23/11 ~ CHARLES KIMBELL GASQUOINE
As part of the Nelson RSA’s policy to return medals that had been donated or loaned to the Club by family members over many decades, I was indeed fortunate to find the daughter of one recipient was living less than two kilometres from my front door. When I phoned Miss Jeanette Gasquoine, a bright and breezy centenarian resident of The Wood Retirement Home in Nelson, she was in disbelief when I told her that I was holding her father’s medals. I made an appointment to meet with Jeanette the next day, looking forward to meeting this lady whose telephone voice completely belied her age.
The Gasquoine story
William Charles GASQUOINE was an Australian born Accountant from Maryborough in Victoria. His father Charles had been a Buyer from Manchester and his mother Ellen Kennedy, a no nonsense Irish woman from Tipperary. William was one of six children born in Maryborough of whom only three survived beyond a few months of life – William Charles (1860), and two sisters Lucy Jane [Louisa] (Gasquoine) McCARTHY (1862-1939) and Ellen Gasquoine (1868-1954), a lifelong Spinster. Charles Gasquoine had gone to New Zealand to take advantage of the wealth that the gold rush around Charleston on the West Coast had generated however he had died suddenly in 1869 at the age of 31. As a result Ellen Gasquoine who was still in Melbourne with the family, made haste in getting to Greymouth on the West Coast of the South Island where there were relatives of her husband whom she knew.
On the 24 April 1875, Mrs Ellen Gasquoine (41) and her children William Charles (14), Louisa (12) and Ellen Jnr (6) boarded the “St Kilda” at Melbourne which was sailing directly to Bluff, the first port of call before eventually disembarking Ellen and her family at Greymouth two weeks later.
Greymouth was thriving town akin to the wild west at this time, the profits of both gold and coal lavished on the town and in its hotels. The major industry was coal mining. The Brunner Coal Mine situated on the west bank of the Grey River, 12kms north of Greymouth, had been opened in 1864 and was producing a third of New Zealand’s coal output by 1888, triple the amount produced 10 years earlier.
Following local schooling in fine Catholic tradition, William Charles Gasquoine had showed a good deal of promise at mathematics and accordingly was well on his way to becoming a capable accountant. In 1874 William entered the service of his uncle Mr Martin Kennedy of Messrs Kennedy Brothers in Greymouth. The Kennedy brothers had a number of interests in both gold and coal mines and also ran the largest commercial coaching and transportation service on the Coast. In 1879 at the age of 19 his uncle put him to work in the office of the Grey Valley Coal Company which embraced the Brunner, Wallsend, Taylorville and Dobson coal mines. In 1885 at the age of 24, William was sent to Wellington to be the assistant branch manager of wholesale department of the Westport Coal Company. After becoming the branch manager of Westport Coal (which had by then amalgamated with Brunner Coal), the company was re-named the Grey Valley Coal Company. On the death of the managing agent in NZ, William became the General Manager for New Zealand.
William’s position in Wellington also resulted in his making the acquaintance of a highly principled and devoutly Christian lady from Christchurch, Miss Evangeline Letitia KIMBELL. A relationship developed between the two which led to their marriage in 1887 at St Mary’s Cathedral in Thorndon, then the cathedral of the Catholic Bishop of Wellington.
William and Letitia Gasquoine established their home at 26 Hill Street in Thorndon, a few blocks from St Mary’s, where they raised a family of eight children: first born was Charles Kimbell (1888-1937), William Bernard (1890-1908), Cecil Joseph (1892-1927), Ethel May Margaret (1893-1983), Evangeline Gertrude (Gasquoine) CAMPBELL (1893-1954) Mary Frances (Gasquoine) WALKER (1897-1975), Francis Kennedy (1897-1968), Anthony Martin (Jul 1901~Oct 1901) and finally Bernard William (1908-1980) Gasquoine.
Ironically 26 Hill Street is now the location of the Wellington Catholic Archdiocese complex of buildings with St Mary Girls school behind. During the next decade he become the General Manager for New Zealand of the amalgamated coal companies, and was further elevated to a government appointed as General Manager of the State Coal Mines Department. William Gasquoine’s capacity for hard work was well known which unfortunately had an adverse affect on his heart which troubled him for a number of years. In September of 1914 with war looming large in Europe, William Gasquoine died quite suddenly at the age of 54. Letitia Gasquoine moved to briefly into a smaller residence at 91 and then to 95A Tinakori Road in Karori, just a few hundred yards from Katherine Mansfield’s house, with several of her unmarried children remaining with her.
Charles Kimbell Gasquoine
The Gasquoine’s first child was Charles Kimbell, born in Wellington on 01 Oct 1888 while in Hill Street. Charles completed his secondary education at Wellington College during which time he became immersed in the school cadet system, his first taste of military training which he enjoyed immensely and demonstrated an aptitude for. He was enlisted into the Wellington College Rifles Cadet Unit on 19 April 1905 and spent the next five years while at school with the College Rifles, attaining the rank of Sergeant. Charles completed his secondary education and left the College on 10 Dec 1910.
Charles commenced the new year with his first full-time employment as an Assistant Ironmonger for E.W. Mills & Company Ltd. He initially worked in the company office as a Clerk.
Prior to leaving Wellington College, Charles indicated his desire to continue his military association by transferring to a local militia volunteer unit, the Wellington Guard Rifles on 08 Nov 1910. With his transfer came an appointment to Acting Lieutenant of ‘B’ Company, the 1st Battalion Wellington Rifles (Wellington Guard Rifles) in March 1911.
- E.W. MILLS & Co., Ltd.
