This post continues our series on Ashburton rugby players who also served in World War One. By the December 1916 edition of the Ashburton High School magazine, it was clear Ashburton was reeling from the aftermath of the Somme.
Ten boys from the school had been killed and many pages were dedicated to the wounded list, including: Frank Culverhouse, who had been dangerously wounded in the spine, Harry Crawford who had a bullet pass through his head, and Manuel and Tom John, both of whom had been wounded and were suffering from shell shock. The pen portraits on today’s page remember young men gave their lives.
EDWIN HUGH SENIOR
Edwin was born in Redcliffs, Christchurch, in 1892. He attended Ashburton High School from 1907 – 1910 and was in the 1st XV. He then trained as a surveyor at the land registry in Christchurch, andwas also a member of the Sumner Football Club and Captain of the President’s team of the Sumner Cricket Club. A reliant shot, Edwin enlisted in August 1914. Just one year later, he received a gunshot wound at Gallipoli. He died onboard ship in August 1915 and was buried at sea. Although not a ‘local’ boy, the Ashburton Guardian published an obituary for him. They said that among his sporting achievements he was a skilful yachtsman and member of the Christchurch Sailing Club. ‘One of the first Sumner boys to enlist’, the Guardian commented that he was highly respected and had an upright and sterling character.
FRANCIS CLIVE RAMSDEN UPTON
Born in Springfield in 1891 to Thomas and Eunice. A Borough School pupil, he started High School in 1904 but was away most of 1905 due to illness. He returned in 1906, and later attended Christ’s College and studied at Lincoln College. He was known to play a ‘fine game at three –quarters’ and was also first boy lieutenant of the Ashburton High School Cadet Corps. He farmed in Otago for a while, before becoming manager for Wright Stephensons in Rangiora. Clive enlisted in August 1914 and served in both Egypt and Gallipoli before being shot. He was invalided home. On returning to the campaign he trained as a sniper and was later killed in action in France in October 1916. He was awarded the Military Cross having led his platoon with very great courage and initiative, had carried out a very valuable reconnaissance, and led a bombing party to repel the enemy.
THOMAS HENRY ALEXANDER
Thomas was born in Ashburton in 1894, to Thomas and Annie. He attended Borough School, before studying at Ashburton High School from 1909 to 1911, where he distinguished himself at football, fives and shooting. He was a prominent player with the Southern Cross Football Club and became an expert boxer. While the Ashburton High School magazine states that he was a builder, his war record calls him a ‘blacksmith improver’. In October 1914 he enlisted, served in Gallipoli and became a machine gun instructor. Thomas died at the Somme in September 1916.
HUBERT WIREMU STEEL
Hubert was born in Ashburton in 1893, the son of Francis and Emily. After attending Borough School he studied at Ashburton High School between 1907 and 1908. The school magazine claimed he was ‘one of our best athletes and footballers’, being in the 1st XV in 1908 and captain of the cricket team. He then farmed at Lauriston and Willowby, before studying at Lincoln College. Hubert enlisted in September 1915 and was killed in France in September 1916. Like many other families, the Steel’s had three sons serving at the same time.
HORATIO CECIL COLLINS
Born in 1885, Cecil was a son of local businessman William, of W H Collins. After attending Hampstead School, Cecil enrolled at Ashburton High School in 1899. He became dux in 1902. A prominent member of the school’s Old Boys’ Football Club, he worked at his father’s business before enlisting in May 1915. He was killed by a shell in France in July 1916. A few days before he died, his parents received a letter that was printed in the Ashburton Guardian. In it, he describes hearing plenty of “whizbangs, whispering willies and dickey bird” and assured those back home that “all the Ashburton boys are tip top although colds are prevalent; in fact” Cecil said he, “was putting on weight.” His final comment was, “don’t worry about me I can stand it as well as the next man and am quite ready to carry onto the finish.”
LEONARD MURRAY PERCY
Leonard was born in Christchurch in 1893, to Henry and Ann. The family lived in Peter Street while Leonard was at school, and later they moved to East Street. Leonard started at Ashburton High School in 1906, after obtaining a scholarship while at Borough School. He left in 1908. He was prominent in both football and cricket and was a member of the both the 1st XV and XI. Leonard then joined the Bank of New Zealand and worked in Ashburton and Palmerston North before being transferred to Dunedin, where he enlisted in August 1915. He was wounded in France, in September 1916 and died four days later.
By Kathleen Stringer
- Ashburton High School winners third grade seven a side, 1911, from back, left to right: DW Smith, T Alexander, CS Williams, C Houlton; J Allen, SP McCallum, GM Sheldon.
- Ashburton High School Cadets shooting team at Lagmhor camp, 1908. There are two Steels in the front row, third and seventh from left, but it is unknown which is Hubert and which Reader, his elder brother is. Edwin Senior is second from right, front row. Stewart McCallum extreme left front row.
- Ashburton High School Old Boys in camp in Egypt. Pte HC Collins is back row, third from left.
- EDWIN HUGH SENIOR
- FRANCIS CLIVE RAMSDEN UPTON
- THOMAS HENRY ALEXANDER
- HUBERT WIREMU STEEL
- HORATIO CECIL COLLINS
- LEONARD MURRAY PERCY