ALEXANDER WESTWOOD CRAIG – Medal was just 5km away from family.

2/2102 GNR. / PTE. Alexander Westwood CRAIG – 7th Reinf, NZ Field Artillery & NZ Medical Corps (NZ Mounted Field Ambulance), NZEF    

On May 4th, I received an email from Mavis G. of Birkenhead in Auckland.  Mavis had recently come across a WW1 medal that had been in the family’s ‘bits n bobs’ tin for years.  Having recently found our MRNZ website, Mavis decide to try and have the medal reunited with the recipient’s family.  The medal although in good condition was suspended incorrectly from a very faded Victory Medal ribbon.

The British War Medal was one of a trio of WW1 medals that were awarded to Private (formerly Gunner) Alexander Westwood Craig, New Zealand Medical Corps (NZMC).  Alexander Craig was a salesman from Spreydon, Christchurch, who was enlisted original into the NZ Field Artillery on 09 October 1915.  Upon reaching Egypt, Gnr. Craig was soon transferred to the 1st Mounted Field Ambulance of the NZ Medical Corps, and re-classified as a Private.  As a mounted Medical Orderly, Pte. Craig served various units in both training and field locations throughout Egypt until his eventual return to New Zealand, and discharge in April 1919 – a total of 3 years and 114 days foreign service.  

Pte. Craig's as given to MRNZ

Pte. Craig’s medal as given to MRNZ

Craig 2

Pte. Craig returned “no longer fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service”, a result of the effects he suffered from both Typhoid and Malaria.  He returned to his sales job  in Christchurch however the Depression took its toll on businesses which Pte. Craig working for a number of years as a labourer in Lyttelton and on Motuihi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.  Pte Craig never married preferring a solitary life residing in a flat in Karangahape Road where he worked as a night watchman in Auckland during his later years until his retirement.  Alexander Westwood Craig died in Auckland on 12 December 1956, aged 65 years.

The key to resolving this case was Alexander Craig’s second name – Westwood.  A google of the name showed a number of people listed with “Westwood” as their middle name, all apparently connected to the same family.  A process of elimination followed to identify the Craig family most closely linked to Pte. Craig.  Catherine H. of Sydney provided a key piece of information from which I emailed Julie C. with my findings.  I soon had a reply back from Barry (Julies husband), who as luck would have it was the grandson of Alexander Craig’s older brother William Westwood Craig – Alexander being Barry’s great-uncle.  William Westwood Craig was also a veteran, of both the Boer War and WW1, as were two other Craig brothers – Duncan Hill Craig and Malcolm Campbell Craig also served during WW1.  All four Craig brothers survived the war and returned to New Zealand.  There medals however are a different story with disposal and loss being part of the puzzle that the current Craig family are trying to resolve and recover the other brother’s missing medals.

The irony of this case was the fact that Pte. Craig’s medal has for many years been just 5km from the Craig family of Bayview – Mavis G. resides in the adjoining suburb of Birkenhead.  Coincidentally, Mavis’s grand-daughter, Janae S. was conducting an in-depth school research project on WW1 and as a result, Mavis was prompted to look for the old medal she had seen on occasions somewhere in the family’s archives.  The rest as they say is history – Mavis and the Craig family are now attempting to discover what the link may have been that caused Pte. Craig’s British War Medal to remain safeguarded by various members of Mavis’s family for so many years.  

Meanwhile, Barry will shortly receive his great-uncle’s medal later this week.  My thanks to Mavis for her foresight in contacting MRNZ for help to find the descendant Craig family to reunite the medal with, and also to Catherine H. of Sydney for providing the information that led me directly to Barry and Julie.

Pte. Alexander Westwood Craig - Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland

Grave of Pte. Alexander Westwood Craig – Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland

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