JAMES HOLST ~ WW1 medals of Norwegian immigrant’s son from Bunnythorpe reunited with grand-daughter.

23/1676 ~ JAMES HOLST    

A pair of World War 1 medals ‘rescued’ by me from a second-hand dealer have been reunited with the soldier’s grand-daughter.  Four of six Holst brothers were born in Bunnythorpe, Manawatu.  Three of the four youngest brothers went overseas with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and three of only five soldiers named HOLST to serve in the First World War.  

British War Medal 1914-18 & Victory Medal – Obverse

British War Medal 1914-18 & Victory Medal – Reverse










With all the hall marks of their Nordic ancestry, brothers Henry, James, William and George Holst had all expected to be called-up for war service since the fitted the age criteria and were all single men.  All were farmers and bore the hall marks of their Nordic ancestry tall and willowy with fair hair, blue eyes and fresh, slightly weather-beaten complexions.  Their father and mother were both immigrants who had met and married in Sydney prior to emigrating to New Zealand.  

Norway to Manawatu

Lars Olaus Arnesen Holst (1853-1936) – circa 1880.

Lars Olaus Arnesen HOLST (1853-1936) was from Stokker Nedre, Borgen, Ullensaker, Akershus, Norway.  After finishing high school Olaus went to England to study engineering.  After completing his degree, Olaus (21) returned to Norway and began work as an engineer with a firm constructing the Lillehammer railway in Oppland, Norway.  Around 1874 he barely escaped with his life after a serious work accident. While working on the construction of the Lillehammer railway he had been in the cab of a railway steam engine when it was caught in an avalanche in which he was buried. He was badly injured but recovered. 

Mathilde Karoline Gustavsdatta (1857-1895)

Olaus (the name he went by) immigrated to Sydney, NSW between 1875 and 1880.  At the age of twenty six, Olaus Holst married an ex-patriot Norwegian girl in Jan 1880 – 23 year old Mathilde Karoline GUSTAVSDATTA (1857-1895), she having originated from Halden in Ostfold, Norway.  Mathilde had emigrated to Australia as a 14 year old arriving  at Bowen in northern Queensland in 1872.  Olaus and Mathilda were married at the Mariner’s Chapel in Bethel House, George Street, Sydney and made their temporary home in lodgings close to Circular Quay.  The first of their five children, Lina Marie Holst (1880-1969) was born the same year.  Alfred Oliver (1882-1947) was next born, then Arthur Edward (1884-1970) and finally, Hilda Mathilda Holst (1886-1970). 

In 1885, Olaus Holst (32), Mathilde (28) and their four children migrated from Sydney to Wellington.  The soon made contact with the large Scandanavian communities that settled in the Manawatu and northern Wairarapa (Dannevirke) regions.  Olaus chose the Manawatu as his preferred place to settle in the new country, selecting Bunnythorpe as the family’s new home.  Here he was able to acquire land and start a farm.  During the next six years the family doubled in size with the birth of four sons – Henry (1888), James (1890), William (1893) and George Holst in 1894.  Olaus, 45, also became a naturalised New Zealander in 1899.

Mariners Church in George Street, Sydney at the time Olaus and Mathilde were married in 1880.

In the year following George’s birth, mother Mathilda Holst died aged 36.  Olaus was left with the responsibility of eight children ranging in age from sixteen to eight months, as well as having to run his farm.  Fortunately he had capable daughter in Lina Marie who took over the maternal duties and managed the infant boys with a little assistance from family friends.  Olaus Holst was 52 years old when he re-married June 1903, eight years after Mathilde passing.  Caroline Sophie PEDERSEN (1859-1935), a 42 year old Danish woman, and Olaus were married in Palmerston North.  Regrettably the marriage did not last and Olaus left Bunnythorpe to live with his eldest son Alfred Oliver Holst who was farming in Kaipara.   Olaus’s second son Arthur Edward Holst had emigrated to California USA in 1906.  Meanwhile the four younger brothers – James, Henry, George and William had formed “Holst Brothers”, a collective farm and contracting business on a property owned by William at Manawahe, mid-way between Matata and Lake Rotoma in the Bay of Plenty.    


