KIRK, Henry Francis
(Service number 27305)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||27 April 1896||Place of Birth||Christchurch|
|Date||31 May 1916||Age||20 years 1 month|
|Address at Enlistment||Marston Street, Timaru|
|Occupation||Clerk (N.Z Government, Post Office)|
|Previous Military Experience||P. & T. Engineers (still serving)|
|Next of Kin||Mrs M. J. KIRK (mother), Marston Street, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 8½ inches. Weight 123 lbs. Chest measurement 32½-34½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. 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, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||17th Reinforcements, J Company|
|Date||25 September 1916|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Devonport, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Infantry Regiment|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
|Military Awards||Military Medal (MM)|
Award Circumstances and Date
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the field, near Auchonvillers, carrying messages through terrific enemy barrage when communication lines were out, on the 5th April 1918. (London Gazette, 29 August 1918). For full citation, see biography.
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||8 October 1918||Age||22 years|
|Place of Death|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 4 November 1918|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Marcoing British Cemetery, Nord, France|
|Memorial Reference||II E 5|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall; Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Timaru, Roll of Honour|
Henry Francis Kirk, who had the nickname Tim, was the first-born of Herbert Edward Kirk and Mary Anne née Sheridan. Born on 27 April 1896 at Christchurch, he was baptised Roman Catholic there on 6 May 1896. Henry attended the Sacred Heart Boys’ School in Timaru before moving to the Marist Brothers School. A very successful concert was given by the Catholic Boys’ School in November 1908. “A crowded house met the boys . . . . at the Theatre Royal, and the applause which greeted every item left no doubt as to the manner in which the audience entered into the fun.” Henry Kirk and two other lads “kept the house in a five minutes’ roar with a burlesque styled ‘The Rival Speakers’.” At the close of 1909, H. Kirk of the Timaru Roman Catholic Boys’ School was one who passed the central examination for the sixth standard; in 1910 he gained the Certificate of proficiency. And at the December 1910 Marist Brothers’ School prize-giving, he was rewarded for good conduct in the Sixth Class. H. F. Kirk met with success at Timaru Technical School, being awarded a certificate for English in October 1912. Quite likely he was the H. Kirk, with a 7 minute handicap, who competed in the cycling road race held on 16 October 1913.
Henry F. Kirk registered at the Timaru Defence Office on 9 May 1916, and enlisted on 31 May at Trentham, having just celebrated his twentieth birthday. He was employed as an exchange clerk with the Post Office at the time of enlistment. Henry stood at 5 feet 8½ inches, weighed 123 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 32½-34½ inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes grey and his hair brown. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, his heart and lungs normal. He was free of diseases and defects, and was vaccinated. Single and Roman Catholic, he was living at home in Marston Street (Road), Timaru, and nominated his mother, Mrs M. J. Kirk, as his next-of-kin. He was serving with the P. & T. Engineers. At noon on 31 May 1916, South Canterbury’s quota of the 17th Reinforcements was entertained at dinner in Stafford Tea Rooms by the lady members of the South Canterbury War Relief Society. The soldiers assembled at the Drill Hall at 3.30 pm to be farewelled by the Mayor before leaving on the north-going express.
Henry embarked for the battlefields on 25 September 1916. Leaving from Wellington, the “Devon” was destined for Devonport, England. By November 1916 he had joined the Oago Regiment. Disembarking at Devonport on 21 November 1916, he marched into Sling. On 8 December 1916 he proceeded overseas with the Auckland Regiment, joining the 1st Battalion, Otago Regiment, on 5 February 1917. In late January 1918, after leave in the UK, he spent three weeks at the New Zealand Infantry Brigade School.
