Topic: Herbert Moyna

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James Herbert Patrick Moyna (Service no. 3/2516) was a First and Second World War soldier with links to Halswell.

James Herbert Patrick (Bert) Moyna was born in Halswell in 1895 on the 14th of April to Irish born Edward Moyna and New Zealand born Emily Julia Hamilton. He had two brothers, Edward Terence Joseph and Leo Gerrard Benedict, and three sisters, Emily Alice Mary, Annie Agnes and Irene Monica. Like many locals, their father was a farmer. The family were Roman Catholic along with several other Halswell Heroes. Though all the children had several names, many had nicknames; Ted, Leo, Emmie, Rene and Bert.

Bert enlisted as a private with the New Zealand Medical Corps (NZMC) when he was a month shy of his 21st birthday. He was a blue eyed boy with a fresh complexion, and brown hair, 163cm tall. 55kgs 122 pounds. Before the war he had ben working for George Clements as a clerk.

He was posted up to Palmerston North from the 11 March 1916, then was transferred to Awapuni camp on the 17th July. Awapunia Racecourse was a large training camp and the only training location for the NZMC. Men in training here were allowed slightly more freedom than men in other camps, and enjoyed a high reputation for their good behaviour in nearby Palmerston North, and "as far as one can judge the girls of Palmerston North have taken quite an exceptional interest in the Medical Corps" (The Dominion, 14/2/1916). To give themselves a break for the rigourous infantry and physical drills, Ambulance drills with stretchers and wagons, field work, medical lectures, instruction on hospital work and general lectures on disipline, the Medical Corps had a talent for music and hosted dances for the region.

Perhaps it was at one of these dances that Bert met Dolly. Mary Ethel Catt (Dolly) daughter of John Edmond and Maggie Catt, lived in Lower Manaia, near Masterton, cheerful and popular among numerous friends. They met some time in 1916 and had been keeping company when possible. However, Dolly’s parents were not aware of the relationship and did not approve. After meeting up with Bert one weekend in September and spending Sunday together, Bert walked Dolly home and said godobye at the door. Once inside, Dolly's mother Maggie told her off for going out with a soldier, and tragically, the next morning, Dolly was found hanging in her home. Bert and Dolly had made plans to meet up on Monday morning, before Bert had to catch the midday train back to camp. He had had no idea that her parents objected to their daughter dating a soldier. It is not known if Herbert was able to attend her funeral. She was 22 years old.

Only a few weeks later, on the 25th of September, Herbert boarded the Devon, and sailed off to war. He and the rest of the 17th Reinforcements, New Zealand Medical Corps arrived in Devonport on November 21st, and marched into Sling camp where they stayed for only a week of training before heading to France on the 29th of November.

He got in trouble for drunkenness while in Amiens, in May 1917. His punishment was 14 days field punishment number 2 – which meant he was placed in fetters (chains) and handcuffed, not tied to anything so he could still march with his unit.

In August he was detached to 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), at Trois Arbres near Steenwerck, in France. A CCS was a medical unit a little further back from the front lines where causalities could be treated till they were well enough to return to the front if their wounds were minor, or sent to a hospital if the wounds or illness was bad enough. He was with them till the 5th or 6th of September when he rejoined the New Zealand Stationary Hospital.

Bert spent Christmas in England as he was allowed leave from the 11th of December till the 27th, 1917. He rejoined his unit in the field in France but suffered injuries and illnesses on and off through the rest of the war.

On March 9th 1918 he was admitted into the NZ Stationary Hospital was PUO, Pyrexia (fever) of Unknown Origin and did not return to duty until the 22nd of March.

Later, on the 25th August 1918, he was injured in the field with burns to his face, and was again admitted into the NZ Stationary Hospital where he remained till the 5th of September, when he was discharged back to duty in Wisques. Just eleven days later he was in hospital again on the 16th, then back to duty on the 23rd September. 

In January 1919, a couple of months after the war was officially over, a medical board at Codford Camp looked him over. He was diagnosed with DAH – disordered action of the heart, which was also known as 'Soldiers heart' or 'effort syndrome', which was thought to be caused by physical and mental over-exertion. The board classified his health into the “B3” group, which meant he was capable of light, sedentary duties only.

Bert’s luck was still poor, even on his voyage home to New Zealand. He left Liverpool on the 7th of February on the Ajana, but the ship experienced very stormy weather in the Atlantic, which delayed the trip considerably.

At long last, the Ajana was due into Auckland on the 26th of March, carrying 894 soldiers, 140 of them bound for Canterbury. Only one other man on the Ajana was bound for Halswell: Richard Henry Mayfield.

Bert was finally discharged, after a long voyage home, on the 25th of April 1919, just after his 24th birthday.

He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

On 11th July 1934, Bert married Ivy Irene Phimester, and the couple lived in Palmerston, Otago, but less than two years later on the 25th of May 1936, Ivy passed away at the age of 27. 

Four years later, Herbert enlisted for the Second World War. He arrived at Burnham Military Camp in March, the same month as the death of his mother, Emily Julia Moyna (age 71). Bert was 45 when he enlisted was discharged in March 1946, just before he turned 51. Because his wife had passed away, his next of kin was his brother, Leo. He was awarded the 1939-45 War Medal and the NZ War Service Medal. Before the Second World War he was living at 65 Hawford road, Opawa. He had bought the ‘modern style bungalow’ in 1939.

Herbert survived this war, too, and returned back to his home in Opawa. He was a clerk until retirement, working for a while for the State Forest Service in Hamner in the 1940s, Asley Forest in the 50s, before moving back to St Albans, Christchurch by 1963. Herbert retired some time before 1972, and passed away at the age of 82 in October 1976. He had never remarried.

Herbert is buried in Ruru lawn Cemetery, and is remembered on the Halswell Hall Roll of Honour.



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Herbert Moyna

First Names:James Herbert Patrick
Last Name:Moyna
Place of Birth:Halswell, Christchurch, New Zealand