Topic: Reginald Vincent
Reginald Cuthbert Vincent was a First World War soldier who served in both Gallipoli and the Western Front.
DOB: 10/6/1895--per school record (claimed 1894 on attestation sheet, recorded as 20 years, 3 months)
Entered service: 20/10/1914
Highest rank: Pfc
Company: Otago Infantry Battalion
Reginald Cuthbert Vincent was born 11 June, 1895, though like many at the time, he would lie about this on his enlistment form in 1914, claiming he was born a year earlier and therefore over the age threshold in 1914.
Reginald's father, Willliam Charles, married Annie Golding in Dunedin in 1891. Annie was one of 18 children and a first generation New Zealander, her parents having emigrated from Shopshire in England in 1856, arriving in Lyttelton on the Isabelle Hercus.
It is not clear exactly when or why the Vincents shifted from Dunedin for a time, but records indicate that they were in Christchurch for the birth of their first son, Charles William in 1891. Reginald was the second of a total of seven children--five boys and two girls--though Eunice, born in 1905, would only live 21 months.
Vincent attended Wharenui School from ??? to ???
At some point, afterwards, Reginald, his parents, and likely the entire family, shifted back to Dunedin. By the time Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914, his parents were in Musselburgh and Reginald was on Rawhiti Street in Andersons Bay. According to his englistmetn papers, at the time Reginald Vincent was working for a "Mr Waghorn". Most likely this was Roland Waghorn, an immigrant from the UK who was an importer of glass, paper hangings and "colours".
Vincent joined thousands in volunteering to go overseas, making his way to the recruitment office on a Friday in late September, the 25th to be precise. He was found to be in fit form for joining, though at a diminutive 5'3", he just squeaked in on the height requirement.
Each of the four military districts was responsible for raising a quarter of the Main Body force, and recruiting officers were initially spoilt for choice. New Zealand was well prepared to mobilise troops at the beginning of the war thanks to the creation of the Territorial Force in 1911, which used compulsory part-time training to create a 30,000-strong army. Almost half of the Main Body force were active Territorials. Only men aged between 20 and 40 were eligible to enlist in the Main Body, although underage and overage soldiers managed to slip through. Recruits had to be at least 162.5 cm tall, weigh 76 kg or less, and be physically fit. Medical rejection rates for 1914 averaged 25 percent. (quoted from the WW100 site)
According to the Evening Star of 21 October, 1914, Vincent was sent north to Trentham Military Camp "to form part of the first reinforcement of the main expeditionary force." Trentham was the central area for training at the time, and it would be here that Vincent receive his training before setting sail. The article listed Vincent as part of the Veterinary Mobile Corps, so it is likely his duties included working under veterinarians in the care of horses to be sent overseas. Colonel CJ Reakes wrote in The War Effort of New Zealand:
Early in the war the War Office requested the New Zealand Government to send two veterinary mobile sections and two veterinary hospital sections to Egypt. Arrangements were promptly made for this purpose. Suitable men were selected for the various duties which were to be done under veterinary officers, and were trained at a remount depot, which was established at Upper Hutt, New Zealand, where experts gave a series of lectures and demonstrations. These men eventually left with the third reinforcements. The reinforcements for subsequent veterinary units were similarly trained at Upper Hutt. (The complete section can be accessed via this link.)
Over time, an entire camp dedicated to war horses would be set up in Palmerston North, but these were still early days. To what degree Vincent was involved is unknown, but Vincent departed with the 2nd reinforcements on December 12. Reakes goes on to note:
In January, 1915, the veterinary personnel, composed of two mobile sections, and two veterinary hospital sections, arrived in Egypt from New Zealand. Each hospital could take in about 250 horses. One was for the mounted brigade, and the other for the infantry and artillery. While the New Zealand Brigade was at Zeitoun camp, an epidemic of influenza raged among the animals for six weeks. Almost all of the 5,000 of them in the lines were affected, and about 75 died. Next came ringworm, which affected about 80 per cent.
The Mobile Veterinary corps would see action in Gallipoli, but Vincent would not be part of the initial wave. While not suffering the same fate as the horses, Vincent did find himself admitted to hospital for a few days for (of all things) acne that April of 1915.
The Otago Regiment departed Egypt for the Dardanelles in April, but Vincent remained behind, being posted to the Advance Base Depot Mustapha, in Alexandria. Whatever issues he had must have been over by May, as he re-joined his unit in the Dardanelles on the 9th.
