PORTER, Gilbert George
(Service number 6/816)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||24 November 1891||Place of Birth||London, England|
|Date||18 August 1914||Age||22 years 9 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Empire Hotel, Timaru|
|Previous Military Experience||2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Cadet Corps - 2 years|
|Next of Kin||Thomas E. G. PORTER (father), Brewery Inn, Coalport, Shropshire, England|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 131 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion between dark and fair. Eyes light brown. Hair light brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both good. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Tattoo mark bunch of flowers middle of back of right forearm.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||Main Body|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Date||16 October 1914|
|Transport||Tahiti or Athenic|
|Embarked From||Lyttelton, Canterbury||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Service Medals||1914-15 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
Wounded on 8 May 1915 at the Dardanelles.
|Date||8 May 1915||Age||23 years|
|Place of Death||Dardanelles, Gallipoli|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial, Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Helles, Turkey|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru War Memorial Wall; Timaru Lodge No. 11 Roll of Honour|
Gilbert George Porter was the son of Thomas Edward Gilbert and Alice Gertrude (née Upton) Porter, of Brewery Inn, Coalport, Salop (Shropshire), England. 38-year old Thomas, a manufacturing agent, and 18-year old Alice had married on 2 January 1889 at Paddington, a second marriage for Thomas. Thomas’ first marriage ended in divorce, seemingly without children. Gilbert was born on 24 November 1891 in London, England. In 1901 he was a pupil boarding at St Saviour’s College, Ardingley, Sussex. In 1899 his older sister Alice May was attending school in Southwark. What became of Gilbert’s parents and sister? His father, who was living at Celtic House, Bridgnorth, Shropshire in 1916, died in 1934 at Southend-on-Sea.
Gilbert was working as a hotel porter at the Empire Hotel in Timaru when, on the outbreak of war, he enlisted at Timaru in the New Zealand forces, He was just 22 years 9 months old, single and of Church of England persuasion. He was in good physical condition, although of quite small build, being 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing 131 pounds. His teeth were good and he had been vacinated. He had light brown eyes and hair, a complexion described as “between dark and fair” and a tattoo mark of a bunch of flowers middle of back of right forearm. He named his father, Thomas E. G. Porter, Brewery Inn, Coalport, Shropshire, as his next-of-kin. G. G. Porter was a member of the Timaru Rowing Club. At the club’s annual general meeting held on 18 September 1914, it was recorded that Gilbert and thirteen members had joined the Expeditionary Forces to serve the Empire. “The best wishes of the club are extended to these members, whose absence will be keenly felt during the ensuing season, and it is the earnest wish of all members that a speedy termination of the present crisis will be effected, and they return safely.” The club donated funds for the purchase of a troop horse.
Private Porter had had two years of previous military experience in 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Cadet Corps. On enlisting on 18 August 1914, Gilbert left Timaru for the central camp at Christchurch with five other local infantry men. He was in the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment under the command of Captain D. Grant. In the official list of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment G. G. Porter was recorded in B Company, No. 7 Platoon, the platoon commander being Lieut. C. C. Barclay of Waimate. He embarked at Lyttelton for Egypt with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion of the Main Body on 16 October 1914, arriving there two months later. In real Kiwi fashion he incurred a punishment – two days confined to barracks for smoking on parade, in February 1915 at Zeitoun.
Gilbert was reported as wounded and missing on 8 May 1915 at Gallipoli. A month later the revised list of casualties confirmed that he had been killed in action on 8 May 1915, another young victim of Gallipoli. The New Zealand Infantry Brigade went into action on 8 May, in the Second Battle of Krithia, which had begun on 6 May, their task being to capture the village of Krithia. It was a disaster, the New Zealand Infantry suffering massive casualties. Of the ten men of the Canterbury Battalion recorded in Casualty List No. 90 as killed in action, four of them were from South Canterbury.
In December 1915 his father received from the London Record Office certain personal effects of his late son, merely 2 pocket books and sundry photographs, but no pay book with any will. Gilbert had written to him on 11 October 1914, “In the Event of death I have nominated you to receive £30 from the Druids, on communicating with the Secretary Timaru; also 2/- a day from N.Z. Government, dating from September twenty-eighth 1914 which was the last date on which I received full pay.”
