Topic: James Archibald

Topic type:

James Archibald (Service no. 25/302) was a First World War soldier with links to Halswell and who lived for a time in Wharenui, Riccarton

JAMES ARCHIBALD James Archibald was born 2 January 1897 in Christchurch. He was the eldest son of seven children, born to James Archibald (a storeman) and Ethel Annie King. He was known to his family as Boysie. His siblings were Lillian Ethel Louisa Archibald; Douglas Ira Garside Archibald; Leonard Trevor Archibald; Harold Barton Archibald; William Alister Archibald and Ethel Evelyn Archibald.

His parents lived variously in the Sydenham and Riccarton areas while James attended the West Christchurch District School (now Hagley Community College) from 4 February 1903 - 9 March 1904 and again from November 1904 before he attended the Riccarton School. When his family was living at Elizabeth Street, Wharenui, James was enrolled at the Wharenui School on 11 November 1907 in standard two. He finished standard three in December 1910. The school register gives his destination as Halswell. In 1911 the family moved to a farm on the corner of Sabys Road and Halswell Junction Road.

James presented himself for a medical examination in Christchurch on 6 July 1915 but was marked 'temporarily unfit', requiring an upper plate. This had been seen to by the 23 August when a follow-up examination declared him fit. At the time James enlisted in the Army on 11 October 1915 he had been working for Mr T. Conway on a farm at Midhurst, Kirwee. His attestation form lists his mother Mrs J. Archibald at P.O. Halswell as his next of kin. He falsified his date of birth by two years in order to join up.

James became a Rifleman of C Company 3rd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He went into training at Trentham but was very soon in Maymorn Camp and then finally finished most of his training at Rangiotu Camp (from 2 December 1915). C Company left camp on 4 February 1916 and marched through Wellington before embarking on Troopship 42 'Ulimaroa'. They sailed at midnight without equipment or rifles.

'The Blast : the magazine of the Third Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade' (Auckland War Memorial Museum)They arrived in Albany, Australia on 15 February but before departure on 17 February James was caught stealing 3 bottles of beer and 150 packets of cigarettes from the Railway Canteen. When they disembarked at Suez on 13 March 1916, C Company was moved by rail to the New Zealand Brigade Camp at Ismailia, Egypt where James received his 28 days of field punishment no. 2. The troopship Ulimaroa that brought him all the way from New Zealand to Egypt produced an on board magazine 'The Blast ' which would be officially printed in England in 1917 as a souvenir. It includes a roll of all the soldiers and officers of the 3rd Battalion on board the Ulimaroa but James's name is omitted, presumably because of his misdemeanour at Albany.

His stay in Egypt was brief as his unit left by ship from Alexandria for France on 7th April 1916 on board the 'Alaunia'. The Alaunia was among a fleet of transport ships laden with reinforcements which had to evade suspected enemy submarines, finally arriving piecemeal in Marseille between 12 - 14 April 1916. From Marseille the New Zealand reinforcements travelled by train for three days to Steenbecque where they were billeted in outlying villages. James's 3 Battalion was billeted in Tannay where they trained for fighting wearing gas masks. The New Zealand Division was to be "blooded" in along the relatively quiet Armentieres sector of the front to       prepare them for the bigger battles to come.

James, along with 100 other ranks and two officers chosen for their experience in mining or other allied occupations, were detached for duty with the 172 Tunnelling Company on 30 April. These hand-picked men came under the command of 2nd Lieutenant S. J. E. Closey and were immediately sent into the Bois Grenier sector to back up the Australians. Three days later they became the first New Zealanders in France to face the enemy in combat as they had to man the trenches when the Germans raided this sector. On 10 May the New Zealand Division went into the line in the Bois Grenier sector with James's 'tunneling' detachment relieving the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company who had been working here. A while later they were attached to the 2 Australian Tunnelling Company (also in the NZ sector) where they were given the task of constructing the 'ANZAC Shaft' and it's series of galleries around trench 74 near Hill 60. The ground here was water-logged and had layers of sand. In constructing this steel-lined, water-tight shaft the New Zealanders achieved a significant first on the Western Front. The mining detachment successfully concealed and then defended this shaft from a German attack that sought to locate and then destroy it on 3 July.