When war was declared by Britain in August 1914, the New Zealand government offered Britain an expeditionary force to be part of their Army.  When the criteria for service in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was released, three of the Holst brothers knew they would likely be called up to serve as they fitted the criteria, one however would have to remain to manage the farm.  As William was the landowner, the onus for managing “Holst Bros” fell on his shoulders.

Henry, James, William and George Holst being single farmers, were all eligible by age (20 was the minimum age for overseas service), George Holst the youngest, having turned 20 in February 1914.  All brothers had dutifully registered their names when the national manpower census was taken. As it was they were all eager to join and were excited by the carnival atmosphere that surrounded the hordes of volunteers who swamped the recruiting stations when they were open to sign up volunteers.

Positions in the Main Body of the NZEF would be predominantly filled with regular serving soldiers however there were insufficient to fill the requirements for the planned reinforcement drafts that would be need the longer the war went on.  Volunteers were called for to start filling the reinforcement drafts being assembled as replacements for the inevitable casualties that were anticipated.

Holst brothers at war

James Holst’s younger brother Henry was the first to go overseas.  13/1047 Trooper Henry HOLST enlisted at Auckland on 15 Feb 1915 and sailed for Egypt aboard HMNZT 25 Tahiti with the 5th Reinforcements of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment (AMR).  He would see service in Egypt and Palestine.  It was another eight months before James received his orders to report to Trentham Camp in preparation for deployment to the NZEF in Egypt.  All Almost six feet tall, James Holst was a well built young man, one whom could be described as ‘fighting fit’.  James had been working on the family farm at Bunnythorpe with his father and brothers William and George when his call came to join the Auckland Regiment for training as an Infantry rifleman. 

Auckland Infantry Battalion hat-badge.

23/1676 Private James “Jim” Holst was enlisted into E Company, 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment – 9th Reinforcements NZEF.  Seven days after his 25nd birthday (12 October 1890) Jim reported to Headquarters of the Trentham Regiment at Trentham Military Camp, Upper Hutt on 19 October 1915 and was duly Attested (contracted for the duration of the war) the following day.  Jim was then dispatched to Featherston Camp in the Wairarapa with the remainder of the 9th reinforcement personnel for ten weeks of basic soldier skills, and infantry rifleman training.  

The Trentham Regiment (The Earl of Liverpool’s Own) comprise two battalions of infantry and it was to this the infantrymen who were to depart with the main Body in October 1915, would be posted to undergo their training at Trentham and Featherston.  This Regiment was the precursor of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB).  As the training of the two battalions was completed, the government decided NZ’s commitment could be increased by two more battalions of infantry thus bring our contribution up to Brigade strength, which was comparable to Australia and the other contributing Empire nation’s effort.  In addition NZ was also committing three Mounted Rifle Regiments comprised of the Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury  and Otago Mounted Rifles.  New Zealand was now able to field a Division for inclusion in the order of battle that was to be led by an Imperial headquarters.

PTE james Holst - Auckland Regiment, 9th Reinforcements

23/1676 Private James Holst – Auckland (Infantry) Regiment, 9th Reinforcements.

At the conclusion of training, Pte. Jim Holst and the 9th Reinforcements would have the pleasure of a ‘scenic’ stroll’ (route march) over the Rimutaka Hill from Featherston all the way back to Trentham (in the quickest time possible) at the conclusion of their training – a distance of 33 kilometeres. 

The 2nd Battalion AR embarked on to HMNZT 39 Warrimoo on 8 Jan 1916 and together with the HMNZT 38 Tahiti that carried the remainder of the 9th Reinforcements, set sail for Egypt via Albany, Western Australia, Colombo (Ceylon) in India, arriving at Suez on 8 Feb 1916.  The troops disembarked at Suez, moved by train in open cars to Ismailia, and the, marched to the Brigade camp across the Canal at Ferry Post.  The 3rd Battalion arrived on March 13th and the 4th Battalion two days later.

