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Remembering the lawyers who died in World War I

23 April 2020

As a national day of remembrance, ANZAC Day remembrance dates back to the day Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed at Gallipoli during World War 1, 25 April 1915 these.

Over 18,000 New Zealanders were killed during the war. At least 54 were lawyers and over 60 more were training to be lawyers. A much larger number of lawyers and law clerks and students served during the War and returned to legal practice safely.

The Lawyers Roll of Honour commemorates the lawyers who died in World War one. Biographies of each lawyer can be accessed through the link from the lawyer's name. The objective is to ensure the names of the lawyers who died because of World War I are preserved and remembered through their connection to the legal profession.

Remembering them

New Zealand has many war memorials for soldiers who served and died in World War 1. Of the lawyers who died while serving, only three are buried in New Zealand. Most of the rest lie in war cemeteries in Turkey, Palestine and Europe – however, 13 are named on a memorial and have no grave. Maginnity & Son, Nelson lawyer James Houlker was buried at sea off Gallipoli after dying from wounds on the hospital ship Valdivia.

The names of the lawyers are on memorials around New Zealand. A tree was planted at Auckland’s Birkdale School to commemorate Julian Brook. Streets in Takapuna were renamed to remember Hugh Forrest and Athol HartCharles Darling’s law partner donated the Dargaville town clock to remember him. The Houlker Scholarship at Nelson College was set up by James Houlker’s friends in 1916. It was awarded to Oscar Lew in 2018. Samuel Atkinson, who tirelessly campaigned for New Zealand to send more soldiers to Europe before joining up at the age of 42, is remembered by Victoria University of Wellington's Arnold Atkinson Memorial Prize. Charles Brown's widow erected a memorial plaque in Wellington's Old St Pauls. The plaque reads: "In proud and loving memory of my husband Charles Raymond Brown, killed in action, France, October 1, 1918, aged 28. With eternal love." They had been married for two months when he entered the army.

photo of William M Alexander

William Alexander was remembered by a notice placed in the New Zealand Herald every year on the anniversary of his death at Armentieres on 11 July 1916. The notice placed in 1940 read: "In ever-loving memory of Sergeant W.M. Alexander, killed in action at Armentieres July 11, 1916. Ever remembered. - Inserted by his loving parents, brothers and sisters, Mangapiko."

The District Law Societies of Auckland, Hamilton (later Waikato Bay of Plenty), Wellington and Canterbury all erected memorial tablets for lawyers from their area who died in the war. These commemorate 32 of the lawyers. The New Zealand Law Society hopes that it can help keep memories alive by providing some information about the lawyers’ lives and legal careers. Contributions of additional information to the biographies are welcomed.

This is an edited version of an article first published in 2018, one century after the war ended, to commemorate the lawyers who died serving in World War 1.

Last updated on the 23rd April 2020