New Zealand Law Society - William Greig Menzies, 1882 - 1918

William Greig Menzies, 1882 - 1918

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William Menzies
Sergeant-Major William Menzies.

William Menzies was killed in action on 26 March 1918 at the Somme, France. He was aged 35. He is remembered on the Grevilliers (New Zealand) Memorial at Grevilliers British Cemetery. The memorial commemorates 450 New Zealand soldiers who died in fighting in the area during 1918 and who have no known grave.

William was born on 20 May 1882 in Christchurch. He was the fourth child in a family of five girls and two boys. His parents were Jean (nee Greig) and Adam Menzies. Both were from Scotland. His father was a plasterer. After attending West Christchurch School in Christchurch, William studied at the Canterbury College School of Art before taking and passing the teachers' examination in 1903.

He began teaching at Fendalton School, leaving at the end of 1904 on his appointment as an assistant master at the Christchurch West District High School. He taught there until he resigned in October 1907 to take up another teaching post as special assistant at Eltham District High School until February 1909. While teaching he studied for a BA at Canterbury College, completing it in 1907. He continued to study after graduating, this time for an LLB degree.

Menzies was appointed headmaster at Frasertown School in Hawke's Bay in 1909. He married Bessie Graham Elmslie at Waverley on 28 December 1911. The couple had a daughter, Jean Greig, who died of whooping cough in 1914 aged seven months.

Will Menzies completed his LLB at the end of 1913 and found employment as a solicitor with the Te Kuiti firm of Hine and Vernon. He appeared in Te Kuiti Magistrate's Court not long before he was called up for service with the Army.

He enlisted on 26 July 1916. His medical examination report shows he was 5 foot 9-1/2 (1.77 metres), weighed 140 pounds (63.5 kg) and had brown hair and brown eyes. Menzies embarked with the 26th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Regiment, B Company from Wellington on 9 June 1917 for Devonport in England, arriving there on 16 August. He was given the rank of temporary Sergeant on arrival at the Sling training camp and was confirmed in this rank on 28 October. He left for France on 2 December 1917, entering camp at Etaples.

On 28 December 1917 Menzies joined the First Battalion of the Auckland Regiment on the front line. He was detached to Brigade School on 5 January 1918 but appears to have decided he did not want to pursue higher rank, reverting to Corporal "at own request" on 31 January and reverting to Private "at own request" on 9 February.  On 26 March 1918 he was killed in action in fighting on the Somme.

Menzies is remembered on the Hamilton World War I Memorial and the Hamilton District Law Society plaque (where his name is misspelled "William Grey Menzies"). 

Sources: Press, 24 December 1892, page 4; Star, 19 December 1896, page 6; Press, 20 December 1899, page 4; Star, 13 March 1903, page 3; Star, 30 November 1904, page 3; Star, 21 December 1904, page 3; Star, 17 April 1905, page 3; Star, 29 August 1906, page 3; Star, 14 October 1907, page 3; Wanganui Chronicle, 13 December 1907, page 5; Bush Advocate, 9 February 1909, page 5; Hawera and Normanby Star, 18 February 1909, page 7; Timaru Herald, 28 September 1910, page 6; Ashburton Guardian, 8 April 1914, page 5; King Country Chronicle, 17 May 1916, page 5; Evening Post, 20 April 1918, page 6; Andrew Honeyfield, The Elmslies of Waverley (Andrew Honeyfield, 2014).

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph solider 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:

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