To form the new infantry division, the original New Zealand Infantry Brigade was re-designated as the 1st NZ Infantry Brigade while three battalions of reinforcements already in Egypt, with another inbound, was to form the 2nd NZ Infantry Brigade.  The two battalions of the NZRB in transit to Egypt from New Zealand would join the two battalions already in Egypt to form the completed third brigade of the division.  The 3rd and 4th battalions duly arrived in mid-March 1916 and after a period of reorganisation the full brigade left Alexandria on 7 April for France.

To complete the adjustment, there now only remained the formation of a Training Battalion, which would absorb the reinforcements for the Infantry Brigade, and from which would be drawn as required drafts of officers and men whose training would be completed under conditions more nearly approaching in general character those of active service than could be expected to obtain in the home training camps.  This unit, known as the New Zealand Rifle Brigade Training Battalion, was established at Moascar on March 21st, the details being taken in the main from the second and third reinforcements for the first two.  When the Division left Egypt for France the Training Battalion remained at Moascar.

Ferry Post on the Suez Canal – 1916

The Brigade moved on March 20th from Ferry Post to the Moascar Camp near Ismailia where the regiments remained until  it was time to embark for France early the following month.  During their stay at both Ferry Post and Moascar, training was continued apace.  Company, battalion and brigade parades, route marches and staff rides, night operations and trench-digging, specialist training and transport work, each had its place, until at last all ranks, the newer arrivals as well as the “old hands,” felt that they were fit for any emergency.  Despite the heavy training regime there was time and opportunity for recreation.  

NZ Rifles – epaulette title.

‘Massey’s Tourists’

Between December 1914 and the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915, the first drafts of New Zealand’s First World War troops completed their military training in Egypt.  When not taking part in monotonous marches through the desert, improving their marksmanship and bayonet skills, or practising coordinated operations, the men were able to explore the wonders of this ancient land.  

‘Massey’s Tourists’ – Jim Holst (far right ) with two comrades have the obligatory photo taken on camels in front of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Cheops – 1916.

There was a liberal allowance of leave to Cairo which permitted the first taste of the new culture.  Egypt’s sights, sounds and smells were unfamiliar to the New Zealanders, as few of the men had ever travelled overseas or mixed with people from other cultures before the war.  Shopping for mementos and trinkets in the souks (markets), sampling the different beverages on offer, exotic foods and peoples together with a vast array of entertainment (and vices), were among the many new experiences on offer.  Ismailia with its beautiful plantations and gardens, Lake Timsah and the Suez Canal with its conglomeration of shipping and water craft were an attraction in themselves.  Bathing parades to the lake or the Canal were regular attractions, often with nearly the whole Brigade in the water at one time.  Although the thought of what was to come was never far from each soldiers mind, the refreshing restfulness of a quiet evening stroll to the Canal after a hard day of training in the desert heat must have felt like a vacationers’ dream.  The open desert itself with its scattered remains of ancient civilisations to explore, while many men had their photo taken in front of the pyramids or sphinx at Giza, usually astride the ubiquitous camel with its smiling, money hungry handler, all had an irresistible attraction for ‘Massey’s Tourists.’  Because the New Zealand government had funded the troops’ voyage to North Africa – and indeed their sightseeing trips – the soldiers came to be dubbed ‘Massey’s Tourists’ after the then prime minister, William Massey.    


France, 1916

Final preparations for the departure of the NZ Division to France were pushed to completion with all speed.  Para-typhoid inoculation were carried out twice towards the end of March.  Personal kit was reduced by sending away all private belongings, forage caps were finally handed in, and on April 1st 1916 the new charger-loading, short magazine Lee-Enfield (S.M.L.E.) Mk 1 rifles were exchange for the old Magazine Lee-Enfield (M.L.E.) and  Lee-Metford long rifles that had hitherto been in use.

