Private, 52301
Son of William Charles and Annie Elizabeth Symes
Hugh Bruce WALLACE, Private, 81906
Son of Margaret and Hugh Wallace. Husband of Miriam Annie Wallace
The Relocation of our War Memorial
In 2013 the Alton Hall Committee decided to move the War Memorial from its site on the grounds of the old Alton School to the section next to the Alton Coronation Hall. We had the goal of ANZAC Day 2014 to get it completed and worked hard to reach it. And we did reach it. On the 25th April 2014 we had over 500 at our 11am ANZAC Day service, some wearing their grandfather’s medals, bringing old photos, old stories, and making new memories for Alton.
We were so fortunate to have a full military service with eight soldiers from Taranaki Platoon, West Coast Company - 5/7 Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment, Abe Abraham on the Flag, two members of Whanganui Platoon, Army Cadet Corps (stood sentinel on each side of the Memorial) and their Sergeant, nine members of the 5th Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki Pipes and Drums, members of the Patea Maori Club, Rev Karen Cook, Mayor Ross Dunlop, Chester Borrows MP. Local girl Catherine Carter did the most beautiful Last Post on the bugle. We had two official photographers - Kevin Bone of Hawera and Paul Marcroft of Marton.
So many people helped the Alton Coronation Hall Committee to make their dream of moving the 91-year-old, War Memorial come true, in particular we need to thank three local business men whose help we couldn’t have done without: Steve Watson, Garry Hooper and Murray Phillips. Steve’s crane lifted the 12 tonn concrete base of the monument and put it on the back of Greg Burnand’s trailer behind one of his big tractors. Garry Hooper engineering constructed the steel and cedar seat behind the war memorial and the steel gates to the War Memorial area, and Murray Phillips paid for them.
The reason why Alton decided to build a monument only for their men that died in WWI, and not for the ones that returned, has been lost in the years that have passed since 1922, when it was first unveiled. Maybe it was because it was 14 men who didn’t return, a huge number for a small village, or maybe they did intend to put a Roll of Honour Board in the Hall or the School, but never did. But even though almost 100 years have passed since the first soldiers went to WWI, we decided it wasn’t too late to put their names on a Roll of Honour Boards in the Hall. It was difficult, but we think we have found most of the men that went to both Wars from Alton and returned, the ones that didn’t return have a star by their name. In 2015 we had Roll of Honour Boards made for WWI and WWII to hang inside the Alton Coronation Hall. There are the names of 40 From WWI and 40 from WWII. The boards are made from Rimu sourced from the Alton School when it was demolished in 2015 and matai columns on the sides from Keiran Dwyer’s old cowshed on Spence Road.
The stories of our local men who went to war, bring them to life. Ian Fowlie told me what Dick Armstrong told him years ago, how back in 1915 George Mitchell walked into the Armstrong house one night and offered his farm to them for sale, as he was going to War. Dick’s father was reluctant to take the 60 acres of newly cleared land from a man off to fight for their country and said he would sell it back to him on his return, George said ‘I don’t think I’ll be back’. And he wasn’t, he was killed in Ypres, Belgium in December 1917. Five of the Mitchell brothers from Whenuakura fought in WWI, most of them enlisted with the Otago or Canterbury regiments, where they had lived before their parents moved to Whenuakura in the early 1900’s. Another brother: Norman, moved to Alton for a time after the War and worked on Walter and Mary Tayler’s farm on Joll Road, where he was to meet his future wife Daisy Florence Gibbs (niece of James Gibbs) they were married in 1925.
George’s friend, Bill McDiarmid also enlisted at about the same time. They were both hardworking, but social men, they would have enjoyed many nights at the Alton Hotel. They were in the Kakaramea Tug of War Team, that won numerous prizes in the province before it went into recess at the start of the War. The photo of this team taken in 1912, shows they were all in fine form with enormous muscular arms from hard manual labour. Bill also never returned. He was badly wounded on 24 August 1915 and spent the next 8 months in hospitals. Medical notes on his war records state: “wounded right shoulder, dangerously ill, evacuated to Malta, recovering, then to England, admitted and recovering in No 2 NZGH, Walton on Thames, Manchester 23 September 1915. On leave before discharge, disappeared, last seen by Hospital 7 April 1916”. The report about his death on his war records states: “His wounds were sufficiently serious for evacuation first to Malta and then to England and his shoulder had permanent damage. Whilst waiting for transportation to New Zealand, and the medical discharge from active service, he disappeared. He was last seen the day before the ship was to sail. Court of Enquiry found he was last seen at 8 pm on the 7th April 1916 and has been missing since and declared as the circumstances of this man's disappearance does not justify him being classified as a deserter”.
