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11/24 Bombardier Eric Hector Dunstan Craw – New Zealand Field Artillery

The Craw family was a pioneering family on Banks Peninsular, Christchurch. George Craw married Elizabeth Hunter
and they had five children. The eldest daughter, Juanita (Nita) Heather Sylvia Craw was born in 1890 and the oldest son,
Eric Hector Dunstan Craw, known to the family as Hector, was born in Chorlton, Banks Peninsular on 11th September 1892[i].

The Craw family moved to Linton, Palmerston North
prior to 1900 where George Craw farmed and also
owned a large flax mill. The Craw family had ‘a yearly
event, a sea side holiday at Plimmerton, Wellington[ii].


A typical camp at Plimmerton c1906


The postcard features George, his wife their five
children including Nita (standing to the right of the tent
and Hector (seated extreme right) and members of the
Hunter and Priest families about 1906 at Plimmerton.


With his Canterbury connection, Hector served, during his compulsory military training, in the Canterbury Mounted Rifles from 1911 to 1914.[iii] On the 13th
August 1914 Hector  Craw entered  military camp and was posted as
11/24 Trooper  Craw, 6th (Manawatu) Squadron, Wellington Mounted Rifles. The
23 year old single man was working as a farmer on his father’s farm in Linton, Manawatu.

11/24 Lance Corporal Eric Hector Dunstan Craw, 6th Manawatu Squadron


11/24 Trooper Craw was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 1st September 1914 prior to leaving on the 16th October 1914 for overseas service with the Wellington Mounted Rifles, Main Body, New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

The Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR) did not take part in the initial landings at Gallipoli but remained in Egypt defending the Suez Canal against possible attacks from the Ottoman Turks. Lance Corporal Craw wrote in his diary on Wednesday
5th May 1915[iv]

Heard rumoured about to go to Dardanelles as infantry, leaving horse here.
The rumour confirmed going Saturday.

The WMR landed at Gallipoli late in the afternoon of Wednesday 12th and the next day were in the trenches on Walker’s Ridge. On the 24th May 1915 there was a truce between the forces to allow the collection and burial of the dead. Lance Corporal Craw commented in his diary

Armistice from 7:30 to 3 o’clock to bury the dead. We did not trust them too much after the other day.
We buried a lot of our men three weeks dead. The Turks were three days days old not too pleasant to look at. We collected lots of rifles and bayonets  . . . There were some German Officers. Turkish soldiers came over to carry some of their dead away gave them some of our cigarettes.’

The truce over the 6th (Manawatu) Squadron was on the 28th  May 1915 ordered to support the Canterbury Mounted
Rifles holding Outpost No 3.  The position outpost No 3 was captured by the CMR who were then relieved by the 6th.
There were then three days of intensive fighting before the WMR and CMR were forced back from the outpost.

The 9th (Manawatu) Squadron, WMR then settled into a routine of time in the front line and time in reserve. On the 31st July 1915 Lance Corporal Craw was ordered to report to Head Quarters of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Murdos on Imbrose. Lance Corporal Craw’s diary notes the good food after three months of rations, being in an Honour Guard for Sir Ian Hamilton but also of the rumble of big guns across the water and the movement of battleships crossing
to support the attack launched on the 6th August 1915 to take Chunuk Bair.

On the 7th August 1915 Lance Corporal Craw noted in his diary
‘Bombardment still in progress lot of firing at Anzac last night . . .  . On the Arcadia anchored here at Imbros we went aboard saw hundreds of wounded from Cape Helles.’

The a separate item written on a blank page at the end of the diary
‘ on the 6th and 7th big advance on the left of ANZAC was not there at Imbros, but our Squadron
practically annihilated  out of 90 about 13 remain.’

Lance Corporal Craw was promoted to Corporal Craw on the 8th August 1915 and shipped back to ANZAC Cove on the
15th August 1915 rejoining the remnants of his Squadron. At this stage detachments occupied posts at Camel’s Hump
and Destroyer Hill with the remainder of the regiment in brigade reserve in Sazli Beit Dere.[v]  On the 20th August 1915 Corporal Craw was on cooking duties, making a plum duff, when he was hit by a stray bullet. Wounded in the knee and stomach. He was immediately evacuated to a French Hospital ship off ANZAC Cove.  The next day Corporal Craw was transferred to the Arcadia which remained for the next two days anchored off the Cove while more wounded were
loaded. As all the hospital in the area  were full the Arcadia was order to England. The Arcadia sailed first to Gibraltar
where it remained, with her wounded still aboard, until the 5th September 1915 then in the company of six transports ships full of wounded, sailed for England.

