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How many did serve?


Re: Whose freedom, rights? October 5 letter.

Another brilliant letter from Roger Handford — thank you. He concludes by saying, “we need to remember our forebears such as the Maori Battalion and many, many others, gave their all . . .”

I have tried unsuccessfully to find out the number of others, from here, who served in the World Wars. I wonder if your readership might educate me?

I was raised in Timaru and did my CMT (compulsory military training) in Burnham military camp in 1957. I was a rifleman in the 1st Canterbury Regiment. I used to tell trainees at work not to mess with me, as I was a government-trained killer, but for some reason it never seemed to work too well.

I arrived in Gisborne in 1978 and over the intervening years have met men who served as pilots in the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm. I used to visit a gentleman who was a squadron leader in the Indian Air Force and had won the DSO. Does anyone know how many people served in both the First and Second World Wars from here?

A lot of my relatives served in either the 1st or 2nd World Wars and some have not returned. My mother's first fiance lies in Doullons Military Cemetery in France. He was born in Peebles in Scotland and emigrated to New Zealand. His headstone bears his name, rank and serial number, his regiment, the Silver Fern and the words New Zealand.

Ron Taylor

Footnote from Ed: We couldn't find the answer to your questions either, trying several avenues, but the number of locals who died in the two World Wars can be found on the Gisborne Cenotaph. It lists 575 men from this district who died during World War 1, and a further four tablets were added after World War 2 listing another 474 war dead.

From these numbers we can estimate from the death rate nationally — about 18,000 of 100,000 New Zealanders who served in WW1, and 12,000 of 140,000 who served in WW2 — that around 3195 locals served in WW1 and 5530 in WW2.

  1. Roger Handford says:

    Firstly, it must be remembered that men volunteered or were later conscripted in batches, and their period of service varied. So while some were off to training and overseas, others were returning – wounded, service period ended, or listed as dead.
    The effect on communities in World War 1 was significant – particularly as rural workers joined up in large numbers. Here in Gisborne farms struggled to shear sheep, bring in crops etc, the freezing works could not get anywhere near the slaughtermen it needed. The same happened in Britain where women took the place of men on the land and in the factories. To put the hundreds who were away at any one time in perspective, the population figures for our district in 1916 were as follows: Gisborne borough – 9174, Mangapapa Town District 1140, remainder of suburban area -2346 for a total of 12,660. Waiapu County – 2075; Waikohu County 3013.