6/2364 2nd Lieutenant Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk – Canterbury Infantry Regiment

Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk was born on 4th September 1894 in Carterton[i], Wairarapa the eldest child of Susannah Elizabeth Mary (nee Burch) and Robert Alexander Hopkirk[ii]. Robert had one younger sister and two younger brothers.
Robert’s father and Uncle William Hopkirk both worked for the New Zealand Railways[iii] and this would have influenced
his choice in career. Robert is listed as a Railway Cadet[iv] living in Remuera Auckland when he enlisted on 11th August 1914 in the Samoa (NZ) Expeditionary Force. 4/140 Corporal Hopkirk, NZ Railway Engineers sailed with the main body on 12th  August 1914.

The capture of Samoa went smoothly and the occupying
forces settled down to a routine of boredom.  Corporal
Hopkirk remained in Samoa until March 1915 arriving back
on 23rd March 1915. Corporal Hopkirk opted to re-enlist in
the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and enlisted as
6/2364 Corporal Hopkirk, 4th Reinforcements.

Members of the NZ Railway Engineers Samoa 1915

Corporal Hopkirk was only in New Zealand for three weeks
sailing for Egypt on 16th April 1915. The 4th Reinforcements
arrived in Egypt on 25th May 1915 and Corporal Hopkirk after
a brief acclimatisation  was shipped to the Dardanelles joining
the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment on 8th June
1915. The 4th Reinforcements consisted of five officers and
two hundred and fourteen ranks.[v]While Corporal Hopkirk
was reduced to the ranks on arrival two days later Private Hopkirk was promoted to Sergeant Hopkirk.  Sergeant Hopkirk was involved in the various assaults on Turkish positions including the Battle of Chunuk Bair, 8th – 10th August 1915. Following the unsuccessful battle it was then that the weather broke, and added another discomfort to the lot of the Gallipoli forces. Heavy rain fell on the night of the 26th and 27th, and again during the following afternoon and night,
with snow in the early morning of the 28th August 1915[vi]. On 23rd August 1915 Sergeant Hopkirk was evacuated from ANZAC cove with ‘debility,’ later reported as rheumatism,[vii] first to Murdos and then to the 1st Birmingham War Hospital, England arriving on 16th September 1915.

Sergeant Hopkirk rejoined, in Egypt, the 1st Battalion, Canterbury Regiment on 2nd January 1916 as it regrouped after
the December 1915 evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsular.  On 5th March 1916 Sergeant Hopkirk was promoted to Company Quartermaster Sergeant, CQMS. The Canterbury Regiment with other elements of the NZEF left for France on
6th April 1916.

In France the NZ Division was sent to a relatively quiet sector to learn about trench warfare on the Western Front. After three months at Armentieres the NZ Division moved south to the Somme battlefields. CQMS Hopkirk was in action
during the NZ(R)B involvement at the Somme and his performance was considered capable enough so that when the
units came out of the line he was sent for Officer training.

                                                    CQMS Hopkirk arrived in the NZ Depot at Codford on 1st November 1916 and on 4th                                                                      November 1916 joined the No2 Officers Cadets Battalion, Pembroke College, Cambridge.[viii]                                                        Following successfully completing the course on 27th March 1917 CQMS Hopkirk was                                                                    promoted to 2nd Lieutenant Hopkirk. There was a need for combat experienced officers to                                                          train new reinforcements so on 27th March 1917 2nd Lt Hopkirk was one of  13 newly                                                                    commissioned officers returning on RMS Tainui to New Zealand. 2nd Lt Hopkirk was
                                                    marched in to Trentham, Wellington on 26th July 1917 and was posted to the C Company,
                                                    35th Reinforcements.  2nd Lt Hopkirk was with the 35th Reinforcements when he married
                                                    on 12th October 1917, Ethel Hannah Mason.

                                                    2nd Lieutenant R E B Hopkins 1917                                                                                                           
                                                    On 29th January 1918 2nd Lt Hopkirk was posted to A Company, 36th Reinforcements, on
                                                    5th April 1918 reposted to C Company C1, Trenthan Camp. There are notes on files of sick                                                            leave taken and 2nd Lt Hopkirk was put before a medical board at Trentham and reclassified                                                        as C2. The C2 classification meant 2nd Lt Hopkirk was only available for Home Service so
                                                    while he did request redeployment, the requirement was for officers who could serve at the                                                          front so on 10th June 1918 2nd Lt Hopkirk was discharged from the NZEF and place as an unattached officer on the Reserve Roll of Officers.
Robert returned to civilian life and with Ethel moved to North Auckland farming at Pakaraha. In 1920 the NZ Government looked to move suitable men from the Reserve of Officers into the Territorial Forces and Robert was approached and accepted a position as a 2n Lieutenant in the 15th (Nth Auckland) Regiment on 2nd August 1920. The Hopkirk’s only child, a son, was born while they couple were still in North Auckland[ix].

The Hopkirk’s moved to Palmerston North in 1928 where Robert is listed as an agent he was also transferred from the
15th (North Auckland) Regiment to the 8th Battery, New Zealand Artillery with the rank of Lieutenant.  Lt Hopkirk served
in the 8th Battery for three years before being placed on the Reserve of Officers in 1927 and then on the retired list in
1930. The potential for war in 1936 possibly resulted in Robert rejoining the Territorial’s joining the Manawatu Mounted, 6th Light Armoured Fighting Vehicle Regiment as a Lieutenant and Quarter Master on 11th October 1936. Lt Hopkirk was promoted to Captain and Quarter Master in 1936 and then Major and Quarter Master in 1938. Following the outbreak of World War Two there was a requirement for temporary offices to fill specialist positions in the regular army as temporary staff.  5/6/354 Temporary Captain Hopkirk moved his family to Wellington and was based at Trentham from 7th October 1939 to 1st July 1942. Captain Hopkirk held a position of Adjutant and Quarter Master at Trentham.

As the 2nd NZEF built up expertise the need for temporary staff lessened and Temporary Captain Hopkirk was placed
on the Reserve of Officers on 2nd July 1942 with the rank of Major and Quarter Master and returned to civilian life. On
17th June 1946 Major Hopkirk was again placed on the Retired list.

The Hopkirk’s moved to Johnsonville where Ethel died in 1963,
Robert died in 1979, both are buried in Porirua Cemetery.

The Samoa (NZ) Expeditionary Force 1914 – 1919: NZETC
NZ BDM Online
Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
The History of the Canterbury Regiment, NZEF, 1914 – 1919: NZETC

Members of the NZ Railway Engineers in Samoa pose alongside their
Commondeered German narrow guage locomotice 1915: Alexander Turnbull
2nd Lt Hopkik onboard RMS Tainui 1917: Auckland Weekly News July 1917
Memorial Plaque Major R E B Hopkirk: Melanie MacDonald 
13 2nd Lieutenants returning to NZ : Auckland Weekly News July 1917 

[i]      Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 6/2364 2nd Lieutenant Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk
[ii]     NZ BDM
[iii]    The Inquest Adjourned – Death of William James Hopkirk, 21st December 1920.
[iv]    Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 4/140 Corporal Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk
[v]    The History of the Canterbury Regiment
[vi]   The History of the Canterbury Regiment
[vii]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 6/2364 2nd Lieutenant Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk
[viii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 6/2364 2nd Lieutenant Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk
[ix]  Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 5/6/354 Captain Robert Erriton Burch Hopkirk  
2nd Lieutenants returning to New Zealand 1917 on RMS Tainui