Edwin William Mills had established the Lion Foundry in Wellington in 1856. The business included the supply and manufacture of structural steel, industrial machinery, ferrous and non-ferrous castings, galvanising, boiler making, ship repair and maintenance, electrical engineering services, electrical jib and overhead cranes. In 1872 Mills appointed a William Cable, then owner of William Cable & Co, a heavy engineering business at Kaiwharawhara, to be the Lion Foundry manager. The foundry employed 120 men and was engaged in the building and repair of steamers (ships) and locomotives on its Lambton Quay waterfront site (before land reclamation). Major contracts were undertaken for railways, shipping, tramways, sawmills and the like. Mills also installed Wellington’s first telephone (without an exchange) between his various business premises.
In 1881, Mills made Cable a partner in the company and in 1883, Cable bought Mills out. The rest of Cable’s story resulted in the formation of a well known NZ corporation, Cable Price. Mills sold out to focus on the ironmongery side of his business, later joining as a half-share owner with another well known ironmonger to form what we know today as the Briscoe Group. A major new building was constructed for E.W. Mills on a corner site of Jervois Quay and Cable Street (named after William Cable) opposite the Queens Wharf entrance, in 1880.
While Charles learned his role as part of a very large staff at E.W. Mills & Co., he continued to maintain his commitment to part-time training with the Wellington Guards however as 1914 approached, it soon became apparent his military skills and service would very likely be required overseas.
5th (Wellington Rifles) Regiment
One of the consequences of the Boer War was an identified need for a structure that linked the formerly self-supporting regional militias into a single cohesive entity. These would provide a pool of partially trained volunteers who could quickly have their skill levels increased for full time service in the event of a regional or international military contribution should the need arise. To that end the militia volunteer system was replaced by the Territorial Force (TF) in 1911. When the Territorial Force came into being, the Territorial units were numbered and associated with the province they were headquartered in. The Wellington Guards Rifles were henceforth named the 5th Regiment (Wellington Rifles). On 9 Feb 1912, Acting Lieutenant Gasquoine was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant (and made a Platoon Commander) within the Wellington Regiment.
War declared – 4 August 1914
From the moment war was declared on Germany by Great Britain, and it became known that New Zealand would send a military force to assist, the Defence offices throughout the country were besieged with volunteers wanting to enlist in the Expeditionary Force (NZEF). A formal announcement was quickly made as to when and how the recruiting would take place.
The New Zealand Government had offered up two brigades of soldiers – one of infantry and one of mounted riflemen, a total of approximately 8,500 men. The NZEF was to be drawn from serving Territorial soldiers and civilian volunteers to be drawn from the four Military Districts of the country. Whilst service overseas was voluntary, men who were already on the strength of a Territorial unit were given preference to serve in the NZEF and any shortfall was made up with volunteers. As it turned out recruiting was so well subscribed initially that very few volunteers were required. The Infantry component of the Expeditionary Force had been drawn from the four Military Districts – Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago – each being required to furnish a battalion of Infantrymen. Each battalion was made up of four companies manned to their Wartime Establishment, meaning the companies would be doubled in number from their peacetime strength, to 227 men in each. Each company was named after the Territorial battalion from which it originated and had its own distinctive badge: 7th Wellington West Coast Company (commonly referred to as the “West Coast” Company), 9th Hawkes Bay Company (“Hawkes Bay” Company), 11th Taranaki Company (“Taranaki” Company), and the 17th Ruahine Company (“Ruahine” Company).
The 5th (Wellington Rifles) Regiment was the only unit that did not have a battalion represented by name in the New Zealand Division. A battalion raised from the Wellington Military District drew its volunteers from the “Wellington Regiment”, so named because the four Territorial battalions when drawn together collectively represented the “Wellington Infantry Brigade” headed parent battalion.
Samoa Advance Party (SAP)
Two days after Britain declared war, the British Secretary of State cabled the New Zealand government with a request to seize German Samoa as a ‘great and urgent Imperial service’. The German Pacific Squadron was an active threat in the region and so key to the operation was the seizure of the strategically important state-of-the art radio station near Apia, which provided communications with the Pacific fleet and with Berlin.
The NZ Government had ordered the mobilisation of 1400+ officers, NCOs and men drawn largely from existing TF battalions of which the “Wellington Regiment” as it was now known, was one half. The destination of this expeditionary force was maintained in the strictest secrecy and references to the expeditionary force’s name, the ‘Samoan Advance Party’ would not be made known until the force was at sea.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Logan ADC, NZSC (NZ Staff Corps), a Scottish born farmer from Maniototo, and commander of the Auckland Military District, was appointed to command the invasion force. He would later become the first New Zealand Administrator of Western Samoa following the occupation of the country. The Officer Commanding 5th Wellington Regiment was immediately instructed to mobilize two companies of infantry with double machine gun sections and to be ready to embark at 0900 hours the following Tuesday, 11 August! That gave Logan exactly six days to assembled his force and have it readied for departure – to his and his staff’s credit, this he achieved. The SAP comprised a headquarters, two companies of infantry from the 5th Wellington Regiment, one battery of field artillery (‘D’ Battery), No.4 Field Company, New Zealand Engineers, a company of N. Z. Railway engineers, a Signalling company, Post & Telegraph Corps, Medical staff, Nurses and Chaplains with many of the aforementioned being drawn from the 3rd Auckland Regiment volunteers.
