New Zealand Law Society

Navigation menu

George Cuthbert Mayne, 1883 - 1915

George Mayne was killed in action at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915. He was aged 32. Where he is buried is unknown and he is remembered on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial, Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey.

George was born in Christchurch on 20 February 1883. His parents were Ada and James Boxer Mayne. George had two younger sisters, Helga and Una. His father was Headmaster of Sydenham and St Albans Schools and Senior Inspector for the North Canterbury education district. He also participated in the 1907 expedition to the Auckland and Campbell Islands.

photo of George Cuthbert Mayne 
Major George Mayne. 

George attended Ashburton primary and high schools before the family moved to Christchurch where he went to Christchurch Boys' High School. On leaving school he studied law at Canterbury University College from 1906 to 1909. He passed his final solicitors' examination at the end of 1906. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1907 and was practising law at 158 Hereford Street by August 1907.

Mayne was very active in the territorial forces and he was appointed to the rank of acting Lieutenant in October 1907, continuing his involvement during his legal career. He was involved in the establishment of a Christchurch branch of the National League of New Zealand in August 1907, becoming secretary, and he was also on the committee of the Christchurch branch of the Navy League.

After passing his final LLB examinations in February 1910 Mayne moved to Kaikoura where he set up in practice in the firm McIver and Mayne. He was prominent in local affairs and was secretary of the Kaikoura branch of the South Island Main Trunk Railway League. He continued his involvement with the territorials, being promoted to Captain of the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles (Kaikoura squadron) in September 1912. On 25 February 1915 his promotion to Major in the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles as from 6 December 1913 was gazetted.

Mayne left Kaikoura in March 1914 after he secured an appointment as managing clerk for the Gisborne law firm de Latour, Barker, Stock and Matthews. He was farewelled by the Kaikoura territorial forces and was at work in Gisborne early in April. He did not stay long in Gisborne. The war began and on 15 August 1914 Mayne was one of six members of the Gisborne Club who were farewelled as they left for war. Mayne proceeded to Nelson, enlisting on 15 August and being given the rank of Lieutenant in the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. His medical report shows he was 5 foot 6 inches tall (1.67 metres), weighed 128 pounds (58.6 kg) and had grey eyes and sandy hair.

Shortly after he had joined up, Mayne got married. On 26 August 1914 at St Mary's Church in Merivale, Christchurch, he married Myra Julia Whitcombe. The couple had no children. Two months later, on 16 October 1914 he embarked with the main body from Lyttelton, arriving in Suez on 3 December. After a period of training in Egypt, Mayne was with the New Zealand forces for the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

Mayne was killed in action during the battle for Chunuk Bair on 8 August. In an article widely published in New Zealand newspapers, usually under the heading "How Major GC Mayne died", fellow lawyer Captain John G McCallum of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles wrote: "On August 7th we had the great misfortune to lose Major Mayne. He was out with a small reconnoitring party, and met some English Territorials, who had lost their officers and were becoming demoralised. He rallied them successfully, but was himself killed while doing so. Of him it is necessary to say little, for he was well known, but, apart from his kindly personal qualities, his keen soldierly instinct, devotion to duty and capacity for leadership, will make his loss severely felt by us." Mayne's body was not recovered. 

Shortly after news of his death reached New Zealand, another piece of news about Mayne was widely reported. Just a few days before she heard of his death, Mayne's wife received a letter from him which was dated 20 June 1915. The letter read:

"I am on outpost duty, but things are rather slow at present. The Turks have just started shelling, and the shrapnel shells go whistling past. When the shells explode there is sometimes a rush for the empty case, as such a curio is worth a tin of milk with the sailors. The things we long for are such as condensed milk, unsweetened chocolate, tinned butter, and so on.

"The Army Service Corps people seem able to get these things, even to tins of Danish butter, but we poor beggars in the trenches cannot manage it; our only chance is to find some sailors who can deal in such. I left money with my orderly to get some odds and ends if possible. Of course, considering everything, we are very well looked after. I was very disappointed yesterday, as the Brigadier had promised that I should make a small expedition, but now it has to be put off for a time. I wish we had some willow trees to sit under: how I envy you all those trees at home. There is some excitement near me. The boys have discovered a sniper, and are busy trying to settle him with rifle-fire. It is too hot here: I must clear out and get in the shade." (Press, 21 August 1915, page 13). 

Mayne is remembered on the Ashburton War Memorial and the Canterbury District Law Society memorial bronze plaque. 

For some reason Mayne is recorded in several records as holding the rank of Lieutenant or Captain. He was definitely promoted to Major in the armed forces in March 1915. His obituary in the Sun (20 August 1915) also states: "In the casualty list he is described as a lieutenant, but that is probably due to that rank appearing opposite his name in the New Zealand Defence Department's records."

Sources: Ashburton Guardian, 22 December 1893, page 2; Ashburton Guardian, 19 December 1896, page 2; Press, 21 December 1898, page 3; Star, 21 December 1899, page 4; Press, 12 October 1901, page 5; Press, 29 March 1902, page 5; Star, 13 December 1906, page 2; Press, 3 August 1907, page 14; Press, 8 August 1907, page 6; Press, 19 August 1908, page 3; Colonist, 23 February 1910, page 4; Press, 23 December 1910, page 10; Marlborough Express, 17 August 1912, page 4; Marlborough Express, 20 September 1912, page 4; Marlborough Express, 21 July 1913; Press, 19 February 1914, page 10; Sun, 25 March 1914, page 11; Poverty Bay Herald, 8 April 1914, page 2; Poverty Bay Herald, 15 August 1914, page 2; Marlborough Express, 19 August 1914, page 5; Sun, 22 September 1914, page 1; New Zealand Gazette, 25 February 1915; Colonist, 2 March 1915, page 4; Colonist, 20 August 1915, page 3; Sun, 20 August 1915, page 6; Press, 21 August 1915, page 13; Press, 25 August 1915, page 5; Press, 23 October 1915, page 11. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph soldier profile.

This obituary has been prepared by the New Zealand Law Society to preserve the memory of members of the legal profession who died while serving in World War I.

Lawyers Roll of Honour.

By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society. Further information is welcomed: geoff.adlam@lawsociety.org.nz.

Last updated on the 14th March 2016