ANZAC Cove 1916 - 51 Moana Road - Karehana Bay (part two) (read part one)

The Lawrence Family


Henry John (Jack) Lawrence, brother Gilbert Alexander and sister Dorothy Ellaline Lawrence were all born in England prior to the family coming to New Zealand. Two other children, Winifred Eileen and Clarice Fuller were born in New Zealand. On the outbreak of World War One the brothers enlisted in the Samoan Advance Party.

Gilbert Alexander Lawrence, on enlistment, was listed as a motor mechanic working for Lyons & Co, Kent Terrace, Wellington.[i]   Gilbert served his compulsory military training in D Company of the 5th (Wellington) Regiment and like his brother, Jack, sailed with B Company, 5th (Wellington) Regiment on 15th August 1914 as 1/377 Private Lawrence, Samoa Advanced Party to occupy the German Colony of Samoa.


German War Flag captured at Samoa by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force - 1914 - 1916

After the August 1914 landing the Samoa Expeditionary force settled in to the occupation of German Samoa a November 1914 letter from 2/16 Bombardier Arthur Roland Charlton with the force noted the monotony:

‘Dear Mr Shannon,

I am just dropping you a few lines to thank you for the books and papers you have so kindly been sending me. I can assure you they have been highly appreciated.

It is getting very monotonous here now, and I will be glad to the end of Samoa.

I almost wish I had waited and done your books and gone with one of the other batteries.’ [ii]

The Lawrence brothers returned to New Zealand on 14th April 1915 with Gilbert on 15th April 1915 re-enlisted in B Company 5th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion[iii] sailing for Egypt on 13 June 1915 as 10/2442 Private Lawrence, 5th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Regiment[iv].


10/2442 Private Gilbert Alexander Lawrence and his father

There are no records on when Private Lawrence arrived in Egypt or his landing at Gallipoli but cross checks with other B Company 5th Reinforcements suggest he arrived in Egypt on 27 July 1915 and after a limited time was sent to ANZAC Cove landing 4th August 1915. Preparations were underway for a big assault in what is now called the Battle of Chunuk Bair. The Battle commenced on 6th August 1915 and in the early hours of the morning of 8th August 1915 the Wellington Infantry Battalion lead by Colonel Malone stormed the heights of Chunuk Bair. By the evening of the 8th Colonel Malone was dead and the Wellington’s had been reduced to a shattered handful of men. Of the 760 men who captured the heights in the morning only 70 were unwounded or only slightly wounded.[v]


10/2442 Private Lawrence’s military records note that on 8th August 1915 he was ‘missing.’ The confused nature of the battle meant that it was not until 1st September 1915 that his record was amended to note that he had been wounded and evacuated from ANZAC Cove on 10th August 1915.  Private Lawrence had gunshot wounds (GSW) to an eye, hand and arm and was shipped to England where he was treated at the St George Hospital, London. The Lawrence family history is that the wound to the hand and arm was the most serious injury and it was only the skill of an English surgeon that saved Gilbert’s hand. In the operation the surgeon removed the bullet that was still lodged in the wrist. Gilbert had the fob watch chain made to fit the bullet and wore it for the rest of his life.[vi]  

In December 1915 Private Lawrence was assessed and not considered fit so was returned to New Zealand on the SS Rotorua with other wounded soldiers. The Dominion on 4th February 1916 noted the wounded arrival in Wellington[vii]:

‘The men are all convalescents who have been under treatment in English hospitals, the majority being almost completely recovered, though a proportion will be unfit for further military service. As they came off the boat the returned men presented a fine appearance, in very marked contrast with that of many previous drafts of invalids. Almost without exception they wore a fresh and healthy complexion, the fruits of an English winter and a long sea voyage, and showed every sign of smartness in dress and bearing. To an observant onlooker it seemed as if they had felt it an honour to represent New Zealand in the Homeland, and had wished during their stay to appear in every way worthy representatives of the Dominion. Few it might be noticed walked with sticks, but there were neither crutches not bandages to be seen. A number had plainly seen the end of their soldiering days, as an occasional sightless eye plainly showed, while a few more, it was learned, possessed eyes that, while outwardly unaffected, were of no further use to their owners. Apparently it had been the practice to send all eye cases to England, where they have been receiving attention from the very greatest specialist. One man on the Rotorua was even attended by a surgeon attached to the Royal Household, who, however, was unable to save the sight of the injured eye.’

On 4th March 1916, 10/2442 Private Gilbert Alexander Lawrence was discharged as no longer physically fit for service and returned to civilian life. Gilbert worked for the Department of Health as a food inspector before joining his father’s firm[viii].

