WW1 Trooper Rupert Whitworth McKenzie 16428

Rupert Whitworth McKenzie [1]

Rupert McKenzie was born 4 September 1894 in Remuera to Violet and Norman Roderick McKenzie, a schools inspector. He attended Remuera primary school and Whangarei High School before entering Auckland Grammar in February 1910.

He passed the exam to receive a free place at AGS in 1911. [1] While at the Auckland University College from 1912-1915 doing his teacher training, he was a pupil-teacher at Remuera Primary School in 1912. [1] He was then appointed to be in charge of Mapara School in the Waikato [2] and in March 1915 passed his examination for his teaching certificate. [3] In May 1916 at the time of his enlistment he was teaching at Komata, near Paeroa. [4]

Rupert left New Zealand on 5th October 1916 as a trooper in the 17th Reinforcements, N Z Mounted Rifles, on the Manuka and transferred to the Morea at Sydney, bound for Suez, arriving on 14 November 1916. He transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps, 4th (Anzac) Battalion, 16 (New Zealand) Company on 5 December 1916. [5] He was reported as being in Rest Camp from 15th – 25th September 1917 in Port Said, Egypt. [6]

The Imperial Camel Corps, which included two New Zealand companies, played a vital role in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Between 400 and 450 New Zealanders fought in the Camel Corps, and 41 of them died before the two New Zealand companies were disbanded in mid-1918. The soldiers of the Imperial Camel Corps – known as cameliers – rode their camels to get to the scene of battle, but would then dismount to fight on foot. [7]

No 16 (New Zealand) Company – formed in November 1916 – began to carry out its first long-range patrols in the Sinai Desert. As the railway and water pipeline that sustained the main body of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was extended across the northern Sinai, the patrols undertaken by the Camel Corps companies fanned out far to the south and south-east, protecting these vital strategic assets against the possibility of Ottoman raid or attack. For the rest of 1917 the New Zealand, Australian and British cameliers fought against the Ottoman Turks, first in Palestine proper, and then from early 1918 in the Jordan Valley. During a re-organisation of the Brigade in August 1917 No 15 (New Zealand) Company was transferred from the 3rd Battalion to the 4th Battalion, bringing the two New Zealand camel companies together in the same battalion for the first time.

McKenzie — Birkenhead Glenfield Cemetery [2]

The Battle for Hill 3039: While long-range desert patrol work was what the Imperial Camel Corps was best suited for, they often found themselves taking part in full-scale battles alongside the rest of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, especially during the Palestine campaign. One such action occurred during the raid on Amman by British forces at the end of March 1918. This ended in failure with the British unable to break through the last of the Ottoman defences surrounding the city despite repeated attempts to do so over a three-day period. In the midst of this fighting the Imperial Camel Corps’ 4th Battalion (which by this stage only included one New Zealand company, No 16), together with the Auckland and Canterbury Mounted Rifles regiments, managed to capture the heights of Hill 3039 which overlooked the city below. The capture of this important position invited immediate retribution from the Ottoman Turks who began to target it with heavy artillery fire. Quickly on the heels of this artillery bombardment came a series of ground assaults by Ottoman infantry determined to retake the hilltop. For the next 24 hours the 4th Camel Battalion repelled these attacks, holding on doggedly until they were ordered to retreat as part of a general withdrawal by the British force. The brave defiance of the cameliers in this action cost the 4th Battalion dearly. No 16 (New Zealand) Camel Company was particularly hard hit, losing three of its six officers, and 41 New Zealanders in total. Their names are on the Imperial Camel Corps memorial in London. [8]

McKenzie — Memorial London [3]

Rupert McKenzie was killed in action on the 30 March 1918, age 23, at Amman in Palestine. He is buried at the Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery, Syria F. 13. [9] He is remembered on the: –

• Auckland Grammar School War Memorial, New Zealand

• Hamilton Memorial Park, Memorial Drive, Hamilton East, 3343

• St David’s Presbyterian Church, 68 Khyber Pass Road, Grafton, Auckland 1089

• Remuera Primary School World War One Gates 1914-1918, 25 Dromorne Road, Remuera

• Imperial Camel Corps Memorial, Victoria Embankment Gardens, Victoria Embankment, Charing Cross, City Of Westminster, Greater London WC2N 6PB.