CECIL WILLIAM KELLY (1891-1916)
Cecil William Kelly is featured in the North Hill Local History Group’s publication “The Fallen of North Hill Parish”. If you have any knowledge, information, pictures or artefacts which would be useful in telling his story, please contact us.
Cecil was born on 25th January 1891 in the house next to the Ring o’ Bells pub in North Hill village. His parents were William Kelly and Elizabeth Brown. She was a local girl and the daughter of the North Hill village postmaster. They married in St Torney’s Church in 1885. Soon after their marriage they travelled to Huelva in Spain where William was working for the British mining company, Rio Tinto. Their first child, Beatrice, was born there but shortly afterwards the family returned to North Hill, where their other two children Evelyn and Cecil were born. When he was three months old Cecil was baptised in the Methodist Chapel in North Hill and named William Cecil Kelly. He was always known in the family as Cecil.
Cecil’s father, William, was a mine engineer who spent much of his working life overseas. By the time Cecil was ten years old his father had died whilst working abroad, leaving Elizabeth a widow with their three children. Beatrice was learning the job of a postmistress with her grandfather, Charles Turner Brown, in North Hill’s post office. Cecil and Evelyn were living with their mother, who was running a boarding house at 8 Regent Street in Plymouth.
Around 1908 Beatrice went to the Far East and married in Singapore. Five years later Cecil emigrated to New Zealand and found employment as a farm worker on the large sheep and cattle farm in Hawke’s Bay known as Gwavas Station.
At the outbreak of war the 1st Wellington Regiment recruited and trained a force which was sent to fight in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, in which New Zealand casualties exceeded 7,000. Some officers and men who had become battle hardened at Gallipoli were formed into the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment and Cecil was one of their earliest new recruits. Cecil joined up on 15th October 1915 at Trentham, near Wellington, NZ and went into training there.
The Regimental War Diary
The war diary records that Cecil’s battalion advanced behind the 2nd Canterbury battalion on the 14th September 1916 in preparation for the attack on the following day. ‘Zero hour’ was set for 6:20 a.m. on the 15th September and Cecil’s company moved forward in the line to occupy a trench known as Worcester Trench.
The Wellington West Coast (WWC) Company joined with the Hawke’s Bay (HB) Company for the advance. They moved up Turk Lane and Thistle Alley before moving forward to an even more advanced position at 8:15 a.m. At 9:40 a.m. the men were ordered to be ready to assist the 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade but later at 1:45 p.m. the commanding officer was advised that the Germans were counter attacking at Flers.
With the WWC on the right and HB on the left the men advanced. The WWC moved forward through Flers with HB to the left of the village. The WWC secured the trench beyond of the village with HB on their left side and two other New Zealand companies (the Taranaki and the Ruahine) in reserve in Flers. The Germans counter attacked but this attack was broken up by artillery and rifle fire and the four companies dug in and held their ground.
In this action there were 14 of the men were killed, one of whom was Cecil. There were 95 wounded, including 2 officers. No man was reported as missing which meant that one of the survivors witnessed Cecil’s death and that Cecil was buried somewhere within the area with the grave subsequently lost in later events.
The map below shows the position of trenches around Flers on 26th September 1916, just 11 days after Cecil’s death.
Cecil was one of those killed in the action by machine gun fire. His body was never recovered and, with his colleagues, he is remembered on the Caterpillar Valley (NZ) Memorial at Longueval, France. Cecil is also remembered on war memorials at Congdon’s Shop in North Hill and at Tikokino in New Zealand.
The report of his death in The Cornish & Devon Post
KILLED IN ACTION
PTE KELLY, OF NORTH HILL
A letter from one of his chums, received on Wednesday morning, conveyed the sad news of the death of Pte Cecil W Kelly, only son of the late Mr Wm Kelly and Mrs Kelly, who is at present residing with her daughter at Newquay.
Pte Kelly left England for New Zealand early in 1915 [sic – he actually emigrated in 1913], and later enlisted in the Wellington Volunteers. After a period of training, deceased's regiment was sent to France, where he has been for the past four months. Taking part in the great push on the Somme on the morning of the 15th Sept, he was killed instantaneously by machine gun fire.
The news of his death cast quite a gloom over the village of North Hill, where he was born, and in which his aunt and uncle (Mr and Mrs G G Davey) reside. He was a bright and genial young man and a general favourite. Great sympathy is felt in the neighbourhood for the sorrowing members of his family.
Tikokino War Memorial
Cecil’s name is inscribed on the Tikikino War Memorial in Central Hawke’s Bay on North Island in New Zealand.
The following images have been taken specifically for this website by Peter Butler, the Mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay. Our thanks go to Peter for his support. This is the second Tikokino War Memorial Hall which was built in 1978. The original was demolished as it was built of concrete and was, therefore, an earthquake risk!
The plaque is in the entrance lobby of the hall.
The images at the top of the page show (L-R): The New Zealand Flag, an extract from a Charles Buchan cartoon and a recruitment poster from WW1.