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Douglas Allan Harle, 1893 - 1917

Douglas Harle was killed in action at Ypres in Belgium on 4 October 1917. He was aged 24. He is buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle, Belgium.

Douglas was born in Dunedin on 4 June 1893. His parents were Margaret Jane and George Hutchinson Harle. His father worked for the post office and this meant the family moved around the country. After Douglas was born they moved to Wellington and he attended the Berhampore and Mount Cook Schools before another move to New Plymouth. He gained a Board's scholarship at the Central School in 1905 and went on to attend New Plymouth High School. He was awarded a Queen's Scholarship in 1906, coming 15th in New Zealand.

Douglas Harle completed his secondary school education at Wellington College from 1908 to 1911. While there he won the Liverton science prize and Turnbull and Rhodes scholarships. He was Dux and Head of the school in 1911. Harle was a Lieutenant in the Wellington College Cadets and was offered one of the first Duntroon Military Scholarships. However, he was keen to become a lawyer and he did not accept.

In 1912 Harle started studying law at Victoria University College, holding a university scholarship for three years. He was active in College life, belonging to the Rugby, Tennis and Boxing Clubs and the Debating Society. Harle spent his university holidays working for New Plymouth solicitor AH Johnstone. He continued to achieve excellent academic results, securing First Class passes in Criminal law, Torts and Property II in 1914.

photo of Douglas Harle 
Douglas Harle.

He secured his LLB at the end of 1915 and enlisted on 3 April 1916, joining up in New Plymouth and going into NCO camp with the 15th Reinforcements at Trentham.

On 25 May 1916 Harle was admitted by Justice Hosking as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court. He appeared in uniform as he was shortly to go on service overseas. Hosking J wished him a safe return to New Zealand and success in practice. 

He was promoted to Sergeant on 7 June 1916 and from NCO camp Harle was sent to the Seventeenth Reinforcements. He spent two days in the Wairarapa Hospital from 14 to 16 June, suffering from influenza. He was selected for a commission and was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 13 September 1916. He embarked with the 23rd Reinforcements, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, C Company from Wellington on 2 April 1917, arriving in Plymouth England. After further training at Sling Camp his unit went to France on 12 July 1917.

Harle was killed on 4 October 1917 during the attack on Gravenstafel. His unit, the 2nd Battalion of the Wellington Regiment, attacked with other New Zealand forces at 6am in cold and wet conditions. It had reached the neighbourhood of Kron Prinz Farm by mid-morning and it was here that Harle was killed. 

Douglas Harle is remembered on the New Plymouth Boys' High School memorial gate, where his name is on a bronze plaque with other pupils who died in the war. His name is also on the Roll of Honour in the New Zealand Law Society's Wellington Law Library. 

Sources: Taranaki Herald, 25 January 1907, page 5; Evening Post, 9 December 1910, page 8; Evening Post, 17 January 1911, page 3; Evening Post, 13 December 1911, page 2; Evening Post, 18 December 1913, page 2; Dominion, 26 October 1914, page 9; Taranaki Daily News, 22 December 1915, page 5; Evening Post, 25 May 1916, page 8; New Zealand Gazette, 15 March 1917; Ashburton Guardian, 12 October 1917, page 4; The Spike, War Memorial Number, 1920, page 24; WH Cunningham, CAL Treadwell, JS Hanna, The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914-1919 (Ferguson & Osborn Ltd, Wellington, 1928), page 220; Taranaki District Law Society 1879-1979 (1979), page 61.

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 27th November 2015