A unique piece of Alton history is the Alton Hotel Soldiers Penny Board. It has 90 well-worn pennies on it and was a much-revered feature in the Hotel until it closed its doors in 2011 after 133 years in business. For many years it was part of the top of the Bar until sometime after WWII when it was cut out of the Bar and fixed to the wall. It measures 1m long and 20cm wide and is now enclosed in a rimu cabinet and hangs in the Hall. The 20 pennies at the bottom are from WWI and the remainder from WWII. Harry Amon and his wife Sarah were the proprietors of the Alton Hotel when WWI began, followed by Ernest and Alice Gooday. So, they would have given local men their last pint as they headed off to war. The first 4 men to put a penny on the Board were from Hurleyville. Brothers: David, James and Fred Crompton and their Friend Florrie McCarthy. Florrie later married their sister: Alice Crompton. David Crompton’s daughter Helen Sinclair told us this story a few years ago, she said her father told her the story often.
Richard Herbert Allen isn’t listed on the War Memorial, as he died of war wounds a few days after the War finished. We have put his name on the Roll of Honour in the Hall though. Richard was badly wounded in battle on 5 October 1918 and died from those injuries on 23 Nov 1918. He had tried to enlist in 1914 in his hometown in Tasmania, but was too young. He came to New Zealand from Tasmania and lived with his sister in Alton for a while working as a general labourer enlisting as soon as he was 20 years old. His sister Maude was married to Fred Amon and lived in Ivydale cottage on Hunter St in Alton. It is probably the reason why Ryves Allen is the only one to have his full name written on Memorial, unlike the other 13, who only have their initials, to make sure he was not confused with Richard Allen.Bertie Hirst managed to survive over 3 years of fighting at WWI and return home. He had been farming in Alton before the War, on his return he was farming at Mokauiti, Taumaranui, where he was killed by a falling tree. A cruel twist of fate.
Six Hodge men went to WWI, two of them were 2nd generation Alton Hodges, and the other four were 3rd generation brothers and cousins. Merle Hodge was the 4th of the 9 children of Harry and Laura Hodge he was killed at Somme on 2 May 1918. His mother Laura had died in January 1918. The eldest son Fred died at aged 20 years, in 1914 as a result of an accident at Alton Dairy Factory, his arm got tangled a belt he was changing on a machine. He had to have it amputated below the elbow and he died 2 months later in hospital of septicaemia. Younger brother Harold survived the war. Father and son William and Frank Hodge both went to WWI. William enlisted at the age of 45 as soon as war was declared, after years of struggling on an unproductive farm at Kohuratahi, he saw it as a means of escape and his rank of Sergeant shows he was dedicated to the task at hand. His 18 year son Frank had enlisted at about the same time; they met up in France and saw active duty together. William’s capable wife Alice returned to live at Hurleyville, with the remaining children. After the War William came home for a short time but then returned to England, taking his other son Chris with him. Chris did return to NZ eventually, but William never did, all contact with him was lost, no one knows when he died.
Charles Taylor was the husband of Ethel Gibbs (eldest of James and Sarah Gibbs’s 4 children). Charles met Ethel when he was one of the builders of James and Sarah Gibbs’s homestead in 1905 and also the Alton Library. They were married in 1908. James Gibbs helped Charlie and Ethel buy/bought them a small farm on the Main Road at Mokoia, their 5 children were born there.
Charles Taylor enlisted in October 1915 and he was deployed with the No 3 Machine Gun Corps. He was posted overseas and disembarked in the Suez in 13 March 1916. He embarked for France from Egypt on 6th April 1916. His war records show details of his service until he was fatally wounded on Tuesday 7th Aug 1917 on the Belgium/France frontline in the Third Battle of Ypres, he was aged 33. Letters received from Charlie still with the family detail his war experience. He was buried at Pont-D’Achelles Military Cemetery, Nippe, France.