On 29 March 1916 Gilbert’s father wrote from Bridgnorth, Salop, to the Quartermaster, New Zealand Military Force, Wellington, to claim the balance due to Gilbert’s estate, and quoted from Gilbert’s letter. He stated that the Druids had duly paid him the £30 – the funeral pay which the Order piad on the death of a member, and he made the observation that “my son’s letter in itself constitutes a will, in the event of no subsequent one being made.” The Quartermaster’s communication to the Public Trustee was that there was a will in the Public Trustee’s possession, and that Military Pay of £38.12.0 was due. And indeed the short form of will, dated 22 October 1914 and executed while Gilbert was on actual military service, did simply and clearly state “In the event of my death I give to Thomas E. Porter (father), balance of pay due.”
Any medals, and there were three – the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal - were sent to his father, initially at Coalport, then at 137 Tintern Ave, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex; and after being twice returned at 19 Cliff Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. The plaque and scroll were addressed to Mrs Thos. E. G. Porter, who had moved to 14 Cliff Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, by 1921. Mr Porter died in 1934 at Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
It appears that Private G. G. Porter may have spent time in Christchurch prior to the war. The Lyttelton Times of 25 May 1915 noted that he had been “a prominent member of the ‘Varsity Football Club’s senior team during the last few seasons.” G. Porter was indeed a regular member of the Canterbury University football team in 1913 and 1914, and was selected to play in the 1913 New Zealand team in Australia. G. Porter also competed in university athletic events in 1913 and 1914. He was also involved in rowing and was named in the 1914 annual report of the Timaru Rowing Club. A year later he was again named. On this occasion a motion of condolence was passed with the relatives of those members who had fallen at the war, and the club extended its deepest sympathy to the relatives of those former members who had laid down their lives for their country. The 1916 annual report of the Canterbury Rowing Association noted “the number of members who are wearing khaki has been greatly increased, and the rowing clubs of Canterbury are now represented by over 300 men at the front and in training. Many have been wounded, and some have made the supreme sacrifice. Our sorrow at their loss is mingled with pride at the splendid record which the rowing clubs have made, and, beyond doubt, the stamina that hard training has given to our men has stood them in good stead in this sterner game of war.” The roll for the Timaru Rowing Club listed approximately 90 men, at least nine of them killed by then, including G. G. Porter.
In Timaru, Gilbert was associated with the Druids. At the half-yearly meeting of Timaru Lodge No. 11, held in June 1920, a Roll of Honour was unveiled by the Grand President. It had been erected in the Lodge Room in memory of brethren who made the supreme sacrifice during the war. Sympathetic reference was made “to the brothers who had left home and comfort and gone to fight and die that we who could not go could live in freedom and comfort”. The deepest sympathy of the Druidic Order was conveyed to the relatives of those who had “gone west”. The Roll of Honour consisted of a neat oak cabinet bearing the emblems of the Order and inscribed: “Erected to the memory of our Brothers: J. T. Milburn, G. G. Porter, A. R. Moyle, J. A. Cochrane, L. J. Tonkin, H. L. Leah, L. C. Warner, W. J. Armstrong, who died in the Great War. 1914-1918.” The brethren remained standing with bowed heads as a token of respect to the memory of those who had “gone west”.
Gilbert George Porter is remembered on the Twelve Tree Copse Memorial in Turkey, a New Zealand Memorial to the Missing, to those who fell on the Gallipoli Peninsula and whose graves are unknown. And his name is inscribed on the Timaru War Memorial and the Timaru Lodge No. 11 Roll of Honour. Kete Christchurch holds a photo of Private G. G. Porter from the Canterbury Times, 30 June 1915.
Cenotaph Database [19 November 2013]; NZ Defence Force Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0093813) [03 April 2014]; CWGC [19 November 2013]; Timaru Herald, 21 August 1914, 18 September 1914, 24 May 1915 [x 2], 23 September 1915, Press, 28 August 1914, Sun, 5 September 1914, Evening Post, 24 May 1915, 25 May 1915, New Zealand Times, 25 May 1915, Lyttelton Times, 25 May 1915, 28 October 1916, Star, 15 June 1915, Otago Daily Times, 16 June 1915, New Zealand Herald, 16 June 1915, Waikato Times, 28 June 1915, Wairarapa Daily Times, 29 June 1915 (Papers Past) [19 November 2013; 20 May 2015; 16 & 27 April 2019]; parentage, census (ancestry.com.au) [23 November 2013]; Probate (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [09 May 2015]; 1901 census (ancestry.com.au) [23 November 2013]; census records (ancestry.com.au) [23 November 2015]; UK Birth Index (FreeBDM) [23 November 2015]; UK Probate Index (ancestry.com.au) [23 November 2015]
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Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
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