Topic: Albert Nankivell

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Albert Nankivell (Service no. 2/2222) was a First World War soldier with links to New Brighton

Albert NankivellRubina Begg married Andrew Nankivell, a fellmonger, in 1892 and in March the following year the first of their eight children, Albert, was born.  Albert first attended school at the Belfast School and when his family moved to Breezes Road he began at New Brighton School, then called Beach School.  Albert was a keen footballer and began work as a machinist for the Addington Railway Workshops after he left school.

By August 2015, Albert had made the decision to leave Christchurch and volunteer to join New Zealand’s fighting forces in France.  By August 23rd, he had set sail from Lyttelton and arrived at Trentham Army Camp to enlist with the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  Although just under five foot and five inches tall and of medium build, Albert was declared fit and began his training.  This was only interrupted by a week’s stay at the army hospital on 22nd September to be treated as a possible carrier of typhoid.  Albert then resumed his training until 9th October and embarked on his first journey abroad on 23rd October with the Seventh Reinforcements as a Driver who would take charge of a team of horses pulling a wagon-mounted gun for the New Zealand Field Artillery.  Little did Albert know that this would be the last time he would see his country and his family.

As December 2015 rolled around, Albert was one of many army personnel to arrive in Suez, Egypt where further training took place.  During this time, the Canterbury draft of the 7th Reinforcements were absorbed into a new brigade. The 2nd Canterbury Battalion would be 700-strong, accompanied by 30 officers and be sent straight to the Western Front in France.  This was only once the 7th were relieved of their post guarding Turkish prisoners in Cairo.

After landing in Marseilles on the south coast of France in April 1916, Albert and the 2nd Battalion continued their journey by train and on foot to the north west of France where German forces had gained various footholds after invading parts of Belgium.  Further training, in the new approach to fighting using trenches, saw them ready to take part in defending the frontline on June 16th near Armentières, very close to the border with Belgium. 

Relieved of duty in mid August, Albert’s battalion moved again, underwent further training and joined the third wave of the Battle of Somme on September 15th.  Their involvement ended on October 6th when they were on the move again to rest, train and provide relief for other forces fighting at the frontline.  An inspection of the troops on October 31st was possibly the closest Albert had ever come to meeting the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
As a Driver, Albert would not experience the war in quite the same manner as the infantry as driving mules would prove to be more akin to a regular job.  Transporting supplies and caring for the horses was hard work even when the troops were resting.  The upside is that drivers were not directly involved in the fighting and hence kept out of the wet and muddy trenches, and much of the danger.

However, in spite of his “safer” war-time job, Albert began to feel the effects of the influenza virus.  On 26 January 1917, in the area of Estaires, he was attended by the No 1 NZ Field Ambulance, a mobile frontline medical unit. The 2nd Battalion was joining up with other battalions  at this point to prepare for the Battle of Messine but Albert never rejoined his unit.  On the same day, he was sent to a casualty clearing station where he was transported by train on February 1st to the No 2. Australian General Hospital in Wimereaux on the west coast of France.  Albert’s final transfer was to the No. 14 Stationary Hospital in Bolougne on February 7th where he was treated until his death from Cerebral Spinal Meningitis on 27 February 1917. He was just 25 years old.

The eldest son of Robina and Andrew Nankivell’s eight children, and brother to Lawrence who also served, Albert never returned to New Zealand.  In a will prepared before his departure he left his money and effects to his mother.  He was listed amongst the casualties in The Star on 10th March 1917 and his name would eventually appear in memoriam on the Belfast War Memorial, Addington Workshops Honour Roll and the New Brighton School Roll of Honour.  However, Albert’s final resting place would forever be in France where he is remembered in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery in Pas de Calais, not all that far from where he fought for the freedom of a country that was worlds away from his own.

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Albert Nankivell

First Names:Albert
Last Name:Nankivell
Place of Birth:Christchurch, New Zealand