Topic: Vivian Hopkins

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Vivian Hopkins (Service no. 23/785) was a First World War soldier with links to New Brighton.

Vivian Phelps Hopkins, Christs College RegisterVivian Phelps Hopkins was born on 23rd May, 1892, at Belfast, Christchurch. He was the sixth son of Arthur Phelps Hopkins (who was a superintendent at the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company, Ltd) and Mary Elizabeth Phelps. They lived at 158 North Rd, Papanui, and later at 83 Lonsdale St, New Brighton.

Vivian was educated at Christ’s College. He was keen on athletics, and belonged to the Pioneer Sports Club. He also belonged to the Red and Black Association, the social club attached to the Christchurch Football Club, and the New Brighton Surf Bathing and Lifesaving Club. He was also in the Territorials. He was short, with brown eyes and dark brown hair.

After leaving school, he worked as a bank clerk for the Bank of New Zealand.

He signed up on 29th April, 1915, and left New Zealand on 9th October, heading for Egypt, as a Quartermaster Sergeant in the 1st New Zealand Rifle Brigade. There, the Rifle Brigade did more training and built up their fitness. They moved to Mersa Matruh in December, to join the fight against the Senussi. They left Egypt on 6th April, 1916, heading for Marseilles, France. He fought in the Battle of the Somme. In April the next year, he missed the beginning of the Battle of Messines as he was doing some officer training in England. He was made a Second Lieutenant of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade.

He then headed back into the field, near Messines, and then south east of Ypres. He would have been involved in trench warfare with atrocious weather over this time.

In January, 1918, he had nine days leave in Paris.

Just seven weeks later, he died in action, aged 25, on the 21st March, 1918, in Somme, when their area received very heavy shelling, bombing, and gassing by the Germans. He is buried at The Huts Cemetery, West-Vlanderen, Belgium.

He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Four of his brothers also fought in the war. His brother, Hereward Phelps Hopkins, was killed in the landing at Gallipoli, serving with the Otago Infantry Battalion

Vivian’s name is on the Sheldon Park (Belfast) War Memorial, the Papanui War Memorial, and the New Brighton Surf Bathing and Lifesaving Club Memorial Window.

Related Resources

  • Online cenotaph record of Vivian Phelps Hopkins. Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Vivian Phelps Hopkins’ military personnel file 1, Archives New Zealand (Archway)
  • Vivian Phelps Hopkins’ military personnel file 2, Archives New Zealand (Archway)
  • Ancestry Library Edition: New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981
  • W.S. Austin. The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Wellington, L. T. Watkins Ltd., 1924 - The New Zealand Electronic Text Collection
  • Beattie, P.J. Onward – portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Volume 1. Auckland :, Fair Dinkum Publications,, 2013-2014.


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Vivian Hopkins

First Names:Vivian Phelps
Last Name:Hopkins
Place of Birth:Belfast, Christchurch, New Zealand