First fatal NZ casualty of the First World War

13 August 1914

Robert Hislop’s grave at Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland, 2014 (New Zealand Defence Force)

Sapper Robert Arthur Hislop was guarding the Parnell railway bridge in Auckland when he accidentally fell. He died from his injuries six days later, but it would take a century for Hislop to be officially recognised as the first New Zealand casualty of the Great War.

A Railways Department employee, Hislop was a member of the North Island Railway Battalion, a territorial unit in which many railwaymen served. At the outbreak of the war, members of the battalion were mobilised to guard strategic assets such as bridges against possible sabotage.

Hislop received a military funeral, his gravestone featured the battalion’s badge, and his name appeared in the Railways Department roll of honour. But he had not enlisted in the NZEF and was never assigned a service number, which perhaps explains why his name was not entered on the official national roll of honour.

In 2014 Hislop was one of six servicemen added to the official roll after the New Zealand Defence Force determined that he had died as a result of war service.

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