When Charles was killed, he left a young family, the children were aged George 8, James 7, Charles 6, Cecil 4, Mavis 21 months. Ethel Taylor became very ill when Charlie died, the farm at Mokoia was sold and Ethel and the children moved back to Alton and lived with her parents in the large homestead her husband helped to build.
WWII bought further years of anguish to the people of Alton as their young men and women left for war service.Margery Proffitt and her brother Joel both signed up for service. Margery is the only woman to have gone from Alton. Before the war she was nursing at Patea Hospital. There is an article in the Patea Mail on 21 April 1941, telling of Margery being on the radio from the hospital in Cairo she was working in. She sent greetings to friends and family in Alton and said she had seen her brother Joel and they were both well. Their mother Frances Proffitt was the Post Mistress at the Alton Post Office from 1913 -1937. Their father John Proffitt was secretary of the Alton Dairy factory for a similar number of years.
Trevor Wilmot Boyce was working on the Foreman farm before he went to WWII. He had an older brother named Alex and a younger named Colin. From March 1942 to May1943 he went through intensive flyers’ training at different locations in New Zealand and Canada. At the end of June, he left Canada to live in the United Kingdom, where he was stationed to the Number 15 Advanced Flying Unit at Ramsbury, Wiltshire. In November that year he learned to fly Wellington bombers at the Finningley base in Yorkshire. He also got promoted to flight sergeant and on March 3, 1944 to pilot officer. Eight days later, on March 11, he made his first operational flight: bombing a target in occupied France. He also received a short course in Halifax bombers, before he underwent his Lancaster training. In May 1944, he was transferred to the 166th Bomber Squadron at the flight base at Kirmington in Lincolnshire. In May and June, he was part of several bombings on Duisburg and Dortmund in Germany, and Cherbourg and Calais in France, as well as other targets.
On the night of 12-13 June 1944 their target is the synthetic oil refinery in Gelsenkirchen. When the bombers are homeward-bound in the direction of the Southern Sea, the German air defence were waiting. They destroyed up to eleven bombers before they could even reach the North Sea. Trevor’s plane and his crew got to Epe, the Netherlands, the Lancaster is shot from the sky by an unknown German pilot. The men try to bail out before the aircraft crashes in a forest near Smidsveen, Tongeren. On June 15, two days after the Lancaster crashed into Dutch soil, the crew are buried at the General Cemetery in Epe.
James Thomas Gibbs (Jim) enlisted in the Airforce in 1943 and spent months training at Lethbridge and Winnipeg, Canada, qualifying as an Air Bomber navigator on 29/10/1943. Jim had a sharp mathematical mind, which his job required, and he spent the months ahead doing mathematical equations in mid air to ensure the bombs got to the desired destination. In May 1944 he transferred to Wellington bombers and was based mostly in Northampton. When his plane was shot down over Calais on 27 September 1944, he was navigator/bomb aimer on a Lancaster bomber LM738 MKIII. It was a crew of 7 men, Jim was the oldest one at 28 years of age and was the only one to survive. The Pilot: Leslie Wibberley was 21 years old, Flight engineer: Alfred Henry Lucy 23 years old, Navigator: Frank Hailstones Garnett 27 years old, Radio Operator: William John Tucker 21 years old, Mid Upper Gunner: James Furnival 20 years old, Rear Gunner: Willian David Piggott 22 years old. They were shot down by a heavy German flak machine gun operated by Major Fritz Schmidt. Miraculously Jim Gibbs was thrown out of his position in the perspex dome at the front of the plane. He was unconscious but somehow his parachute was opened, and he survived his descent to the ground below. He landed in German occupied French territory and was rescued by French resistance workers (it is believed). It was 10 days before they could get him back to safety and communicate with the army that he was safe. Meanwhile back home in Alton a great sadness was cast over the village, mourning for a son they thought they had lost. On 7 October 1944 a telegram was delivered to his parents AJ and Mabel Gibbs, advising them that their son was alive and recovering from broken bones in the General Hospital at Wroughton. The Gibbs family put money on the bar at the Alton Hotel that night and all the district celebrated the good news. It was 6 months before Jim got back home. In that time he sent many letters back, one of which talks a little about his rescue in France: ‘When you see Nelle, you can tell her that my short stay in France produced a really beautiful girl for a guiding angel. She dressed my wounds and put on a splint when my arm was first dressed. I was sorry to leave, she was a luscious little armful’.Jim came back to the family farm at Alton and married local girl Marion (Bai) Ruth Illingworth in 1948. They had 5 children: Tony, Harvey, Roger, Ruth and Grant. Jim died at the age of 73 in 1984 and is buried in the Patea cemetery.