As a Platoon Commander, Temporary Lieutenant** Gasquoine and the 5th Wellington volunteers concentrated at Barrack Hall in Wellington on 9 August 1914 to be hurriedly readied for war service. On 10 August, 23/11 Lt. Charles Kimbell Gasquoine, 5th (Wellington Rifles) Regiment was formerly attested (contracted to the NZ Military Forces) for war service for an indeterminate duration. Charles was 25 years and 10 months of age. Quietly and orderly the volunteers came forward, draft after draft was formed into detachments and marched into the drill shed, where each volunteer underwent a rigid examination at the hands of the Officer Commanding before being passed on for medical examination, attestation for active service, issue of kit and assigned a rifle and horse number. Horses would be a significant part of the SAP for both general mobility on German Samoa and patrol work. These also had to be ready to be transported with all the attendant equipment and food to sustain them.
Note: ** Its was a requirement that volunteer militia / territorial officers and soldiers holding territorial rank were required to relinquish their rank when called for active service, their skill levels obviously not being of the same level as full-time, experienced soldiers of which many had come from British regiments. Accordingly, these men would man the key officer and NCO positions in the regiment. Given the short notice by which the expeditionary force was required to be formed, and the high proportion of experienced soldiers already engaged in training and preparation for the Western Front, volunteer territorial officers and NCOs who showed suitable capability (or potential) were selectively permitted to retain their rank.
Following a farewell parade at the basin Reserve in Wellington, the Samoa Advance Party prepared to embark their respective troopships tied up at Jervois Quay. On 15 August 1914, Lt. Gasquoine and two companies from the 5th Wellington Regiment which made up one half of the SAP departed Wellington Harbour aboard HMNZT 01 Moeraki in the early evening. The other half of the SAP made up from 3rd Auckland Regiment volunteers, left on the second ship, HMNZT 02 Monowai. Shortly after both ships had departed Wellington on a course for Samoa, the Expeditionary Force commander Lt-Col. Logan received orders to sail to Noumea in New Caledonia where the two ships were to rendezvous with the other participants supporting the invasion. These included three warships that would provide the security cover for the convoy en-route to Samoa.
The convoy escort comprised the older battle cruisers Psyche, Philomel and Pyramus. Once at Noumea the invasion force was resupplied and joined by the Australian flagship Australia, and the light-cruiser Melbourne, as well as an old French dreadnought (armoured cruiser), Montcalm, before departing again on 23 August. After a brief stopover at Suva on 26 August, the convoy sailed on to its final destination – Apia, German Samoa. An opposed landing had been anticipated and so the troops, now aware of their destination, were issued with ammunition and given final training for the disembarkation and landing.
The danger to the New Zealand convoy was real. New Zealand’s troops were vulnerable as they crossed the Pacific. At the outbreak of war, Germany had two heavy cruisers, SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau, three light cruisers and various other ships stationed in the Pacific. Throughout the two-week voyage to Samoa, the location of the German East Asia Squadron remained unknown to the Allies. A fortnight later, on 14 September, the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau arrived off Apia and the New Zealand garrison braced itself for large-calibre gunfire. Luckily, the cruisers left once their skippers realised that Samoa was no longer in German hands. They raided Tahiti on 22 September, sinking a French gunboat and bombarding Papeete.
References: NZETC Cyclopedia of NZ; “For Your Tomorrows” Vol 3 by Errol Martyn
Occupation of German Samoa
Prior to the invasion force landing at Apia on 29 August 1914, the German Governor Erich Schultz was to be given the opportunity to surrender the islands peacefully or face the consequences. However when the party tasked with delivering the Commander of the Allied convoy, Rear Admiral Sir George Patey’s ultimatum, it was discovered the Governor had fled inland to the Wireless (Radio) Station. When no reply was forthcoming, the Allied warships moved into an attack disposition and trained their guns ready to fire. Fortunately a flag signalled the German intention to surrender without opposition. After about two hours of waiting, the occupation force went ashore to secure the key facilities. The Wireless Station being a prime target of the occupation for its ability to communicate with the German Fleet which the Allied convoy had missed by the skin of their teeth, was quickly captured and shut down by men of the 3rd Auckland Battalion. A bonus was the apprehension of the German Governor. The landing commenced unopposed while the German Governor was taken to one of the transport ships for return to New Zealand.
It was only when Logan arrived ashore was the weakness of the defences realised: just 20 German soldiers and special constables armed with 50 ageing rifles. The single artillery piece situated at Apia was fired every Saturday afternoon but took half an hour to load. It was later discovered that the German administration had received orders from Berlin not to oppose an Allied invasion. Whilst the cruiser Psyche reconnoitred the harbour was for mines, the town was signalled to surrender. The German flag was hauled down, government buildings were entered, and equipment and supplies were commandeered, while the heavier equipment was brought ashore. An armed party was rapidly despatched to the radio station, six miles inland in the hills, but again no resistance was met although the station had been sabotaged.
Formal occupation of the German territories in the Samoan Islands by the New Zealand on behalf of the British government was declared in a ceremony that took place the following morning – Sunday, 30th August. All buildings and properties belonging to the German administration were seized. In the presence of officers, troops and ‘leading Native chiefs’, the British Union Jack was hoisted outside on the Apia Court House and Lt-Col. Logan read the Proclamation of Occupation, effectively declaring martial law.
The troops settled into the routines of occupation – establishing camps, drilling, improving the infrastructure, manning guard posts and defensive positions, and conducting mounted and foot patrols to maintain the security of the territory. The German administrators of Samoa were replaced by military appointees, and eventually interned in New Zealand until the end of the war on Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf or at the Featherston Prisoner of War Camp. The occupation soon became a tedious operation for the men, the boredom being interrupted only the occasional movies, a ‘sing-sing’ with the local Samoan residents and the publication of a SAP newspaper by a committee of soldiers who dubbed themselves “The Literary Committee of the Advance Party.” They managed to publish seven issues of The Pull-Thro’ between October 1914 and May 1915.
