Local Heritage

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Mt Albert and World War One
 

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War One we dedicate this article to the youth of Mt Albert who enlisted, fought and died during WW1. The average number who died over the whole of the Dominion was I out of 6 but in Mt Albert it was 1 out of 3.5.

Many a young man of Mt Albert went gaily off in September 1914 to "do their bit" sure it would be over by Christmas and welcoming the opportunity to see the world and escape from the humdrum of everyday life. Gallipoli the next year brought reality. Many families lost more than one son and many of the settler families paid a heavy price in emotional and economic toll that would affect their families for many years to come. Mt Albert Borough Council sent the condolence letter below to next of kin.

Condolence Letter

Almost every church has commemorated their boys such as the Mt Albert Methodist Sunday School Roll of Honour.

Methodist Roll of Honour

Ashton, Astley, Butterworth, Caughey, Gribble, Knight, McLean, Monaghan, Penman, Pickens, Spragg and Tattersfield were all family names well known in Mt Albert.

Some families were hit very hard. The McLeans lost two of their three boys. Raymond and Ronald were both killed in 1916 and Neil was the only one to survive. Below is a transcript of the last letter Ronald wrote to his parents

RONALD DOUGLAS McLEAN Head Boy King's College 1911
Transcript of a letter written to his parents on the 6th September 1916. He was killed in action a week later on the 15th September at Flers. This letter arrived after the news of his death had reached the family in Mt Albert.

Eloptles 

Dear Mother and Father
This is just to tell you of my luck in meeting Neil.* We are so lucky. I couldn't believe it. He marched along just past me. I was talking to a chap and just leaning up against a post when I saw someone like Neil. I thought it impossible and left the man gaping while I rushed along and it was Neil alright. He is off to an officer's training corps and I suppose quite soon he will be with the girls.** I am so glad. There will be only one of us in this stunt anyway. I have the misfortune to be going up today. Ugh it makes me sick the idea of it. Still I did not come here to amuse myself in base camps. Just funny, in about a few days I shall probably be killing or capturing huns. Oh it makes me laugh - I don't feel at all in the mood for such amusement at present but, as I say, they don't consult me.
Dear old Neil. He looks in splendid health. Good on his pluck he'll be commissioned in a month or two. Am I not an old waster? Why I haven't got a rise for years. Never mind I wouldn't be forced back there unless I was worth something. But honestly mother and father, this is going to try me some. You see it is a pretty big show we will go into. I am not trained like the first time I went into the trenches. I have endured non hardships for two months or more and here I am being pitchforked into a real old slap up. I am no coward but I know exactly what I am going into and ignorance was bliss before. Shells don't frighten you until you see them wounding and killing people. Anyway, on the whole I am glad. I must be with my old company and help them along. I am really fond of them. Goodbye, if I come through the next week or so without getting a trip to England I shall be much surprised. ***
Love from your son Ron 

 

* Neil - younger brother and Head Boy Kings College 1912 the year following Ron
** Sisters living temporarily in England where officer training would take place
*** Badly wounded soldiers were transported back to hospitals in England

 

Addendum: Ronald's brother John Raymund McLean, also an old boy of King's, was killed at Gallipoli in 1915. Neil Clifford McLean the fourth of five brothers continued to serve in the forces and survived the war. He was Head Boy at King's in 1912 - the year after Ronald.