RAE, Robert Ernest
(Service number 44415)

Aliases Ernest, Ern
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 21 November 1885 Place of Birth Geraldine

Enlistment Information

Date 20 December 1916 Age 31 years 1 month
Address at Enlistment Pihama, Taranaki
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Married
Next of Kin Mrs R. E. RAE (wife), Mangatoki, Taranaki
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6½ inches. Weight 134 lbs. Chest measurement 32½-37½ inches. Complexion dark. Eyes blue. Hair black. Sight, hearing & colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 24th Reinforcements F Company
Date 26 April 1917
Transport Pakeha
Embarked From Wellington Destination Plymouth, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

13 October 1917 - admitted to hospital, France - German measles; 2 January 1918 - admitted to hospital - influenza; 27 March 1918 - admitted to hospital; 1 April dangersously ill; 2 April 1918 46th Stationary Hospital, France - died of cerebra-spinal fever (meningitis).

Post-war Occupations


Date 2 April 1918 Age 32 years
Place of Death 46th Stationary Hospital, France
Cause Died of illness - cerebra-spinal fever (meningitis)
Memorial or Cemetery Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France
Memorial Reference XXXIII. C. 9.
New Zealand Memorials Mangatoka School Roll of Honour

Biographical Notes

Robert Ernest Rae (known as Ernest or Ern) was born on 21 November 1885 at Geraldine, the eldest son of George and Mary (nee Stevens) Rae. In the mid 1890s the family moved to Tariki. Ernest was educated at the Mangatoki, Waipuku Stratford and Eltham schools, before working as a farmer, shepherd and storeman at Pihama and Mangatoki. At Mangatoki he scored a pass in Standard V in 1901 and Standard VI in 1902. Ernest was the best man at the wedding of his eldest sister, Maud Mary Rae, and Henry Thrush, on 19 June 1912 at New Plymouth. A year later – in June 1913, Ernest was again best man, this time at Hawera for his brother Herbert George Rae and Constance Eleanor Hollard.

Robert Ernest Rae enlisted on 20 December 1916, aged 31 years and 1 month, after registration for active service in August and a ballot draw in November. He stated that he had previously been rejected as unfit for the military force on account of typhoid fever. Ern married English-born Annie Pauline Barkla on 22 December 1916 at the Knox Church in Eltham, two days after enlisting and just four months before he was to leave for the Front. A farmer residing at Pihama, Taranaki, he nominated his wife, Mrs R. E. Rae, Mangatoki, Taranaki, as his next-of-kin. He was Presbyterian, of dark complexion, with blue eyes and black hair. 5 feet 6⅓ inches tall, weighing 134 pounds and with a chest measurement of 32½-37½ inches, he was in good health, vaccinated and free of diseases. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs.

He was among eighteen recruits who boarded the train at Eltham on 8 January 1917 to join the 25th Reinforcements in camp. The chairman of the Patriotic Committee said that “although the enemy had made an endeavour to enter into peace negotiations, he did not think that fact would have any influence on the spirit and determination of those who were now going forward.” He asked the men “to go forward with the idea that the war had to be fought to an honourable end.” He wished them every success and a safe return. In early March 1917, Private R. E. Rae and two comrades were given an enthusiastic farewell social at Mangatoki. Each was presented with a wristlet watch, knife and text book. The Patriotic Committee chairman made mention of some school boy history of Private Rae, once a promising school boy cricketer. “He had particularly distinguished himself against the boys of the premier town of the province, and the grit in him to stand up to our enemies in the same way.” Private Rae replied that they hoped “to do just what the other Mangatoki lads had done. If they could live up to their standard they would be satisfied.” On this occasion the Honours Board, containing all names for 1914, 1915, and 1916, was exhibited. There were already 33 names inscribed, three of whom had given their lives for their country. Private R. E. Rae embarked on 26 April 1917, with the 24th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, per the “Pakeha” for Plymouth, England. He had been transferred to the 24th Reinforcements in February 1917. On 28 July he was attached to the Otago Infantry Regiment.