Corporal Craw landed in England on the 9th September 1915 and was loaded on a hospital train to be admitted to the
2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester. X-Rays were taken at the hospital to find the bullet which was then removed. Corporal Craw then spent time in England recovering, prior to reporting for active service on the 14th January 1916.

Corporal Craw was shipped back to Egypt in early 1916, the Gallipoli Campaign was over and the NZEF was reforming and re-equipping in Egypt. The requirements for Mounted Rifles were restricted and Corporal Craw was posted to
New Zealand Field Artillery as a Gunner of the 10th Battery, NZFA on the 1st March 1916. Gunner Craw was promoted to acting Bombardier on the 11th March 1916.

On the 7th April 1916 A/Bombadier Craw, 12th Battery, 3rd Battalion, NZFA, left Egypt as part of the  NZEF’s movement
of  units to France. Initially the New Zealand Division was in a ‘quiet sector’ of the Armentieres front from May to mid August 1916. A/Bombardier was promoted to Bombardier Craw on the 28th August 1916 prior to New Zealand unit’s commitment to the Battle of the Somme. The NZFA was in action prior to NZ Infantry assault of the 15th September 1916. Field gunners attempted to blow gaps in the barbed wire entanglements in No Man’s Land and between trench lines,
while howitzers pulverised trenches, lines of communications, machine-gun nests, observation post and other strong points. New Zealand gunners also, on the 12th September 1916, fired poison – gas shells for the first time.[vi]

The New Zealand Division was withdrawn 3-4 October 1916 incurring 7000 casualties, 1560 of them killed. The gunners stayed behind as usual, and endured three more weeks of toil and danger in worsening conditions, a nightmare of
flooded gun pits in a shell torn swamp.  By the time New Zealand's artillery was withdrawn from the line, in the last week
of October 1916, it had suffered about 500 casualties’ [17]. One casualty was 11/24 Bombardier Eric Craw who had been killed in action 25 September 1916, along with two others from the 12th Battery, and was buried close to where he was killed.

Bombardier Craw’s position was hit by German  shells as reported in the death of another of the three casualties,
9/45 2nd Lt Jardine[vii]

‘his battery, the 12th NZFA, was in action about 800 yards about 800 yards in front of Delville Wood, and in
a valley popularly known as ‘Death Valley’ just behind the rise on which was situated a switch trench. He was
in his dug out – a mere rainproof shelter – and with  the other occupant was getting ready for breakfast,
when it was completely destroyed by an eight inch shell.’

All three men had been wounded in action at Gallipoli;
2/1397 Bombardier Albert Victor Cross ( ex 4th Reinforcements NZFA), 
9/45  2nd Lt Lewis Jardine (ex Otago Mounted Rifles)
11/24 Bombardier Eric Hector Dunstan Craw (ex Wellington Mounted Rifles).

Bombardiers Cross and Craw were exhumed in 1920 and were
reburied, side by side, in the Delvilles Wood Cemetery, Longueval, France.

Notes
Nita Craw purchased a house along Moana Road, Plimmerton, in 1916 prior to her
marriage. The house is named Somme House 1916 possibly in memory of much
loved brother.  Nita Craw married Ditlev Monrad a Gallipoli veteran and friend of
her brother Hector.

References
Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment: NZhistory.govt.nz
Paperspast Online
NZ BDM
11/24 Corporal Hector Craw’s 1915 diary (unpublished)
Auckland Cenotaph
Archway Archivves New Zealand: Military Files

Photos
​Postcard 'A Plimmerton Picnic - Pataka Museum 
11/24 Lance Corporal  Eric Hector  - Craw extended family
Graves NZ War Graves Project

[i]   NZ BDM
[ii]  Oral family History
[iii]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 11/24 Bombadier Eric Hector Dunstan Craw 
[iv]  1915 Diary Hector Craw
[v]   WMR History
[vi]  New Zealand’s Artillery war on the Somme: NZ History online
​[vii]  Death info 9/45 2nd Lt Lewis Jardine – Auckland Cenotaph 
Deville Woods Cemetery, Longueval, France