58157 Shoeing Smith Thomas Millar McNab – Wellington Mounted Rifles

Thomas Millar McNab was born in Scotland on 22nd August 1895 the son of Rebecca and Alexander McNab[i].
Thomas, his father and, at least one brother immigrated to New Zealand about 1914 and in 1917 Thomas was working
as a blacksmith in Featherston and his father also based in Featherston.[ii]

On 19th July 1917 Thomas Millar McNab entered Military Camp with the 34th Reinforcements. The 21 year old’s military
file note four years service with the 8th Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, possible compulsory military training and
that he was working in Featherston as blacksmith. Thomas’s next of kin listed was his father Mr Alexander McNab c/- Featherston Post Office.

58157 Trooper McNab was posted to the 34th Reinforcements and following basic training left New Zealand on 12th November 1917 for service overseas. On arrival in Egypt Trooper McNab was attached on 21st December 1917 to the Mounted Rifles Training unit before being sent to join the Wellington Mounted Rifles (WMR) on 28th March 1918. The
WMR is based in the Jordan Valley and involved in the first raid on Amman and when this failed formed part of the rearguard as units move back to the Jericho area in Palestine.

                              Wellington Mounted Rifles at Jaffa 

On 11th May 1918 Trooper McNab was appointed to T
Temporary Shoeing Smith McNab, this trade based rank
was confirmed on 20th May 1918. During the summer
period the WMR were fighting in temperatures as high as
54 degrees the long periods of hot dry weather being
ideal for the spread of sandfly fever. Sandfly (phlebotomus)
fever while it is never fatal[iii] and has no serious
consequences but the sudden incapacitation of a large
number of men can impact on a units performance. 
S/Smith McNab spent a month in hospital in June/July 1918.

More dangerous to the troops was the malaria that was
rife in the Jordan Valley and even though quinine was issued and precautions taken large numbers of troops fell sick. S/Smith McNab was working with the No 2 Mobile Veterinarian Section ‘In the Field’ on 10th October 1918 when he was admitted to the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) 34 then transferred 36th Stationary Hospital in Gaza before being moved first to the 24th Stationary Hospital at Kantara then finally to the 71st General Hospital in Gaza on 20th October 1918.
On 1st November 1918 S/Smith NcNab was confirmed as having malaria and his condition as ‘seriously ill.’ S/Smith McNab was taken off the seriously ill list on 4th November 1918 and by 12th November 1918 was fit enough to be transported to the Aotea Convalescent Hospital at Heliopolis outside of Cairo. The Armistice with the Ottoman Empire was signed on
30th October 1918 and that with the Central Powers on 11th November 1918 so there was no requirement to return
troops to the front and S/Smith McNab went before a medical board on 30th December 1918 that recommended that
he be invalided back to New Zealand ‘for a change.’  The pressure of returning soldiers from both Europe and the
Middle East meant that S/Smith McNab did not leave Egypt until 6th March 1918.

On return to New Zealand 58157 S/Smith Thomas Millar McNab was given a month’s leave and then discharged from the NZEF on 17th May 1919 ‘ no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service – malaria.’
Thomas returned to civilian life and the blacksmith trade, on 19th Seotember 1923 he married Diana (Dina)  Elizabeth Weston. The couple were  living in Featherston in 1924 when he signed for his British War and Victory medals and
Thomas is recorded in the 1928 still in Featherston .  The couple in 1946 had moved to Pukerua Bay, Wellington and Thomas is listed as a carpenter.[iv]

The couple remained in Pukerua Bay with Dina dying in
1968 and Thomas in 1969 his death reported to the
NZDF by his nephew.

58157 Shoeing Smith Thomas Millar McNab,
Wellington Mounted Rifles is buried beside his wife
in the old Porirua Cemetery.

Thomas’s rank on his memorial plaque is given as
Trooper not S/Smith Thomas ‘s middle name Millar also
Miller is used in some documents.

War Surgery and Medicine: NZETC
Mounted Rifles Units: NZETC
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Paperspast Online
Porirua City Cemeteries online

Grave Porirua Cemetery records online

[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: Shoeing Smith Thomas Millar McNab
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: Shoeing Smith Thomas Millar McNab
[iii] War Surgery and Medicine: sandfly fever
[iv] 1946 Electoral Roll: Otaki
Wellington Mounted Rifles crossing the Jordan River