CUFF, Robert William
(Service number 54121)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||12 February 1897||Place of Birth||Geraldine, Canterbury|
|Date||4 March 1917||Age||20 years|
|Address at Enlistment||John Street, Balclutha|
|Previous Military Experience||14th S.O. Reg. (Territorial)|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Annie CUFF (mother), John Street, Balclutha; later of Spencer Street, Milton, and C/o Post Office, Milton.|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 140 lbs. Chest measurement 31-35 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair dark brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Teeth require attention. No illnesses. No distinctive marks or marks indicating peculiarities or previous disease. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Deemed Fit.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||28th Reinforcements, F Company|
|Date||14 July 1917|
|Embarked From||Wellington, NZ||Destination||Plymouth, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion|
|Service Medals||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
4 December 1917, France - admitted to 46th Stationary Hospital; 21 December 1917 - discharged; 23 January 1918 - admitted to NZ Field Ambulance, sick; 4 February 1918 re-joined Battalion from Ambulance.
|Date||5 April 1918||Age||21 years|
|Place of Death||Beaumont Hamel, on the Ancre, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Otago Witness, 1 May 1918|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Grevillers (New Zealand) Memorial, Grevillers British Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France|
|New Zealand Memorials||Balclutha War Memorial|
Robert William Cuff, known as Bob, was born on 12 February 1897 at Geraldine, the second son of Clarence John and Annie (née Fraser) Cuff, of Spencer St., Milton. All Robert’s siblings (three older and four younger) were born in Southland or South Otago. Perhaps Annie returned to her own family for his birth. Robert started his schooling at Clinton. In early 1910, Robert Cuff of Kaitangata was recognised for a B Grade pass in the Diocesan Sunday School scholars’ examination. In the same year he played football for the Balclutha High School second fifteen. On 12 September 1910, just eight or nine months after the Scout movement was established in Balclutha, the presentation of second-class badges to the Balclutha Boy Scouts took place. Prior to the presentation, the scout gave demonstrations of what they had learnt in first-aid and an example of flag signalling. R. Cuff received his badge inscribed with the motto “Be prepared”, and his older brother Jack received one for a leader. And in 1910 Robert obtained his Proficiency certificate at Balclutha District High School where he had continued his education. He played football for Balclutha throughout 1913. The report of the Clutha II v. Owaka II match in late July read “Clutha has some very promising young players, especially in Hutton and R. Cuff (backs) and C. Willocks and Pennycook (forwards) —who, by the way, were the youngest players also, — and with a little more coaching the team stand a good chance of bringing the junior laurels to Balclutha.” At the Gore rifle meeting for Territorials and Cadets in late January 1914, Cadet R. Carr won a prize. In April following when the Balclutha Senior Cadets held a meeting to consider a challenge from Milton to play a football match, Robert was elected captain. He was selected in a “Clutha” team to play in Dunedin in June. Come July and he took one of the principal parts – King – in the pantomime which was performed to raise funds for St Mark’s Church.
It was in September 1914, sadly, that Clarence Cuff was charged with failing to provide adequate means of maintenance for his wife and children and was guilty of persistent cruelty to her. Annie Cuff applied for a separation order. Her husband’s evidence was very unsatisfactory. Guardianship of the children was given to Mrs Cuff and an order was made for maintenance to be paid to her and the three younger children. From that time Clarence and Annie lived apart.
Robert Carr was elected to the working committee at the April 1915 annual meeting of the Clutha Football Club. His oldest sister, Ada Amelia Cuff, married a returned soldier in April 1916 at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Balclutha. To the organ peals, the bride entered the church on the arm of her brother, Mr Robert Cuff. His older brother Jack had enlisted and embarked for the Front on the outbreak of war in 1914. After finishing school, Bob was apprenticed to the plumbing trade, and had completed his apprenticeship before enlisting. Robert William Cuff of Balclutha was with the Milton group for the Twenty-ninth Rinforcements who left Dunedin for Trentham on 8 May 1917. Robert Cuff, a plumber, single, and Anglican, had enlisted on 12 February 1917, his 20th birthday. He was residing at home and named his mother as next-of-kin - Mrs Annie Cuff, John Street, Balclutha. Mrs Cuff was later of Spencer Street, Milton, and C/o Post Office, Milton. He was serving in the 14th South Otago Regiment (Territorial). Bob stood at 5 feet 8 inches, weighed 140 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 31-35 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue and his hair dark brown. His sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs were all normal; his limbs and chest well formed. His teeth did require attention. Having had no illnesses or fits, and being free from all diseases and vaccinated, he was in good bodily and mental health and was deemed fit.
