Posts Tagged ‘WW1’

William Balfour CAMPBELL was born at Leslie on 20 July 1894 and was the youngest child of John and Julia (nee Balfour) Campbell. Julia was my great grandmother Ann (nee Balfour) Watson’s elder sister, therefore William Balfour Campbell and my grandfather David George Watson were first cousins. David George was born on 21 January 1894, six months before his cousin.

William was commissioned into the British Army on 4 December 1914. This photo of him shows him wearing the uniform of the Gordon Highlanders.

photo william balfour campbellI wrote to the Gordon Highlanders Museum to see if they could tell me more about the photo. Today I received the following reply from Museum research volunteer Bert Innes:

While there is no known photograph of William Campbell  held in the Museum archives, the officer in the photograph is most certainly a Gordon Highlander

The jodhpurs or plus 4 type trousers, which were either of dark  cloth or Regimental Gordon Tartan; the boots, gaiters and spur devices and the uniform tunic with rank badge(s) are of the period.  The officer is wearing the Gordons’ glengarry headdress with the silver or white metal Regimental Staff cap badge.  Shown on the lapels of his Highland officers’ pattern tunic is the “SPHINX” “collar dogs” or badges.

It is difficult, from the stance of the officer, to give his rank with certainty, but this is shown on his left tunic sleeve cuff.  You will note the one “pip” or cloth diamond shaped badge of rank, with the possibility of one other “pip” hidden from view.  This officer was either a 2nd Lieutenant (one “pip”) or Lieutenant (two “pips”).

The Museum is aware of William Campbell’s military service of which I believe you are likewise.  I note his impressive group of medals were offered for sale a few years ago.

The above mentioned medals are shown below.

William-Balfour-Campbell-meThe photo of these medals came from a fabulous blog called British Army Medals – take a look at it if you have an interest in war medals. Thanks very much to the writer of the blog Paul Nixon for allowing me to use the image. This is the information he had on his blog post about William Balfour Campbell.

Medals held:
1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and MiD, General Service Medal 1918 (clasps Kurdistan and Iraq), India General Service Medal (clasp Waziristan 1921-24).

This from the medal dealer’s write-up at the time of purchase in March 2008:

A fine Officer casualty ‘MID’ group of 5: Major W.B. Campbell, 2nd Battalion 8th Punjab Regiment late 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders

– 1914-15 Star (Lieut W.B. Campbell, Gord Highrs)
– British War Medal 1914-18 (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– Allied Victory Medal. With oakleaf emblem for a Mention-in-Despatches (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– GSM 1918. GV first type with 2 clasps ‘Kurdistan’ & ‘Iraq’ (Capt W.B. Campbell)
– IGS 1908. GV type I & clasp ‘Waziristan 1921-24’ (Capt W.B. Campbell, 2-8 Punjab R)

Note: The group professionally court mounted by Spink

William Balfour Campbell, was born 20 July 1894, at 120 High Street, Leslie, Fife, Scotland. His father was described as being a ‘Railway Engine Driver’. His family later moved to St.Andrews, where the family resided at 158, South Street. Notwithstanding the prevailing social discrimination that worked against giving men from ‘working class’ backgrounds a commission, the onset of the Great War quickly challenged old attitudes to class and William Campbell was commissioned into the British Army on 4/12/1914, and appointed to serve with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. He first entered France and Flanders on 4/10/1915. He remained in France until 2/4/1916, on which date he was wounded in action by ‘GSW’ near St.Eloi, while serving as the battalion ‘Bombing Officer’ in charge of the ‘Grenade Section’ – a singularly hazardous appointment in any B.E.F. battalion. Indeed his section had been in action in the early hours of 2/4/1916 in a series of counter-attacks to regain a prominent position on the salient. 1/Gordon’s battalion war diary for the period refers;

” Three attempts were made in early morning to get back point 64 which the enemy was still holding. Canadian and Royal Scots bombing parties took part but attempts failed owing to the enemy occupation of a shallow trench in rear from which he could bomb 64 thereby preventing our occupation. There was some heavy shelling during the day. 2nd Lt. W.B. Campbell was wounded.”

