25471 Private John Herbert Cole – Wellington Infantry Regiment

John Herbet Coles was born in the Canterbury District on the 30th January 1890 the youngest son of Alfred Daniel and Sarah (nee Harvey) Cole.[i]

Alfred came out to New Zealand in the 1880’s as he married in 1885 Sarah Harvey in Christchurch. [ii] The couple’s sons Alfred Charles Cole (1887) and John Herbert Coles (1890) were born in Canterbury area as Alfred Daniel Cole is named as
a Ranger for the North Canterbury Acclimatisation Society in 1890.[iii]

The couple moved north to Porirua in 1893/1894 possibly to take up a role at the Porirua Mental Hospital as their eldest son (Charles) Alfred Charles Cole was enrolled at Porirua School. The younger son (Herbert) John Herbert Cole was
enrolled the next year 1895 when he turned five.[iv]

On the 20th May 1916 John Herbert Cole enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). The 26 year old is listed as a single man living in Porirua and a self employed farmer. It is possible that he was working with his father who was a Poultry Farmer in Porirua. John Herbert Cole’s next of kin is listed as his mother Mrs Sarah Cole of Porirua.[v]

25471 Private John Herbert Cole entered military camp in B Company of the 17th Reinforcements. Following basic
training Private Cole left New Zealand on the 23rd September 1916 as part of B Company, 17th Reinforcements,
Wellington Infantry Battalion.

On arrival in England Private Cole was ‘marched’ into Sling Camp with the 3rd Reserve Wellington Battalion for more advanced training before being sent to France in January 1917.

In France Private Cole was allocated to the 1st Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment. The Battalion along with
other elements of the NZ Division was preparing for the Battle of Messines. This was a carefully prepared attacked and
was launched on the7th June 1917, following the explosions of hugh mines under the German Lines. The NZ Division’s objectives were reached with relatively light casualties in the first days but German resistance stiffened and by the
9th June 1917 when it was relieved the Division had lost 3,700 casualties including 700 dead.

There was a period of rest in billets at the rear before the 1st Wellington Battalion was again moved up to the front line.
It took over a portion of the line from  ‘Post Office Corner to the Warnave River. From the 18th June until 23rd June 1917
the 1st Wellington Battalion was in the reserve at Hill 63. Every night the hill was heavily shelled with gas and high explosives and some casualties were sustained[vi]. Private Cole was one of these casualties being evacuated by the
3rd NZ Field Ambulance to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearance Station before being admitted to the 11th General Hospital. Private Cole was evacuated from France to England and by the 26th June 1917 was admitted to the No 2 NZ General Hospital with ‘GSW (Gunshot wounds) to the lower right arm[vii].

Private Cole remained at the No 2 NZ General Hospital, Walton on Thames for two months before sufficiently recovered
to be sent to the NZ Recovery Hospital. The wound was not severe enough to have Private Cole invalided back to New Zealand but it did keep him from being returned to the front instead he was sent on a course of cookery at Victoria Park, Bethnal Green and was employed as a cook at various camps until he was repatriated from England on the
19th December 1918.

Private Cole was discharged from the NZEF ‘ on termination of engagement’ on the 2nd March 1919 returning the family
in Porirua.

On the 3rd June 1920 John Herbert Coles married Margaret Eadie Cousins, Margaret was the older sister of Thomasina Eadie Cousins who had in 1918 married John’s older brother Alfred Charles Cole.[viii]

The brothers operated, in the 1920’s, Cole Brothers Store in Porirua.[ix]

John Herbert Cole died in the 21st June 1949.

​John's father served as 29 Sergeant Alfred Daniel Cole, New Zealand Military Police 1917 - 1919.

Paperspast Online
The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914-1919: NZ History Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 25471 Private John Herbert Cole

Porirua Town Center c1920: Alexander Turnbull

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] NZ BDM
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Central Filing System (Group Filing)
[iv] Class Lists: Porirua
[v] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 25471 Private John Herbert Cole
[vi] In the trenches following Messines, The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914-1919
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 25471 Private John Herbert Cole
[viii] Marriage Cousins/Cole, 3rd June 1920, Evening Post
[ix]  Porirua listing 1925 New Zealand Post Office Directory
Porirua Town Center  - 1920