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57143 Rifleman Robert Reith – New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Robert Reith was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on 18th October 1890 the third of four children of Elizabeth (nee Lamb)
and Alexander Reith. Robert had two older brothers, Alexander and John Imlah and a younger sister Violet Helen Reith[i].

The three brothers came to New Zealand in the early 1910’s with both Robert and John Imlah Reith being recorded as arriving in New Zealand in 1911[ii].

Robert and his older brothers moved to Pauatahanui in 1914 when the Blackey family farm in Horokiwi Valley was leased
to Alex Reith.[iii]

Robert Reith was selected in the military ballot and attested on the 15th May 1917. The 26 year old single man is listed as
a farmer working on his brother’s leased property. Robert listed his sister Miss V H Reith, Aberdeen, Scotland and his brother Alexander Reith, Pauatahanui as his next of kin.[iv]

Robert also underwent a medical examination and was passed as Fit A but the comments were made:

                Flat feet all his life but never feels any disability with feet.
                Works on his farm all day without fatigue.
                Willing to try camp training.

57143 Private Reith entered camp on 30th May 1917 as part of the 29th Reinforcements. Private Reith coped with the
camp training being transferred to the 28th Reinforcements prior to sailing with the unit on 26th July 1917.

The 28th Reinforcements landed in Southampton on 24th September 1917 and were transported to the Brocton Military camp where on 3rd October 1917 Private Reith was posted to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade as Rifleman Reith. While at Brocton the issue of flat feet was raised and Rifleman Jones was assessed by a medical panel in the comments:

                Flat feet since a child
                Always been bad on his feet
                Cannot march – useless for continual work on his feet.

The board made the decision that Rifleman Reith was not suitable for war service and arrangements began to return
him to New Zealand. Rifleman Reith was sent to the New Zealand Torquay Discharge Depot on 30th November 1917 Rifleman Reith had a final assessment on 8th December 1917  and the medical board confirmed that he was unfit for service.

Rifleman Reith was shipped out of England on the 1st February 1918 arriving back on the 20th March 1918 Rifleman Reith was give a month’s leave and on 26th April 1918 discharged ‘ no longer physically fit for war service (flat feet).’

Robert Reith returned to Pauatahanui and was noted in 1919 along with his brother as farmers who had donated five sheep as prizes for the Mercantile Marine Fund.[v]

However Robert did not remain in Pauatahanui for long, on 3rd October 1919 his Overseas War - Service Gratitude was sent to him at Douglas a rural area near Stratford, Taranaki[vi].  Robert’s older brother John Imlah Reith also moved to
the same area. As did his parents and younger sister who have come to New Zealand in 1919/20 [vii].

Robert died on 2nd August 1963 in Ashburton his death reported by Mrs M Reith, 149 Kermode Street[viii].

Robert Reith is commemorated on the Pauatahanui Roll of Honour held in St Alban’s Church, Pauatahanui.

Notes
Robert’s parents and his younger sister Violet Helen Reith came out to New Zealand after World War One. Alexander Reith senior is listed as dying in 1922 and Violet Helen Reith marrying in 1924 (NZ BDM)
John Imlah Reith also served in the NZEF as 55625 Rifleman Reith
Alexander Reith was selected in the Military Service Ballot but appealed the decision and this was granted.

References
WWW.myheritage.com: Reith
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Pauatahanui – a local history: Helen Reilly
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online

Photos
Brocton Military Camp

[i]     www.Myheritage
[ii]    Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 57143 Rifleman Robert Reith
[iii]   Pauatahanui – a local history
[iv]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 57143 Rifleman Robert Reith
[v]    Mercantile Marine Fund, 1st March 1919, Evening Post
[vi]   Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 57143 Rifleman Robert Reith
[vii]   Personal, 19th  August 1922, Stratford Evening Post
[viii]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 57143 Rifleman Robert Reith
Brocton Military Camp