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NZDF Marks 100th Anniversary of the First Combat Death of the First World War

3 February 2015

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), with the Motueka Returned and Services’ Association and the Ngatimoti community, will mark the first combat death of the First World War at 11:00am on Thursday 5 February at St James Church in the Motueka Valley.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Tim Keating noted that NZDF personnel depend on their families and local communities to support them in their service of New Zealand.

‘The death of Private William Ham was a significant event for all New Zealanders in 1915 and it is fitting that the NZDF returns to Ngatimoti to acknowledge him and the service and sacrifice of all New Zealanders in the First World War.

‘In acknowledgement of the support New Zealand gives its servicepeople, many of our personnel will return to their hometowns to be part of their communities this Anzac Day,’ says LTGEN Keating.

Private William Arthur Ham (1892-1915) was serving with the 12th (Nelson) Company New Zealand Infantry Brigade protecting the Suez Canal, a critical shipping and supply route. On 3 February Turkish forces launched an attack near Ismailia. Private Ham was hit by a bullet, which ricocheted off his rifle and hit his neck, breaking his spine. He died of his wounds on 5 February and was buried with full military honours in the Ismailia European cemetery.

The Nelson Provincial Museum and the Motueka District Museum will create a small exhibition at St James Church of local soldiers’ memorabilia including diaries and a rare recently discovered photograph of Private Ham’s funeral. The proceedings will also include the dedication of a portrait of Private Ham for the Motueka RSA.

Of the fourteen men who enlisted from Ngatimoti, 11 were killed in action or died from their wounds, one died of sickness and only two lived to return to New Zealand, although both were wounded.

The Ngatimoti memorial, made from Takaka marble, was the second First World War memorial erected in New Zealand. For further information about the memorial, visit http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/ngatimoti-war-memorial.

ENDS

 

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