Somme House

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Somme House is a well know landmark on the foreshore of Karehana Bay. The Porirua City Council website Historic Sites lists the house:

‘Somme House on Moana Road was named to commemorate the New Zealand soldiers killed in the 1916 Battle of the Somme in World War I. It was built by Archie McMahon, who also built the Turville House (in Motuhara Road. ed.) and many other houses in Plimmerton. Unlike typical villas of the time, it shows early expression of typical bungalow features that became common in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the exposed-rafter ends, shallow-pitched roof and casement windows.

The land on which Somme House was built was once part of George Troup’s estate which extended up Cluny Road and included Motuhara, Moana and Airlie Roads. In 1910 the land was subdivided and sections were sold off over the subsequent years. On 17 May 1915 Troup sold Lot 79 to Robert Hird Hustler, a painter from Johnsonville. Hustler took a mortgage out on the land on 28 February 1916, probably to build the house. On 23 April 1918 the land was sold to Juanita Heather Sylvia Craw of Linton, a spinster." [1]
 Somme House, 34 Moana Road: Allan Dodson November 2012

It is possible that Mr Hustler was a printer as a Mr R H Hustler in 1917 was the President of the Printers, Lithographers and Paper Cutters’ Union [2].  Mr Hustler was also a member of the inaugural Plimmerton Progressive Association in November 1916 [3]. It is possible that 34 Moana Road was initially a beach bach as Mr R H Hustler continued to reside in Johnsonville through to 1919 [4].  

The Craw family was a pioneering family on Banks Peninsula, Christchurch. George Craw married Elizabeth Hunter and they had five children. The eldest daughter, Juanita (Nita) Heather Sylvia Craw was born in 1890 and the oldest son, Eric Hector Dunstan Craw, known to the family as Hector, was born in Chorlton, Banks Peninsula on 11 August 1891 [5]. The Craw family moved to Linton, Palmerston North prior to 1900 where George Craw farmed and also owned a large flax mill.

The Craw family had ‘a yearly event for the George Craw family was the sea side holiday at Plimmerton, Wellington’ [6]. The postcard features George, his wife, their five children including Nita (standing to the right of the tent and Hector (seated extreme right) and members of the Hunter and Priest families, about 1906 at Plimmerton.

A typical camp at Plimmerton c1906: Craw family collection
In April 1918 Juanita Heather Sylvia Craw was listed as the owner of 34 Moana Road Karehana Bay, Plimmerton.  In August 1918 Juanita married Ditlev Gothard Monrad [7]. Ditlev’s Danish grandfather was a bishop in the Lutheran church and had been a minister in the Danish government during the Second Schleswig War with Germany in 1864. Following Denmark’s defeat the Monrad family had come to New Zealand, settling as farmers in the Linton area of Palmerston North [8].
Ditlev (Dit) and Juanita (Nita) Monrad, extreme right, August 1918: Craw family collection

There are two family connections to the 1916 Somme battle. The first is Juanita’s brother Eric Hector Dunstan Craw, known by the family as Hector, who during his compulsory military training and possibly because of family connections, trained with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, 1911–1914. At the outbreak of war Hector Craw enlisted in the Wellington Mounted Rifles, his occupation listed as a farmer working for his father George Craw [9]. Appointed as a Lance Corporal, Hector mounted up with the 6th Manawatu Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles.

11/24 Lance Corporal Craw sailed with the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force from Wellington to Egypt on 16 October 1914. The Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR) did not take part in the initial landings at Gallipoli but remained in Egypt defending the Suez Canal against possible attacks from the Ottoman Turks. It was not until 12 May 1915 that the WMR landed at Gallipoli, without their horses, having been ordered to fight as ordinary infantrymen [10].

11/24 Lance Corporal Eric Hector Dunstan Craw, 6th Manawatu, Wellington Mounted Rifles: Craw family Collection

11/24 Lance Corporal Craw would have taken part in the Battle for Chunuk Bair where one report written on 6th August 1915 was that ‘The 6th (Manawatu) Squadron overruns Ottoman positions on Destroyer Hill in a close-quarters action using bayonets and grenades. The squadron suffers just three casualties in this action... [11].

Lance Corporal Craw was promoted to Corporal on 8 August 1915, and on the 20th of August 1915 with the 6thManawatu Squadron, occupied and entrenched a position halfway up Sazli Beit Dere.’ It is probable that Corporal Craw was in this position when he was wounded 21 August 1915 [12].

Corporal Craw was evacuated on the Hospital Ship Arcadian to Gibraltar, where he was admitted to hospital, on 30 August 1915, with gunshot wounds (GSW) to the abdomen. Corporal Craw was later moved to the West General Hospital in Manchester where he remained until January 1916. Corporal Craw was transferred to New Zealand’s convalescent hospital at Grey Towers, London where he was initially listed as having grade B health. A B grading indicated that with treatment it was possible for the serviceperson to return to active duty [13].

