Alfred Booker

Alfred Booker

Alfred Booker died of wounds at No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital in Brockenhurst, Hampshire, England on 31 October 1917. He is one of 93 New Zealanders who succumbed to wounds or sickness at the hospital and are buried nearby in Brockenhurst (St Nicholas) Churchyard.

Born at Mangatoki, near Eltham, Taranaki, in 1895, Alfred was the eldest child of dairy farmers Benjamin and Caroline Booker. Educated at Mangatoki School, he worked on a local farm prior to enlisting in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in May 1915. He departed for Egypt four months later, and served with the 1st Battalion, 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade during the Senussi campaign in western Egypt before sailing for France in April 1916.

The rigours of the Western Front soon took their toll on Alfred’s health. Wounded during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916, he was back in hospital in April 1917, suffering from mumps. After several months in reinforcement and rest camps, Alfred rejoined his battalion in time to take part in the attack at Bellevue Spur, Passchendaele ridge, on 12 October 1917. The attack, carried out in appalling conditions, was a complete failure. More then 2700 men of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade became casualties, including Alfred, who was seriously wounded on 14 October while working as a stretcher-bearer.

Evacuated to England, Alfred arrived at No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital, Brockenhurst, on 28 October. He died three days later and was buried in St Nicholas Church cemetery. On 21 November, Alfred was posthumously awarded the Military Medal:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as a stretcher bearer during the operations against Passchendaele Ridge on 12th and 13th October 1917. This Rifleman tended and carried in wounded day and night without rest and with utter disregard for the enemy snipers, machine gun fire, and shelling. With the utmost bravery and cheerfulness he went again and again into the fire-swept zone, thereby saving many lives. He was eventually severely wounded.

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