Topic: Thomas Harold Lane

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Thomas (Harry) Lane was a former pupil of Wharenui School and resident of the Riccarton area who served in the First World War

Thomas was born in Riccarton, Christchurch on 23 May 1896 to Thomas Edward Lane and Alice Lane (originally of England). There was an older brother Leonard Walton Lane (b. 1894) but he died in 1903 when Thomas was just seven years old. Thomas began his education at the West Christchurch Disrict Junior School, reaching Standard 2 level there. When the Wharenui School opened in January 1907 it was convenient for the Lanes, who lived at 32 Division Streeet in Riccarton to enroll Thomas there. He was the 20th pupil enrolled on he School's opening day 28 January 1907. Thomas began at standard 3 level and when he finished on 22 December 1910 he had completed standard 6, picked up the prize for 'Best shot at cadets', a First Class Certificate of Attendeance and a Standard 6 Certificate of Proficiency. He was then slated to go on to Technical School.

Thomas was clearly an above average student as he went on to become an apprentice lithographer working for Weeks Ltd at the corner of Tuam and Madras Street, an occupation he would return to after the War. When Thomas first enlisted for military service in Christchurch on 12 June 1915 the Star newspaper mentioned that he was a promising runner and keen hockey player, which accorded well with Wharenui School's proud hockey reputation. He did not proceed to training camp and the reason is not clear. But he did enlist in the No. 1 Company of Engineers for he mentioned this in his attestation form when he did enter Featherstone training camp the following year. He did answer the call again in May 1916 for the Seveneenth Contingent of reinforcements. 

His medical examination was conducted in Christchurch on 2 June 1916 and he passed this with flying colours. It records his appearance; 5' 5", 133lbs, fresh complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. He faith was listed as Church of England. He entered Featherstone Camp on 3 October 1916 but for reasons not made clear in his military file he was to remain in camp more than a year, an unusal situation for a fit soldier. His file only has an ammended attestation form dated 3 November 1917. Before departing overseas Thomas made a final visit home to Christchurch where he was given a final farewell in the Riccarton Town Hall. The Star article which recorded this event referred to him as 'Bugler Harry', revealing that he preferred to be called Harry and that he was evidently a talented bugle player.

Harry embarked with the 30th Contingent of reinforcements on the Tofua (troopship 98) in Wellington Harbour and they departed on 13 November 1917. Their voyage included stops at Albany, Australia and Colombo, Ceylon before arriving at Suez where the disembarked on 21 December 1917. Harry was posted to the Training Regiment on 5 January 1918, then to the Imperial Camel Corps for training on 8 January. He was then posted to serve with the 15th NZ Company of the Camel Corps in the fireld. This unit was tasked with patrolling the vital Canal Zone. This had always been a potential achilles heel for the British in the Middle east and had been the object of a major offensive by the German led Ottoman Army in 1915. The Official History of the Cameliers records the activities of the 16th NZ Company in Palestine during this period and the 15th is barely mentioned. This was mainly due to the fact that the 15th saw little, if any offensive action in the Canal zone compared to the 16th figthing the Turks in Palestine. So information about the activities of Harry's unit is very scant. What is certain is that patrolling in these conditions often meant long excursions in the harshest conditions that tested men's health and endurance. Harry came through this without ever reporting sick.

By June there was no longer any need for the two NZ Companies of cameliers so these were disbanded and the men posted to the horse mounted regiments. Harry overstayed his leave by seven hours at the recently completed railway bridge at El Ferdan. On 8 June he was discplined with seven days Field Punishment No 2, which entailed being in fetters and hand-cuffs while with his unit and could also require him to do heavy labour duties. Harry was next detached to Battalion Headquarters but on 19 July 1918 he was admitted to Kantarra with a severe bout of gastritis. He was then sent to the 27th General Hospital at Abbassia, Cairo (22 July) and to recuperate he spent a final month in the comfort of the New Zealand-run Aotea Convalescent Home at Heliopolis (24 August). His condition was still "inflamed stomach - improving" on 22 September but he was finally discharged on 25 September and posted to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Training regiment (he needed acqainting with horses and mounted drill). He spent a short time on detachment to the Desert Mounted Corps Rest Camp at Port Said from 1 to 17 October before he rejoined his unit on 17 November.

The War may have ended but the Canterbury Mounted Rifles were to be kept busy for many more months to come. The Canterbury Mounted Rifles were selected to go to the Gallipoli Peninsula to ensure the Turks were complying with the terms of the armistice. On 28 November the entire regiment sailed from Kantara with the Australian 7th Light Horse Regiment on the HMT Huntcastle, an old captured German vessel. The Regiment left behind all but 81 of their horses as the men were to act as infantry. This 'policing' contingent arrived on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 5 December just as an increasing number of men were succumbing to a major outbreak of influenza. One of these was Harry who was admitted to the 28th Casualty Clearing Station at Chanak on 6 December. He had recovered when he rejoined his unit on 23 December but on 28 December was back in the 28th Casualty Clearing Station with a case of sciatica. From there he was transferred to the 52nd General Hospital in Salonika on 6 January 1919.