Lee-Metford Mk I Long Rifle, 1898. Used extensively in the Boer War.

No.1 Mk I – MLE with No.4 spike (training) & Mk II No.9 bayonet.

Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk II – SMLE

The 2nd Battalion left Moascar for Alexandria 5th April 1916, and embarked on the HMT Arcadian for France on the 8th.  Little space was available on the ships for training exercises, but much time was devoted to lectures on trench warfare and preventive measures against gas attacks. In addition to the usual precautions taken against attack from submarines, all ranks wore lifebelts constantly both by day and by night, and each ship supplemented quick-firer, Lewis gun and Vickers gun sentries with sections of men with loaded rifles specially posted on either side.

The Battalion disembarked and marched to the Etaples Base Camp, within which was the NZ Infantry Depot.  The Etaples Camp could accommodate up to 10,000 men under canvas and housed major medical facilities, i.e. Static Hospital for New Zealand, UK, Canada and Australia.  In addition there were convalescent facilities and specialist surgical hospitals in and around the Etaples town.  After a period of some weeks training for battlefield operations and preparing to go into the field, the battalion reinforcements were moved to their respective brigade reserve areas located some kilometres in rear of the front line.  From these the reinforcement personnel were drip-fed into the regiments as required to replace casualties (battle or sickness).

The Somme

Pte. Jim Holst (left) and his L/Cpl. Section Commander after a long march. 

The NZ Division’s first major confrontation came during the Somme campaign.  The 1st and 2nd NZ Infantry Brigades had recently moved from the Reserve and billet town of Fleurbaix, some 9 kms  south-west of Armentieres on the France-Belgium border, to the Armentieres Sector of the front line.  The 1st Brigade (with Pte. Holst) moved into the sector, east of Armentieres and went into the line on 13 May.  In places the enemy and Allied trenches were a mere fifty metres apart. 

The Battle of Flers-Corcelette was the third main phase of the battle of the Somme, and the first full scale offensive since the first day of the Somme.  The Allies had bought great pressure to bear on the German 1st Army at this point and a breakthrough was finally believed to be achievable.  This attack would also be the first major action the NZ Division – the two NZ Infantry Brigades and two NZ Rifle Brigades – would be involved with on the Western Front.  Best known as the first tank battle in history, as it featured forty nine Mk I tanks, the battle was preceded by a massive artillery barrage.  The battle fought over the 15 – 22 September, was partially successful in that it had made some territorial gains and highlighted the limitation of the tanks – changes would have to be made owing largely to their slow speed.  The Flers-Courcelette attack in essence however had failed to achieve its main aim, of punching a hole in the German lines, but a t a localised level it had been an invaluable first experience for the New Zealand Division.

Into the field …

Pte. Holst went into the field and joined his unit on 22 Sep 1916, the last day of the Flers-Courcelette battle.  The Somme was in the grip of winter and the ground was awash with slush, ice and snow.  Hardly surprising that Pte. Holst was hospitalised with Bronchitis within a few weeks of arriving.  He was evacuated to the 45th Canadian Casualty Clearing Station who then moved him back to Etaples and into the care of 26 (UK) General Hospital, one of the largest in the Etaples Base Depot Camp.  Jim received the all-clear to return to the field in October.  On arrival he was transferred to a Machine-gun Section of the NZ Machine-Gun Company attached to the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment. 

Machine-gun Section in 1917 firing the -303 Vickers Mk 1 machine-gun while wearing gas masks to protect against Mustard Gas.

Pte. Holst had an unexpected lapse in early Feb 1917 in which he was apparently absent from a parade.  As a consequence he received a curt reminder of his responsibilities when he was charged and punished with seven days Field Punishment (FP) No.2.  This was a fairly standard punishment for a first offence where no good reason had been proffered for such a lapse.  Field Punishment was introduced to the British Army when flogging was abolished in 1881.  FP No.2 was much less severe than FP No.1. but was seen as an essential step in the corrective training and disciplining of soldiers for errors or omissions which potentially could cost the lives of their fellows.  In most cases it had the desired effect in that the offender rarely repeated the same mistake again.

