Herbert Vivian Edmondson

Herbert Vivian Edmondson, No. 63124
2nd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion
Died of disease, 28 June 1918

Born in 1888 in Tākaka, Golden Bay, Herbert ‘Bertie’ Edmondson was the sixth of Thomas and Eliza Ann Edmondson’s eight children. The family farmed at nearby Motupipi, an occupation that Bertie continued as an adult, leasing land at Tākaka. He also served two years in the Takaka Mounted Rifles. His father died in 1912 and although Bertie did not inherit any of the family land, he remained in the area and was working as a farmer and farrier (a smith specialising in horseshoes) when he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in August 1917.

Bertie left New Zealand in November and in January 1918 arrived at Sling Camp in England to receive further training. At the end of March he joined the 2nd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion (NZEB) as a private on the Western Front. The battalion’s work consisted of digging trenches and other earthworks, and it provided labouring support for units such as tunnellers, pioneers, engineers and signallers.

After only two weeks in France, Bertie was thrown into the effort to halt an ongoing German offensive. Earlier in April, the Germans had launched an assault in the Flanders region. Bertie’s battalion – though not a fighting unit – was among those ordered to prepare for possible combat and on 12 April it was sent to Méteren, 14 km north-west of Armentières.

Three days later, German troops attacked. The New Zealanders held on throughout the day, but the next morning found that enemy troops had managed to circle behind them and enter the town. The New Zealanders attempted to retreat under fire but in the ensuing battle 210 men of the 2nd NZEB were taken prisoner, the most New Zealanders captured at one time during the war. Twenty-nine-year-old Bertie was among them.

Bertie was initially reported as missing and presumed to be a German prisoner of war. This was confirmed on 6 June when he managed to send word that he was being held as a prisoner. His location was unknown. A court of enquiry held in late April 1919 found that he had died as a prisoner of war. In early May the War Office reported that on 28 June 1918 Bertie had died due to inflammation of the lungs while a prisoner of war in a hospital in Montigny, France. Bertie is buried at Marfaux British Cemetery in northern France and is remembered on the two war memorials in Tākaka.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph record – Herbert Edmondson

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record – Herbert Edmondson

'Nelson land board', Nelson Evening Mail, 16 November 1909, p. 4

Takaka war memorial

Takaka war memorial library

Ian McGibbon, New Zealand’s Western Front campaign, Bateman, Auckland, 2016, pp. 292–4.

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