While Harry was recovering in Salonika all but four officers and 90 other ranks were shipped back to alexandria on 19 January. It must have been an eerie experience for him arriving back on the old battlefields of Gallipoli amidst so few of his comrades on 21 January. One of the other tasks the regiment performed was searching for remains and any pieces of regalia that could iidentify fallen comrades from those battles of four years ago and interring them in a makeshift cemetery. For this reason, some of the men left behind were of the original 'Main Body' or men who had fought at Gallipoli and were now back to lead this sombre task. Harry must have been regaled with many tales of the deeds of the veterans of 1915.

In February Harry was back in Egypt awaiting orders to embark for New Zealand but with tens of thousands of men in France and Egypt no longer required for duty, the wait would be a long one. In the meantime, tensions within Egypt over the desire for indepenence began to be expressed in protests. Harry informed his parents back home that he was already embarked on the troopship Devon when his unit was ordered off and called back to duty. The entire regiment was marched back to Kantara for remounting and equipping. The next few months were spent patrolling the Delta region and ensuring that calm prevailed. 'Rioters' were rounded up and instantly tried by a Court set up by Colonel Findlay (the Regiment's coammder) and, if found guilty setnced to fines, imprisonment and the lash.

On 30 June 1919 the Canterbury Mounted Rifles was disbanded and the men proceeded to embark for New Zealand. Harry was embarked on the Ellenga, the very last troopship to leave Egypt on 23 July. The voyage to New Zealand would involve several detours and delays. Being an Australian troopship, the Ellenga would arrive at Newcastle to disembark it's Australians and then wait for further New Zealanders who were in transit to Newcastle on another transport to make up the quota. Then it would proceed on to Auckland and Wellington where the South Island men would have to catch the Monowai to Christchurch. The projected arrival date of the Ellenga contingent was constanly pushed further out in the news reports. On the day the Monowai was due to steam into Lyttelton there was a delay of seven hours due to fog and the families, relatives and the AA were kept waiting from before 10 am until 5.30 pm. Harry would be discharged from active service on 12 October 1919. He was awarded the British War Medal and the victory Medal which he recieved in 1921 and 1922 respectively.

Harry returned to his parents home in Division Street, Riccarton where a few days later he was given a Welcome home party. He also returned to his occupation as a lithographer. There was another resident in Division Street (at number 28) who showed more than an interest in Harry.  In June 1923 Myrtle Muriel Quartley Cox and Harry married in the St Mary's Church in Addington with Canon Bean solemnising their vows. The following year saw the birth of their first daughter Joan Patricia (another daughter Beverley Leone was to follow but her birthdate is not currently avalable). The couple may have moved to their own home at 84 Picton Street soon after marrying - the electoral roll for 1928 shows this. In the New Year of 1934 the couple hosted a gift party for Myrtle's sister, Rena Cox who was about to be married. The newspaper report listed several members of both the Cox and the Lane families being present. In 1936 Harry was a pall-bearer at the funeral of Mr Frank Eugene Hyman. This prominent businessman had, since the 1870's, worked for and up the ranks of the Lyttelton Times to become one of it's its directors and then a local director of New Zealand Newspapers Ltd. He was also a an enthusiastic footballer and rower. Harry was likely connected with him in his work as a lithographer.

During the Second World War Harry again volunteered for service but this time he was to see service in the Christchurch West Battalion in the Home Guard. Once again he proved his worth in being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in B Company (1942) and then to temporary Lieutenant in 1943. Harry continued working as a lithographer until the day he retired - most likely on his 60th birthday in 1956. The electoral roll for 1963 lists Harry (by then a 'war pensioner') and Myrtle living at 49 Main South Road, Sockburn. Harry passed away on 7 June 1968, Myrtle on 9 March 1980. Both are buried in St Peter's Anglican Cemetery on Church Corner, Riccarton.

 

 References

  • Lyttelton Times Volume CXXI, Issue15497 (24 December 1910) page 11 'Prize Distributions - Wharenui School'.
  • Star Issue 11412 (23 June 1915) page 11 'Riccarton Whispers'  - Thomas enlisted for military service.
  • Star Issue 11705 (23 May 1916) page 3 'Call for Men - the Seventeenths' Thomas's second attempt to enlist.
  • Star Issue 12113 (15 September 1917) page 3 'Riccarton Whispers - Welcome and Farewell'.
  • Star Issue 12651 (7 June 1919) page 7 'Riccarton Whispers - Personal' Harry wrote the letter sometime around 17 March 1919 informing his parents about being recalled back to duty because of the Egyptian Rising.
  • Sun Issue 1718 (16 August 1919) page 9 'Returning Home - The Ellenga's Draft'.
  • Star Issue 12745 (15 September 1919) page 6. 'Local and General' (Monowai's delay in paragraph 5).
  • Star Issue 12750 (20 September 1919) page 4. 'Riccarton Whispers - Local and General - Returned Home'
  • Press Vol LIX, Issue 17799 (23 June 1923) page 2  'Women's Corner - Weddings - Lane-Cox'
  • Press Vol LXX, Issue 21052 (2 January 1934) page 2. 'News for Women - Current Notes - Gift Party' for Rena Cox.
  • Press Vol LXXII, Issue 21830 (9 July 1936) page 16. Funeral of Mr F.E. Hyman.

Sources

Ancestray.com

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Thomas Harold Lane


First Names:Thomas Harold
Last Name:Lane
Place of Birth:Christchurch