WW1 David Keith Duthie – Ypres

Duthie David Keith — KingsCollege [1]

Born 26 September 1893, David Keith Duthie, known as Keith, was one of four sons and two daughters of David W. Duthie, General Manager of the National Bank of New Zealand, Wellington and Florence Duthie, (nee Clayton) of St Stephens Avenue, Parnell, Auckland.

Keith Duthie attended Kings College, winning the Morton Elocution prize in 1909 [1] and then studied law at Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland) from 1912 to 1914, where he also passed exams in Advanced Latin and History [2]. He was a keen sportsman, captain and champion player of the Remuera Tennis Club, having won the singles tennis championship of the University of New Zealand.[3]

David Keith Duthie [3]

He was a member of the College Rifles Rugby Football Club in Remuera and entered the New Zealand Tennis Championships in 1912 and 1913 reaching the finals, before being eliminated. He worked as a law clerk for R. L. Ziman, in Shortland Street, Auckland before his enlistment. [3]. A newspaper reported: “One pleasing feature was the fine display of Keith Duthie, the young Auckland player. There was no other young player at the tournament, who showed anything like the promise of Duthie. He was put out of the singles by Olivier, but put up a better fight than the score would indicate.” [4]

He enlisted on 29 May 1915, as a corporal in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion, A Company. He was 6 feet and ½ inch tall, of fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He spent five months training in Trentham before sailing on 9 October 1915 from Wellington on the ‘Tahiti’, arriving in Suez, Egypt on 18 November 1915. He was part of the Western F Force in Egypt in preparation for sailing to France. He proceeded to Ismailia and Zeitoun, near Cairo, for training in the desert. [5] [6]

He was hospitalised on 6 June 1916 with scabies and dermatitis. He was admitted to hospital again with impetigo on 9 September 1916 and transferred to Brockenhurst in England to recuperate, being granted leave until November 1916. He was posted to the Western Front in France on 6 February 1917 and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 28 March 1917. It is noted on his service record as ‘capable; has good command of men; enthusiastic in general work and in sports, a good leader’.

He re-joined the Battalion on 1 May 1917, and would have fought at the Battle of Messines 7– 14 June 1917. As a respite from the war and to improve morale, a huge army sports meeting was held in Doulieu, France near the Western Front over four days in July, with attendance at times of up to 7,000 personnel. Although rugby was pre-eminent, New Zealanders also took part in a variety of other sports, including horse sports, boxing and athletics. Competitions in shooting, bayonet exercises and bomb (grenade) throwing were also held. [7] [8] Keith came second in the high jump competition and, at the end of July 1917, he had a week’s leave in Paris. He then returned to the Front and the preparations for the assault on Passchendaele, where he was killed in action at Ypres on 7 August 1917, age 23.

In a letter to his father, Keith’s commanding officer, Colonel Stuart, wrote about his death: ‘Lieutenant Duthie was in a dug-out with other officers, when a shell exploded, killing the former instantaneously. The other officers escaped with but slight injuries.’ David’s elder brother, Captain Norman. A. Duthie, was nearby and was present at the funeral. [9]

David Keith Duthie [4]

He was posthumously awarded the 1914, 1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal and is noted on the Roll of Honour, at College Rifles Rugby Union Football and Sports Club in Remuera, Auckland. David Keith Duthie is buried at Prowse Point Military Cemetery, Commines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium, grave IV.C.13. [6]

The obituary of his father David Duthie, described his family thus: In common with many other heads of families in New Zealand, Mr. Duthie was among those who lost a son on’ the field of battle. This was Mr. Keith Duthie, who was killed in action in August, 1917, and, who, with his brother, Major Norman Duthie—now in Auckland —was amongst the first to volunteer for active service abroad. He was a very promising tennis player, especially in inter-university competitions in New Zealand. Another son, Mr. Hugh. C. Duthie, who is in the New Zealand Insurance Company, was in Singapore, where he served with the local forces during the war. Yet another son, Mr. Alan Duthie, solicitor, is practising in Auckland. The late Mr. Duthie’s eldest daughter is married to Dr. Abbott, of Auckland, and Miss Duthie, residing in Wellington, is the second daughter. [10]

Major Norman Alexander Duthie (1889-1970) fought at the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his company into action immediately after a long march in perfect order and took charge of the left flank of an attack. When the advance was held up by machine gun fire, he led his men with great skill, and it was largely owing to his efforts that the battalion captured the objective. Though wounded early in the attack he remained with his men showing the greatest courage and determination.” [11]

Hugh Duthie was on the military staff in Singapore and then worked for New Zealand Insurance Company. He married Victoria Constance Clark, who as Mrs Duthie, was the founder and first principal of Corran School in Remuera from 1947 to 1960. [12]