WW1 Brett Brothers

Leslie Henry Brett, Flight Lieutenant, King's College Honour Roll, WWI.

Master Leslie Brett 1909 (Herman Schmidt photographer. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 31-57851)

BAE Systems Limited GB - Sopwith Camel aircraft 2 F.1 at Brooklands in 1917

Leslie Henry Brett (4/230) was born on 26 February 1893, to Arthur Roland Brett and Eva Laura  Brett (nee Barker) of Shortland Street, Auckland, and Calliope Road Devonport. He was one of four sons; Frederick Arthur Brett, Norman Kahioa (Kaharoa) Brett (44926), Trevor Roland Brett (31588), and two daughters- Mary Alleyne Brett and Nance Douglas Brett. The two other brothers who served in World War I, are mentioned below.

Leslie’s grandfather, Sir Henry Brett was the Auckland Star newspaper proprietor. He was also a local benefactor and donated the organ to the Auckland Town Hall in 1911.

Leslie attended King’s College and is commemorated on the Kings College Roll of Honour. On leaving school, he became a printer in his father’s company, the Brett Printing and Publishing Company in the Star Offices, Auckland.  He was a member of the College Rifles Rugby Football Club in Remuera.

Leslie enlisted and sailed on 14 August 1914 on the vessel ‘Moeraki’ as a Sapper with the Field Engineers, Signalling Division to Apia, Western Samoa, and was part of the of the Samoan Occupation Force Advance Party 1914-1915.  He was discharged from the New Zealand Army on 22 March 1915.[1]

On 29 January 1916, Leslie sailed to England to take up a commission as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant with the British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).  The Air Arm of the Royal Navy existed formally between 1 July 1914 to 1 April 1918 when it was merged with the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force. [2]

Leslie was trained to fly at Eastchurch in Kent, England.  He joined RNAS No 2 Wing and was transferred to F Squadron based at Mudros on the Greek Island of Lemnos.  The island airbase was strategically close to the Dardanelles and Gallipoli. He flew a single seater fighter biplane, the Sopwith Camel.  On the day of his death, 22 July 1917, his aircraft had spun out of control killing him. He was aged 24.

He is buried at East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos, Greece, III. G. 210.

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal (1914-1920) and the Victory Medal.

There are memorial plaques to him:

  • Roll of Honour, College Rifles, Rugby Union Football and Sports Club, 33 Haast Street, Remuera, Auckland
  • Takapuna War Memorial, (ex RSA Roll, on a boulder), The Strand, Takapuna, Auckland,
  • Roll of Honour, St Augustine’s (Anglican) Church, Calliope Street, Devonport, Auckland,
  • Roll of Honour, Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church, 20 Church Street, Devonport, Auckland,

In 1916, Brett Avenue in Takapuna was named to commemorate the Brett family.

Brett Sgt, 1917. (Herman Schmidt photographer. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 31-B3022)

Norman Kahioa (Kaharoa) Brett (44926)

Norman Kahioa (Kaharoa) Brett (44926) was born on 8 August 1894. He attended Kings College and enlisted on 12 December 1916. He was 5ft 11inches tall, had black hair and blue eyes.

He sailed for Liverpool, England on the vessel ‘Corinthic’ on 13 October 1917 arriving on 8 December 1917. He was a Sergeant, with the 30th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Regiment, A Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Norman had had rheumatic fever as a child which had weakened his heart. After being hospitalised with a chest infection which became a heart condition, he was declared unfit for service on 9 September 1918.

On his return to New Zealand, he became a Journalist, then Manager, with his grandfather Sir Henry Brett’s newspaper the ‘Auckland Star’. [1]

In 1925 he married Kathleen Margaret Glendining (1901-1974), they had four children, three boys and a girl. They lived in Rangitoto Ave, Remuera. [2] Over the years Norman took part in a diverse range of sporting activities, rowing, cricket, and golf. Norman died in 1976 aged 82.

Private Trevor Roland Brett 1916 (Photographer Herman Schmidt. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-B1480)

Trevor Roland Brett (31588)

Trevor Roland Brett (31588) was born on 18 June 1896, in Auckland. Trevor attended Auckland Grammar School from 1910 to 1915 and Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland) in 1916.

He enlisted on 15 November 1916. He was 5ft 8 inches tall with light brown hair and blue eyes. He sailed as a Private with the 19th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He fought in France on the Western Front, became ill and was discharged on 8 November 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service.

He returned to New Zealand and, like his brother, Norman, he became a Journalist. He married Tui Norma Simson in 1922. They had one child and lived in 54 St Stephens Avenue, Parnell, Auckland. [1]

During the Second World War, he was in the National Military Reserve. He was a very keen golfer winning many trophies and tournaments. Trevor died in 1990.

G  Ralph
June 2020