In March 1916, Corporal Craw was transferred back to active service, to the New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA) and reverted, at his request, to Gunner. The reverting to basic Gunner was requested because of the number and quality of NCO’s that had transferred to the NZFA [14]. Gunner Craw was promoted to Lance Bombardier attached to the 12th Battery of the 3rd Brigade of NZFA [15] as part of the New Zealand Division going to France.

Initially the New Zealand Division was at the front in Armentieres from May to mid August 1916. Lance Bombardier Craw was promoted to Bombardier prior to the start of the second battle of the Somme. The NZFA was in action prior to the 15 September 1916 infantry assault. Field gunners tried to blow gaps in the barbed-wire entanglements in No Man's Land and between trench lines, while howitzers pulverised trenches, lines of communication, machine-gun nests, observation posts and other strong points. New Zealand gunners also fired poison-gas shells for the first time on 12 September 1916 [16].

NZFA 18 pounder in action Western Front – NZ Artillery in the Field 1914-18 NZETC

The New Zealand Division was withdrawn 3-4 October 1916 incurring 7000 casualties, 1560 of them killed. 'The gunners stayed behind as usual, and endured three more weeks of toil and danger in worsening conditions, a nightmare of flooded gun pits in a shell torn swamp. By the time New Zealand's artillery was withdrawn from the line, in the last week of October 1916, it had suffered about 500 casualties.’ [17] One casualty was 11/24 Bombardier Eric Craw who had been killed in action 25 September 1916, and is buried at Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, France [18].

The second family connection to the Somme is Juanita’s husband Ditlev (Dit) Gothard Monrad. Ditlev’s official service record is unavailable but other records show that he enlisted in 1914 and sailed as a 10/22 Private Monrad in the Wellington Infantry Brigade. Private Monrad landed at Gallipoli and would have taken part in Battle of Krithia, the same battle as Private George France, of Krithia House, Plimmerton, and also in the Battle for Chunuk Bair.

 

8 August 1915 Wellington Infantry Brigade in action on Chunuk Bair - Alexander Turnbull Library

According to one newspaper report, a seriously ill Private Monrad was evacuated from Gallipoli, to the Second Western General Hospital, Manchester, on 15 October 1915. This timing indicates that Private Monrad would have been at that hospital at the same time as his future wife’s brother Eric [19].

Following convalescence, Private Monrad returned to active service on the Western Front. Records do not confirm that he was at the Somme, but on 30 November 1916, Private Monrad was again in hospital and again seriously ill. Remembering that the battle of the Somme concluded for New Zealand Division in early October 1916, it is likely that Private Monrad was active in this battle. In 1916 the stated aim was to return soldiers to the Front within six months of sickness or injury. If the prognosis indicated a longer convalescence, it was considered more economic to send them back to New Zealand [20]. 

Private Monrad returned to New Zealand and married Nita Craw in August 1918 prior to the end of the war.

As stated above, Juanita bought 34 Moana Road in 1918. There is no conclusive evidence of when the house was named, but with her brother’s and her husband’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme, it is likely that the house commemorates their service and the impact of this battle on this family and all of New Zealand.

Story by Allan Dodson – December 2012
 
[1] – pcc.govt.nz/about-porirua
[2] - Female Printing Trade Workers: Evening Post 22 December 1917.
[3] - Plimmerton Progressive Association: Evening Post 20 November 1916.
[4] – Wises Directory, Wellington 1920
[5] - 11/24 Lance Corporal E H C Craw: NZ Archives Service Record
[6] – Craw family at Plimmerton: Craw family archives.
[7] – Craw/Monrad marriage: NZ Department of Internal Affairs, Births Deaths and Marriages 1918.
[8] - Monrad Ditlev Gothard (1811-81): An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966
[9] – 11/24 Lance Corporal E H C Craw: NZ Archives Service Record
[10] – Wellington Mounted Rifles: New Zealand History online
[11] - 6th August Battle for Chunuk Bair: New Zealand History online
[12] - An Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles 1914 - 1919
[13] – Grey Towers, Hornchurch Road: New Zealand Convalescent Hospitals
[14] - The Division sails for France: New Zealand Artillery in the Field 1914 - 18
[15]- 11/24 Lance Corporal E H C Craw: NZ Archives Service Record 
[16]- New Zealand’s Artillery war on the Somme: NZ History online
[17]- Battle of the Somme: NZ History online
[18]- 11/24 Bombardier Craw: Commonwealth War Graves
[19] – New Zealand casualties: Evening Post 15 October 1915
[20]- Grey Towers, Hornchurch Road: New Zealand Convalescent Hospital

 

Paintings
The Battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915. The sesquicentennial gift to the nation from the New Zealand Defence Force.
G. Brown, Major, Army artist. [Wellington, New Zealand Defence Force, 1990]
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington  D-001-035

 

Next month’s story will focus on a family at war with a brother and sister serving overseas and in New Zealand.
Last Updated: 17/06/2015 6:26pm