Topic: Henry Walter Vicary

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Henry Walter Vicary (Australian Army 37/4349) was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton

Leonie Miller, who is a librarian at the Upper Riccarton Public Library in the Main South Road and former librarian in charge of the Family History Centre in Fendalton Road, recently alerted me to the fact that one of the soldiers listed amongst the 38 who were killed in World War One on the memorial within the Upper Riccarton War Memorial (private) Library at 372 Riccarton Road, did not serve with the NZ Army but with the Australian Army. His name is Henry Walter Vicary. (See photo below). According to various documents seen, he was either “born at sea” or at Kingston, Jamaica. Perhaps on board a ship there? I suspect his father was in the Royal Navy and his pregnant mother was accompanying her husband on a voyage. His parents were from Devon and at the time of the 1871 census his father was not at home with the family. Henry had 3 older brothers whose births were recorded near naval bases in the London area. One of his older brothers, Alfred Vicary emigrated to NSW, Australia. At some stage Henry ended up in Christchurch and here he married Mary Elizabeth Smith in 1904. They had no children but lived in Upper Riccarton, in Bowen Street (very near our former meeting venue).

Information supplied to the authorities after his death by his wife states Henry had worked as a sailor, a carpenter and a labourer and when enlisting he stated he was an engine driver. It is believed that Henry left his wife because he went to Australia before War broke out in 1914 and joined the Army there on 1 March 1915, answering the question “Are you married?” with “No”. His next-of-kin was given as his mother in Devonshire. He became a Private in the 4th Battalion. He was killed in action at Dardanelles on the Gallipoli Peninsula sometime during the period 6-9 August 1915, only six months after joining up.

His name is recorded on a memorial in the Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery but exactly where he is buried there is unknown. Likewise his age is not known for sure because when he signed up on 1 March 1915 he stated his age as 38 years one month but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his age at death as 44. No record of a birth registration or a baptism has been found for him so far.

As was the usual case, it took some years for a deceased soldier’s war medals, memorial plaque and accompanying scroll to be issued to his next-of-kin.

These were sent to his mother (by then living in Cornwall) but she died in February 1922. By this time his widow back in Upper Riccarton had contacted the Army in NZ, who forwarded the letter to Australia and it was ascertained that only the 1914-15 Star could be retrieved from England and it was sent to his widow in NZ. Within a month of Henry’s death his brother Alfred in NSW had contacted the military authorities and wanted them to deal with only him but they stated that their mother was the stated next-of-kin.

The name of Private H W Vicary appears on at least 4 memorials: Upper Riccarton, Christchurch, NZ; Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia; Johnston’s Jolly, Gallipoli; and on the gravestone of his parents in Ilfracombe, Devon, on which his date of death is wrongly stated as 6 September 1915 and his age as 43 (which is more likely to be correct).

This is a photo of his parents’ gravestone in Ilfracombe, Devonshire.
It has been kindly provided by the website www.gravestonephotos.com

Researched and written by Alan Tunnicliffe

Originally published in Riccarton Branch NZSG Newsletter, April 2014, pages 3-4

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Henry Walter Vicary


First Names:Henry Walter
Last Name:Vicary