Newton Clive Cedric Hodge lived a long, productive life, but at a battle on the River Po in 1944 it looked like that wasn’t going to be the case. He was with other soldiers on the ground, moving towards the bridge over the river, the American’s came from behind in aircraft to bomb the bridge, dropping their bombs too early and killing or injuring many of the Anzac soldiers. As Newton said, he was one of the lucky ones, he only lost his leg. Newton was the son of Edward Herbert and Margaret Hodge, he had 2 older brothers and a younger sister. He grew up in Alton, living on Crompton Rd where his parents sharemilked for the Whiteheads. His great grandparents Henry and Elizabeth Hodge arrived in Alton in 1880 and cleared their Joll Road farm from the bush. After months in hospital in England, Newton returned home with his peg leg and got a ballot farm on Marahau Rd, Maxwell, where he milked cows for many years. He helped me compile the list of WWI and WWII Soldiers that went to War from Alton - and we were able to finally get Roll of Honour Boards made in 2015 for the Hall. Alton will always be grateful for Newton's contribution to our community. We said farewell to Newton Hodge on 5 January 2016...in his 99th year.
Martin Henry Luckin had a Blacksmith shop at Alton before and after WWII. It was situated just south of the crossroads on the west side of Hursthouse Rd, where Thomas and Amanda McColl’s house is now.
Brothers Harvey and Ian Symes farmed Symes land on Petch Road with their mother Maggie around the time WWII started. They had been farming in Glenbervie near Whangarei, but their father Charles Arthur (Jackson) died just as the was started, so they returned to Maggie’s home area, she was a Hamilton from Manutahi. Harvey enlisted in the RNZAF in 1942 and trained as a navigator in New Zealand and Canada. He joined the RAF 44 Squadron and completed a full tour of 15 bombing raids as a navigator in Lancaster Bombers. Fourteen of these raids were to Germany and one to Trondheim Norway. Ian also enlisted for service in WWII based in the Pacific as member of the Provost Corps, then returned to Alton to farm on Petch Road with his brother Harvey.
Edgar Hugh Sutherland was 25 years old when he was killed three weeks before Christmas in 1941. He was a Gunner with NZ Artillery Battalion and died in battle near Libya. His mother Agnes Black arrived in Hurleyville with her parents John and Agnes Black in 1901. They leased a farm on Kawaiti Road, and were only to stay for 5 years, but it was long enough for the 20-year-old Agnes to meet landowner Hugh Alexander Sutherland of Wilford Road. They were married on 12 July 1905 at the Black family homestead. They bought 167 acres from Hugh’s brother Alex at Alton when he moved to a new farm at Matapu. Hugh and Agnes had 6 children: Janet, Eva, Leita, Hazel, Edgar and Neil. The family still put a poppy on the Alton War Memorial for Edgar every Anzac Day.
Charles Alan Washer (known as Alan) joined the British Airforce before WWII. His rank was Flight Lieutenant, and he was test flying a Bristol Beaufort Mk I L4443 on the 12th June 1940, flying from Bristol, when it caught fire over Oxford during engine cooling trials.
His two crew members bailed out safely over the built-up residential area of Oxford, but Alan stayed with the aircraft and he crashed it into an empty school playground to avoid hitting houses and people, he was killed. Buried St Mary's Churchyard Cemetery, Berrow, near Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England. The Washers lived at Berrow from 1600 to c.1876 when most of the family migrated to New Zealand. Alan was the only son of Albert Edgar and Lena (nee Hillier) Washer, brother of Florence Sara Washer. Albert and Lena bought their farm on Ball Road, opposite Petch Rd, in 1900, and were a big part of the community of Alton during the years they lived there. Alan was born in 1910, he started Alton School in 1915. The Washer family left Alton in 1918 when Alan was 8 years old and moved to New Plymouth. After Alan's death his family set up a scholarship at New Plymouth’s Boys High for students to train in the Airforce.
