WW1 Battle of the Somme — Corporal Robert Henry Whitnall Armiger
Robert Armiger was the son of Robert and Emma Armiger of Ponsonby and attended Auckland Grammar School from 1911.
He was a volunteer school cadet and entered the Territorials, joining the A Battery with the N Z Field Artillery. At the time of volunteering for active service he held the rank of Quartermaster – Sergeant and left New Zealand with the 28th Reinforcements of the N Z Field Artillery as sergeant. Robert was a draper with John Court Ltd and at age 22, married Lucrezia Thelma Knight Voice on 27 June 1917, 17 days before he left New Zealand on the 14th July 1917. While her husband was overseas, Lucrezia resided at 37 Armadale Rd Remuera.
Robert sailed to Plymouth, England on H T Norman on 1st March 1918 and marched into Aldershot on 25 September 1917. On arrival he was selected for special instruction in gas and helmet work in the army, being granted a first-class instructor’s certificate. He also went through a special course in gunnery before leaving for France. Robert was promoted to Corporal and left for France on the 1st March 1918 for the coastal camp of Etaples. He was put straight into the field 3 days later.
‘The German spring offensives which had begun on 21 March 1918 created the biggest crisis of the war for the Allies. In Operation Michael, 60 German divisions attacked along an 80-kilometre front between St Quentin and Arras, punching a hole through British defences on the Somme and almost destroying the Fifth Army. Retreating British troops set up a last line of defence around the city of Amiens, a vital logistics link between the Somme, Flanders and the Channel ports.
The New Zealand Division, recovering after a difficult winter in the Ypres Salient, was among forces rushed south to the Somme on 24 March. Attached to General Sir Julian Byng’s Third Army, the New Zealanders moved into the Ancre Valley, taking up positions on the Somme battlefield of 1916. Over four days of desperate fighting around Mailly-Maillet, they managed to stabilise their section of the front, repelling a series of German attacks at Auchonvillers Ridge and Colincamps, and capturing 300 prisoners and 110 machine guns at La Signy Farm. These actions cost the New Zealand Division some 2400 casualties, including more than 500 dead.
Robert Armiger was killed in action at Somme on 20th April 1918. He was 23 years old. He is commemorated at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
His wife Lucrezia wrote:
ROLL OF HONOUR. ARMIGER
On April 20. 1918. Killed in action in France, Corporal Robert Henry Whitnall Armiger, Twenty Reinforcements. Dearly-beloved husband of Lucrezia Thelma. Armiger, of 97, Symonds Street- aged 23 years. So loved, so mourned.