Voices from the Past

Quiet Farmer Lies in a Foreign Field

Philip Robert William Soutar was born on 18 May 1877 in Opotiki to parents Alexander and Jane Elizabeth Soutar who were originally from Scotland.

At the outbreak of World War One, Philip Soutar was farming near Whakatane. He was living with a woman known as Kathleen and had two children. He was 37 years of age, was providing some financial support to his younger sister Brenda so he was not really expected to join up.

However he had a strong sense of duty and had completed four years volunteer service with the Whakatane Mounted Rifles so this may have prompted him to enlist on 19 January 1917.

After a period of training at Trentham and Featherston, Philip Soutar embarked from Wellington on 12 June 1917 aboard the Tahiti bound for Devonport, England. After arriving on 16 August 1917, Philip entrained to Sling Camp and on 1 October 1917, left for France.

Attached to the Wellington Infantry Regiment, Philip Soutar went into action on 8 October 1917 and headed for Ypres, Belgium. It is unknown if Philip Soutar was involved in the disastrous attack at Passchendaele on the 12th however he would have been involved in the battles around the Polygon Wood sector in November 1917.

In December 1917, the New Zealanders were involved in ‘holding the line’ on Broodseinde Ridge.

Minor raids and skirmishes by both sides continued and from time to time, artillery fire intensified. There was a great deal of shelling on cross-roads and other areas of high activity and casualties were still a fact of life.

On 20 December 1917, 52481 Private Philip Soutar was killed in action. It is not known how this happened as his Service Record only states “Killed in Action … In the Field.”

Philip Soutar was buried in the Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Belgium, Grave I.B.3. He was 40.

He is also commemorated on a Roll of Honour that was part of the Whakatane Hospital.