George Henry McDermid

George Henry McDermid was born on 22 April 1890 in Akitio, a small seaside settlement near Dannevirke. When George was a small child the McDermid family left the district, possibly for Dunedin, as George is noted in military papers as serving with the Otago Mounted Rifles prior to 1914. George Henry McDermid had moved back to the Hawkes Bay by August 1914 and was a labourer from Weber. He was among the first to enlist and on 12 August 1914 entered camp as a Trooper in the 9th Wellington East Coast Mounted Rifles. On 16 October 1914 11/313 Trooper George Henry McDermid departed with the Main Body (of The New Zealand Expeditionary Force) for overseas service arriving in Egypt in December 1914.[1] The Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR), along with other New Zealand and Australian mounted units, trained along the Suez Canal and provided a defensive element against threatened Turkish attacks across the canal. However the WMR was to fight as dismounted infantry in the Gallipoli campaign, with the WMR landing at Gallipoli in May 1915.[2] Trooper McDermid was evacuated with dysentery in June 1915 returning to ANZAC Cove on 10 August 1915 and was immediately engaged in the Battle of Chunuk Bair. Trooper McDermid was attached to the Machine Gun section of the WMR and along with other New Zealand elements, was evacuated from the peninsula in December 1915. Following retraining in Alexandria, the WMR was posted to the Suez Canal as part of the ANZAC Mounted Division, which then moved into the Sinai Desert to engage Turkish forces. In May 1916 Trooper McDermid was evacuated to hospital with bronchitis and after a month in hospital was invalided back to New Zealand. In August 1916 another assessment of Trooper McDermid resulted in him being discharged from the army as ‘a result of illness contracted while on active service.’[3]

George McDermid volunteered again for active service on 9 August 1917 and was passed as physically fit. The shortage of men at the front was becoming a problem and on 8 August 1917 the New Zealand government made changes to the classification of medical conditions, enabling George McDermid to be classified as Class A and fit for service both in New Zealand and overseas.  Private McDermid entered Trentham camp joining the 35th Specialist Reinforcements; Private McDermid had requested a posting to the machine gun section, acknowledging his previous experience with the WMR. Private McDermid’s service record is not complete but it is possible that he was reassessed in camp and again declared as unfit.[4]



  George Henry McDermid in uniform c1918.
  Following his discharge from the army George McDermid married his first wife, Agnes Lavenor Maud Rankin in 1917.  They divorced in 1926 and George remarried in 1928 to Joyce Thelma Sherbrooke. George, now listed as a boot maker and carpenter, moved to Plimmerton.  George Henry McDermid was one of a number of public spirited men who, aware of the disastrous fires in the Plimmerton Village in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, met on 7 February 1934 to form a Plimmerton Fire Brigade. George McDermid was elected as the first Superintendant. The early Plimmerton fire alarm was a length of railway iron hung from a pole outside George McDermid’s house, 3 Motuhara Road which was struck with an iron bar to sound the alarm.[5]
  Tom Scott Cartoon
  With war clouds again forming over Europe, George McDermid was one of a number of Plimmerton ex-servicemen who, in May 1939 formed the Plimmerton Branch of the Defence League. The Defence League’s aim was to assist the Government in educating the public to the realities of the defence position.[6]  George McDermid was also involved in the Legion of Frontiersmen, a Lieutenant in the Hutt Valley Troop which offered ‘its service to the Government to assist in any scheme of national defence of New Zealand and its Empire.’[7] George McDermid at this stage had also enlisted in the National Military Reserve Guard as 2/26/29 Corporal George Henry McDermid. At the outbreak of war in August 1939, Corporal McDermid entered camp and served in the Reserve Guard until his discharge on 17 May 1940. George McDermid continued to support Home Guard activities with his home in Plimmerton being a recruitment centre for the Home Guard.[8]  George McDermid continued with his duties as the Superintendent of the Plimmerton Fire Brigade until 12 February 1942 when he moved to Christchurch.
  Plimmerton Volunteer Fire Brigade 1941

George McDermid is the 7th from the right and his son George McDermid the right hand scout runner the left hand scout runner is Jim Gyton.

George Henry’s son George who had attended Plimmerton School would later be part of Jay Force, New Zealand’s contribution to the occupation of Japan in 1945.

In Christchurch, on 14 February 1957, George Henry McDermid died.[9]



[1] 11/313 Trooper George Henry McDermid: Service Record – Archives New Zealand

[2] Wellington Mounted Rifles: New Zealand History online

[3] 11/313 Trooper George Henry McDermid: Service Record – Archives New Zealand

[4] 11/313 Private George Henry McDermid: Service Record – Archives New Zealand

[5] Sand Sea and Sirens: 75 years of fire fighting in Plimmerton 1934 – 2009/ Ross Miller with Russell Postlewaight.

[6] Defence League: Evening Post 15 May 1939

[7] Defence League: Evening Post 15 May 1939

[8] Home Guard: Evening Post 16 November 1940

[9] Births, Deaths & Marriages: NZ Dept Internal Affairs.



 11/313 Trooper George Henry McDermid: Brian Malone collection

George Henry McDermid Plimmerton Fire Alarm: Plimmerton Fire Brigade

 Plimmerton Fire Volunteers: Pataka Museum P_2_106



The Onward Project: Collection of photos of all New Zealand servicemen and women who served in the First World War.

Allan Dodson   January 2014


Last Updated: 20/01/2014 2:45pm