The prisoner was placed in fetters and handcuffs but was not attached to a fixed object and was still able to march with his unit.  The soldier was subjected to hard labour and loss of pay, while his down time was controlled by attendance at parades or the performance of additional work.  No sooner had Pte. Holst finished the  Field Punishment, he was again hospitalised this time with Mumps.  When discharged he was returned to a Convalescent Hospital.


The Battle of Messines was a significant battle for the NZ Division and one which had demanded a huge amount of preparation.  The Messines Ridge was a feature that was heavily entrenched by the Germans and the buttress of the German line in the north.  The New Zealand Division were given the task of storming Messines itself and beyond some five hundred yards to the reverse side of the hill.  The NZ Division would be central in the attack with an Australian Division on the right and an English Division on the left. 

The aftermath of 7 June 1917 – the Great Crater on Hill 60 which had once been the HQ of the German Army on Messines Ridge. 10,000 German soldiers died when 19 underground mines were detonated along the ridge.

Hill 60 bore the German Headquarters at Messines and was the axis upon which the entrenched German forces spread along the Messines Ridge hinged.  Very heavily defended, the Ridge allowed German artillery and machine gun fire to sweep the frontages of the Allied units with devastating effect.  It was a major blockage to the Allies advance in Belgium and had to be eliminated.  The Allies had responded with continuous artillery barrages to suppress German fire whilst the NZ, Australian and English Divisions were preparing for the offensive.  Undetected by the Germans, tunnels had been dug under Hill 60 in which 19 explosive mines had been set.  At 3.10 a.m on the morning of 7 June 1917 a massive explosion virtually vaporised the German HQ and 10,000 German soldiers with it.  Meanwhile an Allied creeping barrage poured fire onto the Ridge as a prelude to the main attack.  The attack was a success however the assault ran into trouble and foundered in the face of determined German resistance combined with rugged terrain and appalling weather conditions.  After enduring a savage bombardment by the Germans, by the time the New Zealand Division was relieved on 9 June, it had suffered 3700 casualties, including 700 dead.

During the advance towards the Ridge, Pte. Holst was one of the casualties, wounded in the right leg by a shell fragment.  Once again he was evacuated back to Etaples where he was admitted to the 7th Canadian General Hospital Hospital for repair, returning to his unit towards the end of the month. 

Whilst fighting around the town of La Basseville, Cpl. Leslie Wilton Andrew of the Wellington Regiment distinguished himself on 30 July by leading a party which attacked a number of enemy machine-gun positions, for which he was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross. 

.303 Vickers Mk1 heavy machine-gun

Following the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October, the last major action of the Somme campaign for the NZ Division (and the most costly) was the Third Battle of Ypres, otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele.  

The ruins of the Polderhoek Chateau which housed enemy machine-gunners who could enfilade the NZ flank causing significant casualties.

The failed attempt to capture the town of Passchendaele 9 – 18 October 1917 saw more New Zealanders killed in one day (12 Oct) than in any other military campaign since 1840.  The NZ Division’s objective of taking Bellevue Spur was achieved as well as taking 1000 prisoners of war, however, the cost to the Division because of there being no bombardment of the barbed wire entanglements and German pillboxes before the attack, and a non-effective creeping barrage once the attack commenced.  The result was 2700 NZ casualties, with some 950 men killed or mortally wounded – 843 of these attributed to 12 October.  Pte. Holst’s 2nd Auckland Regiment alone had 381 casualties – 60 killed and 321 wounded or missing! 