After two weeks with the Australian tunnellers James rejoined C Company on 27 June. Not long afterwards he was awarded 14 days Field Punishment No 1 for "using bad language to a superior officer". This usually involved being tied to a post for two hours each day, often in the presence of his unit and hard manual labour for the duration. He duly finished serving his punishment on 24 July. The entire New Zealand Rifle Brigade moved into Divisional Reserve billeting in Armentieres on 7 August as it was about to begin intensive training for involvement in it's first big battle - the Somme campaign. On 14 August the Brigade was relieved from Divisional Reserve and moved to the 2nd Army training area at Steenweck (James's 3rd battalion along with the 4th were quartered at Eblingham where they spent the week helping the local farmers bring in the harvest). On 20/21st August the Brigade moved to Limmercourt (3rd and 4th battalions based at Huppy) where they spent the remainder of August in intensive training and exercises.

The New Zealand Rifle Brigade broke camp at Limmercourt on 2 September and marched to Dermancourt which they reached on 8 September (3rd battalion marched via Longpre, Fremont and St Gratien). They reached Fricourt Camp east of Albert on 9 September and on 10/11 September they relieved the front sector between Delville Wood and the east corner of High Wood. The 3rd battalion manned the Carlton and Check trenches behind 4th battalion with Brigade HQ at Bazentin-le-Grand. The Brigade was relieved from the front line on 12 September (2nd and 3rd battaloins camped at Fricourt Wood). On 14 September the Brigade received orders for an attack on Flers which entailed an advance of about 2,500 - 3,000 yards.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was to be the third and final subsidiary battle of the Somme which had already raged since the massive attack of 1 July). It was notable for being the first time that the British used their new secret weapon, the 'land ships' or as they were already called 'tanks' on the battlefield. It was also preceded by the largest artillery bombardment of the war to date. The Bombardment began on 12 September and lasted until 15 September.

The allied attack began on 15 September with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade heavily involved in taking the last three of the four objectives set for the New Zealand Division. James' 3rd battalion had to take the 3rd objective, the trench system just north of the village of Flers. James' C Company was on the right flank of the New Zealand sector. The previous two objectives had already been won but the Germans were directing their artillery and machine gun fire on the areas behind these objectives. James and his comrades had to advance further through this maelstrom before attacking their objective, which had mostly intact barbed wire and machine gun positions. Three of the four company commanders of 3rd Battalion were killed or wounded in this advance but with the assistance of two tanks and the 4th Battalion on their right, the objective was won. The following two days were devoted to some further small-scale but undocumented attacks to consolidate positions and evacuate wounded.

The night of the 16 September brought rain which became torrential on the 17th and turned the trenches and shell-holes in to knee deep mud quagmires. James' personnel file states that it was not known when he was wounded but it does record that on 18 September 1916 he was evacuated by the No. 2 Field Ambulance to No. 45 Casualty Clearing Station with G.S.W. (Gun Shot Wounds) to his right knee.  He was finally admitted to No. 1 British Red Cross Hospital in Le Touquet  on 22 September.  He may well have been wounded in action on the 15th and not been evacuated until the 18th. Or he may have been wounded by German artillery fire that continued to rain down on the New Zealanders' newly won positions around Flers in the days after the 15th. Either way, the time it took to get him to hospital in Touquet probably saw his wounds become infected and for this to travel beyond his leg. He died on 1st October 1916 in Le Touquet,  Pas de Calais in France aged only 19 years. He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery, plot number Xl, E, ll.

Not long after the War ended James's parents moved to Fairview Farm, Claremont, Timaru.

His parents placed a memorial notice in the Press on the 1st October, 1920 which read

"No lapse of years can render less

His memory's sacred claim”

James is remembered both on the Roll of Honour of the Malvern War Memorial at Darfield, the Halswell War Memorial and the Wharenui School Memorial Gates and it's Roll of Honour board. Because his father was an active member of the Scottish Society of Christchurch James is also recorded on the Scottish Society Roll of Honour board.

He is also recorded on his parents' headstone at Karori Cemetery, Wellington

"In memory of our beloved boys Harold B Archibald died 8 June 1931 and James Archibald who died in France 1916 'Forget never'.

In memory of James Archibald died 6 August 1945. Also his beloved wife Ethel died 6 January 1964."


Related resources


Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion