54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent - New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Thomas was born in Porirua, on 12th January 1898, the eldest son of Martha Alice & Thomas James Dent. Thomas's father worked as an attendant at the Porirua Mental Assylum.
Thomasgrew up in Porirua, enroling at Porirua School in 1908. Tommy also was a member of the Porirua School Football (Association) team.
The team travelled in August 1913 to play against a Blenheim team and listed were:[i]
Len Eastwood, H Harris, H Mungavin, T Windley, J Lewis, A Whitehouse, T Dent, R Rene,
J Eastwood, J Windley, R Mungavin, D Herlihy, L Ward, L Thompson & F Mathews.
Porirua School Football (Association) c 1912 - 13 Tommy Dent standing 3rd Right
Tommy had left school by 1916 and was working as a labourer for a Mr Wilson in Hunterville when he enlisted. Tommy ‘adjusted his date of birth’ on enlistment to 12th January 1896[ii] so he would meet the age restriction of 20 years old
and was signed up on the 13th February 1917 entering camp with the 28th Reinforcements on the 2nd May 1917 as
54477 Private Thomas James Dent, H Company 28th Reinforcements. Also
in H Company was another Hunterville man, Thomas Sheeley and the two
went through training together and left New Zealand in July 1917 for England.
54477 Private Thomas James Dent, 28th Reinforcements 1917
In England both the Thomas’s were allocated to the Reserve Battalion of
the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and became 54477 Rifleman Dent and
54607 Rifleman Seerley. After additional training at Sling Camp both
Riflemen were sent, in March 1918 to France and the Western Front.
Initially held in the reserves Rifleman Dent was posted, in April 1918 to
A Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd NZRB and Rifleman Seerley to
C Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd NZRB but they remained in close communications.
On 27th July 1918 50095 Gunner Wilf Mexted, from Tawa, in a letter back to
his ‘Mama & Papa’ in New Zealand wrote[iii]
‘I met Tom Dent on the road the other day marching along with a mob of diggers &
I got on George Baird’s rack this morning.’
In August 1918 the New Zealand Division was engage in a major offensive the Battle of Baupuame in which on
23th August 1918 both Rifleman Dent and Sheeley were killed, two of the twelve NZRB killed that day. Only Rifleman Sheeley’s body was recovered amd is buried in the
Queens Cemetary, Bucquoy, France,  Rifleman Dent is
remembered on the Grevilliers (New Zealand) Memorial.
Both were remembered by the Dent family with these
memorium were inserted by the Dent family in the
Evening Post August 1922.[iv]
It is of note that Thomas Sheeley was in fact Martin Quirke a 31 year old single man from Cork, Ireland who had been in New Zealand for five years prior to enlisting. Martin’s cousin, and listed next of kin, Patrick Seeley notified the authorities in 1919 and military records were eventually changed in 1921.[v] At this stage it is not know why he used an alias on enlisting but Martin Quirke was a Roman Catholic and with Irish politics of the time may have decide to fight for the "English" under an assumed name.
Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent
Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54607 Rifleman Martin Quirke  aka Thomas Sheeley
Unpublished letters 50095 Gunner James Wilfred (Wilf) Mexted to home
Papers Past Online
NZ BDM Online
Porirua School Football (Association) team about 1912-13 : Pataka
54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent: Auckland Weekly News
Background - NZ Rifle Brigade platoon 22nd Augsut 1918 : RSA Collection in Alexander Turnbull
[i] Porirua School (20 August 1913) Marlborough Express
[ii] Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54477 Rifleman Thomas James Dent
[iii] Unpublished letter, 27 July 1917, 50069 Gunner Mexted to home
[iv] Memorium (23 August 1922) Evening Post
[v] Archives New Zealand Military Records: 54607 Rifleman Martin Quirke aka Thomas Sheeley
NZ Rifle Brigade platoon advancing 22nd August 1918