October 9th did have one momentary bright spot for Pte. Holst – he was promoted to Lance Corporal (L/Cpl) but only to balance the establishment; he was replacing a machine-gunner who had been killed.  Hardly had finished sewing on his single stripe after Passchendaele and  he was again promoted four weeks later, to the rank of Corporal – yet again he was replacing a Cpl. from a Machine-Gun Section who had been wounded and evacuated.  Cpl. Holst was now the NCO in charge of four, two-man machine-gun teams with a L/Cpl second in charge to be his deputy.  He must have wondered when his number would be up? 

Unfortunately for the NZ Division, Passchendaele was not the end of their mid-winter misery in Belgium.  After a three week rest, they were sent back into the line in preparation for a December attack on the ruins of Polderhoek Chateau from which the Germans were enfilading the New Zealand positions.  The NZ Division was beaten back by withering machine-gun fire – 80 killed and hundreds wounded.   It was also during this action that Sgt Henry Nicholas of the Canterbury Regiment was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. 

Pain plus promotion

Corporal James Holst – 1917.

Christmas and the New Year were spent in the Ypres Salient.  It was a thoroughly miserable time for all – the cold, feet continually wet and frozen,  and seemingly aimless patrolling to keep the men occupied (when they could be roused from their trench dug-outs).   For the first few months of 1918, 2nd Auckland Regiment and the other regiments of the NZ Division took their turn in manning the front line, providing support or being  held in reserve.

By July 1st, 1918 the 2 Auckland Regt was in the vicinity of Rossignol Wood, about 20 km south-west of Arras in northern France.  Night patrols of no-mans land up to and through the defensive barbed wire of the enemy positions were conducted to gathering intelligence.  Getting too close (5 meters) to a nervous enemy sentry invariably resulted in flares being released to light the area, machine-gun from a variety posts wildly blazing away to their front while bombs (grenades) were thrown indiscriminately into the barbed wire obstacles.  It was one such patrol on the 8th of  July that scored Cpl. Holst his second wounding, however this one was more serious than his earlier leg wound.  A bomb had exploded quiet close to him whilst he had been crawling through the wire with the rest of his patrol.  A chunk of shrapnel hit him in the neck making a savage and jagged wound.  He was extracted by the 1st NZ Field Ambulance orderlies while still dark, his wound packed and evacuated to the 7th Canadian Static Hospital at Doullens, 335 kilometres east of their position.  Once cleaned and his wound dressed, Cpl. Holst was taken to the 1st Australian Hospital at Rouen in preparation for his evacuation to England.  On 22 July Cpl. Holst was embarked on AT 9 and transferred to Devonport and then on to No.1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst where he remained on the ‘seriously ill’ list until the end of the month.  On 15 August he was medical boarded and determined to be “no longer fit for war service on account of wounds” and to be repatriated to NZ.  

No.1 NZ General Hospital – Brockenhurst, Hampshire

Going home …

Two weeks after his Medical Board James was transferred from Southampton to Marseilles to be embarked on the NZ Hospital Ship Maheno which sailed for NZ on 29 August 1918.  When he arrived in Auckland James was placed on Sick Leave for three weeks while having to remain in Auckland, and was then given a further three weeks of Privileged Leave which permitted him to go home to Matata.  Remember, James was still technically ‘under contract’ (per his Attestation) to the NZ Military Forces as the war had not yet concluded, i.e. an Armistice had not yet been declared.  James returned home to Matata and his brothers Alfred and William, his sisters, and father Olaus.  James’s elder brother Henry Holst was still serving in Palestine at the time while younger brother George, was serving in England.  The family were all delighted when word finally arrived that the much anticipated Armistice had finally been declared on 11 November 1918, thereby ending hostilities between the Allied and Axis powers. 

HMNZ Hospital Ship No.1 Maheno in her wartime paint livery.

The waves of joy and partying that swept the nation were however short lived for the Holsts.  A telegram received one week after Armistice carried the news that their son and brother Henry Holst was dead.  Just four days after the Armistice had been declared, Cpl. Henry Holst (26) had died of wounds on 15 Nov 1918, the day following his machine-gun section’s support of the ANZAC Mounted Brigade’s attack on the Ottoman stronghold  at Ayun Kara in Gaza, Palestine. 

