HISTEN , Thomas Joseph
(Service number 14104)

First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 20 April 1899 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 8 March 1916 Age 16 years 8 months
Address at Enlistment Factory Road, Temuka
Occupation Farm hand
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Dennis HISTEN (father), Factory Road, Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 4¾ inches. Weight 135 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair black. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, invterate or contagious skin disease. Good bodily and 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 Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 5th Reinforcements 3rd Battalion, G Company
Date 26 June 1916
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Passchendaele)
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

4 March 1917 - admitted to hospital at Etaples - sinews of the foot (...? slight). 19 March transferred to Base Depot in France. 7 June 1917 - wounded in action and admitted to hospital at Etaples on 8 June - gunshot wound to left thigh. 3 July transferred to Base Depot in France.

Post-war Occupations


Date 12 October 1917 Age 18 years
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium (in the Field)
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference XIV. A. 17.
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Temuka RSA Roll of Honour (as HISTON); Temuka War Memorial; St Joseph's Church, Temuka; Clandeboye Hall Memorial Tablet

Biographical Notes

Thomas Joseph Histen was the second son of Denis and Honorah (Norah, nėe Rooney) Histen, of Temuka. His parents, both from Ireland, had married in New Zealand in 1887, and Thomas was born at Timaru on 20 April 1899. A week later, on 27 April, he was baptised Thomas Joseph in the Timaru Catholic Church. Along with his siblings, Thomas attended Adair School in his early years. The family lived in this district for some years, until they moved to Clandeboye about 1909. There he continued his schooling. His father, Denis, served on the Adair School Committee for three consecutive years in the 1890s and later on the Clandeboye School Committee.

Thomas was in fact only 16 years old when he enlisted and “donned khaki”, but he masked his age in giving a birth date of 1 January 1896. Consequently he was only 18 years old when he was killed in action. Thomas was living at home (Factory Road, Temuka) and working as a farm hand for a Temuka farmer and on his father’s farm at Clandeboye, when in 1916 he volunteered to serve. Well known in the Clandeboye district, he was a genial “sport”. He was of a slight build, as would be expected of a 16 year old, but he was in good physical shape.

Leaving Timaru in early March 1916, he travelled north by the express as part of South Canterbury’s quota for the Fourteenth Reinforcements. With the New Zealand Rifle Brigade he left Wellington on 26 June 1916, destined for Devonport. In August he proceeded overseas from Sling.

His father received a cable, in March 1917, stating that Thomas was admitted to the 24th General Hospital at Etaples on 6 March, suffering from inflamed sinews of the foot. On 12 April he was transferred from the hospital to the Base Depot in France, and in May 1917 he joined his Battalion at Rouen, only to be wounded in action in early June 1917, in the battle of Messines. This time he suffered a gunshot wound to his left thigh, though initially it was reported as a not serious case.

After time in a base hospital in France, he had again joined his unit before being killed in action in the Field in Belgium on 12 October 1917. In the aftermath of an early morning advance, Thomas became a victim of the Passchendaele offensive, falling on New Zealand’s blackest day. Perhaps he was one of the determined individuals who tried to get through the German barrier, but were quickly killed.

Thomas is buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, where he lies at rest with nearly 12,000 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces in the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery on the Western Front. His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Temuka RSA Roll of Honour; the Temuka War Memorial, the St Joseph's Church, Temuka Roll of Honour, and the Clandeboye Hall Memorial Tablet.

The St Joseph’s Church, Temuka, Memorial, an “exceedingly beautiful” monument to the memory of those who had fallen in the war, was unveiled after a Memorial Service on 25 April 1922. During the service appropriate music was provided by the choir and an excellent address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Kennedy. The name of Thomas Histen was heard again on Anzac Day, 1927. A Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s Church, Temuka. The celebrant preached a very stirring sermon based on the Book of Wisdom (Chapter III, Verses 2-5). He pointed out that the Gallipoli campaign and later “gigantic episodes” would remain for all time a wonderful symbol of the age-old courage of men. He reminded the lads present that the enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers of New Zealand and other parts of the Empire were helping them to have brighter and better lives, and that all should render thanks to God, who had delivered them out of the hands of the enemy.