On 13 October 1917 he was admitted to hospital in France with German measles, and transferred a month later to the Convalescence Depot. He was admitted to hospital again on 2 January 1918, with influenza, and discharged to the Convalescence depot on 28th. Less than a year after embarkation, Ernest had died of sickness – cerebra-spinal fever (meningitis) - on 2 April 1918 at the 46th Stationary Hospital in France. On 27 March he had been admitted to hospital and on 1 April reported as dangerously ill. He was buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France. His was the second bereavement in the family, Alf having died eight months earlier. The “Hawera & Normanby Star” Mangatoki correspondent expressed heartfelt sympathy to his wife and parents especially, and all relations. His loving widow Annie, inserted an In Memoriam notice in the local newspaper on 2 April 1919 –

He left his home in perfect health,

He little thought of death so nigh,

But God saw best to take him home,

And with His will I must comply.

The shock was great, the pain severe

To part with one I loved so dear;

My trial’s hard, I’ll not complain,

But trust in God to meet again.

After his death, his widow, Annie, qualified as a midwife in Wellington.She returned to Hawera about 1927 and opened Sister Rae’s Bickleigh Nursing Home there. In 1933 she married Albert Kemp, had one son, and opened Nurse kemp’s Maternity Home at Eltham. Ernest's medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal - were to be forwarded to Mrs Annie Pauline Rae (wife), care of St Helen's Hospital, Wellington. The scroll and plaque were also sent to Mrs Rae, in 1921 and 1922 respectively. By his will, executed on 13 April 1917 at Trentham when he was on active service, he bequeathed all his estate to his wife. This amounted to Life Policy £100 and Debt due 17s.6d.

His younger brother, Alfred William Rae (Alf), died of wounds in 1917, and two cousins, Donald Alfred Rae and William John Rae, also died in World War I, Donald of wounds and John killed in action. Another brother, Francis Edward Rae (Frank), who was born at Tariki, was called up and saw service in World War I, being seriously wounded. Their brother Herbert George Rae, a farmer at Mangatoki, appealed his call up. He had been married for five years, had one child, and was managing his sister’s (Maud) farm as her husband had gone to the front. And two other cousins also served - Adam Rae and Bernard (Bernie) James Rae.

Ernest and Alfred are remembered on their parents' headstone in the Hawera Cemetery. The names R. E. Rae and A. W. Rae are recorded on the Managtoki School Roll of Honour under the years of their embarkation. This board was unveiled by Sir James Allen on 4 April 1919. Of the 67 ex-pupils named, seventeen lost their lives. A united service was held on 8 August 1920 in the Mangatoki Union Church, to mark the unveiling of a Memorial Tablet for the men who fell in the great war. The “Opunake Times” of 26 April 1927 recorded a long list of men from the Egmont County who fell in the war, their names being inscribed on the monument at Opunake. Among them was R. E. Rae.The Opunake War Memorial stone was laid by His Excellency Lord Jellicoe, the Governor-General of New Zealand, on 27 October 1921. A portrait of Robert Ernest Rae was printed in the Auckland Weekly News,1918 (attached to Cenotaph Database), and in the Otago Witness, 5 June 1918 [refer Papers Past].


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [01 January 2015]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0095599) [30 September 2016]; CWGC [03 January 2015]; Hawera & Normanby Star, 24 October 1901, 29 October 1902, 24 June 1913, 30 August 1916, 25 November 1916, 8 January 1917, 5 & 15 March 1917, 10 April 1918 [x 2], 21 May 1918, 5 July 1918, 2 April 1919, 5 July 1920, 2 August 1920, Taranaki Daily Times, 12 July 1912, 6 March 1917, Press, 10 April 1918, Evening Star, 10 April 1918, New Zealand Times, 10 April 1918, North Otago Times, 11 April 1918, Opunake Times, 26 April 1927 (Papers Past) [03 January 2015; 08 January 2016; 29 September 2016; 29 April 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls (South Canterbury Branch NZSG microfiches collection) [some years ago]; School Admission record (New Plymouth Branch NZSG); [3 January 2015]; image of Mangatoki School Roll of Honour ( [29 September 2016]; Hawera Cemetery headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG cemetery records) [03 January 2015]; Personal family information (T.S.) [some years ago]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [05 June 2016]; Barkla Family History (google search) [29 April 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC brnach NZSG

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