Topic: Norman Henry Fraser

Topic type:

Norman Henry Fraser was a soldier in the First World War who lived for a time in the Wharenui, Riccarton area.

Norman was born on 27 April 1897. The story of his parents is difficult to trace through the records as his father's name was Alexander Fraser. According to an affadavit in his will he was born in Glebe Point, Sydney, Australia on 2 April 1865. On his military attestation form Norman recorded this fact as well as the birth place of his mother, Ethel (nee Hutchinson): Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in 1873 or 1875. Both emigrated to New Zealand at some time before they married in 1898. Alexander may have worked in various jobs until he acquired his own business in Victoria Street, Christchurch making venetian blinds.

Norman was the second child of four. The eldest sister Hilda Beatrice was born on 26 November 1898 followed by Norman, then Jessie Carrington (18 July 1900) and Ellen Mabel 'Nellie' (14 July 1905). Norman and Hilda attended school at West Christchurch (currently Hagley Community College) while Jessie went to school in Ashburton. But Nellie went to school in New South Wales. All of them eventually attended Wharenui School. Norman was enrolled there by his father on 28 January 1907 when the family were residing in Clarence Road, Riccarton. He finished at Wharenui School on 5 August 1910, having attained standard 4 level. He was listed in the Wharenui School 'Register of Admissions, Progress and Withdrawls' as destined for Christchurch Normal School but it is not known if he ever attended there. The next mention of him in any records is his enlistment in the army.

Norman reported for his medical examination in Christchurch on 6 May 1916 and was classed 'fit'. It also noted he was of fair complexion, fair hair, blue eyes with a height of 5' 9" and weight of 12 stone. It also noted a tattoo consisting of an anchor and cross on his left forearm. He entered the Trentham training camp on 1 June and on his attestation form stated that he had had no previous military service. His employment was with Smith & Smith, Christchurch. Alexander, his father was recorded as his next of kin at 43 Lincoln Road, Spreydon. Once his training was complete, Norman and the 17th contingent of reinforcements embarked at Wellington on 23 September 1916. Norman was on Troopship 65 The 'Pakeha'. His name is listed under C Company in the complimentary troopship magazine that was published on board titled 'Pakeha : the journal of the 17th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces on board H.M.N.Z. Transport 65 (S.S. "Pakeha")'. The voyage took them via; Albany, Australia (3 October), Capetown, South Africa (23 October), Dakar, Senegal (6 November) and finally Plymouth, England on 18 November. They proceded to Sling Camp on the same day.

The training at Sling was unusually brief as the 17th Reinforcements were sent to France on 9 December. But on arriving at Etaples on 10 December they spent an unusually long spell there where most of their training must have been undertaken. During his time there he had to forfeit two days pay for the offence of "shouting on march"!  Norman was sent to join his parent unit the 1st Company, 1st Canterbury Battalion, joining them on 14 February 1917. At this point the 1st Canterbury Battalion were about to depart the Bois Grenier sector just south of Armentieres and go into billets at Nieppe. Here they remained until 12 March when the whole New Zealand Division was moved towards the Messines sector.

Initially the British Command ordered the positions before Messines to be strengthened as they feared a German offensive in this sector and wanted it to be held at all cost. However no attack eventuated and soon the British resolved to launch their own major attack there to straighten out the line at Messines. Doing so would strengthen this, the southern flank of the big offensive in the Ypres salient which follow Messines. The New Zealand Division was to spearhead the attack at Messines. But first there was three months of intensive preparations to undertake. General Plumer would command the attack using a strategy of limited objectives which would be preceded and supported by a huge artillery barrage followed by consolidation before further limited objectives were pursued. This would become known as 'bite and hold' and was to prove a highly successful answer to the German defensive sytem.

Part of the preparations involved units being rotated into the area around St Omer to rehearse attacks on ground that closely resembled the Messines geography so that the men would be familiar with the terrain in the actual attack. Norman's battalion had it's rehearsals there during the last two weeks of April. In May 1st Canterbury Battalion were at Bulford Camp, Neuve Eglise where 300 men were engaged helping the Canadian Light Railway Operating Company construct a section of tracks.

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Norman Henry Fraser

First Names:Norman Henry
Last Name:Fraser