WW1 Lance Corporal Herbert Edward East 23/125

Lance Corporal Herbert Edward East

Herbert East was born on 12 April 1897, eldest of the seven children of cousins Mabel and Ernest Alfred East, of 42 Armadale Rd., Remuera, Auckland.

He attended Remuera Primary School and in 1912, Auckland Grammar School. [1] On leaving Auckland Grammar, he became a cadet with the South British Insurance Company, but when he enlisted on 9 May 1915, he said he was employed as a gardener for McClennan of Victoria Avenue, Remuera. He overstated his age by two years, giving his birth date as 12 April 1895. He was described as 5ft 9 inches tall, with grey eyes and brown hair. [2]

He embarked on 9 October 1915 from Wellington for Alexandria, Egypt, on the H M T S Maunganui in A Company of the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade as a rifleman. [3] He saw service in the Egyptian desert against the Senussi, then was sent to France where he was wounded with gunshot wounds to his abdomen, arms and legs at the battle of the Somme on 15 September 1916. After convalescence in Birmingham, England, at the No. 1 Southern General Hospital, he was sent to France again and rejoined the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade on 23 July 1917 at Messines but was gassed on the same day and was evacuated to two field ambulances, the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, the No. 4 General Hospital, the 6th, 5th and 11th Convalescent Depots before being discharged on 1st October 1917. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 12 October 1917. [1, 4] [5]

On 1st December 1917, the 1st Battalion entered the trenches. The battle for Passchendaele Ridge was a very costly battle. For the sake of a few kilometres, the British had lost 310,000 men and the Germans 260,000. The British Commander, General Haig was heavily criticised for the attack and for failing to modify his plans as the attack clearly was not going to succeed. However, Haig could not have known nor anticipated that the weather would have played such a major part in the battle nor the addition of newly arrived German troops from the Eastern Front. The night attack on 2 December 1917 on Passchendaele was set to fail as the terrain was covered with snow and there was bright moonlight, the operation was approached from a position from which there was little protective cover. Herbert Edward East was killed in action on the Passchendaele Ridge on 2 December 1917, aged 20. [4,6]

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal (1914-1920) and the Victory Medal. He has no known grave and is commemorated at Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, near Ypres, Belgium.

There is an obituary in the Auckland Grammar School Chronicle. Second Term, 1918, and Herbert Edward East is remembered in the memorials: Remuera Primary School World War One Gates 1914-1918, 25 Dromorne Road, Remuera 1050 St. Aidan’s Church, 5 Ascot Avenue, Remuera, Auckland 1050.