Julian Cornelius Brook was an aspiring young lawyer from the north Island of New Zealand, but now lies buried in the Adanac Military Cemetery near the edge of the 1916 battlefield, between the villages of Miraumont and Corcelette, about eight miles from La Boisselle.
He’s one of more than 18,000 New Zealanders killed in the First World War, many of whom lie on the Somme.
Lieutenant Brook of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade died in September, 1918, as the Allies pushed beyond the old battlefields of the Somme in the final great offensive. Like many other young Kiwis, he’s remembered in a very special way at his birthplace 12,000 miles on the other side of the world.
He came from the little township of Waipu, just off State Highway 1 between Auckland and Waitangi. It’s in beautiful countryside near the stunning Pacific coast. It’s calm and friendly, and full of neat, white weatherboard single storey houses, small stores, with a church, a library and a museum. The township was established by settlers from the Highlands who arrived in the mid-19th Century via Nova Scotia and Australia, and still has a strong Scottish heritage. About 1,500 people live there today.
Scattered in the centre of the village, you find a series of information boards. Each one is dedicated to some of the men (and women) who joined the war.You read about their backgrounds, families, careers –and what happened to them in the war. Each board is well-illustrated with pictures from before the war and in uniform. Most poignantly, many of the boards are placed outside the buildings where these young Kiwis lived as children or when they joined up, or where they worked. It’s an extraordinarily intimate commemoration in a little town which, according to one report, lost more men in WW1 per head of population than any other town in New Zealand. One of the boards remembers Julian Cornelius Brook. He was, as the board describes: ‘The Headmaster’s Son’.
His memorial is placed outside the house where he was born, a home specially built for his newly-married parents when his father became Headmaster of the local school.
Julian Cornelius won prizes at Auckland Grammar and a scholarship to Auckland University College, where he was a keen sportsman and orator. He became a lawyer.
He enlisted with the Auckland Light Infantry, and was wounded twice at Gallipoli; he was mentioned in a national newspaper report when it was discovered he spent seven months on active service with a bullet in his head. He transferred to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and died in France, in action near the Canal du Nord, on September 2nd, 1918. He was 28 when he died.
Remarkably, Lieutenant Brook carried a Box Brownie camera with him, and many of his pictures are featured on the presentation panels. Others are in the New Zealand National Archive.
There are many other moving accounts on the story boards in Waipu – a scheme inspired by the former manager of the Waipu Museum, Patsy Montgomery.
Attached to one building, for example, you read about ‘The Boys from the General Store’ –brothers Lachlan and Owen Campbell whose parents ran the general store from 1882. Both enlisted in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. Captain Lachlan Campbell survived a mustard gas attack and was awarded a Military Cross, and resumed a career as an engineer after the war. Lieutenant Owen Campbell also survived, and returned as a surveyor and drainage engineer.
Nearby: another board remembers ‘Two Nurses and Their Brother’. Duncan Kennedy Sutherland joined the Auckland Mounted Rifles, caught severe ‘enteric’ fever at Gallipoli but survived and went on to fight in the Middle east; on the hospital ship back home for treatment, he was nursed by his sister, Sister Mary Sutherland, who in July, 1916, was posted to No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital at Amiens. Another sibling, Sister Hugha Sutherland, worked in Egypt and was later posted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Walton on Thames –a link with the annual laying of a wreath in memory of New Zealand casualties at Walton at each July 1st service at Lochnagar Crater.
Away from the rural calm of Waipu, many visitors head for the big museums in the cities. The capital city of Wellington, for example, has two major exhibitions. One is created by Sir Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings director. It’s at the Dominion Museum Building and is called The Great War Exhibition. It’s staged with filmic panache, with life-like tableaux showing a horse artillery unit trailing a field gun, a heavy gun battery, a tank crossing a German trench, and an Allied trench scene.
In one gallery, you walk over a glass case in the floor containing ‘soil from Longueval’, from the fields where 6,000 troops from the New Zealand Division tasted their first combat in France at Delville and High Woods, and the successful attack on Flers. 600 died, including 52 from the Maori Pioneer Battalion.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington has a superb display called ‘Gallipoli: the Scale of Our War’. It includes arresting tableaux of three-times life-size models, each depicting a real-life story.
Like Lieutenant Spencer westmacott, one of the first ANZACs ashore. At the age of 29, he led his troops up a hill called Baby 700, shouting: ‘Good boys! Good lads!’ He was shot in the right arm, and evacuated.
Or Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick, one of the first medical officers on the beach. He treated hundreds of casualties until being shipped out, ill and exhausted, after two months. He was 45.
Or Private Jack Dunn, a machine gunner, who caught pneumonia after only a month. He returned to his unit but fell asleep on duty and was sentenced to death. He was given a reprieve on July 30th, sent back into action, and was killed a few days later.
Or Privates Colin Warden, Friday Hawkins and Rikihan Carkeek, part of a 16-man Machine Gun Section in the Maori Contingent, who fought a vicious action near Chunuk Bair; half were killed or wounded.
Or Staff Nurse Lottie Le Gallais, a military nurse on a hospital ship. She hoped to see her brother Leddie, who was at Gallipoli, but all her letters were returned, marked: ‘Killed. Return to Sender’. Coincidentally, Nurse Charlotte Le Gallais married after the war and became the mother-in-law of a Waipu migration descendant. Charlotte’s granddaughter is a solicitor in Whangarei, near Waipu.
At Dunedin on the south Island, a farmer-turned-soldier who won New Zealand’s first Victoria Cross on the western Front is remembered in an exhibition at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.
Sergeant Donald Forrester Brown VC, of the 2nd Battalion Otago Regiment, was heavily involved in the attack by the New Zealand Division on German trenches near Eaucourt L’Abbaye. He took a machine gun nest, but was killed by a sniper. He’s buried at the Warlencourt military cemetery, on the main road between Albert and Bapaume.
The New Zealand Division lost nearly 7,000 men on the Somme; many are buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, and all are commemorated by the New Zealand National Memorial near Longueval. The First World War was a defining period in the New Zealand national story, and memorials of one kind or another are everywhere, throughout the country.
At Rotorua, for example, a war memorial marks the contribution of the Arawa Maoris.
The memorial contains carvings of British Royalty – and traditional Maori scenes and inscriptions. It is surrounded by small Maori totem poles, or ‘pau’.
Oamaru by the Pacific coast in the south Island has this monument in the centre of town. Beneath it is this quotation from Rudyard Kipling:
From little towns in a far land we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame,
By little towns, in a far land we sleep,
And trust those things we won to you to keep.
Special thanks are due to Lieutenant Brook’s great nephew, Julian David Brook, who lives at Auckland in New Zealand, and allowed Lochnagar Crater Today to use pictures from the family archive. Mr Brook is known as J. D. Brook XIX, and is the nineteenth member of the family to carry the name ‘Julian’; his father was Julian XVIII and Lieutenant Brook was Julian XVII. “This has a profound bearing”, he says, “on how I reflect on Lieutenant Brook’s demise.”
Mr Brook says: “The photos and memorials recall people were just as we are today, with daily lives, intimate relationships and aspirations, before being cast headlong into what for so many was a mire of endurance so very far from the lives they left behind. We can never hear, smell or experience the pain of the battlefields, but the back stories of those soldiers who did, I think, allows us a form of connection with the trauma of those battlefields, and so many lives unfulfilled”.
To learn more about New Zealand and the First World War, see:
To see more of Lieutenant Brook’s wartime pictures, see:
To learn about the life of Lieutenant Brook, see: