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65435 Rifleman Stewart Henry Nairn – New Zealand Rifle Brigade

James Nairn arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in 1863 and purchased land in the Khandallah area in 1865.
James married Louisa Alexandra Balfour Chapman in 1869. Louisa was also of Scottish descent. Part of the area the family farmed was later named Nairnville.

Stewart Henry Nairn was born in Khandallah on 19th May 1873[i] the third child and first son in a family of eleven children born to Louisa and James Nairn.

From the Nairn family younger brother James Walter Nairn served with the 1st Contingent as SA167 Private Nairn and
later in the 8th Contingent as SA5024 Sergeant J W Nairn, New Zealand Mounted Rifles in the Second Boer War.
A second brother John Alexander Nairn served with Lord Lovat’s Scouts Highland yeomanry regiments of the British Army[ii].

The Nairn family also owned land in Takupu, Tawa Flat where they ran sheep. Stewart is listed in the 1911 electoral rolls
as a farmer of Takapu Road, Tawa Flat. A third brother Lionel Douglas Nairn is listed as working as a farm hand for
S H Nairn when he enlisted on 14th August 1914 as 11/108 Trooper Nairn, 6th (Manawatu) Squadron,
Wellington Mounted Rifles. Trooper Nairn served 13 weeks at Gallipoli before being evacuated with dysentery,
tonsillitis and influenza.  Hospitalised in Cairo in August 1915 he was assessed as not fit for active service and was evacuated by hospital ship Willochia on 25th September 1915. In New Zealand on 19th January 1916 he was discharged from the NZEF as medically unfit[iii]. Lionel went back to work for his brother Stewart.

On 2nd June 1917 the Evening Post listed twenty three men who had voluntarily enlisted among them was
‘ Nairn S. H., Sheep farmer, Tawa Flat’. All men were passed medically fit and sworn in as soldiers.[iv]
65435 Private Nairn was already in the army when his number was pulled in the Ninth Military Ballot, drawn on the
26th June 1917, noted in the 4th July 1917 edition of the New Zealand Times.
The Nairn family recall that:[v]

Stewart ‘was 40 years old at the start of the war and did not want to go to war as he was a pacifist.
Someone sent him a white feather in the mail so he enlisted because he did not want to be
regarded as a coward.

65435 Private Stewart Henry Nairn entered military camp on 19th August 1917 as part of the 33rd Reinforcements.  Following basic training B Company, 33rd Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry left New Zealand on 31st December 1917. The news of the farewell for Private Nair was reported to other Tawa men already serving. 51982 Rifleman Albert Bendiksen noting on 21st January 1918:[vi]

‘I would like to be at Stewart Nairn’s send off. I suppose he is in England
now by this time so the war ought to be over soon.


65435 Private Stewart Henry Nairn - 33rd Reinforcements 


The 33rd reinforcements arrived in England on 26th February 1918 and Private Nairn
was sent to the 4th Infantry Reserve Battalion training at the Brocton camp. On the
15th May 1918 Private Nairn was transferred as Rifleman Nairn to the
New Zealand Rifle Brigade depot before being shipped to France. In France
Rifleman Nairn spent three weeks with the No 3 Entrenching Battalion before joining
on 8th June 1918 A Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd NZRB.

Another Tawa man 50096 Gunner James Wilfred (Wilf) Mexted wrote back to his
family on 16th June 1918[vii]:

I think I told you in my last letter Albert (Bendiksen) was not getting
home but had a permanent base job in England, He was telling me
in his last Stewart Nairn left there three weeks ago for here so I may
meet him anytime.

There was no opportunity as in June / July 1918 the NZRB were  in positions
around Heubeterne and on the 15th July 1918 the 1st and 4th Battalions were in action.  A Company, 4th Battalion was to advance up Nameless Trench and
Nameless Support trench with other assaults along Snuff Alley.[viii]  The
operation was entirely successful, though strong resistance was met at all three points attacked. The losses of the 4th Battalion were two men killed and six
wounded. Two from A Company killed were, 51982 Rifleman Stewart Henry Nairn
and 52882 Rifleman Charles Pierson both were buried by 3/1433 Chaplain William Adam Watson who was attached to the 4th Battalion.  

Rifleman Nairn and Rifleman Pierson are both buried in the Gommecourt British Cemetery No 2. Heubeterne.


65435 Rifleman Stewart Henry Nairn 

50096 Gunner Mexted wrote home to his family on 27th July 1918:

Well Mama I saw Gerald Gower in one of the villages as I went through the other day. I was starting to wonder, as I had not seen him, he was telling me he heard Stewart Nairn had been killed, I hope it is not right, poor little begger of course if it is right you will have heard long before this reaches you,

It was a matter of pride to the members of the NZEF that personal items from fallen comrades were returned to their families in New Zealand on 3rd November 1918 Gunner Mexted wrote to his mother an included.

Yes Mama I've got lots of good mates, and Nairns we were lucky
gettign Stewart's watch.' 

​​Rifleman Nairn’s memorial plaque was sent to his mother
Louise Nairn, Khandallah, in 1922. Rifleman Nairn’s campaign
medals were sent to his younger brother Lionel Douglas Nairn,
Tawa Flat[ix].

Stewart Henry Nairn is also commemorated on his parent’s grave
in the old Porirua Cemetery.

Parents grave at Porirua 

Stewart Henry Nairn is commemorated on the
Tawa War Memorial (2017) and will be on the
Porirua Memorial Wall (2018).

The Nairn family is also commemorated on the Khandallah Roll of Honour.

References
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Auckland Cenotaph – military records
History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade: NZETC

Photos
65435 Private Stewart Henry Nairn – 33rd Reinforcement: Auckland Cenotaph
Gommecourt grave: NZ War Graves Project
Porirua grave: PCC Cemetery Database

[i] NZ BDB
[ii] A notable story of military service, 26th December 1940, Auckland Star
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand military files: 11/108 Trooper Lionel Douglas Nairn
[iv] Latest recruits, 2nd June 1917, Evening Post.
[v] Memories  from  a niece: Auckland Cenotaph
[vi] Unpublished letters – to Roy Mexted from Albert Evind Berdiksen
[vii] Unpublished letter – Wilf Mexted to his parents
[viii] The Beginnings of the Advance to Victory: History of the NZRB 
[ix] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 65435 Rifleman Stewart Henry Nairn

Nairn grave old Porirua Cemetery