William Campbell served just over 6 months in France and Flanders, before being invalided back to Scotland suffering from the wounds he had received in action. While in Scotland recovering, he applied for a transfer to the Indian Army. On 31st July 1917, his application was accepted. He embarked on a troopship for India on 11 October 1917 as a probationer for the Indian Army. He subsequently served in Mesopotamia from 15/5/1918 through to 1920. He was Mentioned-in-Despatches (MID) for his distinguished services in Iraq, the MID notification being published in the London Gazette of 9/9/1921. He appears to have retired from the Indian Army, with the rank of Major by 1930

With various copied research papers, including his Officers papers for the ‘British Service’ and the application/referrals for a commission in the ‘Indian Army’

Condition: GVF

The above text supplied by Aberdeen Medals.

William’s name appears in the University of St Andrews Roll of Honour and Roll of Service published in 1920.

rollofhonourroll00univ_0009rollofhonourroll00univ_0064 william balfour campbellThe * beside William’s name indicates that he was a member of the University OTC (Officers Training Corps).

By September 1921 William held the rank of Captain in the Indian Army. He appears on the following passenger lists in 1921, 1922 and 1924. Click on the images to enlarge them.

william balfour campbellTNA_BT27_0982_00_0003_P_0002FTNA_BT27_1054_00_0055_P_0001FWilliam never married and died, aged 54 years, at Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland on 10 May 1950. He died of chronic bronchitis, asthma and coronary thrombosis. It would appear he died alone as his death registration says he was found at 3.35pm and was last seen at 8.40am.  Grey Lodge was noted as his usual residence – I wonder if this was perhaps a boarding house. william balfour campbell death notice.

death william balfour campbell




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Big game hunting

On Saturday I was delighted to be given a letter that was written by William Wilson on 2nd August 1916 from France.

1916 letter to Emily and Jack 11916 letter to Emily and Jack 21916 letter to Emily and Jack 3

Transcribed for easier reading.:



Dear Emily and Jack

I am writing you a few lines to let you know how I am getting on.

I expect you think I am a nice sort of a chap for not writing to you before but one does not get much of a chance to do anything, except what he is told and when that is done one is glad to have a bit of a rest. We get plenty of everything except cigs. and one can hardly smoke them when he does get them for they are worth 1d a 100.

I have met a lot of chaps here that I know but I haven’t run across Rusty yet but I hope he is still alive.

By the time this scrap is over there won’t be many young chaps left in N.Z.

We are having some very hot weather just now, and one gets knocked up doing nothing.

What about a winter in the trenches, it won’t be any good to the N.Z. and Aussies they will be frozen alive.

I never got any leave to England yet for it was stopped before my turn came round but it will soon start again from what I can hear.

It looks very much as if I am going to have my first (“Xmas”) in the middle of winter just by way of a change and it won’t be quite as good as last one because there won’t be any beer and rum is a thing of the past now except on very rare occasions.

Well Jack I must say this big game hunting isn’t quite as good as rabbit shooting for they are much harder to find and then you have to get in early to get a chance as they are just as good as we are. I haven’t been in much of it yet but still I have had all I want of it and I will be damn glad when it is all over and there are hundreds more the same as I am.

I must ring off now hoping you and the family are well as I am A1 myself, so Au Revoir

Wm Wilson

I wonder who Rusty was?

Motueka photo

Photo of William Wilson taken at Motueka

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Never say goodbye


In June 1915 my great grandmother Emily (nee Farmer) Wilson received this postcard from her brother William (known as Bill and sometimes Will) Wilson.

1916 postcard emily from bill te anau

William wrote:

Dear Emily,

I am writing you a few lines to let you know that I have arrived home at last. I won’t be here very long I will either have to get some work or hop away to the front. It will be the latter if I can pass the doctor. All well at home.

From your brother Will


1916 postcard emily from bill te anau reverse

Bill obviously did “pass the doctor” as his Certificate of Medical Examination was signed by the medical officer in late June 1915. He was described as being aged 26 years old, 5′ 10″ in height and weighing 11st 4lb. His chest measurement was (minimum) 36 inches and (maximum) 39 inches. He had a clear complexion with blue eyes and brown hair. Being free from hernia, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and contagious skin disease and with his teeth in good condition and being free from any physical defect likely to interfere with the efficient performance of his duties Bill was deemed ‘Fit for service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’.