In 1918, while still on active service, his gallantry and devotion to duty were recognised with the award of the Military Medal (MM). On 5 April, in the field, he had carried messages through terrific enemy barrage when communication lines were out. “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. At 9am on the 5th April 1918, in the trenches near Auchonvillers, Private Kirk was on duty as a Company runner. Preparing for an attack, the enemy put down a terrific artillery barrage, and in consequence all communication between the Company and Battalion Headquarters was soon out. When it was necessary that the Company Commander should report on the situation, Private Kirk was entrusted with a message for the Battalion Commander. The artillery barrage still continued, but Private Kirk, with utter disregard for his own safety, carried the message across half a mile of open country and delivered it at Battalion Headquarters. There he received some written orders to convey to his Company Commander, and without hesitation returned through the barrage to the trenches. Throughout the day he continued with his work, and his courage and devotion to duty could hardly be over-estimated.” (London Gazette, 29 August 1918). The grant to award the medal was made on 11 June 1918.
H. F. Kirk was transferred to the Cyclists Battalion on 28 June. After almost three weeks’ leave in the UK, he rejoined the Cyclists Battalion with the Otago Regiment on 24 August. It was late June 1918 when the Base Records Office supplied the list of recipients, and Mrs Kirk received word from the Minister of Defence. Little was it known that he too would be killed in action just a few weeks later, after seeing a good deal of fighting and being wounded. H. F. Kirk, of the Otago Infantry, was reported wounded on 8 October 1918. The reports were soon amended to read “killed in action” on 8 October 1918 – Henry Francis Kirk (M.M.), 27035, O.I.R. This was at Le Cateau, France. With the approach of winter, the clocks were put back an hour at midnight 5/6 October, necessitating speed in implementing action. The combined attack (Americans, French, English) on the Germans was planned for 8 October, in what was termed the Second Battle of Le Cateau. In the late afternoon of 7 October, the 1st Otago had taken over from the 2nd Canterbury. The attack was launched at 4.30 am on 8thy. As the 1st Otago lay on the northern slopes of the plateau, the enemy’s response was immediate and fairly heavy. After some progress by the Allies, the fighting intensified mid-morning. Although 1st Otago had captured over 100 prisoners, the unit had lost 5 officers and 140 men.
A Roll of Honour notice was posted in the newspaper on 4 November 1918, and on 22 November, Mr and Mrs H. E. Kirk and family thanked “all kind friends and neighbours for their messages of sympathy in their recent sad bereavement in the loss of their dear son and brother, Henry F. Kirk.” Henry, who was just 22 years old, was buried in the Marcoing British Cemetery, France. His medals – British War Medal and Vicotry Medal, the plaque and scroll were sent to his father. He is remembered on the Timaru Memorial Wall and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Timaru, Memorial. It was August 1919 when the Military Medal for gallantry, awarded to Private H. F. Kirk of Timaru, was presented to his relatives. “In fond and loving memory” was the In Memoriam notice from his family on 8 October 1919. “God gave and God taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Katipo, the paper of the NZ Post & Telegraph Officers’ Association, published an obituary for Henry Kirk – “Although comparatively a junior his sterling quality made him a favourite with all.” By his Will dated 23 March 1918, Henry bequeathed all his estate to his father. Henry was a saver, leaving a total of £69.5.7. from a Life Policy, Superannuation, Holiday Leave, National Provident Fund, and Military Pay.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 July 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0064931) [04 July 2014]; CWGC [13 August 2013]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [21 July 2013]; Timaru Herald, 27 November 1908, 22 January 1910, 21 December 1910, 21 January 1911, 12 October 1912, 15 October 1913, 20 October 1915, 10 & 31 May 1916, 6, 8 & 9 July 1918, 28 October 1918, 4 & 22 November 1918, 16 & 18 August 1919, 8 October 1919, Ashburton Guardian, 20 May 1918, Otago Daily Times, 21 May 1918, 28 June 1918, Evening Star, 26 October 1918, 4 November 1918, New Zealand Times, 28 October 1918, 5 November 1918 (Papers Past) [19 August 2013; 17 February2014; 17 October 2015; 22 May 2018; 11 September 2019]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013; 18 October 2015]; Files supplied by Peter Gilchrist, October 2014; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [17 October 2015]; Post and Telegraph Obituaries (www.nzhistory.net.nz/first-world-war-postal-service) [18 October 2015]; Roman Catholic Baptisms Index (Christchurch Diocese CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [18/10/2015]
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
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