The six-month tour of duty for the Samoan Advance Party came to an end in April 1915 with the arrival in March 1915 of the 1st Samoan Relief Force (SRF) aboard HMNZT 16 Talune.**
Note: ** Following her secondment for troop transport duties, His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport 16 (HMNZT 16) aka SS Talune, was returned to civilian service after 1916. Talune became infamous and the cause of much outrage after a routine voyage to Apia in 1918 that had taken in a number of the Pacific Island ports before returning to Auckland.
On 7 November 1918, SS Talune arrived in Apia from Auckland having made stops at Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru, and Fiji again, on her return voyage to Auckland. At the time of Talune‘s initial departure from Auckland, the ‘Spanish Influenza’ outbreak that had begun in the northern hemisphere a few months prior, had reached New Zealand and was spreading rapidly. It is believed the flu had been bought to NZ via returning soldiers from Europe and England, including tourists and returning NZ nationals who had been abroad. Before leaving Auckland two Talune crewmen had reported sick and were sent ashore, but by the time the ship reached Suva on Nov 4th, several more had become ill. As none of the local island passengers was stricken, the crew was permitted to go shore and the cargo unloaded. As was usual on these trips Pacific Island voyages, around 90 Fijian labourers were taken on board to handle the cargo as the ship proceeded from port to port. By the time Talune reached Apia, Samoa on 7 November, most of the Fijian labourers were ill, however, a cursory inspection by the Apia Port Health Officer, unbelievably cleared the crew and passengers to disembark. The speed of the disease through the Samoan population was catastrophic.
By 31 December, at least 7,542 Samoans had died from influenza, deaths from the disease continuing into 1919. A commission of enquiry some months after the pandemic calculated a final death toll of some 8,500 islanders, about 22% (or a 5th) of the population of Western Samoa.
From Apia the SS Talune had continued on to Tonga (calling at Neiafu, Vava’u, Ha’Apai) and then to Nuku’Alofa in Tongatapu on 12 November 1918. Within a few days of Talune‘s arrival, the disease had again spread causing a heavy loss of life; estimates of deaths from the flu varied between 1,800 and 2,000 Tongans, or about 8% to 10% of the population. From Tongatapu, the Talune went to Nauru, where once again the first cases of influenza appeared ashore within a few days of her departure.
Nothing is known of Talune’s employment after this disastrous 1918 voyage until 1921, when the Union Steamship Company’s records show the ship was laid up. In 1925 the ship was hulked (floating, but not seaworthy) and in November of that year, was filled with rocks and scuttled to form the foundation of a breakwater at Waikokopu, a small port in northern Hawkes Bay.
Colonel Logan, the Military Governor and first New Zealand Administrator of Western Samoa, was severely criticised for his disastrous handling of the pandemic for failing to ensure the appropriate procedures for immigration were followed and not responding proactively as would be expected when the first cases of influenza were diagnosed in Apia. As a consequence the flu was transmitted ashore via the crew and passengers at every port of call the SS Talune stopped at. This led to a catastrophic and wide spread death toll throughout the Pacific. Logan resigned from his position in 1919 and returned to NZ. To the end he believed his administration had been a success however, his optimism was ill-founded: Western Samoans resented New Zealand’s role in the Spanish Influenza pandemic for decades.
The original decision to allow the SS Talune‘s passengers to land, along with other events during New Zealand’s administration of Samoa, was the subject of an apology from the New Zealand Government delivered at a state luncheon in Apia in June 2002.
References: Wikipedia; University of Auckland – Stephen Innes, Special Collections
Lt. Charles Gasquoine returned to NZ with the majority of the First Contingent on 14 April 1915, having spent 250 days in Samoa. After taking post active service leave due to him, Lt. Gasquoine was recalled to duty to begin preparations for further overseas service. Charles had also made time to foster a relationship with a Miss Jean Nelson WATSON (1890-1989) of Invercargill who was visiting Wellington, a lady who soon became his wife when they married in Wellington in 1915, shortly before Charles embarked for service overseas. Ironically for Charles, the Catholic priest who married the Gasquoines was Father Kimbell, of the same surname as Charles and his sister Jeanette’s middle names, which had been their mother’s maiden name.
The Earl of Liverpool, then Governor of New Zealand, had ordered the establishment of the Trentham Rifle Brigade (Earl of Liverpool’s Own) from the outset of the Great War. This organisation had manned and trained 2 (NZ) Rifle Brigade which was presently fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. A request was made for additional troops for the Western Front in France and so a second rifle brigade was formed on the 1st May 1915 – 3rd (NZ) Rifle Brigade. Numbers 1 and 2 Rifle Battalions were initially manned from available volunteers of the Trentham Brigade which included a number of men from the 5th Wellington Regiment. Basic training was delivered at the Karori Camp and at Trentham (the Featherston Military Training Camp was not built until 1916). Whilst undergoing training Lt. Gasquoine was appointed to the rank of Temporary Captain and positioned with ‘A’ Company of the 1st Battalion (known as “1 Rifles”) where he would quickly learn the ropes of how to manage an infantry company under fire.
NZEF in Egypt
On 7 October 1915, Capt. Gasquoine and men of 1 and 2 Rifle Battalions embarked at Wellington on to HMNZT 30 Maunganui and HMNZT 31 Tahiti respectively. Both ships departed together for Albany, Western Australia where they rendezvoused with the Australian troopship convoy they would be travelling with under the protection of an armed naval escort. The first two battalions (1 and 2 Rifles) arrived at Suez on 11 Nov 1915 where they would be undertaking preparatory training at the Moascar Camp north of Suez and adjacent to the Canal, until April 1916 when the brigade was due to embark for France.