(Advanced Base Depot at Mustapha, Source: National Army Museum of New Zealand)
Vincent's service record gives no indication of what duties and/or actions he was involved in over the next few months. What is known is that we was transferred to the casualty clearing station on Imbros (a small island just offshore from Gallipoli) on August 10th. Where, how and to what degree he was wounded is unclear, but an educated guess would indicate that, being a member of the Otago Battalion, we was part of the reinfocements to hold the line at Chunuk Bar. The attack had started on the night of August 6th but it fell behind schedule. The Auckland Battalion sufferered heavy casualties on the 7th, and it was not until the 8th that a combination of the Wellington Brigage, Auckland Rifles and British soldiers reached the summit of the hill. It was the Otago Brigade the relived the Wellington on the night of August 8-9, in turn being relieved the next night by the British, who very soon after were overrun by a Turkish counterattack.
There is no direct record of where and how he was wounded, but we do know he was admitted to the casualty clearing station on the island of Imbros on August 10. The Otago Battalion was part of the relief reinforcements on August 8th at The Battle of Chunuk Bair, so it is possible Vincent was involved.
From Imbros to a hospital on Lemnos and then, on the 31st of August, Reginald Vincent set sale for London, likely aboard the hospital ship HMHS Rewa, a converted steamer.
HMS Rewa before the war. The ship was original built for the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1906.
Image: Public Domain
Vincent was admitted to the County of London War Hospital on September 11, but he did not stay long, arriving in Alexandria from London less than two weeks later on the 23rd, where he rejoined his unit at Moascar. It appears from the record Vincent remained in Egypt for the next 7 months, finally leaving for France April 4, 1916. There is a gap in the record and we have no knowledge of his activities until September 11, when he was attached to the 1st NX Light Trench Mortar Battery.
Sometime, between the 16th and 20th of September, Reginald Vincent was shot in the head at the Battle of the Somme. There is no description beyond that of the wound, so where in the head and to what extent is unknown. He did survive, however. He was taken to the casualty clearing station and then onto the 23rd General Hospital at Etaples.
A general view of the World War I New Zealand military camp in Etaples, France, 4 August 1918. Photograph taken by Henry Armytage Sanders.
He was then shipped off to England again, this time on the HS Stad Antwerpen.
Image: Public Domain
He arrived in London on the 28 of September and was admitted to the 2nd London Hospital at Chelsea. He was transferred 2 and a half weeks later to the Convalescent Camp at Hornchurch.
Grey Towers New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch, Essex, England, [ca 1918]
Reference Number: 1/2-057933-F
Entrance to Grey Towers New Zealand Convalescent Hospital for World War I soldiers, in Hornchurch, Essex, England, circa 1918. Photographer unidentified.
Hospital ward, soldiers and nurses, NZ Convalescant Hospital, Hornchurch, Essex, England. No known copyright restrictions
A view of the marquees in the grounds of Grey Towers, the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch, England, during World War I. Photograph taken by Thomas Frederick Scales.
Vincent remained at Hornchurch for sometime, managing to get himself in trouble on a few occasions for absence without leave and drunkeness. The punishments were simply forfeiture of a total of three days pay for two separate offenses.
By July of that year, he was still in England at the Codford Camp, detailed for mess orderly duty, but in August he found himself back in the 3rd General Hospital at Codford for VD. Discharged in October and then readitted, he finally went back to duty in November, being attached to the Strength Depot, and in January, marched out to Sling Camp in Wiltshire.
National Library of Australia. Public Domain
Sling Camp. The giant Kiwi was not created until after the armistace to give restless soldiers something to do. Public Domain
It would not be until April that he returned to France, marching into Etaples on the 17th and joining his battalion in the field May 19th. By mid-August, he had fallen ill, and once again found himself in a casualty clearing station, this time rejoining his unit September 19. It is unknown what engagements if any he participated in over the next two months, but with the signing of the armistice on Nov 11, 1918, the war was over.
Vincent would not be discharged until February, and it would June before he sailed for home, arriving on the 28th of July 1919, and then returning to Dunedin.
It is unclear what Vincent’s activities in the decade after the war, but his name appears on the 1925 Electoral Rolls for Rotorua and then in 1928 in the Bay of Plenty. He had secured work on the NZ railways, and was employed with them for at least the next two decades in various parts of the country. In 1935, he is listed back in Dunedin with his wife Margaret Stewart Grey, whom he married on the 30th December 1932, this time listed as a . He appears again in 1954 in Avon, Canterbury rolls, now listed as an engine driver and it appears he continued in this profession up to his retirement.
Reginald Vincent passed away on November 25, 1974 in Christchurch and is buried in Bromley Cemetary (block 5, plot 469).