Gilbert married Lillian Ivy Kirby in January 1918 and they would have two children, William and Jean. Gilbert had a long and successful career he was awarded the OBE in 1964 ‘for his interest in science particularly through refrigeration and in his local body connections.[ix]

Gilbert Alexander Lawrence died on 17 April 1972 aged 78[x].


Henry John, known as Jack, Lawrence the eldest of the brothers also enlisted in August 1914 for service with the Samoa Expeditionary Force. Jack had served as compulsory military training with the Johnsonville Rifles. On his enlistment papers Jack is listed as an Engineer’s Fitter working at Levin & Co, Wellington. 1/435 Private Henry John Lawrence sailed as part of B Company, 5th (Wellington) Regiment in the occupation of German Samoa.

Samoa Yielded without a Struggle as the postcard indicated and the Samoa Expeditionary settled down as an occupying force.

Jack and his brother would not return to New Zealand until the 14th April 1915. Jack requested a discharge and returned to work as an Engineer’s fitter but re-enlisted in March 1916 as 26419 Sapper Lawrence, NZ Engineers, leaving New Zealand in July 1916 with the 14th Reinforcements.


26419 Sapper Henry John (Jack) Lawrence and his brother Gilbert Alexander Lawrence - May 1916.

On arrival in England and prior to going to France Sapper Lawrence was transferred to the New Zealand Field Artillery. Gunner Lawrence served in France from 13th January 1917 with the 4th Battery, 3rd Division until 23rd May 1918 when he was transferred to the New Zealand Engineers. Sapper Lawrence had only been with his new unit for four days when he was wounded and evacuated from the field. His injuries reported were ‘bomb wounds to foot, leg and hand’[xi] Sapper Lawrence would return to his unit after two months remaining in France after the Armistice only being shipped to England in March 1919 and eventually leaving for New Zealand in May 1919, landing at Auckland on 23rd June 1919 for discharge and return to civilian life in engineering. Jack returned to work at Levin & Co, Featherston Street, Wellington and would remain with the firm until his retirement.

Lawrence family history notes that Jack met his future wife in England and she followed him to New Zealand, in 1920 Jack married Annie (Nan) Whiting.[xii]  Jack and Nan had two daughters, Helena and Eileen.

Henry John (Jack) Lawrence died in 1980 aged 91.

Dorothy Ellaline Lawrence was the eldest daughter of Henry William and Clara Lawrence. In 1919 she married James Wilfred (Wilf) Mexted[xiii]. Wilf had also served in WW1 with the New Zealand Field Artillery and the letters he wrote to his mother will be the subject of a separate story. The Mexted family farmed in Tawa from the 1880’s but Dorothy and Wilf moved to farm in Pauatahanui in the 1920’s becoming an established and well known family in the district.

Allan Dodson  - November 2014


Postcard, ‘German War Flag captured at Samoa by New Zealand Expeditionary Force’, 1914-1915, New Zealand, By William Wilson, Te Papa (GH023107)

Gilbert Alexander Lawrence & his father April 1915: – Lawrence family 

The Battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915. The sesquicentennial gift to the nation from the New Zealand Defence Force. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington  D-001-035

Postcard, ’Samoa Yielded without a Struggle’ 1914, New Zealand, by the New Zealand Observer, William Blomfield, Te Papa (Gh023110)

Jack and Gilbert Lawrence May 1916: Lawrence family


Pugsley, Chris. Gallipoli - The New Zealand Story: Reed 1998

Archives New Zealand, Military files, 1/435 & 26429 H J Lawrence

Archives New Zealand, Military files, 1/377 & 10/2442 G A Lawrence

[i] Military Records – Archway Archives New Zealand – 1/377 Private Gilbert Alexander Lawrence

[ii] 24th November 1914 letter from 2/16 Bombardier Charlton to Mr G V Shannon: Shannon papers Palmerston North Library. Mr Shannon’s grandsons farmed land behind Karehana Bay.

[iii] Military Records – Archway Archives New Zealand – 1/377 Private Gilbert Alexander Lawrence

[iv] Military Records – Archway Archives New Zealand – 1/377 Private

[v] Pugsley, Chris. Pg 301 Gallipoli - The New Zealand Story: Reed 1998

[vi] Lawrence family – oral history

[vii] Invalided Soldiers: Dominion 4 February 1916

[viii] Obituary Mr G A Lawrence: Evening Post 20 April 1972

[ix] Obituary Mr G A Lawrence: Evening Post 20 April 1972

[x] BDM Internal Affairs 1972/26136 Gilbert Alexander Lawrence

[xi] Military Records – Archway Archives New Zealand – 26419 Sapper Henry John Lawrence

[xii] BDM NZ Internal Affairs; 1920/9998 marriage Lawrence/Whiting

[xiii] BDM NZ Internal Affairs; 1919/5317 marriage Lawrence/Mexted

Last Updated: 26/03/2015 2:52pm