Krithia - A Plimmerton Story by Allan Dodson

There have been stories about German spies operating in Plimmerton; this month's story is about 65 Moana Road, 'Krithia'.

Porirua City Council’s document Heritage Trails, Plimmerton Promenade, lists: ‘Krithia c1915 – This house is significant for two main reasons. The stone wall and outbuildings are on section C of the heritage register. The out buildings (many of which have already gone), were made of local beach stone by a German sea captain. He lived here for many years and was a founding member of the Plimmerton Boating Club. He had a powerful telescope and used to spend many hours in a hut on the flat area above the house, looking out to sea. Local legend has it that the hut was closed down during the 1st and 2nd world war because of fears of German spies.[1] 

When it was proposed to have a railway connection from the main rail track to a port at Hongoeka a large area of land in Karehana Bay was purchased by Sir George Troup and Mr Moore.[2]  Around 1890, a tramway was constructed from Plimmerton railway station to Karehana Bay and Hongoeka to remove boulders from the beaches. The port never eventuated so once the requirements for boulders finished parcels of this land were sold off.

Proposed tramway at Plimmerton: Archives New Zealand ref MD2173

In 1912 there was a large auction of sections in Karehana Bay and one of these vacant sections, listed as Lot 2, would become 65 Moana Road. [3]

 
The official Hutt County documents have not been located, it is presumed that the purchaser was Mr Henry Butler France because in 1944 he is listed as living at 65 Moana Road, having lived in Plimmerton for approximately 30 years.[4]  Mr France arrived in Wellington, New Zealand from England at the age of thirteen.  He trained as a carpenter and is credited with building yachts, sailing his own on Wellington Harbour in the 1880’s and later on Lake Horowhenua when the family moved to Levin. [5]

In August 1893 Henry Butler France married Louise Theodora Frechtling the eldest daughter of Carl Frechtling, a tailor, who had emigrated from Germany with his family and had been naturalised in 1890. Louise was born in Germany and may have spoken with an accent.

Is this the German connection?

It was after 1893 that both Henry France and Carl Frechtling moved to Levin, a town that, like Plimmerton, was named after a director of Manawatu & Wellington Railway. Levin had been established in 1886 when the railway connected the area to both Palmerston North and Wellington.

Henry France now a farmer and carpenter, was prominent in Levin, being one of the first borough councillors in 1906 and also involved in the Horowhenua Boating Club. If Henry France purchased the property 1914/1915, as suggested, it is possible that 65 Moana Road was originally a beach dwelling as it was not until 1920 that Henry France is listed as permanently living in Plimmerton.[6]  The present owners of 65 Moana Road indicate that during renovations different phases of building were uncovered.  In 1923 Henry France was involved in the establishment of the Plimmerton Boating Club and maintained a strong interest in it until his death in 1945. Between 1942–1944, Henry Butler France was the commodore of the Plimmerton Boating Club.

Through the 1920-1940’s, Henry Butler France wrote many letters to the editor of the Evening Post about what was happening in the sea off Karehana Bay. This interest in the sea may well have required a large telescope, he also meets other criteria, as a builder, founding member of the Plimmerton Boating Club... so is he the “Spy at Krithia”

 

'Krithia', 65 Moana Road - photo by Allan Dodson

So where did the name Krithia come from?

We do know that the family was using it in 1944 when Henry and Louise celebrated their golden wedding at the house.[7] 

Henry and Louise only had one son George Carl France, born 30 May 1894. George was a carpenter working in Levin when World War One was declared and he enlisted in the Wellington Infantry Brigade. As 10/346 Private France, he was in the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force when it sailed in October 1914 for overseas service. Private France’s service record [8] is unclear but the Wellington Infantry Brigade landed at ANZAC Cove, 25 April 1915, and was in action in this sector until 5 May 1915. Then, along with other New Zealand Infantry Brigades, the Wellington Infantry Brigade was moved to the Helles area at the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Wellington Infantry Battalion was in action on 8 May 1915 in the Second Battle of Krithia. Allied forces attempted to take the village of Krithia and the crest Achi Baba. It was frontal assault in full daylight and the Wellington Battalion struggled a few hundred meters before being brought to a halt in the killing ground of ‘Daisy Patch'. The New Zealand casualties were 800 and of those killed 48 were from the Wellington Brigade. [9]

Private France was a causality of this battle, being reported in newspapers as evacuated to Malta arriving 17 May 1915. [10]  There is nothing in Private France's service record to indicate the nature of his wounds, but they do note that in July 1915, he was still at Malta but progressing satisfactorily.

It was not until January 1916 that Private France was considered to be fit again for active duties, rejoining the Wellington Infantry Battalion in Egypt, before transferring to the Field Ambulance service. Private France went on to serve in France and would have been involved in New Zealand’s battles at Somme, Messines and Passchendaele.

In the battle of Passchendaele in October 1917, the muddy conditions made it impossible to use wheeled vehicles. Teams of six bearers spent up to seven hours battling knee deep mud to carry the wounded between three and five kilometres to a dressing station. [11]

Stretcher Bearers Passchendaele 1917: Imperial War Museum Q5935

The ongoing impact of active service resulted in Private France being evacuated sick from France in January 1918, and until his return to New Zealand in February 1919, he was in and out of hospitals in England. George Carl France returned to Levin and later served in World War Two in the Levin Battalion of the Home Guard. George would die in Levin on 14 April 1977.

It is understandable that Henry and Louise France would have named the house at 65 Moana Road ‘Krithia’, because of their son’s involvement in the Battle of Krithia and the impact this would have had on the family.

In the early 1970’s a member of the France family, George’s granddaughter [12] told the author that the house was named after the wife of a German sea captain. Many returning servicemen from both WW1 and WW2 were reluctant to talk about their experiences in the wars. Was this a story told by George so he would not have to recount the tales of his time in Gallipoli and France and so helped create the legend?

 

[1] – Porirua City Heritage Trails – Plimmerton Promenade 1999

[2] – Plimmerton Boating Club online - history 

[3] – 1912 Subdivisional Plan of Plimmerton Extension, JH Bethune & Co: PRA Collection

[4] – Golden Wedding, France – Frechtling – Evening Post 28 August 1944

[5] – Obituary Henry Butler France – Evening Post 16 July 1945

[6] - Plimmerton Listings – Wises Directory; Wellington, Taranaki & Hawkes Bay

[7] - Golden Wedding, France-Frechtling-Evening Post 28 August 1944

[8] – 10/346 Private George Carl France- Military Service Record, New Zealand Archives

[9] - Second Battle of Krithia, NZ History online

[10] - Causalty lists, Evening Post 17 May 1915

[11] - Charles Begg-NZ History online

[12] - unsource oral history De Castro / Dodson 1970’s.

 

Next month’s story will outline the two sea captains living in Plimmerton during

1914 – 1930 and their possible involvement with the “Plimmerton Spies”

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Last Updated: 26/03/2015 3:11pm