On Tuesday 12 October 1915 William Wilson was officially enlisted at Trentham in the 4th Batallion 3rd NZ (Rifle) Brigade, ‘A’ Company of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force for “Duration of War”.  His Regimental Number was 26/948. His Attestation Form stated that he was born at Warkworth on the 10th February 1889. His next of kin was his mother Mrs John Wilson, Luke Street, Otahuhu. His previous employer was the Motueka Harbour Board where he worked as a labourer.

This photo of Bill was taken before he left New Zealand.

william and four friends

The reverse of the photo has the following written on it:

I don’t know whether he sent you one, but this is a hard case photo of Bill and four other Otahuhu boys. This was taken when they were in May Morn.

Bill is in the front row at the left as you look at the photo.

It was after Trentham Camp had been in existence for twelve months that May Morn was made, to be an overflow camp in connection with the main camp. The site was at Mangaroa, a few miles north of Upper Hutt. Like the first camp at Trentham, May Morn was a canvas camp, the tents being of the Indian Service pattern. The only wooden buildings were the cook-houses, the Army Service Corps stores, the canteen, and shops and saloons. In every way May Morn was a model camp, especially as regards the sanitary arrangements. The 3rd and 4th Battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade were the troops which first occupied May Morn. In December, 1915, they moved to Rangiotu, and the 11th Infantry Reinforcements then occupied the camp until it was closed in January, 1916.

Information from Historic Trentham, 1914-1917: The Story of a New Zealand Military Training Camp, and Some Account of the Daily Round of the Troops within Its Bounds – Author Will Lawson

By early February 1916 Emily had said goodbye to her younger brother and on 5 February 1916 Bill was, along with 2,227 other men, on board the troopship HMNZT 43 (the vessel Mokoia) as it departed from Auckland. The ship berthed at Suez, Egypt on 15 March 1916.

Mokoia (Ship). Hinge, Leslie, 1868-1942 :Collection of photographic prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-034798-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23199776

Mokoia (Ship). Hinge, Leslie, 1868-1942 :Collection of photographic prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-034798-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23199776

Dickie, John, 1869-1942. Photograph of the ship, "Mokoia". Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-015210-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22749740

Dickie, John, 1869-1942. Photograph of the ship, “Mokoia”. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-015210-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22749740

Bill sent this postcard to Emily and Jack Wilson from on board the ship on 11 March 1916. The postcard reads:

Troopship No. 43

Dear Jack and Emily and family

Just a P.C. to let you know how I am getting on. I have had a good time so far and keeping in the very best of health.

Love to all

from brother Will.

ceylon postcard 1916

ceylon postcard 1916 reverse

In June 1917 Bill was wounded. The following letter written by his sister Sarah to Emily talks about it.

bill woundedbill wounded 2


Dear Emily,
Just a few lines to let you know that Bill is wounded but I suppose you saw it in the paper. We got word through from the defence department on 21st and he was wounded on June 7th. He has been very lucky you know seeing he has been in the firing line 12 months he has been in France fourteen months. I don’t think it was serious for Mr Mason was round to see us and he said the telegram would have said if it was. Anyway it will be a rest for him. How is everything doing on the farm. Please understand that you will not hear from us again until you write you ought to be ashamed of yourself it is four months since you wrote. How is George Jack and Jean keeping. I am starting work in the cash desk of Gavin Wallace & Sons on Monday at 12/- a week. Well I think this is all this time as I have a few more letters to write. Please remember me to Max and Squig.

I remain
Your loving sister
Sarah Wilson

Bill sent a postcard to his nephew George on 7th September 1917. He was on leave in London.

1917 bill to george postcard1917 bill to george postcard reverse

Dear George,
Just a P.C. to let you know I am well hoping all at home are well also. I am having a gay old time in London and haven’t much time to write. Letter later. Must ring off now as time is precious.
Love to all at home
From Uncle Bill

On 27th October 1917 Bill was appointed Lance Corporal. A lance corporal is usually the second in command of a section, and is in control of the gun group in an infantry section.

Sadly, less than four months after this appointment and just eight days after his 29th birthday, Bill was killed in action. He died on 18 February 1918 and is buried in the Oxford Road Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The grave reference is Plot III. D. 9.

A bit of background information on Oxford Road Cemetery follows.

