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Alfred Wedderburn Bishop, 1882 - 1917

Alfred Bishop was killed in action in France during the Arras Offensive on 12 May 1917. He was aged 34. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial in Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, France. The memorial contains the names of 35,000 servicemen who died in the region and who have no known grave.

Alf, as he was known, was born in Rawene in 1882. His parents were Annie Elizabeth and Helgar Wedderburn Bishop. His father became Stipendiary Magistrate in Christchurch in 1905, serving in the role until 1917. Alf attended Christ's College in Christchurch where he did well academically and was a keen sportsman. He continued his sporting interests after leaving school. He played cricket for the United Canterbury and West Christchurch clubs and rugby for Canterbury College, playing on the wing. He was active in athletics as well, competing in shorter distance running events for the Pioneer Amateur Bicycle and Athletics Club. He played golf at Hagley Golf Club.

Bishop left school and attended Canterbury University College from 1903 where he studied law. He was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court on 25 February 1907 by Justice Chapman on the motion of HJ Beswick. Maurice James Gresson was also admitted at the same time and the two practised in partnership for some years until 1912. Bishop completed his LLB at the end of 1907.

By early 1907 Bishop had begun an active legal practice in which he was to appear for many clients in the Christchurch Magistrates' Courts and in the Supreme Court. He often appeared before his father, Helgar Bishop SM. The appearance of a Chief Detective Bishop for the police in a many of the proceedings would have kept the name "Bishop" prominent. 

Bishop joined the Honorary Territorial Corps in April 1913. 

In May 1916 the Dominion carried the following news item: "Mr AW Bishop, son of Mr HW Bishop SM, left Christchurch on Friday night to take passage to England where he will enlist. He intends to join the Inns of Court Training Corps. After some months' training he will seek a commission in an Imperial Regiment." Tragedy struck during the long voyage as it was reported that Mary Enid Cargill, who was engaged to be married to Bishop, had died in Christchurch on 16 July, the same day Bishop arrived in England.

By September 1916 Bishop's father had reported that he had received information the his son was in an officers' training camp in Ireland. He had joined the Hampshire Regiment and in December 1916 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the First Battalion. He went to the front in France in February 1917. On 12 May 1917 he was killed in action. 

On 24 May 1917 before proceedings began in the Christchurch Magistrate's Court, the other local stipendiary magistrate, TAB Bailey SM, paid tribute to Bishop. The Press reported his remarks as follows: "He had known Mr Alf Bishop ever since he [Bailey] came to Christchurch eight years ago, and he had formed a very high estimate of his character. His impression was that he was a young man who would have made his name in the world. His career at college and university had been one of marked brilliance, and in his profession he was considered as one who had always shown ability of a very high order. It would be a great blow to his parents, and they had his deepest sympathy, and also that, he was sure, of every person in the community. He had no hesitation in saying that the country had lost a fine man and a good soldier."

SG Raymond KC also spoke, on behalf of the Canterbury Bar: "[Alf Bishop] was known to all of them not only as a loyal colleague but as a friend. He was quite safe in saying that throughout the whole profession of Christchurch no practitioner had endeared himself to it more than Mr Bishop had. He was a very promising young man, with a particularly sunny temperament." 

Alfred Bishop is remembered on the Canterbury Lawyers' Memorial Plaque in the Canterbury Law Library. 

Sources: Star, 11 October 1900, page 3; Press, 1 April 1901, page 2; Press, 25 August 1902, page 2; Press, 19 February 1903, page 6; Star, 5 November 1903, page 3; Star, 25 February 1907, page 3; Star, 28 May 1907, page 3; Press, 29 February 1908, page 10; Star, 24 April 1909, page 7; Press, 14 May 1910, page 6; Press, 26 November 1912, page 4; Press, 30 April 1913, page 6; Dominion, 15 May 1916, page 4; Dominion, 19 July 1916, page 2; Dominion, 11 September 1916, page 4; Press, 25 May 1917, page 7; Press, 9 November 1918, page 8; Robin Cooke (ed), Portrait of a Profession, (Reed, 1969), page 272.  

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

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Last updated on the 17th March 2015