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Edwin Percy Greatbatch, 1891 - 1916

Edwin Greatbatch died of wounds in France on 20 October 1916, aged 25. He is buried at Estaires Communal Cemetery, Nord, France.

Edwin was born in Ohaeawai in the Bay of Islands on 11 December 1890. His parents were Annie Cicely (nee Thomson) and Edwin Greatbatch. He was the oldest in a family of five children and the only boy. His father was postmaster at Ohaeawai for many years before moving to a new post at Petone after Edwin was born. He went to school in Petone and then at Wellington College where he was prominent in athletics and cricket. On 13 December 1904 he sat and passed the Junior National Scholarship exam for a free place in secondary school. He passed the Solicitors General Knowledge exam at the end of 1906 and was also awarded a Education Board Senior Scholarship. He sat the university scholarship examinations at the end of 1907 and qualified for matriculation.

Greatbatch enrolled with Victoria University College in 1908 to study law. He found employment as a law clerk with the firm Govett and Quilliam in New Plymouth and at the end of 1911 was advised that he had passed his final solicitor's examination. By July 1912 he was appearing in the New Plymouth Magistrate's Court.

He was a good cricketer, playing for Wellington College and, after leaving school, the Petone club. When in New Plymouth he was prominent in the Law Cricket Club and he played for Taranaki, being the youngest player for the province in a match against Australia. 

Greatbatch left New Plymouth in June 1913 to practise in Matamata where he was a founder and partner of the law firm Rhodes, Hampson and Greatbatch.

He enlisted on 9 October 1915 with the 9th reinforcements for the Sixth Hauraki company and entered camp at Trentham on 12 October. His medical examination shows he was 5 foot 6-1/2 tall (1.69 metres) and weighed 141 pounds (63.9 kg). He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 8 November 1915 and to Sergeant on 8 December.

He embarked with the 4th Battalion, A Company, New Zealand Rifle Brigade from Wellington on 5 February 1916 for Suez. After arrival in Suez on 15 March and a short period of training, the Brigade moved to France on 7 April 1916. It was involved in the First Battle of the Somme and Greatbatch promoted to Second Lieutenant in the field on 26 August 1916 and posted to the Second Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 10 September.

On 20 October 1916 at 1:35pm Greatbatch died of wounds received after being shot by a sniper while his battalion held the front line at Fleurbaix.

Edwin Greatbatch is remembered on the plaque in the offices of the Waikato Bay of Plenty branch of the New Zealand Law Society and on the Matamata War Memorial.

Sources: Wanganui Herald, 20 January 1905, page 2; Evening Post, 23 January 1907, page 2; Evening Post, 22 February 1907, page 2; Evening Post, 19 January 1909, page 2; Free Lance, 13 March 1909, page 18; Evening Post, 10 September 1909, page 9; Evening Post, 27 January 1911, page 2; Taranaki Daily News, 21 December 1911, page 4; Taranaki Daily News, 10 July 1912, page 4; Taranaki Daily News, 14 September 1912, page 8; Dominion, 24 June 1913, page 3; Taranaki Daily News, 14 April 1914, page 4; New Zealand Herald, 1 October 1915, page 6; Taranaki Daily News, 30 October 1916, page 8; Waikato Times, 1 November 1916, page 4; Auckland Weekly News, November 1916; Northern Advocate, 6 November 1916, page 3; Evening Post, 5 December 1916, page 2; The Spike, War Memorial Number 1920, page 24; Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (LT Watkins Ltd, Wellington 1924), pages 148-149.

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 24th March 2015