Oxford Road was the name given to a road running behind the support trenches, from a point west of the village of Wieltje south-eastwards to the Potijze-Zonnebeke road.
Plot I is the original Oxford Road Cemetery and was used by the units fighting on this front from August 1917 to April 1918. In October 1917, another cemetery, known as Oxford Road Cemetery No.2, was started close by and now forms Plot V of the cemetery as it appears today. After the Armistice, Plots II, III and IV were added when scattered graves from the battlefields east and south-east of Ypres (now Ieper) were brought into the cemetery.
There are now 851 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 297 of the burials are unidentified and special memorials commemorate three casualties known to have been buried in the cemetery, but whose graves could not be located.
The cemetery was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
Information from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Sarah wrote this letter to her sister Emily a month after William’s death.

bill diesbill dies 2

Dear Emily,
Just a few lines to let you know how we are getting on. I hope you are all keeping well as this leaves us so at present. Mum has not been too good but she is better now of course Bill’s death came as a great shock to her as it did to us all.

We got a letter from Char and Jim last Friday and Char asked me to write and tell you that he was alright as he hadn’t time to write. He was just off into the tunnel for four days he says he does not like living in the ground like rabbits as he calls it. Jim was better – he was just off to the base so he is into it long before now. I will not be up for Easter as I thought I would for we are working all day in the Saturday. Another thing Dad is on the night soil and mum would be in the house on her own. And another thing and most important of all I have no dress to wear as Mrs Manning cannot get mine made until after 14th of next month and it is too cold to wear white dresses now Emily you need not bother about getting any wine for us as we have got some coming Mrs Evans sent for three gallons. I say don’t forget about our two sacks of potatoes for we are depending upon them. Mr and Mrs Evans and family are quite well.

How is uncle Dave doing Mrs Evans wants to know. I hope his toothache is better. Well I think this is all as it is ten o’clock and bed time so I will close with love from all. Give my love to Jack.

From Sarah

Please give my love to Max and Squig.

Several years after the war ended Mary and John Wilson received a bronze “Next of Kin Memorial Plaque”. These plaques were issued to the named next of kin in a deceased soldier’s Service Record. Over 1,000,000 plaques were produced. All those who died between 4th August 1914 and 30th April 1919 whilst in military service in the battlegrounds of the theatres of war and in the Dominions, as a result of sickness, suicide or accidents in the Home Establishments, or as a result of wounds incurred during their time in military service were commemorated on a plaque and a scroll.

william war medal william war letter

If you’d like to read William’s New Zealand Defence Force personnel record just click the following link. William Wilson Military Records

My Dad tells me that his grandmother (Emily Wilson) told him that she would never say goodbye to anybody because she’d said goodbye to her younger brother when he went to war and he never came back. Dad would hear her say “see you later” or “cheerio” but never goodbye – until the day in 1960 that she was taken from her home at Whangarata to hospital. On that day she said to him “Goodbye Bill”. She died in hospital on 29th October 1960 – aged 80 years.

ode of remembrance

“Lest We Forget”

English poet Laurence Binyon, overwhelmed by the carnage and loss of life by British and Allied forces in World War 1, penned one of the most moving tributes the world has known to our war dead. Originally titled For the Fallen but often called Ode of Remembrance, the ode first appeared in The Times of London on September 21, 1914.

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Lance-Sergeant G Watson

As promised, here’s the complete article about George.

Dunfermline Heroes completeHere’s the link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – you can see which cemetery George is buried in. http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/724534/WATSON,%20GEORGE

This link gives some information about the British Expeditionary Force at the Battle of the Marne in the days leading up to George’s death. http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/79100/LA%20FERTE-SOUS-JOUARRE%20MEMORIAL

This photo of George was printed in The Dunfermline Journal on Saturday October 31, 1914. Unfortunately the quality of the photo is not great.

george photo date

The following article was printed on page 5 of The Dunfermline Journal on the same day.

north parish roll of honour

The first article about George says he was “a faithful and efficient servant in the laphouse of Messrs Andrew Reid and Co, Pilmuir Works”. I’m not exactly sure what a laphouse is but my dictionary describes a ‘lap’ as a long rolled sheet of raw cotton cleaned and ready for carding. Here’s an advertisement showing the Pilmuir Works.

canmore_image_dp_14_DP146477This link takes you to photos of the Pilmuir Works in Dunfermline. http://www.buildingsatrisk.org.uk/details/907720

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Here’s a portion of an article that was published in page 5 of The Dunfermline Journal on 24 October 1914.

george letter

So, just who is GEORGE? (click on the image to enlarge)

george birth

Born on June 1st 1891, George Bisset WATSON was the son of John and Ann (nee BISSET) WATSON. John was my great grandfather William WATSON’s younger brother. Therefore, George was my grandfather David George WATSON’s first cousin.

