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Athol Thomas Hart, 1891 - 1918

Athol Hart was killed in action in France on 21 August 1918, aged 27. He is buried at Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France.

Athol was born in Auckland on 24 January 1891. His parents were Sarah and Edwin Thomas Hart. He had two younger brothers and his father was headmaster of Beresford Street School in Takapuna from 1892 to 1915.

He attended Auckland Grammar School, matriculating in 1908 and going on to Auckland University College where he studied law from 1909 to 1911 before working in dentistry for a while. He returned to the study of law in 1914. While completing his legal qualifications he worked as a law clerk for the firms Reyburn & McArthur, Parr & Blomfield, and Brookfield and Schnauer. He was admitted as a solicitor in the Supreme Court at Auckland on 14 March 1916 while he was employed by Reyburn & McArthur.

Hart was conscripted and enlisted on 24 October 1916. His medical examination report shows he was 6 foot tall (1.83 metres), weighed 11 stone (69.9 kg) and had blue eyes and fair hair. He was sent for training at Trentham Camp and was given the rank of Corporal on 2 January 1917. During his training he was admitted to hospital with a sprained ankle which happened while he jumped into a trench during bayonet fighting training. A military inquiry on 7 March 1917 found that the injury was accidental, with no blame being attachable to anyone. Hart was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 14 November and embarked from Wellington on 22 November 1917 with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force 32nd Reinforcements.

On arrival at Liverpool on 7 January 1918 his unit was marched to Sling training camp, arriving there on 9 January. Hart was admitted to military hospital at Rugely on 22 February and discharged to  Brocton on 3 March. His unit left for France on 22 March and he was posted to A Company of 3rd  Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the field on 9 April.

Hart was killed in action at Bapaume, France on 21 August 1918 during the advance on the village of Puisieux-Au-Mon on the first day of the Battle of Bapaume. The official history of the Rifle Brigade states that "during the forenoon 2nd Lieut A Hart, while manoeuvring to outflank a machine gun post holding up the advance of his men, fell under a burst of fire at point-blank range." Hart was one of 60 casualties incurred during the advance.

In 1919 Hart Road in Takapuna, Auckland 0622 was renamed after Athol Hart (formerly Hansen Road). He is also  remembered on the Auckland District Law Society War Memorial plaque, the Auckland Grammar School War Memorial and the Takapuna War Memorial. 

Sources: New Zealand Herald, 20 January 1909, page 5; New Zealand Herald, 4 November 1910, page 7; New Zealand Herald, 2 November 1911, page 7; Auckland Star, 18 December 1913, page 7; Dominion, 22 December 1915, page 9; Auckland Star, 20 June 1916, page 6; New Zealand Herald, 3 January 1917, page 8; New Zealand Gazette, 15 November 1917; Press, 4 September 1918, page 9; Auckland Weekly News, 5 September 1918, page 19; New Zealand Herald, 27 September 1918, page 6; New Zealand Herald, 4 January 1926, page 8; WS Austin, The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (LT Watkins Ltd, Wellington, 1924), pages 346 and 350.

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

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Last updated on the 13th January 2015