New Zealand Law Society - Claude Sinclair Chalk, 1889 - 1918

Claude Sinclair Chalk, 1889 - 1918

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Greymouth solicitor Claude Chalk died in Palmerston North hospital of complications from influenza on 14 November 1918. He was aged 28 and was in Awapuni Camp with the New Zealand Medical Corps. He is buried in Terrace End Cemetery, Palmerston North.

Claude was born in Greymouth on 4 December 1889. His parents were Julia and John William Chalk. He attended Greymouth High School before joining Greymouth lawyer AP Harper as a clerk, becoming managing clerk when Harper was joined by FB Sargent in partnership. He passed his final solicitor's examination in December 1911 and very shortly afterwards was a partner in his old law firm. The Grey River Argus described the process by which this occurred:

"The legal practice of Messrs Harper and Sargent has been taken over by Mr FB Sargent, who has taken into partnership with him, Mr CS Chalk and the practice will now be carried on under the name of Sargent and Chalk, barristers and solicitors. In Chambers last week His Honour Judge Denniston admitted Frank Driessan Sargent as a barrister of the Supreme Court on the motion of Mr AP Harper, at the same time Mr Claude S Chalk was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court. It is indeed gratifying to Messrs Harper and Sargent to find Mr Chalk who has been articled to their firm holding such a high place in the last examinations. In the solicitors' examination this young man ranked fourth in practice and procedure for the South Island and seventh for the whole Dominion. We congratulate him on his success and feel sure the new firm will benefit by the efficiency of both partners. A notice re the partnership appears in another column of this issue." (Grey River Argus, 11 March 1912, page 5).

Chalk took an active role in the life of Greymouth. He was a keen cricketer, first for Greymouth Boys' High and then for Greymouth after leaving school. He was secretary for several years of the Greymouth Lawn Tennis Club. An accomplished violinist he played for the Athenian Orchestra and became leader of the Greymouth Orchestral Society, playing a violin solo at a Patriotic Concert in Runanga in November 1914. In late 1913 Chalk and two lawyer friends spent 10 days camping at the headwaters of the Waimakariri River, exploring the glaciers and surrounding mountains.

He married Ivy Leonora Louisa Cornwall in Greymouth on 26 December 1916 and the couple had one child, Nell Bradford Chalk, who was born on 6 January 1918. 

Sargent left to practise in Christchurch and Chalk carried on in sole practice, retaining the firm name of Sargent and Chalk. 

Chalk enlisted in the Army near the end of World War I and was sent with the New Zealand Medical Corps to Awapuni Camp near Palmerston North on 21 June 1918. His medical examination report shows he was 5 foot 7 tall (1.7 metres), weighed 152 pounds (68.9 kg) and had grey eyes.

He was to have sailed with the last reinforcements of the Medical Corp but was one of many thousands of New Zealand soldiers who contracted influenza in the worldwide epidemic of 1918. On 11 November 1918 it was reported that Private Chalk was suffering a serious attack of pneumonia arising from influenza and his parents had gone to join his wife in Palmerston North. Three days later on 14 November, Chalk died. In the week of his death 67 soldiers in camp died in New Zealand from influenza, and 3193 soldiers from Trentham, Featherston and Awapuni camps were reported to be in hospital.

Chalk is remembered on the Greymouth War Memorial

Sources: Grey River Argus, 21 December 1899, page 3; Grey River Argus, 29 December 1902, page 3; West Coast Times, 30 November 1903, page 3; Grey River Argus, 18 September 1906, page 3; Press, 23 January 1907, page 8; Grey River Argus, 20 November 1908, page 3; Evening Post, 27 January 1910, page 11; Grey River Argus, 7 October 1910, page 5; Grey River Argus, 23 December 1911, page 3; Grey River Argus, 11 March 1912, page 5; Press, 17 January 1913, page 3; Grey River Argus, 16 April 1913, page 3; Grey River Argus, 14 June 1913, page 3; Grey River Argus, 8 October 1913, page 1; Grey River Argus, 20 November 1914, page 4; Grey River Argus, 30 August 1916, page 2; Grey River Argus, 11 November 1918, page 4; Grey River Argus, 16 November 1918, page 3; Taranaki Daily News, 18 November 1918, page 6. 

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 lost their lives while serving in World War I.

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By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society. Further information is welcomed:

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