AITKEN, Robert Lyal
(Service number 8/2787)

First Rank Sergeant Last Rank Sergeant


Date 22 April 1889 Place of Birth Totara Valley, Pleasant Point (Timaru)

Enlistment Information

Date Age
Address at Enlistment 35 Jackson Street, St Kilda, Dunedin
Occupation Draper
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Married
Next of Kin Mrs M. M. AITKEN (wife), 35 Jackson Street, St Kilda, Dunedin
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 6th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Otao Infantry Battalion
Date 14 August 1915
Transport Wilochra
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Somme)
Service Medals
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

Post-war Occupations


Date 30 September 1916 Age 27 years
Place of Death France
Cause Died of wounds
Memorial or Cemetery Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France
Memorial Reference I. E. 9
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Robert Lyal Aitken was born on 22 April 1889 at Totara Valley, Pleasant Point, the third son of William and Jane Turnbull (née Oliver) Aitken. His father had arrived at Port Chalmers in 1859 by the Strathallan. After some time in North Otago he took up contracting work in the Fairlie district in the early 1880s. So it was that Robert was born at Totara Valley. Robert was educated at Outram and Oamaru schools. He was very involved in sports, excelling especially harriers, and also active in military affairs, being a sergeant in the Dunedin Cycling Corps. Robert married Margaret May Annie Groves in 1913.

Robert, a draper, and Margaret were residing in St Kilda, Dunedin when he enlisted. Sergeant R. L. Aitken embarked at Wellington per the “Willochra” on 14 August 1915, destined for Suez, Egypt. Some days out from Wellington, Sergeant R. L. Aitken, of St Kilda, threw a bottle overboard containing a message. Picked up on the West Coast, the message was forwarded to his relatives.

Robert Lyal Aitken was wounded in the Battle of the Somme and succumbed to his wounds on 30 September 1916. He was buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. His younger brother, John Alexander Aitken, who has embarked in May 1916, was also wounded in France and died of his wounds on 8 October 1916 at Birmingham, England, where he was buried. Their oldest brother, William James Aitken, embarked with the 19th Reinforcements in November 1916. “In proud and loving memory of my brothers’ was William’s notice in the Timaru Herald of 1 October 1919.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [30 July 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [30 July 2021]; School Admission record (Dunedin Branch NZSG) [30 July 2021]; Evening Star, 17 January 1916, 12 October 1916, 7 December 1925, Otago Daily Times, 13 October 1916, 8 December 1925, Timaru Herald, 1 October 1919 (Papers Past) [31 July 2021]

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

Not assigned.

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