World War I first casualty

25 August 2014

A ceremony has been held at Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland to acknowledge the formal recognition of the first New Zealand casualty of World War I.

The recognition comes as commemorations are under way to mark the centenary of World War I (1914-18).

Sapper Robert Hislop (21) of the 13th Regiment, North Island Railway Battalion, died on August 19, 1914, in Auckland District Hospital from injuries sustained six days earlier from a fall from Parnell railway bridge. He had been on night-time picket duty when he fell between the sleepers of the rail track onto the road below.

The Territorial Force soldier from Darfield in Canterbury had been in Auckland only six weeks. He was part of the defence force mobilised from the outbreak of war to guard key points like railway infrastructure.

The New Zealand Herald of August 21, 1914, reported the findings of the coroner Mr E C Cutten SM that Hislop's death was from deferred shock following severe injuries. The newspaper said after the military funeral, the body was to be conveyed by train to the Waikumete cemetery.

At the commemorative service conducted on the centenary of Hislop's death at the refurbished grave by Defence Force chaplain Colin Mason, Colonel Louisa O'Brien of the New Zealand Defence Force said that one in ten New Zealanders served in World War I and no family was unaffected by the conflict.

"It is fitting that Sapper Robert Hislop is being recognised in the year that is the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. He was eager to serve New Zealand and died in the course of duty. He had a funeral with full military honours. One hundred years later, it is humbling to be part of the occasion to honour him again with full military honours."

Through Colonel O'Brien, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating sent a message that it was important this soldier was formally recognised as a war casualty.

Sapper Hislop's great-niece Sue Atkins spoke at the ceremony. She had researched the family history and had been instrumental in campaigning for Hislop's grave to be restored and for his status to be recognised.

In August 2014, Lieutenant General Keating, announced the inclusion of six New Zealand World War I soldiers on the New Zealand and Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s official rolls of honour. The decision to include the servicemen was the result of ongoing research into service personnel files carried out by the New Zealand Defence Force Historian, he said.

“In the majority of these cases, the military authorities at the time acknowledged their deaths were as a direct result of their service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force but, for various reasons, their names were not entered on the rolls of honour.

“It is important that these soldiers are now formally recognised. They, like more than 18,000 of their countrymen, died as a result of their service to New Zealand in the First World War,” he said.

The six soldiers are Private Arthur Joseph Best, Private David Falconer, Trooper Matthew Gallagher, Private Percy Hawken, Sapper Robert Arthur Hislop and Private Lester Edward Quintall. The decision has been forwarded to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage for inclusion on the National War Memorial Roll of Honour and to notify the Commonwealth War Graves Commission