Harry Northcroft

Harry Northcroft

Harry Cuthbert Northcroft, No. 13/110, Auckland Mounted Rifles, killed in action, 19 May 1915.

Lance Corporal Harry Northcroft is one of 18,058 New Zealanders who died as a result of First World War service and are listed on the Roll of Honour.

Born in 1889, Harry Northcroft was the youngest of five children of Margaret and Henry Northcroft, a magistrate and veteran of the New Zealand wars. A former pupil at Auckland Grammar School and a keen sportsman, Northcroft was a tall young man with brown hair and brown eyes. In 1914 he was studying law at Auckland University College while working as a solicitor. Northcroft signed up for service soon after the war began, enlisting in the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, with whom he had served as a territorial.

Northcroft left New Zealand with the Main Body in October and arrived in Egypt in December. He soon proved his ability as a soldier and was promoted to Lance Corporal in February 1915. By April plans were under way for the landing at Gallipoli. The Mounted Rifles units were not initially included in these plans, but within a few weeks reinforcements at Gallipoli were much needed. The men of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, Northcroft among them, arrived at Anzac Cove in mid-May. They were to fight as infantry, as there was neither room nor use for their horses. Northcroft died within a week of his arrival. 

During a large-scale Turkish attack on the Auckland Mounted Rifles’ position on Russell’s Top in the early hours of 19 May, Northcroft was shot, dying instantly. He was one of approximately 31 New Zealanders who died in that day’s fighting. In a letter home, Private Arthur Hannah of the Auckland Mounted Rifles wrote that Northcroft was ‘a grand fellow and high[ly]-respected by all. He put up a great fight, and his people may well be proud of him.’[1]

His death was a huge loss to his family, who went to great lengths to remember him. In 1924 they donated a stained-glass window based on James Clark’s painting The Great Sacrifice to St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Epsom. Northcroft, his sister Ruth and his father, who had both also died by this time, were remembered in an inscription on the window. In 1927, Harry Northcroft’s mother Margaret travelled to Gallipoli to see where her son had died. During her stay she visited his grave at Walker’s Ridge cemetery every day.

Further information

Harry Cuthbert Northcroft (Cenotaph)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record

Collegians at War

The Gallipoli Campaign (NZHistory)

The Signallers’, New Zealand Herald, 21 July 1915, p. 4 (Papers Past)

Visit to Gallipoli’, New Zealand Herald, 30 December 1927, p. 11 (Papers Past) 

[1] ‘The Signallers’, New Zealand Herald, 21 July 1915, p. 4.

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