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Robert George Auty

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Private Robert George Auty, No. 6/2530, New Zealand Machine Gun Corps. Killed in action, 13 May 1916.

Private Robert George Auty 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 Lyttelton in 1889, Robert Auty was the eldest of Robert and May Auty’s five children and spent much of his youth in Porirua after the family moved there in the late 1890s. Standing a little over five feet tall with dark hair and dark eyes, Auty was a member of both the hockey club and brass band in Kaikoura where he was working as a blacksmith when war broke out shortly before his 25th birthday. Auty enlisted for war service in April 1915, a week or so before the landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

While at Trentham military training camp in June 1915 Auty suffered a case of measles and was hospitalised for over a month. Following his recovery Auty departed to join the New Zealand forces overseas as part of the Sixth Reinforcements. Arriving in Egypt he soon sailed to join the Canterbury Infantry Battalion which was recuperating on the Greek island of Lemnos after serving at Gallipoli. The battalion returned to Gallipoli in November 1915, but was evacuated a month later and sailed to Egypt to prepare for its next assignment on the Western Front.

In March 1916 Auty was transferred to the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps and a month later set sail for France with the rest of the New Zealand Division. By early May they were in Armentières, a quiet sector of the Western Front in northern France. It was considered an ideal place to introduce the newly arrived New Zealand troops to life on the Western Front. Here, Auty took part in the Division’s first action. After dark on the evening of 13 May the Machine Gun Corps accompanied men of the Auckland and Wellington infantry battalions into the lines. That night Auty was killed in action. Although not the first of the New Zealand Division to die in France – others had earlier died of illness and some from accidents – Auty was the Division’s first death in combat. Auty is buried at the Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentières. In 1919 Auty’s younger brother Lewis, a rifleman in the New Zealand Division, was granted leave in Armentières. It is possible Lewis used this time to visit his elder brother’s grave.

Further information

Robert George Auty Online (Cenotaph)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record 

Porirua War Stories

‘Personal’, Marlborough Express, 5 June 1916, p. 7 (Papers Past)

 

Credit

Pātaka Art+Museum

Not to be used without permission.

How to cite this page

Robert George Auty, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/robert-george-auty, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated