MENZIES, William Barnet
(Service number 7/92)
|First Rank||Sergeant||Last Rank||Second Lieutenant|
|Date||19 June 1892||Place of Birth||Waituna, Waimate|
|Date||14 August 1914||Age||22|
|Address at Enlistment||Waituna, Waimate, New Zealand|
|Previous Military Experience||8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles|
|Next of Kin||John Menzies (father), Coronation Street, Waimate, New Zealand|
|Medical Information||5 foot 8 inches tall, weight 144 pounds (65kgs), chest 34-36 inches, dark complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, good lower teeth - upper false.|
|Served with||Canterbury Mounted Rifles||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||Main Body|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Mounted Rifles|
|Date||16 October 1914|
|Transport||HMNZT 4 Tahiti|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With||8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Mounted Rifles|
|Campaigns||Egypt & Blakans (Gallipoli)|
|Service Medals||1914-1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
8 September to 10 October 1915 - evacuated to Alexandria - wounded in action? 12 December 1915 - evacuated to Malta - jaundice
|Date||9 August 1916||Age||24|
|Place of Death||Bir-El-Abd, Egypt|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt|
|Memorial Reference||A. 86|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru; Waimate First World War Memorial|
The fourth child of John and Jessie Ann (nee Miller) Menzies, William was born at Waituna, Waimate, on 19 June 1892. His father John was born at Airdrie, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1850 and came out to New Zealand with his parents in 1868 aboard the “Schleswig Bride,” landing at Port Chalmers. After a year in Dunedin the family moved to Lawrence where young John secured a position at Lawrence grammar school. The next few years saw him at Dunedin High School, then BNZ Dunedin as a clerk for a time before returning to teaching in the goldfields districts of Otago, Hook School, Pleasant Valley School and finally as Headmaster of the Waituna Creek School. He died at Waimate on in 1925. William’s mother Jessie Ann Miller was born at Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, in 1862, and died at Waimate in 1939. Both parents are buried in the Old Waimate Cemetery. The young William would have received his primary education at the various schools his father taught at and secondary at Waimate District High.
Very soon after the outbreak of war William enlisted at Timaru on 14 August 1914. At this time he was employed as a grain clerk for the Canterbury Farmers Cooperation at Waimate and was a territorial member of the 8th Mounted Rifles. He nominated his father John, of Waituna, as his next of kin and his present address as the same. His enlistment papers described him as being single, Presbyterian, aged 22 years, 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighing 144 pounds (65kgs), with a chest measuring 34-36 inches, a dark complexion, hazel eyes, dark brown hair, good lower teeth and false uppers. William, along with other recruits, left Timaru with the Mounted Contingent from the Show Grounds on 15 August for camp at Addington. Addington Showground’s had been set up as a Mobilisation Camp for the Canterbury Military District. Here the men were to live under canvas and carried out training under the instruction of officers and non-commissioned officers who had gained their experience in the Territorial’s. Range practice was held at Redcliff’s, and the mounted men rode throughout the local area and hills. At the beginning of September due to bad weather, the camp moved to the Metropolitan Trotting Club’s grounds next door for a few days, before again moving to Plumpton Park Trotting Ground at Sockburn on 7 September.
On 23 September 1914 the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles boarded HMNZT 11 “Athenic” in Lyttelton and proceeded to Wellington where the ships berthed until it was judged safe to depart. The delay was caused by the presence in the South Pacific of enemy warships, and the lack of a suitable naval escort powerful enough to protect the convoy. In the meantime the Mounted Rifles disembarked and entered camp at Trentham. Finally on 16 October 1914, after the arrival of HMS “Minotaur”, the Japanese warship “Ibuki”, and the escorts HMS “Psyche” and HMS “Philomel”, Sergeant Menzies embarked on HMNZT 4 “Tahiti”. The convoy sailed across the globe and included nine other transports, namely: HMNZT 3 “Maunganui”, HMNZT 5 “Ruapehu”, HMNZT 6 “Orari”, HMNZT 7 “Limerick”, HMNZT 8 “Star of India”, HMNZT 9 “Hawkes Bay”, HMNZT 10 “Arawa”, HMNZT 11 “Athenic” and HMNZT 12 “Waimana”. This convoy carried 8,500 men, and about 4,000 horses. They made their way to the Middle East by way of Hobart, and Albany where they joined the transports convoying the First Detachment of the Australian Imperial Forces. Together they travelled via Colombo and Aden before finally arriving in Alexandria via the Suez Canal, disembarking the soldiers on 3 December 1914. On the way, convoy escort HMAS Sydney left the convoy to chase and destroy the German cruiser Emden at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.For soldiers in the convoy the usual activities of physical training, rifle practice, sports etc continued during the voyage. The food was reportedly better than the camps, although spoiled at times by “unskilled but good intentioned cooks”.