The Senussi Campaign
The Senussi were a tribe of rebellious Bedouin (approx 10,000 strong) who were sympathetic towards Turkey and its intentions. When the British declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November, the Ottomans had encouraged the Senussi to attack Egypt from the west. The Ottomans wanted the Senussi to conduct operations against the rear of the British (NZ and Australians) defenders of the Suez Canal; the Ottomans had failed in previous attacks against British forces from Sinai in the east, and wanted them to be distracted by attacks from the opposite direction.
The Senussi like the Ottomans were also Muslim, and since the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was also the Caliph (or leader) of Islam, with the aid of arms and military advisors to encourage them, the Senussi, many of whom were already staunchly anti-colonial, were able to be influenced to attack the British in the Western Desert.
The two NZ battalions had arrived in Egypt in time to become the only New Zealand units to participate in the Senussi Campaign. Following the Allied withdrawal from Gallipoli to Egypt in Dec 1915, the availability of additional NZ troops bolstered the numbers of each battalion (approx 1000 men in each) that could support the Senussi campaign. On the evening of December 18th, the 1st Battalion, including Capt. Gasquoine, was despatched to join a British led Western Frontier Force (WFF) that was being assembled at Mersa Matruh, near the western Egyptian border on the Mediterranean coast. The 2nd Battalion, tasked with protecting the WFF lines of communication, left for Alexandria on 22 Nov.
The Western Frontier Force was a composite of horse and infantry brigades plus supporting arms; by the end of the year, the British had around 40,000 troops in the Western Desert. On 21 November, the NZ 1st Battalion, a company of the 15th Sikhs, parties of the Bikanir Camel Corps and an armoured train crewed by Egyptian runners, were sent from Marsa Matruh (a Mediterranean coastal town 300 kms west of Alexandria) to Da’aba in order to guard the railway and conduct patrols to the Moghara Oasis.
On 19 Nov 1915, around 5,000 Senussi Bedouin tribesmen rose up against the Allies in Italian Libya and attacked the western borders of Egypt. The tribesmen sought to capture the coastal towns of Sollum, Mersa Matruh and Da’aba while other Senussi occupied oases to the south, from where they launched raids into British-held territory.
The WFF engaged the Senussi in what was a highly mobile form of warfare with the employment of the Imperial Camel Corps as well as armoured car squadrons. The desert campaign was fought in a harsh climate. At times the temperature exceeded 40C, so troops would sleep in the day and travel at night. The Senussi were skilled desert fighters. With support from the Ottomans in Lybia and knowing the British were not used to operating in a desert environment, the Senussi regularly ambushed British columns and patrols when the British were at their most vulnerable. The British columns suffered from water shortages, while many Senussi were also forced to surrender to avoid starvation and disease caused by British patrols isolating them in small oases. One effective strategy the British employed was to target the smaller oases where they could isolate concentrations of Senussi, eventually forcing them to surrender to avoid starvation and disease.
Several inconclusive battles including Wadi Senba (11-13 Dec) had resulted but bad weather from 15 – 24 December brought the British columns to a halt. When the weather cleared Wadi Majid became the target for Christmas Day, 1915. When the weather lifted an attack was mounted on the Wadi. The Senussi campaign culminated on 26 February 1916 at Agagia near Sidi Barrani, where the bulk of the Senussi were finally defeated by the WFF that now included camel-mounted troops and light armoured cars. The WFF pushed the Senussi defenders back until they began retreating in disorganised confusion. The Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry then launched a devastating cavalry charge into their rear guard. Hundreds of Senussi were killed or taken prisoner, and large amounts of supplies were captured. This victory in effect secured the coast. In the interior, the fighting around oases like Bahariya and Farafra rumbled on until the rebels were defeated by an armoured car column at Siwa in February 1917. Peace terms were then agreed and the Western Desert remained quiet for the duration of the war.
Source: NZETC of New Zealand, and UK National Army Museum – Senussi Revolt
On 17 Feb 1916 Capt. Gasquoine and the 1st Battalion were withdrawn from the field back to Marsa Matruh where they embarked onto HMT Mendi and returned to Alexandria the following day. For the next few weeks the battalion remained at Moascar making preparations for their next move to northern France and their sector of Western Front near Armentieres.
The withdrawal from Gallipoli in Dec 1915 had also resulted in some reorganisation and redistribution of the men. Balancing the units was needed as was a reorganisation to fight a very different style of trench warfare. The reorganisation of the Infantry and Rifle battalions in March 1916 resulted in 1st (Wellington) Battalion being split in two to form two separate battalions. The 1st and 2nd Battalions not only benefitted from the battle experienced Gallipoli veterans that were now part of their number, but each had four enhanced infantry companies. A third battalion would be added the following year – 3rd (Wellington) Battalion, 3 NZRB – this battalion lasted for just 11 months, from March 1917 till February 1918, before being disbanded and the brigade structure again re-jigged.
On the 6 April, 1916 the 2nd NZ Rifle Brigade was re-deployed to France. Capt. Gasquoine and 1 Rifles embarked at Alexandria onto HMT Arcadian (torpedoed and sunk a year later on 15 Apr 1917 with the loss of 277 souls) and arrived at Etaples two days later. The battalion disembarked and moved to the Etaples Depot Camp within which was located the NZ Infantry & General Base Depot (NZI & GBD). Further training for front line action followed for the next four months to prepare the soldiers for battle, and keep them up to date with the ever evolving combat techniques. On 13th May they entered the trench lines east of Armentieres as part of the British Second Army. The 25th of June was a ‘red letter day’ for Capt. Gasquoine as his promotion from temporary to substantive Captain was confirmed. With promotion came a transfer from ‘A’ Company to ‘C’ Company to replace Capt. Wilkinson who had been killed in action.
