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kildaremark

3rd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion

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I have a letter from 33803 Joseph Burke, of A Company, 3rd Entrenching Battalion to his family in Kildare from France dated 20/3/1918. Does anyone know anything about this unit (or the man). I haven't ordered his file yet.

Would this be an engineering unit? Is there anything on line that would give embarkation dates etc?

Thanks

Mark

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The NZ Entrenching Group was created at the time of the disbandment of the anomalous 4th New Zealand Brigade on 7th February 1918. All of this is explained in the excellent 'The New Zealand Division 1916 - 1919', H. Stewart (in effect part of the NZ 'Official History) - see pages 328-29. Apart from men being sent to other brigades to bring them up to stregth, the surplus to the divisional establishemnt ware 'formed into a New Zealand Entrenching Group of three battalions'. The 3rd of these had the title 3rd NZ (Rifle Brigade) Entrenching Bn. They became for a while a sort of glorified training cadre for all branches of the service when the latter came up as drafts to the NZ Reinforcement Wing (thus saving them from the joys of Base Training at Etaples).

The NZ Division moved to IV Corps area in spring 1918 (ie got involced in the German Spring Offensive); the Group was reorganised into two battalions at the end of August and dsibanded in October. On p. 377 the history somewhat contradcts this footnote (p. 329) when it states that the 1st and 3rd Battalions were on the Somme by the end of March (all kitted up and ready to fight), but that the second was at Abeele (up on the Belgian border, to the west of Poperinge). It took part in fighting around Meteren. The impresion is given that during the offensive these units were used somewhat piecemeal to reinforce as necessary.

Hope this helps - it'll be interesting to see what the WDs say about these rather interesting units.

NTAC

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Hi, Mark

The Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph are putting up basic information on each man in the NZEF (previously it was generally only those who had been killed in the war, or men who were highly decorated) - sometimes this amounts to only the information that was on the nominal roll and/or the CWGC site. Family are able to send information and photos to the museum to be uploaded as well, and also there are sometimes photos from the Auckland Weekly News of the day.

In the case of your chap it says:

Surname: Burke

Forenames: Joseph

Serial No.: 33803

War: World War I, 1914-1918

Enlistment Occupation: Labourer

First Rank: Private

Embarkation Next of Kin: Mrs Mary Ann Burke (mother), Johnson Bridge, County Kildare, Ireland

Embarkation Date: 19 January 1917

Embarkation Unit: 21st Reinforcements Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company

Transport: Ulimaroa

As it doesn't list date of death etc, we can assume he survived the war.

I've gone through all the Burkes on the nominal roll CDrom and only found one other Burke with NOK listed in Ireland. However, they're in County Clare so I doubt the men are brothers.

Surname BURKE

Given Name William

Category Nominal Roll Vol. 3

Regimental Number 61526

Rank Private

Next of Kin Title Mrs M

Next of Kin Surname BURKE

Next of Kin Relationship Mother

Next of Kin Address White Gate County Clare Ireland

Roll 75

Page 28

Occupation Bushman

Allie

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They are certainly a very interesting aspect of NZ WW1 History, albiet one that very few people are aware of. The War Diarys are partly located with the NZ Archives, and I understand some are also in private hands.

As mentioned by Nigel, they were a training unit from early 1918, and a feeder unit to replace casualtys in the line Battalions. They were also valuable to the 1st NZ Division in that they could be detatched for labouring tasks in support of the Division and the Corp that the Div was attatched to. Thus the line regiments were spared being overworked when out of the line.

The ability to allow the line Regiments to get on with the job of training, resting and fighting was immense and ensured that the Division in 1918 was well trained, fully manned and probably at it's most effective for the duration of the war.

But as mentioned, not much is ever mentioned.

But as mentioned, not much is ever mentioned.

Nice; an oxymoron. Well done me.

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Thanks guys,

So if he went overseas with the 21st Reinforcements Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company, in January 1917, I presume he was more than likely wounded/sick to end up in the entrenching battalion.

Thanks,

Mark

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As with all the Infantry Brigades in the NZEF the attachments were given a realtive numerical number to them and usually fought with their "parent" unit or in support. i.e the 3rd NZ Field Ambulance, the 3rd NZ (Rifles) Brigade Light Trench Mortar Battery, No.3 Coy NZASC were with the 3rd NZRB.

The 3rd NZ Macnine Gun Coy originaly came from members of the NZRB gunners but ended up as a provincialy named unit with each coy named after the four main NZ centres in the reorganisation in Feb 1918.

5Bn NZRB was a training Bn and had a distinctive RB black blaze (a black lozenge) as per their fighting Battalions.

However it should be noted that the NZ Maori (Pioneers) who were attached to the 3rd NZRB for admin purposes did not fight with the NZRB as well as the 3rd Entrenching Bn who also never fought with the NZRB. They appear to be never mentioned in the NZRB Official History.