Alton holds the memories of the Soldiers that served in both Wars in high regard. We are so proud to have such a fine monument to them in our village. Many descendants visit it each year to pay their respects. Over 100 years have passed since WWI finished, but the years haven’t diminished the appreciation we feel for them and what they did for us.
Killed in Action WWI
***Richard Herbert ALLEN, Rifleman55191, NZ Rifle Brigade,1st BattalionDied 23 Nov 1918 at age 22, of injuries after war finished.
Sister: Mrs Maude Amon, Ivydale, Alton
Son of Arthur Augustus and Adelaide Allen, Tasmania, Australia
*Ryves William ALLEN, Rifleman31798, 4th Bn. 3rd, New Zealand Rifle BrigadeDied – age 24, on 07 June 1917
at Messines, BelgiumOccupation before enlistment: LabourerSon of Thomas and Mabella Allen
*Herbert John Lancelot ANDERSON, Private
30335, 3rd Btn, Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.F. Died at age 26, on 04 October 1917at Ypres, Belgium
Occupation before enlistment: FarmerSon of David Rutherford and Charlotte Mary Anderson
*George Thomas BREWER, Driver
30470, 11th Btn, New Zealand Field Artillery
Died at age 35, on 05 April 1918at Somme, FranceOccupation before enlistment: Farmer for JR Taylor, Taumaha Rd, Alton
Son of Richard Brewer, Lancashire, England
*Harry DERRIMAN, Lance Corporal
11/425, Wellington Mounted Rifles, N.Z.E.F.Died at age 25, on 09 August 1915at Chunuk Bair, GallipoliOccupation before enlistment:
Son of Joseph and Elizabeth Derriman, Dorsetshire, England
*Arthur Robert GOULD, Trooper 11/443, Wellington Mounted Rifles, N.Z.E.FDied at age 24, on 27 August 1915at Gallipoli, Turkey
Son of Mrs G A Gould, Somerset, England – cousin of Mary Tayler of Alton
*Charles Keith GRANT, Private10/2163, Wellington Infantry Battalion, 5th Reg. Died at age 25, on 8 August Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli.
Occupation before enlistment: Cheesemaker at Hurleyville Factory
Son of Arthur and Eliza Kate Grant, Devon, England
*Merle John HODGE, Rifleman
48030, 1st Bn. 3rd, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Died at age 22, on 02 May 1918at Somme, FranceOccupation before enlistment: Dairy Farmer
Son of Harry and Laura Ellen Hodge, 3rd gen
*William Orr McDIARMID, Private
10/1890, 1st Bn., Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.FDied at age 26, on 07 April 1916, in EnglandOccupation before enlistment: Labourer
Son of Hugh and Margaret McDiarmid, Wicklow, Ireland
*Matthew George MITCHELL, Private
25/124, No. 2 Coy., New Zealand Machine Gun Corps
Died at age 30, on 05 December 1917at Ypres, Belgium. Occupation before enlistment: Dairy Farmer
Son of Matthew and Jessie Mitchell, Patea
*Esau Joseph PENZER, Private,59712, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd BattalionDied at age 40, on 05 April 1918at Somme, France. Occupation before enlistment: Farmer. Son of John William Penzer (deceased) & Elizabeth Knight, formerly Penzer. Brothers: John William & Ernest Arthur Penzer
*Godfrey RICHARDS, Private10/2746, Wellington Infantry Regiment, 1st BattalionDied at age 23, on 4 February 1917at France, of Mustard gas poisoningOccupation before enlistment: Farmer at Manutahi for Mr TaylorSon of Thomas and Susan Richards, Rangiora
*Ronald Roland SCOWN, Private
12/867, 14th (Waikato) Coy. 1st Bn., Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F.Died at age 25, on 17 September 1916at Somme, France
Son of Phillip and Grace Scown, of Kakaramea
*Charles TAYLOR, Private
25/145, 3rd Bn. New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Died at age 33 on 17 August 1917
at Nieppe Amentiers, France
wife of Ethel Taylor nee Gibbs,
Son of Isaac and Ellen Taylor (nee Ball), Whataupoko, Gisborne.
*William WHITE, Private
25626, Wellington Infantry Regiment
Died at age 36 on 29 Sept 1918
at Havrincourt, France
Son of Mrs Laidlaw of Waverley