Topic: Reginald Vincent

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Reginald Cuthbert Vincent (Service no. 8/1351) was a First World War soldier with links to Wharenui School, Riccarton.

 

Early life

Reginald Cuthbert Vincent

Reginald Cuthbert Vincent was born 11 June, 1895, though like many at the time, he would add a year to his actual age on his enlistment form  in 1914 to appear old enough for military service. 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 the Vincents shifted from Dunedin, but records indicate that they were in Christchurch when their first son, Charles William was born in 1891.  Reginald would arrive 3 years later, the second of a total of seven children--five boys and two girls--though Eunice, born in 1905, would only live for 21 months.

Vincent attended Opawa School with at least two of his younger siblings, Myrtle and Harold, then Wharenui School beginning in May 1908. There is no indication of how long he was at the school, but his siblings both stayed until the age of 13, Myrtle leaving in 1910 and Harold in 1914. Reginald, who was two years older may have left sooner.

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 4 August 1914, his parents were in Musselburgh and Reginald was on Rawhiti Street in Andersons Bay.  When he enlisted for the army Reginald was working for a "Mr Waghorn". Most likely this was Roland Waghorn, an immigrant from the UK who ran a business importing glass, paper hangings and "colours".

 

Wartime service

Along with thousands of other men who volunteered when war broke out, Reginald presented himself at the local recruitment office on Friday 25 September. He was found to be fit and despite his height of 5'3" (160.0 cm) was accepted into the army.

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, Reginald was sent 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 here he received his training before setting sail. The article listed Reginald as part of the Veterinary Mobile Corps where his duties would include working under veterinarians caring for the horses to be sent overseas.  Colonel C J 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. 

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 Reginald was involved is unknown, but he departed with the 2nd Reinforcements on 12 December 1914.  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 VeterinaryPhoto from page 05 of album WWI Photograph Album - Egypt and Gallipoli. National Army Museum of New Zealand. Accession No.1991.587 corps would see action in Gallipoli, but Reginald would not be part of the initial wave as he was admitted to hospital for what must have been a severe case of acne in April 1915 and was then posted to the Advance Base Depot Mustapha in Alexandria. Having recovered by 9 May he was posted to the Otago Infantry Regiment in the Dardanelles.

Reginald took part in the ill-fated attack on Chunuk Bair. This attack began on the night of 6 August 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 Battalion, Auckland Mounted Rifles (who fought as infantry) and British soldiers reached the summit of the hill. The Otago Battalion relieved the Wellington Battalion on the night of 8 - 9 August, in turn being relieved the next night by the British, who very soon after were overrun by a Turkish counterattack. He was wounded on Chunuk Bair and evacuated to the casualty clearing station on Imbros(a small island just offshore from Gallipoli) on 10 August.

 HMS 'Rewa' before she entered miltary service.

From Imbros to a hospital on Lemnos and then, on the 31 August, Reginald set sail for London, likely aboard  the hospital ship HMHS 'Rewa'a converted steamer. Reginald was admitted to the County of London War Hospital on 11 September but he did not stay long. He arrived in Alexandria from London less than two weeks later on 23 September, where he rejoined his unit at Moascar.  It appears from the record that he remained in Egypt for the next seven months, finally leaving for France on 4 April 1916. There is no record of his activities until 11 September, when he was attached to the 1st New Zealand Light Trench Mortar Battery.

 

World War I New Zealand military camp in Etaples, France, 4 Aug 1918  Reference Number: 1/2-013754-G  A general view of the World War I New Zealand military camp in Etaples, France, 4 August 1918. Photograph taken by Henry Armytage Sanders. ATLNot long after, between 16 and 20 September Reginald was badly wounded in the head at the Battle of the Somme.  This earned him the unfortunate honour of having the shortest term of service with the Battery of all the men who served with that unit. He was taken to the casualty clearing station and then onto the 23rd General Hospital at Etaples.  He was then shipped off to England again, this time on the HMHS 'Stad Antwerpen'. 

 HS Stad Antwerpen

 

 

He arrived in London on the 28 September 1916 and was admitted to the 2nd London Hospital at Chelsea. He was transferred two and a half weeks later to the Convalescent Camp at Hornchurch. He had a long recuperation during this time in hospital. 


Hornchurch Convalescent CampGrey 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. ATL. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=12656

 

Bulford Camp postcardBy August of 1917, he was still in England but at the Codford Camp, detailed for mess orderly duty. He was finally discharged back to duty in November, being attached to the Strength Depot, and in January, marched out to Sling Camp in Wiltshire. Reginald returned to France in 1918, marching into Etaples on 17 April and then transferred to the 2nd Entrenching Battalion in the field on 19 May. The 2nd Entrenching Battalion was a temporary unit formed to employ newly arriving reinforcements and men returning from convalescence. It fulfilled a much needed supply of labour digging trenches, laying wire and carrying supplies but could also serve in a combat role when required. Due to the temporary nature of the entrenching battalions no official unit history was written about them. So there is no record of Reginald's activities while he was with this unit. But on 26 August he had fallen ill and was diagnosed with mumps.

Reginald rejoined 1st Otago Battalion (he was with 14th Company) on 19 September in time to see action in the final Allied offensive of the war. This big push aimed to break through and beyond the Hindenburg Line and for the first time since 1914 the nature of the fighting was once again mobile and fought in open terrain.  Reginald's Company helped gain the town of La Vacquerie on 29 September. The formidable Canal du Nord and the Scheldt River were finally crossed after heavy fighting on 1 October and the pursuit of the retreating Germans began. On the 8 October 14th Company played a role critical role in clearing a German strong point and capturing the Town of Esnes

[  ]with the signing of the armistice on 11 November 1918, the war was over.  

Reginald would not be discharged until February and it would be June before he sailed for home, arriving on the 28 July 1919 and finally  returning to his family in Dunedin. 

 

Post-war

It is unclear what Reginald did 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.  By 1935 he was back in Dunedin with his wife Margaret Stewart Grey, whom he married on the 30th December 1932.  He appears again in 1954 in the Avon, Canterbury electoral rolls as an engine driver. It appears he continued in this profession up to his retirement.

Reginald Vincent passed away on 25 November 1974 in Christchurch and is buried in Bromley Cemetary (block 5, plot 469). 

 

Related resources

  • Ancestry.com. For local directories and census records.
  • Photograph of Reginald Vincent. Kindly supplied by Joan Bell.
  • Births, Deaths & Marriages Online. New Zealand Government Historical Records. For details regarding family members.
  • Online Cenotaph record for Reginald Vincent. Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Military personnel file. Archives New Zealand (Archway)

 References


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Reginald Vincent


First Names:Reginald Cuthbert
Last Name:Vincent
Place of Birth:Christchurch