54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent


  Thomas was born in Porirua, on 12th January 1898, the eldest son of Martha Alice & Thomas James Dent. Thomas grew up in Porirua going to the Porirua School where he was also a member of the Porirua Football (Association) team. The team travelled in August 1913 to play against a Blenheim team and listed were:[i]   

Len Eastwood, H Harris, H Mungavin, T Windley, J Lewis, A Whitehouse, T Dent, R Rene,

J Eastwood, J Windley, R Mungavin, D Herlihy, L Ward, L Thompson & F Mathews.

Porirua School Football (Association) c 1912 Tommy Dent standing 3rd Right

Tommy had left school by 1916 and was working as a labourer for a Mr Wilson in Hunterville when he enlisted. Tommy ‘adjusted his date of birth’ on enlistment to 12th January 1896[ii] so he would meet the age restriction of 20 years old and was signed up on the 13th February 1917 entering camp with the 28th Reinforcements on the 2nd May 1917 as 54477 Private Thomas James Dent, H Company 28th Reinforcements. Also in H Company was another Hunterville man, Thomas Sheeley and the two went through training together and left New Zealand in July 1917 for England. In England both the Thomas’s were allocated to the Reserve Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and became 54477 Rifleman Dent and 54607 Rifleman Seerley. After additional training at Sling Camp both Riflemen were sent, in March 1918 to France and the Western Front. Initially held in the reserves Rifleman Dent was posted, in April 1918 to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment NZRB and Rifleman Seerley to C Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment NZRB but the remained in close communications.

On 27th July 1918 50095 Gunner Wilf Mexted, from Tawa, in a letter back to his ‘Mama & Papa’ in New Zealand wrote[iii]

‘I met Tom Dent on the road the other day marching along with a mob of diggers & I got on George Baird’s rack this morning.’





In August 1918 the New Zealand Division was engage in a major offensive the Battle of Baupuame in which on 23th August 1918 both Rifleman Dent and Sheeley were killed two of the twelve NZRB killed that day. Only Rifleman Sheeley’s body was recovered amd is buried in the Queens Cemetary, Bucquoy, France,  Rifleman Dent is remembered on the Grevilliers (New Zealand) Memorial. Both were remembered by the Dent family with these memorium were inserted by the Dent family in the Evening Post August 1922.[iv]






It is of note that Thomas Sheeley was in fact Martin Quirke a 31 year old single man from Cork, Ireland who had been in New Zealand for five years prior to enlisting. Martin’s cousin, and listed next of kin, Patrick Sheeley notified the authorities in 1919 and military records were eventually changed in 1921.[v] At this stage it is not know why he used an alias on enlisting.

Allan Dodson – March 2015


Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent

Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54607 Rifleman Martin Quirke  aka Thomas Sheeley

Unpublished letters 50095 Gunner James Wilfred (Wilf) Mexted to home


Porirua School Football (Association) team about 1912: Pataka

54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent: Auckland Weekly News


[i] Porirua School (20 August 1913) Marlborough Express

[ii] Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent

[iii] Unpublished letter, 27 July 1917, 50069 Gunner Mexted to home

[iv] Memorium (23 August 1922) Evening Post

[v] Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54607 Rifleman Martin Quirke aka Thomas Sheeley

Last Updated: 30/03/2015 6:08pm