HILTON, John Percy
(Service number 23/458)
|Aliases||Known as Percy|
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||26 July 1884||Place of Birth||Invercargill|
|Date||29 May 1915||Age||30|
|Address at Enlistment||Railways, Taihape|
|Occupation||Signalman, NZ Railways|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||G. R. HILTON (father), 3 McQuarrie Street, Invercargill|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||5 foot 7 inches tall, weight 144 pounds (65kgs), chest 32-36 inches, dark complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, good teeth, tear on right index finger.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||1st Battalion, B Company|
|Date||9 October 1915|
|Transport||HMNZT 30 Maunganui|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||B Company, 1 Battalion, 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Campaigns||Egypt & Western Europe|
|Service Medals||1914-15 Star, 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
15 September 1916 - wounded in right & left shoulders, right arm - reported missing in action.
|Date||15 September 1916||Age||32 years|
|Place of Death||Somme, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Southland Times 1 May 1917|
|Memorial or Cemetery||London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval, Somme, France; Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill - memorial on parents' headstone|
|Memorial Reference||9. F. 32.|
|New Zealand Memorials||Railways Roll of Honour board, Wellington Railway Station, Pipitea, Wellington|
John was born at Invercargill on 26 July 1884, the third son of George Richard (1848-1934) and Annie Elizabeth Hilton (1854-1949). His father was one of the oldest residents of South Invercargill where he was a market gardener and poultry keeper. Both parents are buried in the family plot in the Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill. John was educated at the South Invercargill School and later took up employment with the New Zealand Railways.
In 1911 John was working as a porter at the Waimate Railway Station, and by 1914 he was with the Railways at Taihape. It was from here that he enlisted for war service on 29 May 1915, and entered camp at Trentham as part of the NZ Rifle Brigade. He was described as being single, aged 30 years, Anglican, 5 foot 7 inches in height, weighing 144 pounds (65kgs), with a chest measuring 32 – 36 inches, having a dark complexion, hazel eyes, black hair, good teeth and a tear on his right index finger. John nominated his father George of 3 McQuarrie Street, Invercargill, as his next of kin. At Trentham the new Battalions became known as “The Trentham Regiment" (The Earl of Liverpool's Own). At Trentham and Rangiotu (near Palmerston North) John began basic followed by more in depth training in drill, bayonet fighting, tactics etc. On 9 October 1915 Rifleman Hilton departed from Wellington aboard HMNZT 30 “Maunganui” in a convoy with HMNZT 31 “Tahiti”, HMNZT 32 “Aparima”, HMNZT 33 “Navua”, & HMNZT 34 “Warrimoo” carrying the 1st and 2nd Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade - a total of 1,249 troops under Major Austin. The convoy arrived in Albany, Western Australia on 19 October where they linked up with the Australian contingent. At Albany the convoy divided, the "Tahiti," with the 2nd Battalion, sailing in company with the "Navua" and "Aparima," for Suez via Colombo. The "Maunganui" and the "Warrimoo," on the other hand, called at Fremantle, where the 1st Battalion and troops of the 7th Reinforcements went ashore for a route march and three hours' general leave. These two transports sailed from Fremantle at 8 p.m. on 23 October. The 1st Battalion disembarked at Suez, Egypt, from the "Maunganui" on 15 November and entrained for Aerodrome Camp, near the town of Heliopolis, close to Cairo.
At Heliopolis training continued until 21 December, when the 1st Battalion boarded shipping at Alexandria to become part of the Western Frontier Force destined for Mersa Matruh. There Senussi Moslems, led by Turkish Officers, and their supporters, had attacked the British forces. Here the Battalion received their baptism of fire and fought like seasoned troops. The total British casualties in this action were:—1 officer killed and 13 wounded; other ranks, 30 killed and 278 wounded. The NZ battalion had 1 other rank killed and 2 officers and 30 other ranks wounded. The enemy's casualties were estimated from observation and prisoners' reports to be not less than 200 killed and 500 wounded. On 15 February 1916, the Battalion, re-designated as the 1st Battalion 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade (3NZRB), disembarked at Alexandria. On 7 March the Battalion, now part of the newly formed NZ Division, moved out to the camp at Ferry Post, taking over the defensive section from the 2nd Australian Division. The Brigade moved on 20 March from Ferry Post to Moascar Camp, where it remained until it left for France early in the following month.
1 Battalion 3NZRB left aboard “Arcadian” for France on 6 April 1916, arriving at Marseilles six days later. From here they moved by train on 13 April, reaching Hazebrouck about midnight on 15-16 April, before then having to further move on to Steenbecque. On the night of May22/23 the NZRB commenced its first tour of duty in the trenches, taking over part of the sector due east of Armentieres. This was a supposed “quiet” area to get the troops used to trench warfare. The NZRB casualties were quite heavy caused mostly by shell-fire. In August the Battalion was relieved and moved back to Doudelaineville where training began in earnest for the Somme Offensive. In early September they moved up to Fricourt to take up positions on the Somme. On 15 September 1916, the NZ Division attacked Flers as part of the Battle of the Somme. It was during this attack on Flers Village that Rifleman Hilton received slight wounds to his right arm and shoulder. He carried on and was again wounded in Grove Alley with further shrapnel wounds in his left shoulder. After John was patched up in the trench he was sent back to the dressing station. The area was under heavy shelling at the time and this was the last time he was ever seen again. At a Court of Inquiry held on 26 April 1917, it was recorded that Rifleman John Hilton was reported missing believed killed in action on or about 15 September 1916.
John’s name is one of those, whose bodies were never found, who is commemorated on a panel of the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval, France. In 1921 his father was sent John’s war medals consisting of the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal along with a plaque and scroll. His name is also commemorated on the Railway’s Honour Board at the Wellington Railway Station.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [05 June 2020]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [05 June 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [05 June 2020]; Timaru Herald, 17 November 1916 (Papers Past) [04 June 2020]; New Zealand War Graves Project at https://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/john-percy-hilton [September 2020]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at https://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=116788; "Rifleman John Percy Hilton", A Street Near You at https://astreetnearyou.org/person/2945833/-; "Roll of Honour" in the Mataura Ensign 24 October 1916 p3, "Fallen New Zealanders" in the NEw Zealand Times 1 May 1917 p7, "Roll of Honour" in the Timaru Herald 17 November 1916 p5 (note the reference to attending South School Timaru should read South School Invercargill), and death notice in the Southland Times 1 May 1917 p4, all courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ [September 2020]
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG; Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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