DUKES, William Henry
(Service number 26254)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 24 May 1883 Place of Birth Templeton

Enlistment Information

Date 30 May 1916 Age 33 years
Address at Enlistment Omihi
Occupation Linesman
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Married. Three children
Next of Kin Mrs W. H. DUKES (wife), Omihi, North Canterbury
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 10 inches. Weight 135 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair fair. Sight, hearing & colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth good. No ilnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No fits. Artificial teeth required. Fit.

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 17th Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Battalion
Date 23 September 1916
Transport Pakeha
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

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

21 December 1917 admitted to hospital with sciatica. 2 January 1918 admitted to 2nd London General Hospital. 4 April 1918 transferred to Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch; 5 August transferred to Codford. 3 November 1918 admitted to Tidworth Military Hospital, England, dangerously ill with cerebro-spinal fever.

Post-war Occupations


Date 4 November 1918 Age 35 years
Place of Death Tidworth Military Hospital, Wiltshire, England
Cause Died of disease
Notices Lyttelton Times, 11 November 1918
Memorial or Cemetery Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire, England
Memorial Reference C. 346.
New Zealand Memorials Omihi War Memorial; Waipara County District Roll of Honour; Glenmark Anglican Church memorial tablet; Railways Roll of Honour board, Wellington Railway Station

Biographical Notes

William Henry Dukes was the elder son of James Duke(s) and his second wife, Mary née Casserley, and the step-son of Mrs Rachel Dukes. William’s mother died in 1888 at Greymouth, aged 29 years. Mr James Duke was a coal miner, which occupation brought him to South Canterbury. In mid 1889 he took the lease of the mine in the Kakahu district where, for some years, it had been known that good coal existed. He was also connected with the opening of lime kilns at Kakahu. Mr Duke, who had worked in most of the New Zealand coal mines and had been a pioneer of the coal industry at Mt Somers, had much experience of colleries in the Old Country. At a meeting held in the school at Woodbury in May 1906, Mr James Duke was called upon to explain the position and prospects of a proposed coal mine to work deposits in the Waihi Gorge. He had made a detailed study and believed the prospects were very promising. The owners of the Te Moana coal mine, open in 1907, secured the services of Mr Duke to make a thorough prospect of their site. He was particular in his work and spoke highly of the samples found. James Duke(s) died on 11 March 1911 at the Timaru Hospital. The family was then living on the corner of Wilson and Cullman streets. He was buried in the Timaru Cemetery. It is apparent that the family moved about a great deal when the children (nine from three marriages) were at school.

William was born on 24 May 1883 at Templeton. His birth was registered as Dukes and that spelling was used throughout most of his life, except in school records and some electoral rolls. He was educated at several schools as his father moved to various mines around the country – Loburn, Kakahu Bush, Fairfield (Otago), Palmerston (South), Shag Point, Fairlie, back to Kakahu Bush and Geraldine. William worked as a labourer at Amberley and Domett before joining the railways as a surfaceman and linesman. He married Alice Beach on 11 September 1909 at Sydenham; together they had two sons and a daughter – Francis William born on 16 May 1910 at Amberley, James Wallis born on 29 August 1911 at Sydenham, and Alice born on 3 August 1913 at Omihi.

William Henry Dukes, surfaceman, of Omihi, registered at the Christchurch recruiting office on 1 May 1916, and attended the medical examination. At the end of the North Canterbury draft of the Seventeenth Reinforcements were sent from Kaiapoi to go into camp at Trentham. The draft included Private W. H. Dukes. For the fourth time group 11 draft distinguished itself by being over strength. They travelled to Christchurch by train and were assembled at the King Edward Barracks where the roll was called. After a few minutes to say good-bye to relatives and friends, they were addressed by the Officer Commanding the Canterbury District, who impressed upon the men that they had a big reputation to uphold, and expressed his heartiest wishes for their good fortune in the field and a safe return. They were marched to the station, headed by the Cadet Band, and entrained without further ado. Two months later the residents of Omihi gathered in the goods shed to bid farewell to Private W. H. Dukes and Mrs Dukes. Songs, a recitation, a piano solo, dancing and music filled the evening. Private Dukes was presented with an engraved medal, and Mrs Dukes with a biscuit barrel, as a token of esteem. Fellow employees in the railway service presented William with a wristlet watch.

William was a linesman with the Railway Department, residing at Omihi, when he enlisted, was married with three children, and of Church of England affiliation. He nominated his wife as next-of-kin. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 135 pounds, and had achest measurement of 33-36½ inches. His complexion and hair were fair, his eyes blue. He was in good physical and mental condition; sight, hearing, colour vision, teeth, limbs, joints, chest, heart and lungs all being fine. As well he was vaccinated and free of diseases and defects. He required artificial teeth. Private Dukes embarked with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion of the 17th Reinforcements, on 23 September 1916 at Wellington per the “Pakeha”, arriving at Devonport on 18 November. He immediately marched into Sling, and on 8 December he marched out and left for France to join his battalion at Rouen. He spent three months with a tunnelling company, before being detached to Bomb School.

