WW1 Private Albert Melancthon Cranwell 12/3965

Private Albert Melancthon Cranwell

Albert Melancthon Cranwell (12/3965) was born 19 April 1888, the only son of Thomas Cranwell (1843? – 1907) and Jessie Cranwell (1864 – 1952) of 28 and then 56, Orakei Road, Remuera, Auckland. Albert also had a younger sister, Isabel Clifford Cranwell (1891 – 1976).

[1] Albert’s father, Thomas Cranwell was a well-known singing teacher and keen gardener winning prizes for his blooms. [2, 3] Albert attended Mount Eden School (now Mount Eden Normal Primary School), Auckland Grammar School, where he passed the Civil Service examination, and a year in 1912 at Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland). He had a keen interest in boating and was for a time, part-owner of the launch ‘Banshee’ and later a crew member on the launch ‘Hoheroa’. [4]

At the time of his enlistment on 11 August 1915, Albert was working as a clerk at the New Zealand Insurance Company. He was 6ft tall with blue eyes and brown hair. On the 4th March 1916 he set sail for Suez, Egypt, arriving on 8 April 1916 as a Private with the 10th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He trained in France and was drafted to the machine gun section of the 15th North Auckland Infantry. They were then sent to the Somme, France.

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, a decisive breakthrough had not been achieved. The battle in which, on 25 September 1916, Albert was killed in action, had been a pivotal event in World War 1, as it had laid the basis for the Allied victory two years later although at huge cost to men’s lives. [5]

Albert is buried at the A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers, Somme, FranceI. H. 19. There is an obituary to him in the Auckland Grammar School Chronicle. 1917 and memorials to him at: Auckland Grammar School War Memorial, Mt Eden Normal Primary School Memorial gates, Valley Road, Mt Eden, Auckland, and St Luke’s Presbyterian Church, Remuera [6]