Waihi Arts Centre & Museum

1st Auckland Infantry Battalion 3rd and 15th Batteries
1st NZ Field Artillery Brigade

WW1: Serial no 12/416|
Enlistment Rank WW1: Private
Discharge Rank WW1: 2nd Lieutenant

WW2: Serial no 28370
Discharge Rank WW2: Lieutenant-Colonel

One day Major Stuckey sent for me. He proposed that I become Company Orderly Clerk. I declined. I said I had not enlisted for the war to become a clerk. He said that the books and records were in a mess and my previous experience would be useful to the company and said that I had to clean the mess up. I took a look at them and tidied the accounts. (It only took a day or two)…

Gerald Morpeth, diary, August 1914 Potters Paddock, Epsom, Auckland, NZ

Gerald Morpeth, born 1886, was the second of seven sons of Henry Douglas Morpeth, Waihi Borough Town clerk, and Kate nee Allan. Morpeth was employed by W M Jackson, (possibly William Manders Jackson) as a law clerk and living Mackay Street, Waihi in 1911.

The Morpeth family were passionate golfers and Gerald won, or was runner up in golfing tournaments around Waihi and further afield. At times he won against his younger brother, Sloane, who became a New Zealand and Australian champion. A trophy was presented by Gerald for golf under medal play conditions. Morpeth was also interested in tennis and rugby and was an honourable secretary of the Waihi Rugby Union for a time. Waihi residence site number 1948 was transferred to him in 1905.

Known as Tad, he was 28 when he enlisted, 12th August 1914, with the Auckland Infantry Regiment. His diary notes that he arrived at camp in Potters Paddock, now Alexandra Park Auckland. Fourteen hundred troops and 550 horses embarked on the Waimana in Auckland to meet transports in Wellington but were delayed in Auckland due to a German raider scare. The Waimana finally left Wellington with nine other ships that totaled 8568 men, 16th October 1914. On the Waimana with Tad were his brothers, Moore and Nick (2nd Lieutenant Robert Nicol Morpeth in charge of the 5th platoon, 6th Hauraki’s) and friend, Nat (John Nathaniel Williams). To pass the time, Tad, Moore, Nat and Wild (Private Richard Norris Wild) and others, amused themselves playing bridge on the deck amongst sacks of potatoes, exercising and the required drilling. A letter from Moore, to their parents, relates that Tad has a great sense of humour … and it affords him a good time. In fact a sense of humour is an essential ingredient to this type of life.

Sea and crowded ship conditions, troop observations, horses, albatross, the overnight port call in Hobart when the 6th Hauraki’s marched through the town, were all noted in Tad’s diary. The 26 big ships moored in Albany Western Australia, the strictness of Major Stuckey (Frederick Stuckey, 6th Hauraki, KIA, 25 April 1915), concerts, practical jokes, scraps, censored letters, sport, dormitory smells, were all remarked on. Tad found it amusing to watch his younger brother (Nick) bossing men, and wrote he was ‘doing alright’. Tad milked this connection whenever possible and that resulted in trouble for him on occasions. Several times he and Nat found themselves on fatigues or detention and once had pay docked for returning late from leave.

Noted too, was the three night stop in Colombo, anchoring near Aden on 25th November 1914. On 2nd December: Suez, he wrote of the barren landscape, tents, soil, date palms, the paymaster and lack of pay, pyramids and the sand … One gets very tired of the desert sand. You don’t realise how tired you are of it until you see a green plot and your thirsty eyes drink it in.

The diary describes the landing at Anzac Cove on the shores of Gallipoli. Of … bullets of rifle singing over our heads … shrapnel very thick all day. Tad, brother Nick, and Nat were amongst the first seven to reach the firing line that day on 25th April 1915. Five of the seven men with Morpeth were killed or wounded including his brother, Nick (wounded) and best friend Nat (killed), whom he tried to save and was wounded doing so. Gerald eventually went by hospital ship to Southampton, England and transferred by hospital train to Birmingham. His wounding while serving in the Hauraki Company and transfer, was reported in the Ohinemuri Gazette 20th July 1915. By September 1915, Morpeth, now recuperated, had returned to Gallipoli where he contracted typhoid and was again invalided. He returned to duty as a Lance Corporal in France and was subsequently admitted (October 1916) to hospital with a wounded knee. In 1917 Morpeth attended Officers Training College in England. The Thames Star reported, Mr Gerald Morpeth, of Waihi who left with the Main Body and was wounded at the landing on Gallipoli, and again in the Somme battle, has been gazetted a Lieutenant in the British Artillery, having passed his examination after a course at the officers’ training school at Exeter.

Sir Phillip Williams, great nephew of his friend Nat, writes that when wounded the first time, Tad Morpeth was convalescing in England and visited Bridhead to return Nat’s belongings to his family. Tad and Nat’s brother, also Philip (later Sir Philip, born 1884), became such friends that they wrote to one another once a month until Philip died in 1958.

Morpeth was discharged 2nd Lieutenant 28th July 1919 and returned to New Zealand per SS Prinzessin, a captured German ship, chartered to bring troops home from Sydney. Morpeth remained on the Reserve Officers list and on discharge, returned to Mackay Street Waihi and his pre-war occupation of law clerk. By 1920, Gerald and two of his brothers, George (Chap) and Sloan had obtained farmland in the King Country. The land was transferred to the brothers in 1920 and the property named Whareruru, presumably after their family home in Waihi. The* King Country Chronicle* (January 1920) reported the Messrs Morpeth Bros applied to supply milk to the Aria Dairy Factory. The brothers had walked away from the farm by 1925. Gerald, in the Waitomo Electoral Roll of that year, was listed as a company secretary.

Gerald Morpeth re-enlistment for service in WW2 as Temporary Staff with 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force, 30th Battalion, February 1940 when living at the Astor Hotel Auckland. He stated his birth date as 12th February 1892, unmarried, and occupation traveller for New Zealand Breweries. Morpeth left for the South Pacific November 11th 1940 aboard the S.S. Rangitira which sailed from Auckland to Lautoka, Fiji. He was stationed in Fiji and achieved the rank of Major and posted back to New Zealand, 3rd July 1942. Morpeth became Zone Commander (Lieutenant-Colonel) of Area 4 (Tauranga) which formed part of the Northern Military District. He was posted to the retired list, October 1943 and discharged while living at Norana Avenue, Remuera, Auckland. In 1940 Morpeth married Winifred Mary Diederich. The Morpeth family finally settled in Palmerston North where, in 1946, he was a company manager. Nick, (Robert Nicol) his brother, on retirement lived with the family.

Gerald Morpeth is honoured in Waihi on the Presbyterian Church, WW1 Honour Board. He was awarded the 1914 -15 Star given for service in France or Flanders (Belgium) between 23 November 1914 and 31 December 1915, or for service in any theatre between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915. Morpeth was also awarded the British War medal and Victory medal.

Gerald (Tad) Morpeth died 8th July 1963 aged 77 and interred at Kelvin Grove Cemetery and Crematorium, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Harriet Taylor
Allan Philip Morpeth
04 December 2014

References** **