20115 Rifleman Alfred Stephen Henry (Harry) Death
Alfred Stephen Henry (Harry) Death was born in Pauatahanui on the 2nd of October 1894, the youngest of three sons of Selina and Oliver Death. The Death family had bought section 90 at Ration Point where Robert, Oliver’s father built a house overlooking the Pauatahanui Inlet.[i] Harry was raised in Pauatahanui attending the local school along with his two brothers and two sisters.
Harry enlisted and on 1st April 1916 entered Trentham Camp as 20115 Private Death, F Company, 16th Reinforcements. Private Death’s military papers show he was single man with his mother, Mrs Selina Death of Pauhatanui, as Next of Kin. Harry is listed as a self employed farmer of Pauhatanui.[ii]
|Alfred Stephen Henry (Harry) Death C1914
Following basic training on 19th August 1916, 20115 Rifleman Death left with F Company, 10th Reinforcements, 2nd Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. On arrival the reinforcements were moved to the Sling Camp, England. Rifleman Death went through more training before on 15th November 1916 before shipping to France and attachment to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB).
In November 1916 the New Zealand Division had been withdrawn from the front lines as the Battle of the Somme started to wind down. The division wintered in the Armentieres sector as preparations were made for the Messines battle. The close living in the trenches assisted in the spread of disease and Rifleman Death was admitted to hospital, on 27 February 1917, with mumps. Rifleman Death would remain in hospital for a month before rejoining his company.
The Battle for Messines began on 7th June 1917 with the detonation of large mines under the German lines and the New Zealand was able to capture the Messines Ridge, initially with light casualties. The Division later suffered over 700 killed as the German counter bombardment of the ridge took a heavy toll. Rifleman Death was wounded in action on the first day of the battle being removed from the field by the 9th Australian Field Ambulance with a ‘swollen knee due to barbed wire and shrapnel wounds’[iii]
Rifleman Death was fit again by 27 July 1917 when he rejoined his unit. The NZ Division conducted a number of attacks in the Le Bass Ville area which was taken on 31 July 1917. The Division was then subjected during the early weeks of August with very heavy shelling which caused heavy casualties. Rifleman Death was one of these being killed on 19th August 1917, one year after leaving New Zealand. Rifleman Death was buried in the Bethleem Farm Military Cemetery
Grave D6 Beethlam Farm West Cemetery, Messines, Belgium
20115 Rifleman A S H Death, NZ Rifle Brigade
Harry Death is commemorated on the Pauatanui War Memorial[iv] and also on the grave of his parents in the St Alban’s burial ground Pauatahanui.
New Zealand Freelance – 05 October 1917: Photos of Wellington Casualties
Commonwealth War Graves – Beetham Farm West Cemetery: D6 20115 Rifleman A S H Death
St Alban’s Pauatahanui – Death family: Allan Dodson 2014
Helen Reilly (2013) Pauatahanui – A local history
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 20115 Rifleman Alfred Steven Henry (Harry) Death
NZHistory.net.nz – New Zealand War / First World War
[i] Pauatahanui – A local history: Death Family pg 235.
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 20115 Rifleman Alfred Stephen Henry (Harry) Death
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 20115 Rifleman Alfred Stephen Henry (Harry) Death
[iv] WW1 Pauatahanui casualties: Victor Abbott, Kenneth Boulton, Shirer Carter, Harry Death, Walter Harris, Norman Jones.