They had gathered to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli and also to set aside the day to show their deep and grateful acknowledgement of the services of the men who had fought and died for them on other fields of the great battle-front. “The light of immortality that flashed from the abandoned tomb of the risen Christ lingers on in every mound of Flanders mud and clay, the gullies of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and Egypt, on the quiet churchyards in English villages and on God’s acres in New Zealand.. . . . And to-day, before God’s altar, we remember them with the love we bore them and the pride we shall have in them,” he concluded. Before the Dead March was played by the organist, the names were read of those from the Temuka parish who had died “on the field of honour” – among them that of Thomas Histen.

In late August 1919 a tablet placed on the wall above the hall stage at Clandeboye was unveiled – in “one of the most important ceremonies ever conducted in the district.” The memorial tablet contained six names, one of them being T. J. Histen. Anzac Day 1924 was fittingly marked when a procession of school children and the general public, including many returned soldiers and relatives, marched to the Clandeboye Hall, where the memorial tablet to the fallen was hung and where those gathered paid honour to those whose names were inscribed on the memorial. Mingled with the feeling of grief were thankfulness and gratitude and above all pride in the great achievement, according to one speaker. The poem “In Flanders Fields” was rendered and Mr Gunnion, the Mayor of Temuka, opened his address with the words “Lest we Forget”. The soldiers whose names were inscribed on the memorial had given their all that we might live in peace, he impressed on the children, before finishing as he had begun – “Lest we Forget”. The names were read out, wreaths placed and the National Anthem sung.

The Anzac Day 1930 observance in the Clandeboye Hall was simple, yet fitting and reverent. The Mayor stressed that it was the duty of the residents to see that the sacrifice made by their boys was kept green for ever. The Deputy Mayor noted that the day was a mark of gratitude and remembrance to those men who had fought and willingly given their lives that those gathered might retain their independence. With both pride and sorrow they honoured the memory of those men. He concluded his address with the quotation: “Their glory will never be dimmed, and for all time, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” Hymns were sung, the names were read out, and floral tributes were placed at the foot of the memorial.

A large gathering of residents, visitors and guests marked Anzac Day 1931 in the Clandeboye Hall with sixty minutes of solemn commemoration. The service opened with the hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past” and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. The Mayor of Temuka, Mr Gunnion, said that he was proud of the Clandeboye effort to remember, year after year. The chief speaker, Rev C. A. Kennedy, spoke thus: “We meet not to express pity for those who fell, but gratitude to them; we meet to express to those who still feel their loss most keenly not so much condolence as congratulation: because they offered the most costly gifts that anyone can offer for the cause of liberty and truth. . . . . . Of those who made the supreme sacrifice . . . We thank God for their splendid, self-denying devotion to duty, sacrificing all that a man holds dear . . . .” In an impressive closing to the service, hymns were sung, two minutes’ silence was observed, and the names on the memorial tablet were read aloud and clearly following the reading of the inscription:

“Gone to their rest,

The striving years are o’er.

Their arms laid by, their fighting done.

So it is best.

Lord forgive their failings and their faults, and

Take them home.”

And the National Anthem was then sung enthusiastically. Another very touching service was conducted in 1932, to pay tribute to the memory of those men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War, the Memorial Hall again being packed full. Stirring addresses, scripture readings, hymns and wreath laying honoured the loyalty, courage and sacrifice of those whom they were commemorating.

Thomas Histen left no evidence of a will. How many 16 year olds would? His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were all sent to his father. These are the only acknowledgement of the efforts of a brave young lad to serve his country and bring freedom to successive generations; one who was very popular and a favourite with all who knew him. His sorrowing and loving family continued to remember Thomas, “a staunch and fervent Catholic”, for some years with In Memoriam inserts in the New Zealand Tablet. An older brother Denis Patrick Histen also served in World War One. He was spared to return home and carry on the Histen name.


Cenotaph Database [03 August 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0055130) [17 August 2014]; CWGC [09 October 2013]; Timaru Herald, 26 April 1895, 28 December 1896, 30 April 1897, 7 March 1916, 29 March 1917, 26 June 1917, 4 & 25 July 1917, 15 November 1917, Temuka Leader, 13 December 1910, 31 March 1917, 8 May 1917, 30 August 1919, 26 April 1922, 29 April 1924, 26 April 1927, 26 April 1930, 28 April 1931, 26 April 1932, Press, 30 June 1917, New Zealand Tablet, 13 December 1917, 10 October 1918, 16 October 1919, 14 October 1920, 19 October 1922 (Papers Past) [04 November 2013; 04 September 2015; 14 August 2016; 03 June 2017]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [04 September 2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [2013]; Baptism Record (Christchurch Catholic Diocese Baptism Index CD, held by S C Branch NZSG) [06 September 2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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