James Holst was still on leave when he received notification he had been officially discharged from the NZEF on 26 Nov 1918.  

Awards:  WW1 British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal.  WW2 – War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal.  

Service Overseas:  2 years  286 days

Total NZEF Service:   3 years  39 days


Home Guard

NZ Home Guard recruits being drilled.

The Second World War saw the NZ Army mobilise all territorial soldiers for service with 2NZEF overseas.  Those who exceeded the age for service overseas, or had an approved exemption, were required to join the Home Guard to provide essential maintenance of national infrastructures, training of recruits for 2NZEF reinforcements, and the security of Vital Points within the country. 

James Holst was 52 and a volunteer territorial soldier between the wars.  When full-time war service re-enlistment began in 1938, Jim was made a Sergeant of ‘D’ Company of the Waiuku Home Guard.  Within months he was recommended for a commission to command the 2nd Platoon of D Company.  Sgt. Holst was an ideal candidate – he had war experience, was mature and had held rank.  Accordingly his officer’s commission was duly approved on 13 June 1942 and he was appointed to the rank of Temporary Second Lieutenant (2Lt.) in the Waiuku Battalion.  Confirmation of his rank to substantive 2Lt. would be subject to his successfully passing a medical and physical fitness examination. 

Since his return from the First war, Jim had been receiving a permanent pension at the rate of 75% for a heart condition attributed to his wound and war service.  This condition he was obliged to declare to the civilian doctor conducting his examination.  Jim had had an operation for an aneurysm in his neck – a bulge in the wall of one of the carotid arteries, the two main blood vessels on either side of the neck that carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain.  Since the op he had been having attacks of Paroxysmal Tachycardia, a type of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat – Paroxysmal meaning that the arrhythmia would start and stop abruptly.  The sudden onset of these attacks had begun after the operation. 

NZ Home Guard Company all ‘booted and spurred’ marches through a town in Rodney, circa 1916.

The net result was the doctor considered Jim unfit for Home Guard duties.  The Army would not take the word of a general practitioner and order a full Medical Board of military doctors – the result was the same; Jim Holst was declared “Medically Unfit for the Home Guard.”  To add insult to injury, he was also rejected for Life Insurance in Feb 1943.  Accordingly, 23/1676  Second Lieutenant James Holst resigned his Home Guard commission with effect from 8 March 1943.   

Awards:  War Medal 1939/45,  NZ War Service Medal  

Home Guard Service:  June 1942 – March 1943


James returned home to Matata and the “Holst Bros” enterprise until he was eventually able to obtain his own dairy farm at Aka Aka near Waiuku.  In March 1920 James married Vivienne Augusta BLACKWOOD (1893-1985) at Onehunga and together they had a family of four.  Jim and Vivienne eventually sold the Aka Aka farm and retired to 64 Prospect Terrace in Pukekohoe.  Jim Holst died at 80 years of age on 23 April 1971 and was cremated at the Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland.  

Wedding portrait of James Holst and Vivienne Augusta Blackwood, married at Onehunga, Auckland on 3rd March, 1920.  Left to right:  William Holst, Elsie Blackwood, James and Vivienne, Selina Blackwood, George Holst and father, Olaus Holst.

Note:  Three of the four youngest Holst brothers served overseas during WW1.

Cpl. Henry Holst – D of W, Battle of Ayun Kara, Gaza in Palestine on 15 Nov 1917.

Cpl. Henry Holst’s original temporary grave at Nebi Kunda on the crest of Palastine Hill.