In September Capt. Gasquoine was struck down with influenza and transferred by 2 NZ Field Ambulance to No.1 NZ Stationary Hospital at Wisques where he remained for the next month. Wisques was the nearest NZ hospital facility to the front, being only 16 kilometres due west of Armentieres. Fortunately the influenza flu Capt. Gasquoine contracted was not of the Spanish Influenza variety that would decimate the NZEF in late 1918. Following his transfer and a brief stay at No.10 Stationary Hospital in St Omer, Rouen, Capt. Gasquoine was then placed on 21 days sick leave and transferred back to where he started –the NZI & GBD at Etaples. By mid October he was fit enough to re-join ‘C’ Company in the field at Armentieres.
In January 1917, Capt. Gasquoine was detached to attend the 2nd Army School of Instruction, a requisite of his promotion. Three days after arrival he was admitted to hospital with a scalp wound. Not overly serious or caused by any hostile act, Capt. Gasquoine and fellow officers attending the School were engaged in some off-duty physical activity. During a five minute break in activity, being mid-winter the men had been sliding on the icy frozen surface of a nearby pond when Gasquoine fell and hit his head, sustaining the head wound that landed him in No.10 Stationary Hospital. Released in mid February, he was fit to return to the School of Instruction for two further weeks. Capt. Gasquoine re-joined ‘C’ Company and his battalion in the field on 25 Feb.
Eight days later, on 4 March an explosion in close proximity to Capt. Gasquoine resulted in a shell wound from a large fragment of shrapnel that smashed into his right leg, leaving him with a compound fracture of his tibia and fibula. Evacuated by the 3rd NZ Field Ambulance he was taken to the No.7 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne to stabilise his wounds before being transported to England on the Hospital Ship St Dennis. On arrival Capt. Gasquoine was admitted to No.2 London General Hospital in Chelsea for surgery.
I dare say that not even his promotion to Major on 15 March would have eased his pain. He had been promoted to replace an officer who had been moved to the Canterbury Infantry Regiment. After almost nine weeks in London General, Major Gasquoine was then transferred to No.1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst in May for further assessment of his wounds. The news was not good. A medical board was convened to assess his condition; the verdict – “Unfit for 6 months, to be repatriated to NZ as a result of ill health caused by wounds, being no longer fit for war service on account of wounds sustained on Active Service”.
Major Gasquoine’s war was over. He was released from hospital on 22 June to the NZ Convalescent House at Brighton, a facility for recovering NZ officers. On 27 June he embarked the HMNZ Hospital Ship Marama that arrived in Wellington on 23 Aug 1917. However his healing and rehabilitation was far from over. Following a brief visit home to 95A Tinakori Road, Charles was admitted to the Rotorua Convalescent Home for a month of treatment following which he returned to Wellington in anticipation of full-time service with the NZMF in New Zealand.
Note: ** NZRB Disbandment. The NZ Rifle Brigade being part of the New Zealand Division, formed part of II Corps of the Second Army who also had the responsibility of providing the Army of Occupation on the Rhine. Following the Armistice and reorganisation after the last action, the NZRB made its way to Cologne (where it was to be stationed) on foot, beginning their march from France on 28 November 1918 and arriving at Cologne on 22 December.
The Brigade’s occupation duties were light, with morning parades and training sessions while also allowing time in the afternoon for sightseeing. An education programme was implemented although many men were more interested in returning to New Zealand. On 26 December 1918 the NZEF had begun demobilising and by the end of the following month, up to 1,000 NZ soldiers were leaving France each week for England. Once in England, completion of demobilisation and leave was granted until each soldier’s troop ship became available for repatriation to New Zealand. By mid-January 1919, the brigade’s strength of four battalions had been reduced to two, with the final units being demobilised on 4 February 1919 signalling the disbandment of the NZ Rifle Brigade.
When the war was over ..
Since his return to Wellington, Charles had lobbied hard for a full-time appointment with the NZ Temporary Staff Corps at his current rank of Major however, he was denied this due to a combination of factors. As he was to learn latter, in Feb 1918 the writing would be on the wall for the vast majority of Territorial officers who returned from France. The TF and its staffs were to be substantially reduced now that the war was over. In spite of personal discussions with the Chief of the General Staff (Army) over his future employment within the NZ Military Forces, Charles application was rejected on the basis there were no vacancies in the revised organisation. However, he was offered a space which could be made available for him as a Home Service Instructor – with the rank of Lieutenant! Charles’s rejection of this proposal understandably was immediate which then left him only two options: discharge from the NZ Military Forces all together, or be absorbed back into the 5th (Wellington) Regiment with the substantive rank of Captain with seniority as of 25 June 1917. Some questions had also arisen over whether or not he had completed all the necessary examinations for promotion to Major, plus there were perceived limitations that his wounds placed on his overall fitness for a full time position – he could not at that time run without pain. Not exactly overjoyed at this offer, Captain Gasquoine accepted the latter option and returned to the 5th (Wellington) Regiment. With that settled Charles was cleared to be formally discharged from the Expeditionary Force and transferred to Territorial Force on 26 December 1917 – Charles’s 1917 Christmas I expect might not have been as merry as he would have wished!
In 1918 Charles returned to the accounting department of his pre-war employer, E.W. Mills Ltd. A more relaxed pace than his previous three and a half years at least allowed him the time to settle into his marriage with Jean and their home at 19 Puru Crescent at Lyall Bay, a marriage he had barely time to build or appreciate before his embarkation in 1915. Having received both the NZ Territorial Service Medal (12 years) and the Long & Efficient Service Medal (20yrs) during 1918, Charles was 31 years of age decided it was time to settle and devote himself to being a family man. Charles and Jean’s first child was William George Charles Gasquoine, born in 1918. Two years later in May 1920, a daughter Jeanette Kimbell Gasquoine completed their family. Charles applied for and was transferred to the Territorial Reserve of Officers on 6th May 1919 thus reducing his commitments in uniform.