As mentioned in Stewart the Entrenching Group took drafts from all branches of the service, not merely the infantry and superceded the Estaples Base. This Group was reorganised into 2 Bn's in August 1918 and disbanded in October 1918.

As you can see the 3rd Entrencing Bn was only around for about seven months.

Regards

Richard Bate

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Mark

Here is some information on your man from his military file. There are 20 pages on file – some of which is typed but unfortunately the file has gaps in details and doesn't answer all your questions.

Overview

Joseph Burke was born on 18 February 1887 in Dublin. He was single and a labourer working for J Kearns, Kinohaku, Kawhia, Auckland. His next of kin was his mother Mrs Mary Anne Burke, Johnson Bridge, County of Kildare Ireland.

He enlisted on 30 May 1916 at Auckland and joined Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company as a private with regimental number 33803. His medical examination took place in Auckland on the 3 June 1916. He was 29 years 4 months old on enlistment and he was described as being 5 feet 9 inches in height, with fair complexion, blue eyes and light coloured hair. He was a Roman Catholic. Interestingly Major PA Lindsay, the Medical Officer, describes the condition of Joseph’s teeth as “deferred.” This may explain why he didn’t leave New Zealand until January 1917.

According to his file he left New Zealand as part of the 21st reinforcements on HMNZT No 74 (‘Ulimaroa’) on 19th January 1917. His file also records that disembarked at Devonport on 27 March 1917. (The Ulimaroa actually left on 21 January 1917 and arrived in Devonport, Plymouth on 27 March 1917.) On arrival he was posted to the ‘Auckland Coy 3 Res Battalion’ on 28 March 1917. He left Sling Camp on 24 April 1917 for ‘4 Brigade’ at Codford.

On 25 January 1918 he was “detached to 1st Australian Tunnelling Coy’ and on 28 May 1918 he embarked for overseas. He was attached to “Rest Camp on 8 February 1918 and 10 April 1918 he joined the 2 Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade – C Company. He received gun shot wounds (shrapnel) to his right thigh at the battle of Cambrai on 8 October 1918 and was transported to England where he underwent two operations on his thigh. At a Medical Board examination held at Hornchurch on 20 December 1918 he was “discharged as permanently unfit for active service 6 months and unfit for home service 3 months.”

He returned to New Zealand on transport No 217 ‘Zealandic’ on 18 January 1919. He underwent another Medical Board examination on board on 24 January 1919 and he was described as having 30% disablement as a result of the GSW to his thigh. he also had fluid on right knee but was described as “weak / improving” “OK for light duties.”

Joseph Burke died of sickness at Te Kuiti, North Island, New Zealand on 20 February 1956.

Summary of file details:

Name: Joseph Burke

Registration number: 33803

Place Born: Dublin

Date of birth: 18 February 1887

Occupation: Labourer

Last employer: J Kearns, Kinohaku, Kawhia, Auckland

Last New Zealand Address: Kinohaku, Kawhia, South, Auckland

Next of kin: Mrs Mary Anne Burke, Johnson Bridge, County of Kildare Ireland (mother)

Enlisted 30 May 1916 at Auckland

Joined: A Coy 2 Bn NZRB

Rank: Rifleman

Attesting Officer: O Henry Lieut

Medical description on enlistment 3 June 1916 at Auckland:

Declared Age: 29 years 4 months

Height: 5 feet 9 inches

Weight: 11 st 6 lbs

Chest measurement –

· minimum: 35 inches

· maximum: 40 inches

Complexion: Fair

Colour of eyes: Blue

Colour of Hair: Light

Religious Profession: Roman Catholic

Martial status: Single

Pronounced “fit” by Major P A Lindsay

Condition of teeth: “Deferred”

Inoculations

1st inoculation 4.11.16

2nd inoculation 13.11.16

Service:

New Zealand from 13.9.16 to 19.1.17

Foreign 19.1.17 to 28.2.19

Returned to New Zealand on ‘Zealandic’ (No 217 OC Troops Lt Col McKenzie; Ship’s Master: C H Graeme – carried 18 officers, 995 other ranks and 8 nurses total: 1,021) Departed 18.1.19 and arrived New Zealand 28.2.19

Period of service

New Zealand 156 days

Overseas 2 years 41 days

Total service: 2 years 197 days

Date commenced duty 13.9.16

Date finally discharged 28.3.19

Address of return to New Zealand c/o Waikato Timber Co, Waerenga via Te Kaiwhatu.