13/1047 Trooper/ Corporal Henry Holst – 2nd Battalion, Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment (AMR).  Henry Holst enlisted at Auckland on 15 Feb 1915 with the AMR, NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR Bde).  He served in Egypt (Suez Canal) and was later transferred to the Mounted Machine Gun Squadron (No.2 Section)  where he fought some of the toughest battles in the Sinai and Palestine before he was Died of Wounds after the Battle of Ayun Kara in Gaza, on 15 Nov 1917.  Cpl. Holst served the NZEF for 2 years 234 days with 2 years and 117 days spent overseas.  He qualified for the award of the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal 1914/18 and Victory Medal.  In addition Henry’s parents received a Memorial Plaque commemorating his death on Active Service, accompanied by an Illuminated Scroll from the King.  Cpl. Henry Holst is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour at the Kaipara Memorial RSA in Helensville. 

Trooper Henry Holst, AMR with his horse in the Sinai desert, 1916.

Henry Holst’s letter accompanying the picture of him with his horse.







George Holst & Harriet Fenton, July 1919.

56594 Private George Holst – D Company, Otago Infantry Regiment – 29th ReinforcementsGeorge Holst enlisted at Palmerston North on 30 May 1917.  After training at Featherston Camp he embarked for England where he spent all 214 days of his overseas service, on account of illness.  George was invalided home and discharged on 26 Apr 1918.  He was awarded the British War Medal, 1914-18 only.  George returned to the “Holst Brothers” Manawahe farm business until buying his own at Kumeu.  George married Harriet “Alley” FENTON in July 1919 and had three children.  He sold his farm in the 1920s and the family went to California, returning in the mid-1920s.  George bought his Kumeu dairy farm back and later a farm at Ake Ake in Franklin.


Of the remaining Holst brothers, eldest brother Alfred Oliver Holst farmed all his life in the Kaipara area, married and had a family; Arthur Edward Holst, a Painter, went to California in 1906 and became a travelling salesman and store owner.  Arthur died at Laguna Hills in Orange County.  Youngest brother William Holst although of age to serve was not called up.  William may have obtained an exemption on the basis he was the only brother of the “Holst Brothers” business left to run their Manawahe farm.  In 1913 William  had taken his father Olaus, then in his mid sixties, back to Norway (possibly for a last visit).  When they returned, William returned to Whakatane and the “Holst Brothers” farm at Manawahe.  William married Daisy FENTON in July 1920, the sister of his brother George’s wife Harriet; they had a family of three children.

Father, Lars Olaus Arnesen Holst died at Avondale, Auckland in November 1936 at the age of eighty.

Raewyn reunited …

James Holst’s medals were another rescue from a second-hand dealer that I have been holding for about five years.  I had yet to start the research for a family connection when I received a Contact Form from the MRNZ website page Medal~Lost+Missing.  Errin B. had responded to the advertisement we placed on James Holst’s Cenotaph page seeking a descendant “for medals or ephemera we were holding.”  Apart from James Holst, Errin wanted to know if we had any medals for her grandfather Henry Holst, or her great-uncle George Holst?  Unfortunately I could only confirm that I had James Holst’s medals.  Erinn sent her cousin, Raewyn S. a message to tell her we had her grandfather James’s war medals.  Raewyn made contact with me and it was not long before we had arranged to have the her grandfather Jim Holst’s medals couriered to her. 






Raewyn remarked “It certainly is an honour to have these medals and especially as I have two of my daughters who have been in the Army, and both their partners.”  She will be proudly wearing her grandfather’s medals to commemorate his First World War service on Anzac Day.

Raewyn very kindly provide all of the Holst family photographs shown in this post.

The reunited medal tally is now 308.

Raewyn & Errin are looking for the following relatives medals:

  • 13/1047 CPL. Henery HOLST – NZEF Medals and Memorial Plaque
  • 56594 PTE. George HOLST – NZEF British War Medal only (full entitlement)
  • ENG.OFFR–LT. Frederick George BLACKWOOD – Royal Navy (HMS Lady Cory Wright) – KIA, 26 March 1918

If you can assist with information that may lead to recovering these medals, please contact Ian at MRNZ.


Medals Reunited New Zealand©