WW1 Gunner Leo Gerald Cullen 2/2018

Gunner Leo Gerald Cullen

Leo Gerald Cullen (2/2018) was born on 17 September 1894, in Napier, to John Cullen and Rachel Cullen (McGinley).

As Inspector of Police, John Cullen and his family moved frequently, eventually to 250 Remuera Road, Remuera, later 672 Remuera Rd. [1] There were four brothers and three sisters in the family. One brother, Patrick Alphonsus Cullen (Service number 43505) also served in World War I. He was wounded at Gallipoli and discharged in 1922. [2,3]

Leo Gerald Cullen (2/2018) attended Sacred Heart College in 1905-07. Kristian Matulich-Watson, a student at Sacred Heart College, in 2016, wrote about Leo Gerald Cullen and his father as a WW1 school project. [4]

After leaving college, Leo worked at John Burns and Co, as an ironmonger until his enlistment on 14 April 1915, training at Trentham followed and subsequent posting to Egypt on 14 August 1915, arriving at Suez, Egypt on 19 September 1915 on the vessel ‘Willochra’. He was a Gunner, with the New Zealand Field Artillery, 6th Reinforcements. He was posted to France to fight where battles were raging along the Western Front where New Zealand troops experienced the full horror of industrialised warfare. In 1916, the Battle of the Somme was New Zealand’s first major engagement on the Western Front and remains its mostly costly. It took a huge toll on the 18,000 members of the New Zealand Division where more than one in nine of the New Zealanders who fought on the Somme were killed, and about one in three were wounded. The New Zealand Division was one of 55 British Expeditionary Force divisions that took part in the battle. It moved south and joined the Fourth Army’s XV Corps in early September 1916. On 10 September 1916, the division moved into the line between High and Delville woods. The infantry found the sappers and pioneers busy digging communication trenches in readiness for the assault. The gunners were already in action on the night of 5-6 September 1916. They began preparing advance positions to support the attack and worked on their fire-plan for the assault. In addition to standing barrages on the objective line, 16 guns (a puny number compared with attacks in 1917) would provide a creeping barrage that moved forward in a series of lifts at a speed calculated to allow the infantry to follow it closely. On 12 September 1916, the New Zealand gunners joined the preparatory bombardment.

Leo was severely wounded in the chest, on the 13th of September 1916. He was taken to the 38th Casualty Station where he died on the 15th September 1916. He is buried near where he fought and died at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l’Abbe, Somme, France, IV. D. 15. [5] He is remembered in the Auckland War Memorial Museum Hall of Memories.