WW1 Tragedy Of A Remuera Family – Harold John Stilton
Harold was the youngest son of John and Fanny Stilton of Remuera, born in 1892.
The family lived at what is now 109 & 111 Orakei Road and he attended Remuera Primary School where he won a prize in Standard Two in 1901 for regular attendance. He worked as a printer at the Herald’s Auckland office and played rugby league for the Remuera United Club (fourth grade) with his brother Fred.
He enlisted with the army on 7 April 1916. His personnel record describes him as being 5 foot 6″ tall with a fresh complexion, fair hair and blue eyes. He had his photo taken by Queen St photographer Herman Schmidt in 1916 – these 3 photos are held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections of Auckland Libraries.
Harold joined the 17th Reinforcements Auckland Infantry Battalion (A Company) and embarked from Wellington on the Devon on the 25th September 1916 to Devonport in England. While serving with the Auckland Infantry Regiment, he was wounded in action on 7 June 1917 at the start of the Battle of Messines on the western front. While on duty in a trench, he was hit by a high-explosive shell and wounded in the back, thigh, foot, and arm. The Auckland Weekly News featured Harold and Fred in an issue dated September 6, 1917, of “two or more in a family killed in action or wounded”. He spent time in hospital at Camiers in France, Brockenhurst in England and at the New Zealand convalescent hospital at Hornchurch in Essex. He was discharged from the army on account of his wounds received in action and returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Marama, arriving back in Auckland on 28 December 1917.
Harold had 3 other brothers: his brother Fred joined the N Z Rifle Brigade and suffered gassing. His brother William (W J B) was called up in a ballot on 21 August 1918 in the 3rd draft of Class C of Second Division reservists – married men with 2 children. Another brother George had asked for an exemption as he said he was the support of his aged mother: two brothers had been on active service. One was at present in hospital in England, and the other was in an outpatient of the Auckland Hospital Annexe. George, known as Bert, said he was prepared to go if his soldier brother could be returned. He was granted leave until February 6 1919.
However the rejoicings at the signing of the armistice bringing an end to the war on 11 November 1914 were often marked with tragedy as the “influenza” epidemic took a heavy toll on the returned servicemen. Weakened by the war’s effects (wounds, disease, gassing), many did not have the strength to overcome pneumonia or other complications which followed the “alleged influenza”. In the Stilton family, Harold died on 10 November 1918 in Auckland Hospital from the post-war epidemic at the age of 26. His funeral was at St Marks Church in Remuera where he was buried. His name is also on the Roll of Honour of Remuera Primary School’s gates.
Sadly Bert (George Bertram) Stilton of Bell Rd, Remuera also died on the 11 November 1918 aged 33 years and their mother Fanny on the 14th November from pneumonia at the age of 71 years.
The Auckland Star (15 November 1914) reported – “Bereavements caused by the ravage of influenza have made a deep impression on the sentiment of people during the past few weeks. A case that calls for sympathy is that of the Stilton family of Orakei Road, Remuera. The first to fall victim to the malady was the youngest son, Harold, a returned soldier, 26 years of age, who passed away at the Hospital annexe on Sunday. The following day at the Auckland Hospital his brother Bert, 33 years of age (second soul succumbed.) The climax came yesterday when the widowed mother passed away at the ripe age of 71 years. This practically accounts for the whole of the family.”
IN MEMORIAM STILTON—In loving memory of Harold John Stilton, late N.Z.E.F, who died November 10, 1918, at Annexe Hospital, aged 26 years.
Upright and Just in all his ways,
Honest and faithful to the end of his days;
Forgotten to the World by some he may be.
But dear to our memory forever is he.
Inserted by his loving brother Fred and sister-ln-law Em.
(Auckland Star, 10 November 1920)