After disembarking at Alexandria the troops travelled by train to Zeitoun Camp where they settled into more routine training with the odd spot of sightseeing and sport. The men trained in the desert near Cairo, preparing for a yet to be chosen battle assignment. Brief action occurred in February 1915 when Turkish troops in Palestine attacked the Suez Canal, with some ANZAC soldiers involved. Meanwhile British and French naval attacks on the Dardanelles waterway failed to open the way to Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire. On 18 March 1915 three battleships were sunk and others damaged in a disastrous attempt to create an opening. As a result an attack by land forces on the Gallipoli Peninsular was planned to clear Turkish artillery overlooking the waterway to allow naval forces to penetrate through to Constantinople. In preparation for this the ANZAC troops in Egypt became part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, tasked to capture Gallipoli. Initially the Mounted Rifles were not part of the forces landed, but as the landings stalled, the Mounted Rifles were brought in as reinforcements. On 9 May 1915 the Canterbury Mounted Rifles (CMR) left for the Dardanelles aboard HMT “Grantully Castle”. They landed at ANZAC Cove on 12 May where they were to fight as infantry, and over the next four months. The campaign saw them suffer more than half of their total casualties in the war. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was responsible for the defence of the northern perimeter of the ANZAC beach-head, holding a sector from the position known as Walker's Top down the ridge line to the sea, a line which included positions on Russell’s Top and Walker’s Ridge. On 26 August the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles, now much reduced in streght due to the rigours of the campaign, took part in the attack on Hill 60 – a final attempt to break out. It is not recorded that William was wounded at this time but he was evacuated soon after from the nearby Greek Island of Mudros, used as a staging point, on 8 September back to Alexandria. Whatever his medical issues, William returned to ANZAC a month later on October 10. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 21 October. By 27 November the CMR relieved the Suffolk Yeomanry on the northern side of Aghyl Dere when snow began to fall and continued until the next day. The men having very little shelter were to have a miserable time. On 12 December, barely over a week before the total evacuation of Gallipoli, William was withdrawn from the front and admitted to hospital at Malta with jaundice.
Once dischargedWilliam returned to Egypt aboard the Hospital Ship “Orosova”, arriving at Zeitoun on 25 January 1916. He joined other troops training until 23 January 1916, when the Mounted Rifles left for the Canal Zone, taking up new defensive positions on the Canal. On 7 March they moved again, this time to the railhead at Ferry post, Ismalia. On 10 March William was appointed to the position of unit Signals Officer. As most of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force sailed for France in April 1916, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) remained in Egypt as part of an Anzac Mounted Division which was helping defend Egypt against the Ottoman Turks. They were soon tasked to destroy or neutralise the Turkish bases in the Sinai Peninsula.
On 4 August 1916, the NZMR took part in the Battle of Romani. Initially the NZMR moved out in pursuit of the Turkish forces, but the Turks defended a strong position and the attack was abandoned with the loss of two men killed and 14 wounded. On 6 August the NZMR left their positions again, seeking the enemy. They found Katia to be empty of enemy forces but found them instead at Oghratina. The day was spent observing and avoiding shellfire. The CMR were ordered to withdraw at 7p.m. The next day the CMR left camp with the rest of the NZMR returning to probe Oghratina where they spent the day observing the Ottoman defences, before withdrawing to the bivouac at Er Rabah. On 8 August the CMR left camp with the rest of the NZMR at 4.30 a.m. and found Oghratina abandoned. Patrols made contact with the main Ottoman position 3 km west of Bir el Abd. On 9 August the CMR took part in the attack on Bir-el-Abd as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division. Initially held in reserve, the CMR were soon sent forward to support the left flank of the Auckland Mounted Rifles. The Ottoman counter-attacks eventually halted the advance and at 11.20 a.m. enfilading fire forced the left flank to retire. With Ottoman attacks continuing they were forced to withdraw at 4.15 p.m. The CMR successfully withdrew while in close contact with enemy forces. The days fighting cost nine men killed and 22 wounded. Another six men were reported as wounded and missing. Unfortunately Second Lieutenant William Menzies was one of those killed that day and he was buried in the field. His body was later reburied in the Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, on the eastern side of the Suez Canal and 50 kilometres south of Port Said.
William is commemorated on the Timaru Memorial Wall and the Waimate War Memorial. After the war William’s father John was sent his war medals which consisted of the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal plus a scroll and plaque. Two of William’s brothers also served in Western Europe: 7/2078 Sgt James Lawrence Menzies and 59038 Driver Athol Miller Menzies who both served with the NZ Field Artillery.
"New Zealand Forces : promotions in the field" in the New Zealand Times 5 May 1916, courtesy of courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ ; "Second Lieutenant William Barnet Menzies" on A Street Near You at https://astreetnearyou.org/person/475104/- ; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at https://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=175487 ; New Zealand War Graves Project at https://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/william-barnet-menzies ; "John Menzies (1850 - 1925)" on Wiki Tree at https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Menzies-403 ; Find a Grave at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/18399912/william-barnet-menzies
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Researched and Written by
Cynthia McCaughan; Paula Wells, SC branch NZSG; Ted Hanson, SC branch NZSG
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