16389 Lance Corporal George Cruickshank – Wellington Mounted Rifles

George Cruickshank was born in Dunedin on the 27th November 1881[i] the third son of Isabella and George Cruickshank[ii].

On the 14th March 1916 the Hawera & Normanby Star reported that G Cruickshank, Auroa, had enlisted in the infantry.[iii]

16389 Private George Cruickshank entered camp on the 1st May 1916 his military files note that he was a single man working as a farmer for the Kearns Brothers of Auroa, Taranaki. Private Cruickshank had previous military training being enrolled, for compulsory military training, with the Wellington Navals. George’s father George Cruickshank of Porirua is listed as next of kin[iv].

On the 5th May 1916 Private Cruickshank was posted to the 17th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles following basic training the 17th Reinforcements sailed for Egypt in October 1916. On arrival in Egypt the 17th Reinforcements went into the training units. On the 14th November 1916 Trooper Cruickshank was posted to the Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR). The WMR with the rest of the NZMR were established at Mustagidda. The NZMR, part
of the Anzac Mounted Division role is to pressure the Ottoman Forces in the Sinai with the objective the capture of Palestine.

In March 1917 the First Battle of Gaza while the town is initially captured the arrival of Ottoman Reinforcements the Allied Forces withdraw. The Second Battle of Gaza was planned for the 17th April 1917. The WMR role as part of the NZMR ‘demonstration’ is an advance on the 18th April 1917 along the Rafa-Beersheba Road where there is a brief clash with Ottoman Arab Calvary[v]. Possibly as a result of the clash Trooper Cruickshank is wounded as his military file records that on the 19th April 1917 he was wounded in action but chose to remain with his unit.

By December 1917 Jerusalem and Jaffa had been taken and the WMR moved up on the 12th December 1917 to Beit Dejan, 6km south-east of Jaffa where it was attached to the 54th (East Anglia) Division as the divisional reserve.[vi] It was while
the WMR were at Beit Dejan that Trooper Cruickshank on the 17th December 1917 was sent to hospital for tonsillitis, the diagnosis was updated to septic throat. Trooper Cruickshank was then evacuated to hospital in Egypt where the diagnosis was altered to diphtheria. Trooper Cruickshank remained in hospital until February 1918 then was posted to the training unit and did not rejoin his unit until May 1918. The WMR were in the Jordan Valley and had to patrol and fight in extreme summer heat and also had to deal with the threat of malaria which was rife in the valley.

The Palestine Campaign ended with the signing of the armistice by the Ottoman Turks on the 30th October 1918. The
WMR remained in the Richon le Zion area for six weeks and then started movement towards Egypt. Trooper Cruickshank was promoted to Lance Corporal Cruickshank on the 13th January 1919 and as a young single man and a more recent enlistement had to wait until June 1919 before being repatriated to New Zealand.

16389 Lance Corporal George Cruickshank was discharged from the NZEF on the 7th September 1919 ‘on termination of
his period of engagement.

George Cruickshank returned to farming in the Auroa area and in July 1920 married Gwynne Russell Jeanette Poole, the Poole family also farmed in the Auroa area. Gwynne’s brother 13/941 Trooper Mostyn Llewellyn Poole served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles as was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign.

George Cruickshank died on the 8th September 1951.[vii]

Paperspast Online
New Zealand at War, NZEF Units, Wellington Mounted Rilfes: NZ History.govt.nz
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16389 Lance Corporal George Cruickshank
Wellington Mounted Rifles capture Jaffa 18th November 1917: Imperial War Museum

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] Marriage Notice, 3rd July 1920, Hawera & Normanby Star
[iii] Recent Recruits, 14th March 1916, Hawera & Normanby Star
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16389 Lance Corporal George Cruickshank
[v] Wellington Mounted Rifles
[vi] Wellington Mounted Rifles
[vii] NZ BDM
Wellington Mounted Rilfes capture Jaffa 18th November 1917