WW1 Battle of the Somme — John Stewart Dagg

John Stewart Dagg

John Stewart Dagg was born in Brighton on 26 September 1891, the son of Robert and Rosalind Dagg of Ascot Avenue, Remuera.

His father Robert who was a travelling salesman from Brighton, England, was on the St Aidan’s Vestry from 1916-1918. When John enlisted on 13 March 1915, he was working as an architect for Leonard Bidwell of Whitianga, a Cambridge Graduate in engineering. Bidwell had arrived in the Coromandel about 1910 and set about building a homestead for his family at Flaxmill Bay. The homestead was said to be “built by a man called Dagg” who lived in a cottage at about what is now 1100 Purangi Road behind Front beach. [1]

After enlistment John went by train to Trentham training camp and sailed from Wellington on 14 August 1915 on the Willochra under Major S.S. Allen as part of the A Company of the 6th Reinforcements of the N Z Expeditionary Force. After arrival in Egypt on 19 September 1916, he was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal on 29 September 1915.

John Dagg joined the 2nd Battalion of the Auckland Infantry Regiment, was promoted to Sergeant on 1st March and then to 2nd Lieutenant on 29 March. The New Zealand Division which had officially came into being at Moascar, Egypt on 1 March 1916, was shipped to France in early April 1916.

Sent to the Flanders region to gain frontline experience, the Division spent the next three months guarding a ‘quiet’ or ‘nursery’ sector of the line at Armentieres before moving south to the Somme battlefields and their first large-scale action on the Western Front. A truly nightmarish world greeted the New Zealand Division when it joined the Battle of the Somme in early September 1916. The division arrived to take part in the third big push of the offensive, designed to crack the German lines once and for all. When it withdrew from the line a month later, the decisive breakthrough had still not occurred. [2]

On the 15th September 1916 the New Zealand Division took part in its first major action near Flers during the Somme offensive (July-November 1916). John Dagg was 25 when he was killed in action near Mametz Wood on the first day of action 15 September 1916. Over the next 23 days, the division suffered 7000 casualties, including more than 1500 killed.

Head stone at Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery Authuile

St Aidan's John Stewart Dagg plaque

John Dagg is remembered at the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery at Authuile, Somme, France and at St Aidan’s Church, Remuera.

On the 31 August 1917 the New Zealand Herald reported: A memorial tablet has been placed in St. Aidan’s Church, Remuera, to the memory of Lieutenant J. S. Dagg, of the 6th, Hauraki, Regiment. It has been erected by the Sunday-school children and church workers, and will be dedicated by the Bishop of Auckland this evening, St. Aidan’s Day. The tablet, which is of brass, is engraved with the badge of the regiment, the garter star with lion centre, and bears the following inscription :— “Remember John Stewart Dagg, Second Lieutenant, 6th, Hauraki, Regiment, who rendered faithful service to his Church and his King. He fell in the battle of the Somme, 15th September, 1916, aged 25. ‘A good soldier of Jesus Christ.” [3]