Medical

Passed through

4th Casualty Clearing Station: 8.10.18

18th General Hospital: 10.10.18

Admitted to hospital 2nd NZ General Walton-on-Thames Ward 9: 16.10.18 to 11.12.18 GSW right thigh 57 days

NZ Convalescent Hospital Hornchurch: 11.12.18 to 15.1.19 GSW right thigh

Key dates

27.3.17 Disembarked Devonport

28.3.17 Posted Auckland Coy 3 Res Bn

24.4.17 Left Sling Camp for 4 Bgd Codford

25.4.17 Posted to 3 Auckland Bn 4 Bgde

28.5.18 Embarked for overseas

25.1.18 Detached to 1st Australian Tunnelling Coy

8.2.18 Attached Rest Camp

10.4.18 Joined 2 RB AP TER C Coy

4.7.18 Rejoined unit ad ambulance

10.10.18 Wounded France admitted hospital GSW right thigh

16.10,18 Admitted Walton

11.12.18 Admitted Hornchurch

Two Medical Proceedings reports on file:

1 Hornchurch 20 Dec 1918

Occupation on this form lists Joseph Burke as a farmer.

Age 32

GSW Thigh R Shrapnel – penetrating wound anterior aspect thigh

Two medical operations recorded – 10.10.18 and 22.10.18

Date of origin of disability: 8.10.18

Place of origin of disability: Cambrai

General weakness of leg

Discharged as permanently unfit for active service 6 months and unfit for home service 3 months

Signed R S Mack Capt

2 ‘Zealandic’ 24 January 1919

Underwent Medical Board examination on board.

GSW right thigh

30% disablement

Fluid on right knee

Weak / improving

OK for light duties

Signed A Purchase President of Proceeding

Died of sickness at Te Kuiti 20 February 1956

The Official History of the NZRB compiled by Lieut Col W S Austin carries a useful description of the battle of Cambrai.

Zack

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Wow!

Thanks Zack

Your research and help is greatly appreciated.

Regards

Mark

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Hi Zak

I wonder what this man was doing for some 12 months in the UK while with 3Bn of 4th Brigade? as From the key dates below it is difficult to see when he was with the 3rd Entrenching Bn as in April 1918 he was with 2Bn NZRB (what does AP TER mean?)

or did he head overseas before May 1918 as per his attachment to 1st Aust Tunnellers?

Maybe the gaps if the files as mentioned would have made this clearer.

Perhapes he was in France from April 1917 with 3rdBn 4th Brigade on active service, then attached to 3rd Entrenching when 4th Brigade was broken up in or about January 1918. In April 1918 he was transfered to the NZRB. What are your thoughts?

Key dates:

27.3.17 Disembarked Devonport

28.3.17 Posted Auckland Coy 3 Res Bn

24.4.17 Left Sling Camp for 4 Bgd Codford

25.4.17 Posted to 3 Auckland Bn 4 Bgde

28.5.18 Embarked for overseas

25.1.18 Detached to 1st Australian Tunnelling Coy

8.2.18 Attached Rest Camp

10.4.18 Joined 2 RB AP TER C Coy

Cheers

Richard Bate

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Hi Richard

You ask the same questions that I've asked myself!! The file is the result of culling and as a result it is fragmentary in nature - this is true of most NZEF files. Sadly I don't have any answers only questions like you! I may stumble across some more details in the course of my research but it will take time.

Perhaps other pals may have answers or suggestions in the meantime. Or if any family members are reading this thread......

Zack

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The file is the result of culling and as a result it is fragmentary in nature - this is true of most NZEF files.

And yet it is maintained that files were only culled of information that 'doubled up'. Yeah, right. :(

(I just don't understand how there can be so many pages of information on some men who died very early on in the war and were not promoted, yet my great uncle has 2 sheets. Died 1917 and went from Pte to Lt. )

Allie

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Guys,

If it helps, his letter says:-

"Somewhere in France

20 March 1918

Dear Kathleen

Just a few lines to let you know I am keeping well. I think there must be something wrong with the mail as I have had none lately. I expect to be getting my leave any day now as you will not know the moment I will drop in on you. When writing again change my address to A Coy 3rd NZ entrenching battalion. We are having lovely weather here just now. I hope it will continue as I have no more to say at present. I will conclude with love to all home from your affectionate brother.

Joe Burke 33803

PS Write soon"

Just changed address with the possibility of going on leave - his family were in Ireland. Looks to me if "28.5.18 Embarked for overseas" was change to "28.5.17 Embarked for overseas" instead it would make sense.

Mark

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Just changed address with the possibility of going on leave - his family were in Ireland. Looks to me if "28.5.18 Embarked for overseas" was change to "28.5.17 Embarked for overseas" instead it would make sense.

I think this is a good assumption - and correct. This could be supported with a search of the Bn diaries

cheers

Richard

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Hi Richard

A good idea and you are correct it would make sense - the only trouble is that it isn't what is recorded on the man’s file - but files are notoriously inaccurate at times and need to be doubled checked against other data – good suggestion of yours.

Cheers

Zack

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