The military works in weird and wonderful ways at times as Charles found out. Within 18 months Capt. Gasquoine had been re-appointed to the rank of Major in the Territorial Force but unfortunately was given a less than fulfilling appointment as the Quartermaster (QM) of the Karori training camp – not exactly what Charles had in mind regarding a future in the NZ Military Forces. However, being the loyal soldier and officer he was, and committed to his Wellington unit, Major Gasquoine fulfilled the requirements of the appointment from November 1919.
Being somewhat dispirited by the turn of events since his return from France, his long and loyal service seemingly overlooked, Charles decided to accept a position of a Commercial Traveller for E.W. Mills Ltd.’s Nelson branch. Charles tendered his resignation from the Reserve of Officers with effect from 3 Nov 1927 and in the New Year, with their two children William** and Jeanette, Charles and Jean moved to Nelson and took up residence at 16 Shelbourne Street, directly behind Nelson Cathedral. Here the family remained for the next few years before re-locating finally to 10 Manuka Street in the city.
Regrettably Major (Retd) Charles Kimbell Gasquoine’s life ended most unexpectedly in 1937 after he had travelled from Nelson to Wellington Hospital for a minor operation on his head, a residual aspect of his ice-skating injury in France. In the event, while in the hospital he contracted pneumonia, declined rapidly and sadly died on the 4th of June 1937, aged 48 years. Wife Jean Nelson Gasquoine did not re-marry and remained in Nelson with her daughter Jeanette. Jean eventually passed away 53 years after her husband on 23 Nov 1980 at the age of 90.
Awards: 1914/18 Star, British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal, NZ Territorial Service Medal (10yrs), NZ Long & Efficient Service Medal (20yrs); Anzac (Gallipoli) Commemorative Medallion (1967) & Lapel Badge
Service Overseas: 2 years 196 days
Total NZEF Service: 3 years 140 days
Total Service NZ Military Forces (Militia, Territorial, WW1, Res. of Offrs): 22 years 8 mths
Note: ** 58028 Gunner Cecil Joseph GASQUOINE, Charles’s younger brother, also served during WW1. Cecil was educated at St Patrick’s College and qualified as a Marine Engineer. He was employed by the Wellington based Union Company (later Union Steam Ship Company). At the time war broke out, 22 year old Cecil was on temporary assignment at the Melbourne Naval Office for work he was engaged with on HMAS Kaniere. After being balloted for service, Cecil returned to NZ and embarked with the NZ Field Artillery’s 37th Reinforcements in May 1918. On arrival in England, Cecil saw the potential to put his marine engineering skills to better use than as an Artillery Gunner and applied for a Temporary Commission in the Royal Navy. This was granted, his temporary transfer to take effect on 18 October. However an imminent end to the war and the subsequent declaration of an Armistice in Nov 1918 overtook the transfer. Whilst not documented, it appears Cecil did not begin service with the RN as it had been decided that the RN, the Naval Reserve and Auxiliary branches no longer required the number of officers it had required during hostilities. He returned to NZ and following demobilisation, returned to the U.S.S.Co. Married with a daughter, Cecil Joseph Gasquoine died in Wellington prematurely on 23 Oct 1927 at the age of 35 and is buried in Karori cemetery near his brother Charles.
Note: ** NZ2480, RAF 4370 SQN LDR William George Charles GASQUOINE was Charles and Jean Gasquoine’s only son. He was educated at Nelson College from 1931-36 before taking up farming at Pangatotara in rural Motueka. William enlisted for WW2 service, opting for an aircrew position with the RNZAF. Selected as a Short Service Commission (SSC) Pilot trainee for the RAF in Oct 1939, his basic flying training was conducted at RNZAF Station Taeiri, south of Dunedin. After qualifying for his Pilot’s Badge (‘Wings’) William embarked on the “Rangateiki” at Auckland with fellow SSC pilots on 26 Apr 1940. Following conversion training to heavy bombers, William Gasquoine was posted to Bomber Command and 78 Sqn, a night bomber squadron equipped with the Handley Page Halifax, flying out of Breighton Airfield in East Yorkshire. In 1943 he was transferred to the newly created 487 (NZ) Sqn RAF based at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk. No 487 Sqn was a day bomber squadron initially equipped with Locheed Ventura, and staffed with RNZAF pilots.
After losing their CO and three Venturas on the first raid, disaster again struck 487 Sqn on 3 May 1943 when an 11 plane raid resulted in the loss of all of the squadron’s Venturas but one. The squadron was made a territorial unit of No.2 Territorial Air Force until re-equipped with Mosquito FB Mk.VIs. On Mossies, William became a Certified Flying Instructor. The squadron gained renown for a raid carried out on 18 February 1944 against the walls of the Amiens Prison. They successfully bombed a breach in the wall which allowed 100 prisoners of war who were slated for execution, to successfully escape. Sqn Ldr Gasquoine was awarded a King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct (a Mention in Desptaches of the air) while serving with this squadron. No 487 (NZ) Sqn RAF was disbanded on 19 September 1945, having flown 3,112 sorties, totalling 7,892 hours in combat.
Sqn Ldr Gasquoine married Barbara Kitty BUCHAN, formerly DERRICK, nee DEVEREUX, the widow of former commercial pilot, Sgt (Pilot) Victor Noel Buchan RAF who was killed on air operations on 10 Oct 1940 whilst serving with No.8 Anti-Aircraft Co-op Unit operating from Middlezoy in Somerset. After the war William and his family settled on the Kapiti Coast where he became a long serving Air Traffic Controller at Paraparaumu Airport. William Gasquoine died on 29 Dec 2004 at the age of 85. His wife Barbara predeceased him in 1973.