Private R. W. Cuff embarked with the 28th Reinforcements, leaving Wellington per the “Waitemata” on 14 July 1917, destined for Plymouth, England. Disembarking there on 24 September, he marched into Sling, before proceeding overseas to France on 11 November. On 4 December 1917, in France, he was admitted to the 46th Stationary Hospital. Discharged to Base Depot on 21 December, he joined his Battalion on 17 January 1918. Having been admitted to the New Zealand Field Ambulance, sick, on 23 January 1918, he was able to re-join his Battalion on 4 February 1918. The mid April 1918 casualty list carried the news. Private Robert William Cuff, attached to the Canterbury Infantry, was killed in action on 5 April 1918 in the Field in France, just 21 years old. By this time his mother was residing in Milton. She remembered her beloved son – “He died that we might live.” He was buried at Beaumont Hamel on the Ancre, where he fell. His name is recorded on the Grevillers (New Zealand) Memorial, Grevillers british Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France. From 25 April 1918 his name was recorded in the District Roll of Honour – Death Roll, which was published regularly by the Bruce Herald.
A Balclutha soldier writing home on 11 March 1918 from “somewhere in France”, mentioned that he had met a good many old Clutha-ites who are “doing their bit” at the war. In one group who had just come out of the front line trenches and were indeed ‘a grimy-looking crew’, was young Bob Cuff. Bob had resided with his family for a good many years in the Clutha District and was well known in the locality. He was a keen footballer who excelled at the sport, as did his brother Jack who was still on active service. He was a member of the Loyal Dalton Lodge, which mourned his loss and moved that a letter of condolence be sent to his mother. Brother Cuff was the 15th member of the Dalton Lodge to make the supreme sacrifice. His brother John Clarence Cuff (Jack), who also served in World War I, was wounded.
While Robert’s loving father remembered him in an In Memoriam in the Evening Star of 9 April 1919; his mother, brothers and sisters remembered him in the Otago Daily Times and the Otago Witness –
CUFF. —In loving memory of Robert William Cuff (South Otago Battalion, N.Z.E.F., 28th Reinforcements), who was killed in action at Baumont Hamel, on the Ancre, France, on April 5, beloved second son of Annie Cuff, Milton; aged 21 years.
O Britain, he heard the cry of those that died for thee,
Sounding like an organ voice across the distant sea;
He fought and died for freedom, and bravely passed away,
O Honour, O Liberty, how could he stay?
A Roll of Honour of Clutha District Names, which was printed by the Bruce Herald on 28 July 1919, included Private R. W. Cuff. “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.” He is honoured on the Balclutha War Memorial, the inscription below the names reading “In Grateful Remembrance of the noble sacrifice made by the men of this district who fought and fell in the Great War, 1914 – 1918. For Liberty and Justice.” His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal - were sent to his mother at Spencer Street, Milton, in 1921, as was the Scroll; the plaque followed in early 1922. His portrait printed in the Auckland Weekly News in 1918 is attached to the Cenotaph Database.
Annie Cuff died at her Dunedin residence in 1935 and was buried at Andersons Bay Cemetery. She was survived by one daughter and four sons. Clarence John Cuff died at Orokonui Home, Waitati, in 1942, and was buried in a different plot at Andersons Bay Cemetery with three other hospital patients.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [25 September 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0030687) [02 November 2013]; CWGC 28 March 2014]; Otago Daily Times, 10 March 1910, 20 April 1918, 5 April 1919, 6 May 1935, Clutha Leader, 15 July 1910, 13 September 1910, 16 December 1910, 21 March 1913, 25 & 29 July 1913, 3 February 1914, 10 April 1914, 2 June 1914, 31 July 1914, 18 September 1914, 13 April 1915, 28 April 1916, 16 June 1916, 23 April 1918 [x 2], 26 April 1918, 21 May 1918, 25 July 1919, Mt Benger Mail, 9 May 1917, Evening Post, 19 April 1918, Press, 20 April 1918, North Otago Times, 20 April 1918, NZ Herald, 20 April 1918, Bruce Herald, 22 April 1918, 25 April 1918 [x 2], 23 May 1918, 28 July 1919, Otago Witness, 24 April 1918, 1 May 1918, 9 April 1919, Evening Star, 9 April 1919 (Papers Past) [10 June 2014; 30 July 2015; 03 May 2022]; School Admission record (Balclutha Branch NZSG) ]03 May 2022]; Balclutha War Memorial images (Balclutha War Memorial | NZHistory, New Zealand history online) [03 May 2022]
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