Addition of railway employee to NZ roll of honour

In 2014 Sapper Robert Arthur Hislop was one of six servicemen added to the New Zealand and Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s official roll of honour after the New Zealand Defence Force determined that he had died as a result of his war service. This made him the first New Zealand casualty in the First World War.

Hislop was an employee of the Railways Department and a member of the North Island Railway Battalion at the outbreak of the war. (Most Railways employees aged between 18 and 24 were required to join a railway battalion.) He and other members of the battalion were mobilised to guard strategic assets, in his case the Parnell railway bridge in Auckland. He fell from the bridge while on duty on 13 August 1914 and died from his injuries six days later.

Robert Hislop received a military funeral attended by members of the railway battalions, his gravestone featured their badge, and his name appeared in the published New Zealand Railways Department roll of honour and on the Railways head office roll of honour board. But he had not enlisted in the NZEF and was never assigned a service number — perhaps explaining why his name was not entered on the national roll of men had died as a result of war service.

Following this recognition in 2014 his grave and headstone at Auckland’s Waikumete Cemetery received a makeover and a small ceremony was conducted there on 19 August. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage arranged for this refurbishment and will care for the grave in perpetuity as agents of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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