It was in January 1918 when reports reached New Zealand that W. H. Dukes, 26254, was ill in hospital, but not a severe case. He had been admitted to hospital on 21 December 1917, afflicted with sciatica. A week later he embarked for England and was admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital. In the weeks and months following his progress was favourable. In April he was in the Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch. On 5 August he was transferred to Codford. In September 1918, Alice Dukes, his wife, and Rachel Dukes, his mother, asked for furlough for W. H. Dukes, “on service with the Seventeenth Reinforcements”, a married man with three children. The reason for the appeal was the severe illness of a son. The chairman of the Service Board said that it would be unfair to bring home this man after only two years on active service before those who had gone with the Main Body. The request was refused. At this Time Dukes had marched in to Sling. About eight weeks later the hospital report listed Dukes as dangerously ill at Tidworth Military Hospital, with C.S. Fever (admitted 3 November). Newspapers of the same date reported that William Henry Dukes, 26254. C.I.R., had died of sickness – cerebro-spinal fever - on 5 November 1918 at Tidworth Military Hospital. Mrs Dukes was by then living at New Brighton. W. H. Dukes was buried in the Tidworth Military Cemetery, Wiltshire, England.

Three notices for the Roll of Honour in the Lyttelton Times of 11 November 1918 recorded the family of William – dearly beloved husband of Alice; beloved step-son of Mrs R. Dukes (Rachel), and step-brother of Rifleman B. (Ben) and Private T. (Taylor) Dukes (on active service), R. (Rachel) and J. (James John) Dukes and Mrs Garlick (Mary Ellen, Nellie), James and Nellie being issue of the first marriage of James senior; dearly loved brother of Mrs Wallis (Beatrice) and Rifleman F. Taylor (returned from service) (Frank). William’s widow, Alice, lived on in Christchurch until her death in 1968. On 11 August 1918 William had signed that he did not wish to make a Will.

William Henry Dukes is remembered on the Waipara County District Roll of Honour which was unveiled at Waikari in August 1917. The Honours Board stood veiled with the Union Jack in front of the school. The ceremony opened and closed with the National Anthem. “Sons of New Zealand” was sung as the flag was hoisted. The 235 names on the Board – of those who had made the supreme sacrifice and those who had served or were serving - were indicative of the strong patriotic feeling in the district. One of those 235 names is W. H. Dukes. The Waipara County Roll of Honour now hangs inside the Waikari War Memorial Hall. The Waipara’s Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was erected in front of the county offices at Waikari to perpetuate the part played by the county in the great war and was opened in December 1917. The large Roll of Honour was affixed to the inside back wall. Alongside each soldier’s name is the part of the county he came from – W. H. Dukes, Omihi. Names would have to be altered - W. H. Dukes would be one of those, and names added. “The men who had gone to the front had saved the women and children of new Zealand from the fate which befell the women and children of Belgium, of Serbia, and of the enemy-occupied parts of France,” said one speaker. The residents voluntarily rebuilt the hall in January 1953.

On a Sunday afternoon in March 1920 a large congregation assembled at the Anglican Church, Glenmark, for the unveiling of a memorial tablet to the men of the district who fell in the War. The tablet is a splendid piece of brass engraving, and is inscribed as follows: — “In grateful and honoured memory of . . . . . . , W. H. Duke, . . . . . , who gave their lives for their country in the Great War, 1914-1918. Faithful unto death.” After the unveiling, a stirring sermon, readings and prayer, the “Last Post” was sounded. The unveiling of the Omihi monument to fallen soldiers took place on Sunday, July 25, 1920. The monument is of granite, on a very solid concrete base. It stands in an imposing position at the school corner, and bears the following inscription— “Erected by the residents of Omihi in memory of . . . . . , W. H. Dukes, who fell in the Great War, 1914-1918. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’” Special hymns were sung, the Omihi school children sang “God Defend New Zealand, the senior boys recited “Lest We Forget”, and following the unveiling, the Benediction was pronounced, the “Dead March” in “Saul,” was played, and the “The Last Post” was sounded. Private Dukes’ name is inscribed also on the Railways Roll of Honour board which hangs at the Wellington Railway Station.

All his service was in Western Europe. His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal - were sent to his widow, Mrs W. H. Dukes in 1921, the plaque in 1922. When William’s half-brother, Private Joseph Martin Duke died of wounds on 19 May 1918 in France, a Roll of Honour notice in the Lyttelton Times of 25 May named his brothers Privates W. F. B. and T. Duke, on active service. These were William Henry Dukes who subsequently died; his younger brother Francis (Frank) Duke, and two half-brothers, Benjamin Robert Duke and Taylor Duke. Thus five brothers were at the front at the same time.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Centotaph Database [22 June 2019]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0035895) [23 June 2019]; CWGC [23 June 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2013; 21 June 2019]; Star, 5 July 1889, Temuka Leader, 17 May 1906, 9 November 1907, Timaru Herald, 13 & 14 March 1911, Lyttelton Times, 2 May 1916 [x 2], 3 June 1916, 3 August 1916, 6 August 1917, 25 May 1918, 11 November 1918, 31 July 1920, Star, 31 May 1916, 10 September 1918, Press, 10 December 1917, 31 July 1920, Dominion, 18 January 1918, Sun, 10 September 1918, 3 March 1920, New Zealand Times, 9 November 1918 [x 2], New Zealand Herald, 13 November 1918, Otago Witness, 20 November 1918, Evening Post, 4 March 1936 (Papers Past) [21, 22 & 23 June 2019]; School Admission records (South Canterbury & Dunedin branches NZSG) [2013; 24 June 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls (; NZ History [23 & 24 June 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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