~ Lest We Forget ~
Reuniting the Major’s medals
Major Gasquione’s medals had been languishing in a shipping container behind the former Nelson RSA’s temporary premises, for a number of years and so when retrieved, need some considerable attention including the addition of a Territorial Service Medal, to the medal bar. Colleague Brian Ramsay worked his magic by replacing some of the ribbons and re-mounting the medals court style so they were once again in a suitable state to be reunited with family.
The research for this case was remarkably short. Brian being a lifelong resident of Nelson was familiar with the Gasquoine name and immediately recalled Major Gasquoine’s daughter Jeanette as a current resident of a local retirement village.
Jeanette Kimbell Gasquoine was born in Nelson on 19 May 1920, the only daughter of Charles and Jean, and sister of William. Jeanette is a well known identity in Nelson having lived and worked in the city all her life. After taking her secondary education at Nelson Girls College, her aspiration of attending Victoria University came to a halt when her father became ill. She had assisted her mother Jean with her father’s care however when he died unexpectedly, Jeanette then about 18, sought a temporary job until she decided on her future. Pitt and Moore Lawyers is a local law firm that was established in 1864 and has been in business continually since that time. Jeanette feeling very nervous and somewhat intimidated being surrounded by some very senior legal practitioners and bastions of Nelson society, was given a thankless task in the office.
Being the only female in the firm, Jeanette anticipated her tenure would be brief. Much to her surprise she was kept on and toughed out the first year. By way of relief, she tried to indulge in her favourite sporting activities such as tennis and swimming (in season) by seeking the odd hour half hour off from her employer to partake. Grudging she was granted this on occasions. Jeanette later took up golf and bridge whilst continuing to play tennis, all of which she became very proficient at and a rather formidable competitor. Swimming was her personal love in the summer months.
Jeanette Gasquoine’s tenure at Pitt and Moore endured beyond the first year and her work in the office began to attract an appreciative nod. Jeanette had a head for mathematics and attention to detail which her solicitor and barrister employers come to respect and admire, as was her efficiency and loyalty to the firm. In time her requests for time off to attend a golfing or tennis competition became an open ended offer from her employers to take as long as she needed, whenever she needed. She had well and truly proven herself to be an indispensable asset that the firm just did not want to be without. Her employment at Pitt and Moore became a life long occupation, the one and only job she had ever had. By the time Jeanette retired from the firm in the 1980s, she had been the company’s (self-taught) accountant for more than a decade.
Being a dedicated professional, Jeanette remained a single lady necessarily caring for her mother Jean in the later years of her life until she passed away in 1982 at the age of 99. Clearly Jeanette has inherited her mother’s longevity genes.
When I met with Jeanette, her father’s medals in hand, I found her to be the most delightful lady who carried her age wonderfully well, looking much more youthful than her century of life could have suggested. When she showed me in to her apartment, as quick as a flash Jeanette was organising a cup of tea and biscuits for us. She does admit to being a little slower now but in most respects is as fit as a fiddle, as much as any Centenarian can be. Jeanette was overwhelmed to see all of her father’s medals which she admitted she had never seen her him wearing – only one or two at most. She commented on how beautifully mounted they were, as never before. As we sat in her sunny apartment and talked of her father, Jeanette then produced the portrait (below) of her father as a young officer at the age 25. I was also treated to see Jeanette’s 100th year birthday card she had received from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II – but that was 12 months ago. Jeanette has since had another birthday and is now in her 102nd year!
In discussing the medals and what she intended to do with them, Jeanette said the reason she had been nonplussed when I phoned her and on seeing the medals, was because she believed her brother William Gasquoine had been in possession of their father’s medals after he died. When Bill passed away in 2004, Jeanette assumed they would be passed down to a son or a nephew. After further discussion with her, it would appear brother Bill must have delivered the medals to the Nelson RSA for safe keeping during one of his many trips to Nelson, some 40 years prior about 1985.
Footnote: In her belief the medals had been passed to her nephew (Bill’s son), Jeanette revealed that in 2017 she had arranged to send three large framed items to her then nearest surviving relative, a nephew in Matamata who also held Bill’s medals. The items included – Major Gasquoine’s illuminated lithograph “Certificate of Services in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” a citation from the NZ Military Forces granting Major Gasquoine the right to use the title of “Major” and wear his uniform upon retirement from the Army, plus a black and white portrait taken by a Wellington photographer, of a white bearded “Willie Gasquoine,” set into a wide oak frame. This gentleman was Jeanette’s great-grandfather.
Jeanette, then in her late 90s, had contacted local courier company Pack & Send Nelson City who assured her they would package and deliver the items to her cousin in Matamata. Two men from P & S duly arrived to collect the items, Jeanette requesting the frames be wrapped with care and securely as she did not have the means to do this. This they said they would do for her and off the men went. Nothing was ever seen or heard of these three items again!
Fortunately Charles Gasquoine’s medals were not part of the consignment. Following a couple of photographs for posterity of Jeanette wearing her father’s medals, I bid farewell to Jeanette and a delightful afternoon spent with this gracious lady. The medals have been couriered to her cousin who has since confirmed they have been received, while I have also provided Jeanette with copies of the photographs taken. Having recently passed another milestone in July, her 101st birthday, this hale and hearty lady is now confidently pressing on towards her 102nd!
Thanks to the Nelson RSA for promoting the return to families of their holdings of First World War medals.
The reunited medal tally is now 381.