12/3711 – WALTER HENRY CYRIL MACE
In April of this year a British War Medal and Victory Medal named to 12/3711 Pte. Walter Henry Cyril MACE was put up for auction on the internet TradeMe site by an Australian seller. As a result I received an inquiry and request for advice from a direct descendant living in Hamilton who had seen the medals advertised and was keen to recover them back into the family.
Walter Mace’s parents died early in his young life. His mother Charlotte Elizabeth, nee HUMPHRIES, died in 1901 (possibly during the birth / death of Walter’s youngest sister, Marie Rose Mace). His farm labouring father Henry Christopher Mace also died two years later leaving 9 year old Walter, his 10 year old sister Zoe Gladys Ada Mace and four year old brother Leslie Albert Charles Mace, in the care of relatives in Te Aroha. At the time of their parents death the Mace children (all born in Auckland) were living in Mangaiti, about 10km NW of Te Aroha in the Waikato.
By the time Walter was of working age he had secured a permanent job at the Frankton Junction rail depot as a cleaner for the NZ Railways, whilst Zoe and Leslie had relocated to Auckland with relatives. Walter turned 21 years of age on 27 Sep 1915 and one month later had enlisted for service with the N.Z.E.F.’s 9th Reinforcements and was off to camp at Trentham for basic training.
12/3711 Pte. Walter Mace was placed in A Company of the 2nd Auckland Infantry Battalion which departed Auckland for Egypt on the troop transport ship Maunganui in January 1916. Walter’s younger sister Zoe (a spinster) was identified as his official NOK however this changed in 1921 (after Walter’s death) to his younger brother Leslie, a taxi proprietor in Blenhiem.
After disembarking at Alexandria, Pte. Mace and the rest of the 9th Reinforcements traveled by train to the NZ training camp at Zeitoun near Cairo, for training and re-equipping before proceeding to France aboard the H/T Oriania in April 1916. He deployed into the field in May and apart from a week spent in hospital with Influenza during in December, Pte. Mace re-joined his unit, by then located near Fleurbaix, a few kilometres south of the front line trenches at Armentieres, on Christmas Eve 24 December.
In the run up to the Battle of Messines which would happen in early June, the 2nd Auckland Battalion staged with mixed success the heaviest New Zealand raid of the Somme campaign in the vicinity of Armentieres on 21 February. By the end of the day Pte. Mace was one of many soldiers who could not be accounted for and therefore was temporarily posted as “Missing”. It was normal procedure after such intense fighting and bombardment for a formal Court of Enquiry to be convened within a few weeks to determine the circumstances of each unaccounted soldier’s absence. Once ‘Prisoner of War’ and ‘Casualty’ could be ruled out, in the absence of any other information a finding of a “Killed In Action” was invariably the resuly …. and so it was for 21 year old Pte. Walter Mace.
In the absence of his bodily remains, Pte. Walter Henry Cyril Mace is commemorated on the Cite Bonjean (New Zealand) Memorial located at Armentieres, Nord, France.
The recovery of Pte. Mace’s medals have been requested by the family to remain confidential – suffice to say I was able to contact the seller on the inquirer’s behalf, the result of which has been the medals being successfully acquired and reunited with Walter’s descendants. In addition to the medals the seller also kindly offered a diary which had belonged to Pte. Mace – the surprised and delighted inquirer now has this to add to the family’s medal heirlooms.
The reunited medal tally is now 87.