WILLIAM HUNT ~ Concealed identity in the ‘Countess of Ranfurly’s Own’.


Obituary – Auckland Star, 11 January 1928


                            SEAMAN’S MISHAP.

                                                           DEATH IN HOSPITAL.

Mr. William Hunt, who was hurt yesterday afternoon through falling into the harbour and striking some wharf piles, died in the Auckland Hospital this morning. Mr. Hunt, who was employed by Messrs. McCallum Bros., was returning to the steamer Hirere, at Albert wharf, when he slipped. He was helped from the water by several men who were nearby and taken to the Hospital by the St. John Ambulance. He was suffering from internal injuries and a broken nose. Mr. Hunt, who was 54 years old, lived on Sandspit Island, Thames Estuary.


This research case was the start of a rather long and very puzzling trans-Tasman joint effort by both Medals Reunited NZ (MRNZ) and Lost Medals Australia (LMA).  

In April 2014 I received a request from Glyn Llanwarne (LMA) to see if I could help with tracing the descendants of an Australian who had served in the NZEF during WW1.   All that was known of Rifleman William HUNT were a few scant family details on his military file (some of which proved incorrect), the fact his war medals had been returned unopened from previously known address, and that he had died in 1928 in Auckland, the result of an accident whilst boarding a boat.

William with his mother, Flora, c1890.

William Hunt with his mother Flora, c1890.

42336 Rifleman William HUNT embarked for service on the Western Front in November 1917 and was put straight into action after his initial acclimatization and training in Egypt.  In June 1918 he was invalided back to Hornchurch Convalescent Hospital in the UK as a result of being gassed by artillery shell bombardment, and there he remained until he was sufficiently recovered to return to New Zealand.  

According to his Cenotaph file William had been born in Ballarat, Victoria, on 10 June 1877, and his occupation was listed as Bricklayer.  First problem – there was no Australian records of anyone by this name being born on this date, nor between May and July 1877, by this name in either Victoria or NSW.  Second problem – at his time of enlistment William had listed a Mrs B. Cook as his next of kin (NOK).  Mrs Cook resided at 134 Ghuznee St, Wellington, (an accommodation house at that time) where William also resided.  Third problem – William was enlisted into the Auckland Infantry Regiment – why not the Wellington Infantry Regiment where he was living ? – sources of much head scratching. 

My initial research of men named William Hunt residing in New Zealand and born between May and July 1877 was narrowed to three possibilities however only one was not born in New Zealand.  The most likely candidate was a man who had married in Auckland in 1917, and spent the remainder of his life after WW1 living in Central Auckland, working variously as a labourer and later a quaryiman on Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf, and Sandspit (known as Pahiki) Island in the Thames Estuary. 

The only other clue that existed on William’s military file was a change of NOK he made on his return to New Zealand in 1919 – a sister, Mrs Hellena F.J. Warren (E.S.) of ….. Redfern, Sydney.   Helena I learned later had actually been born Helena Flora Jane Brown? – more head scratching !  Forth problem – who was William Hunt and, who and where were his family?  Fifth problem – I had also discovered that William Hunt’s file had been combined with the file of another NZ soldier, one Trooper William Hunt, NZRB, whose serial number was not dissimilar (43338) to our William Hunt, particularly when it was handwritten.  Both files are now co-located together on Cenotaph and accessed through either of the Hunt service numbers or names.  Sixth problem – confronted with these puzzling questions, I wondered how on earth I would ever be able to find a home for 42336 RFLM William Hunt’s Victory Medal?

Hunt medal1

After months of intermittent review of William Hunt’s research material, MRNZ guest researcher Julie made the critical connection that resulted in my being able to pass our conclusions regarding the identity of the mysterious Mr Hunt to Lost Medals Australia … you can follow Glyn’s story here:


I am now pleased to report that 42336 Rflm. William Hunt’s Victory Medal will be reunited next week with William’s great-nephew, Robert Hendry of Oatlands, NSW.  The burning question is however – where is Rflm. Hunt’s British War Medal that was issued and should have accompanied his Victory Medal?

Rob's dad Hugh wearing William Hunt's Victory Medal alongside other family war medals.

October 2015 – Rob’s dad Hugh Hendry of Korumburra wearing Rflm. William Hunt’s Victory Medal (on his right chest) which has been paired up with a replacement British War Medal to which William was also entitled.  Hugh is also wearing another family WW1 pair and a WW2 1939-45 War Medal on his left chest.