Topic: Harold Charles Eaton
Harold Charles Eaton (Service no. 39035) was a First World War soldier with links to Wharenui School, Riccarton.
Harold Chares Eaton was born in Christchurch on 1 February 1895. He was the son of Charles James Eaton ( a painter) and Jean (nee Forbes). His father, Charles, was born in Christchurch and his parents were James and Harriett Eaton. His mother, Jean, was born in Oxford, North Canterbury, the daughter of William and Isabella Miles Forbes (nee Nicol). The family lived at 40 Marlborough Street, Riccarton, and Harold attended Wharenui School. When he enlisted he is recorded as having passed the fourth educational standard or equivalent.
Harold enlisted in the army at the end of September 1916. In his medical record it states that he was 5' 5" with a fresh complexion, red hair and blue eyes. He was working as a carpenter/joiner. His religion is recorded as Church of England.
He served with D Company, 4th battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He left New Zealand on 13 February 1917 on "Mokoia" Troopship no. 77. He disembarked 2 May 1917 at Plymouth, Devon, England and trained in Sling camp for about 5 weeks before leaving for France on the 6 June 1917 as part of G company, 22nd reinforcements.
On arrival in France he went into camp at Etaples before being posted to C company, 4th battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. His Battalion spent early July with the French First Army preparing roads and emplacements, railways, dugouts and cables for the French artillery, for which they received high praise from the French command. They spent most of August in the Warneton sector where they managed to build 20,000 yards of frontline trenches with cable laid under constant bombardment from German artillery. Many men were killed or wounded and the rates of sickness were very high due to the appalling weather conditions.
They did more labouring in September near Zillebeke laying underground cable for the British Second Army. By the time they entered the Ypres campaign the men were suffering severe exhaustion. On 12 October the New Zealand Division launched its attack.The attack was doomed to failure because time had not been allowed for proper preparation. The allied artillery could not get into proper position due to the mud and their bombardment of the German positions proved totally ineffective. The New Zealanders had to face German defences of barbed wire 30 yards deep and intact machine gun positions. The New Zealand attack effectively stalled within two hours because of the massive casualties.
Although Harold's file records that he was wounded in action on the 14th October it is more than likely he was wounded on the 12th. There was no fighting on the 13th and a truce was in effect on the 14th. He would most likely have been one of the wounded men who after the 12th was taken to whatever cover could be found because the regimental aid posts were already clogged with too many wounded and those who were already there waited for long periods before receiving proper treatment.
In December 1917 Harold told the medical officer he was having attacks of palpitations, dizziness, crampy pains and shortness of breath. He was diagnosed as having DAH "Disordered Action of the Heart" sometimes called Soldier's Heart. This disability was thought to be due to over-exertion, mental stress and fatigue. Today we would probably call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He recuperated at Hornchurch Convalescent Hospital in Essex. In May 1918 he went to Brocton, England to join the 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade Reserve Depot. Later that year he was again declared unfit. He was finally discharged from the army on 21st January 1919 as no longer fit for service.
In 1926 Harold married Muriel Edith "Elsie" Manning. They lived in Christchurch, and Harold worked as a carpenter and joiner. His wife , Elsie died in 1944. Harold died in Christchurch on 4 August 1958. He is remembered on the Wharenui School Roll of Honour.
- Online Cenotaph record for Harold Charles Eaton. Auckalnd War Memorial Museum
- Harold Charles Eaton's military personnel file. Archives New Zealand (Archway)
- Ancestry Library Edition: New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981
- The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade by Lieutenant-Colonel W. S. Austin pp 215-247. Accessed from New Zealand Electronic Text Collection