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69419 Private Ernest Alfred  Mepham – Wellington Infantry Regiment

Ernest Alfred Mepham was born in Porirua on 30th November 1894[i] the fourth of eleven children in the family of
Agnes Ann (nee Simmons) and William Mepham[ii]. William had originally come to the Porirua District to work on constructing the Manawatu & Wellington Railway line but had stayed and worked as a Roadman for thirty years with
the Makara Country Council.

Ernest Alfred Mepham attended Porirua School being enrolled in 1900 all of his siblings also attended the school.

In 1917 Ernest was selected in the Military Ballot and on 10th September 1917 signed his attestation papers. Ernest
was working as a ‘Teamster’ for the Pahiatua County Council and was living in Mangatanoka. Ernest had served his compulsory military training with D Company, 9th (Wellington) Regiment and listed his mother Mrs W Mepham as his
next of kin.

69419 Private Ernest Alfred Mepham entered camp as part of C Company, 34th Reinforcements, Canterbury and
following basic training left with the unit for the Western Front on 8th February 1918.

 On arrival England in April 1918 Private Mepham was
allocated to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Wellington Infantry
Regiment at Sling Military Camp. Private Mepham
underwent further training before being shipped to France
in June 1918 where he was allocated to the Entrenching
Battalion. On 24th August 1918 Private Mepham was
transferred  to the 11th (Taranaki)) Company, 2nd Battalion,
Wellington Infantry. The Battalion was moving up for a
push in the Baupame area which was launched on the
morning of 26th August 1918[iii]:


NZ Troops move up August 1918 



'An attack was to be launched the following morning,
by the 63rd Division and the New Zealand Division
with artillery support, with the object of enveloping Bapaume bypassing beyond it on each flank and
establishing a line Rein- courtles-Beugnâtre. 2nd Wellington was ordered to cooperate in this attack by
pushing out strong patrols, and following up closely any enemy retirement resulting from the attack.
In general conformity with the 63rd Division's movement, 2nd Wellington made an attempt to get forward
in broad daylight on the morning of the 26th August. We were met by a murderous machine-gun fire, and,
though patrols made slight, progress at various points, and a company of 1st Auckland moved up to help us,
no material gain was made.’

It was during the assault that Private Mepham was wounded while the gunshot wound to the right hand was noted as
not severe Private Mepham was evacuated to England. A wound to the right hand thumb and first finger,  if you were
right handed, would prevent the soldier using a rifle.

Private Mepham was treated at the No 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst on the 17th October 1918 he was
discharged to the NZ Depot at Hornchurch. Private Mepham did not go back to France on 24th November 1918 he
was admitted to hospital with influenza spending three weeks recovering. At this stage the NZEF was arranging the repatriation of troops and on 8th Janaury 1919 Private Mepham was loaded on the Matatua.

Private Mepham arrived in New Zealand on 22nd February 1919 granted a month’s leave and then discharge from the
NZEF on 21st March 1919 ‘on termination of his period of engagement.’

Ernest gave his intended address as his parent’s home in Porirua.

In 1924 Ernest Alfred Mepham married Jane Kathleen Allan, the couple had two children and moved to Pohangina, Palmerston North prior to 1941. Ernest enlisted on 3rd March 1941 as 805295 Private Mepham, Home Guard serving through to October 1943.

Ernest Alfred Mepham died in Gisborne on 16th March 1963[iv]

E (Ernest ) Mepham is on the Porirua School Roll of Honour – these also served[v].

Notes
Teamster could be the driver of a waggon team or a truck driver.

Mepham Place, Porirua East is named to commemorate William Mepham and his service with the Makara County Council[vi].

Two of Ernest’s brothers also served in World War One
26128 Private Joseph Henry Mepham – 17th Reinforcements
11901 Private Arthur James Mepham – Wellington Infantry Regiment

References
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Wellington Regiment 1914 – 1919: NZETC
Street names of Porirua: Porirua City Council
Porirua School Jubilee 1874 - 1948 

Photos
NZ Troops move up August 1918: RSA Collection
Baupame following the August battles: RSA Collection 

[i]    Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files:11901 Private Arthur James  Mepham
[ii]  NZ BDM
[iii] The Wellington Regiment 1914 - 1919
[iv]  NZ BDM
[v]   Porirua School Jubilee
[vi]  Street Names of Porirua 
Baupame following the August 1918 battles