Waihi and Karangahake Men in the NZ Tunnelling Company

Written by Sue Baker Wilson, Waihi Heritage Vision Tunnelling Company researcher

Of the men who enlisted from Waihi to serve in the Tunnelling Company, many were miners and a number were older, married men. Father/son combo William Henry Worth, and his married son Ernest served together in the Tunnelling Company. William died following the war from injuries or sickness sustained while overseas. Another  son  serving in a separate unit, died in Somme 1916. At least two Waihi brothers, Eric and Frank McAneny enlisted.

Local Tunnelling Company men would serve with distinction while serving overseas. Descendants of some of these men and others who served, still live in this area.

Lance-Corporal F G McClymont, from Karangahake, received the Military Medal for Bravery in the Field and died of wounds Dec 1917. He was buried in Etrun, Pas-de-Calais, France. With two comrades, Corporal McClymont approached a fallen enemy aeroplane when a shell burst close beside them, killing one and desperately wounded the other. Despite his mortal wounds, McClymont dragged himself along the road until he could send assistance to his comrade. Corporal McClymont was one of eleven Tunnelling Company men to win the Military Medal.

Lance-Corporal John Richard Norris received the Distinguished Conduct Medal 'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He displayed the great coolness and courage when he and his party were entombed in a gallery. There was a great risk of the workings being discovered, but he succeeded in getting his party dug out undetected.' He was one of six to receive this award.

Lance-Corporal Walter George Dean was awarded with a Meritorious Service Medal In recognition of valuable services rendered with the Armies in France and Flanders. He was one of three to receive this award.

Lieutenant Robert Henry Daldy, Tunnelling Company, enlistment address Waihi, was awarded a Military Cross. He was one of four to receive this award.

Waihi-based English Tunnelling Company enlistment, Sergeant Claude Pownceby, was also killed in France. Pownceby was part of a small team of eight men who volunteered to accompany a night raid of the Cheshires into the German lines. Their job was to blow a passage for the raiding party through the enemy wire by means of a loaded pipe, and afterwards to investigate and if possible destroy any German mine entrances. The raid proved a failure. After the advance of the next year a neatly kept grave was found just beyond the then German line, bearing on its oaken cross the inscription, 'To the memory of three brave Englishmen, Lieutenant Durant NZ Tunnelling Company and two NCOs'. Sergeant Pownceby would leave a widow in England.

A number of Waihi/Karangahake enlistments died during their period of service. None are recorded on the Waihi RSA Roll of Honour or on any Waihi memorial.

A Waihi Miner gravestone4/1358 Sapper Robert James Jones DOD 15/8/1917 Killed in action Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery Arras V. J. 19 aged 31.

4/1392 Sapper George Frederick Trenberth DOD 13/1/1918 Died of wounds V.E.29 Duisans British Cemetery Etrun age 33.

4/1638 Sapper Walter Patrick Tatham DOD 1/5/1917 Died of disease X1X N 11 Etaples Military Cemetery aged 23.

4/1645 Sapper George Everett Davis DOD 5/08/1917 Killed in action V J 12 Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery Arras. Married, aged 29.

4/1384 Sergeant Claude Searle Pownceby DOD 14/9/1916 Killed in action Somme, Bay 10 Arras Memorial. Married, aged 39.

4/1562 Sapper Colin Adams, DOD 23/4/1917 France Died of wounds Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, Pas-de-Calais, France.

4/1369 Lance Corporal Frederick George McClymont DOD 30/12/1917 Died of wounds Military Medal V.E.4 Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun, Pas-de-Calais.

4/1637 Sapper James Taylor, DOD 29 March 1917 New Zealand to France Died of disease Age 38. He is buried in Waihi Public Cemetery.