The H.L.I. at the top of the letter stands for Highland Light Infantry. The First World War began on 28 July 1914.  The date at the top of the letter is 20 August 1914. How did George get to be in France so soon after the outbreak of war?

Check back next week to read the rest of the article and find out a bit more about George.

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Here’s a couple of postcards sent to my nana, Jean Charlotte WILSON, when she was a child during WW1. The writer was Jean’s uncle Tom Heath who was with the NZ Expeditionary Force during the war. He was a private and his serial number was 54877.

tom heath

Tom Heath

souvenir from france frontsouvenir from france reverse


Dear Jean How are you getting on. I had two letters from George yesterday July 9th June 30th. I am pretty well right again now Jean. I expect to go to our base in a week time. Hope you & all at home are well. From your Uncle Tom xxxxx

postcard from uncle tom heath front

postcard from uncle tom heath reverseTranscribed:

Dear Jean
How are you getting on. I have not had a letter from you for a mighty long time now. I suppose kid that you think you are getting too big now to be bothered writing letters (eh). How do you like your new teacher Jean, any good or rotten. I expect to be home some time in the spring Jean any rabbits there now. Come shooting with me when I come back. Hurray for now. Write soon. From Uncle Tom xxxxxx

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Here’s a letter written by Edie HEATH to her nephew George WILSON (George is my great uncle).  I’ve transcribed the letter for easier reading.


Dear George

Received your letter this morning and it’s jolly well time you did write you young pup. (Aren’t I polite?) You want to know when the devil I’m going up to see you, well I’m blowed if I know & that’s the honest truth. You know old maid dairymaids don’t get much time for holiday making in these hard times. I love to go up there again and get down by that river. It’s just scrumptious down there.

Fancy Larry going to the war! Ronald Ewing too! Gee whiz Whangarata must be an old maid’s paradise now. Bad as Northcote.  I was very near going over to see the boys off on Tuesday too only Mother wanted me to wait & go with her today. I wish I had gone now for a bit of devilment. I’d have nosed out the Hon. H & L and had some sport. The false fickle scum! An old maids cuss upon him! May he have (when he’s married) no children & when they’re vaccinated may it never take! etc. etc.

Talk about blow! by jingo George you should have been down here when that cyclone was on. It blew the verandah off our house. Just about 8 o’clock Wed. morning. I was just coming in the gate and got a good view of the middle piece flying clean over the top of  the house and break a branch off the willow tree at the back. We’ve just got a new verandah up now. I’m glad it’s finished now too. A lot of damage was done down here. The new footpath down by the wharf fell into the sea. And a house down by the wharf way was wrecked a bit by a tree falling through the side of it. And a new big house in Princes St well just about finished will have to be shifted as the earth has slipped away & only left 3 ft by the back door. That’s only some of the damage. But I’ll have to ring off now with the same excuse as you for writing on both sides of the paper. So hurry up & answer this.

Love from Edie

P.S. I hope Jean has got her letters by this. I wanted her to get them today.

P.S. Excuse writing as I’m that tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. I guess I need 2 matches to prop the eyelids up eh what?

A cyclone in Northcote? I went on to the Papers Past website to see if I could find a report of a cyclone in New Zealand some time during the First World War. Edie’s letter had the date 8 March but no year. These two articles from Wednesday, 21 February 1917 describe the cyclone Edie wrote about.

The Evening Post - Wednesday 21 February 1917

The Ohinemuri Gazette Wednesday 21 February 1917

Gosh, Edie was rather unkind towards Ronald EWING wasn’t she? Ronald was born at Whangarata on 31 March 1896, the son of Mary Eliza (nee YOUNG) and George Proudfoot EWING who had married in 1894. Ronald enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and his Embarkation Date was 14 July 1917 with the 28th Reinforcements E Company. He died in 1984.

I think the “Larry” Edie mentioned could be Larry LAWRENCE. Edie’s brother, Tom HEATH, mentions him in this letter to George. I’m not sure if Larry is his real name or a nickname. I can’t seem to find any record of him enlisting.

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