18,000 New Zealanders lost their lives fighting on the Western Front during World War One. One of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, was Sergeant Dave Gallaher captain of the 1905 “Original All Blacks.”
“Dave was a man of sterling worth … girded by great self-determination and self control. He was a valuable friend and could be, I think, a remorseless foe. To us All Blacks his words would often be ‘Give nothing away: take no chances’ …”
Ernest Booth, member of the 1905 “Originals”
Dave Gallaher first saw action during the Boer War in South Africa. He enlisted again after the death of his younger brother, on 25 July 1916, at 40 years of age and was sent overseas.
After training in England he was sent to France and joined 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment ‘in the field’. Despite his age he was extremely fit and often in the thick of action.
The morning of 4th October 1917 was no exception as the New Zealanders began their assault on Gravenstafel Spur. A thousand prisoners were taken in the attack for a gain of 1000 metres, in World War One terms, a success. But also at a cost the New Zealand Division 320 lives, including that of the former All Black captain, Dave Gallaher.
Severely wounded during the assault he was admitted to the No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, but died later that day.
Dave Gallaher is buried at Nine Elms British Cemetery, Poperinghe, Belgium. officially listed as 41 at his death, he was actually almost 44 years old. He had first lowered his age when volunteering to fight in the South African War in 1901. Since 1924, All Black teams playing in Britain and France have often made a pilgrimage to the site of his grave.
Dave Gallaher’s passion rugby. He was selected for the All Blacks in the 1903 team to Australia. In 1904, he played against the British Team at Athletic Park and was appointed captain of the 1905 “Original” All Blacks for their tour of Britain & France. He was a rugged flanker and the team of ‘Colonials’ earned respect for their dazzling style and magnificent record (played 25 games, won 24, lost 1; points for: 747, against: 53). On his return he retired from the game and became the sole Auckland selector from 1906 – 1916.
His name lives on in the Gallaher Shield, awarded to the winner of Auckland’s premier club competition since 1922 and a more recent trophy, the Dave Gallaher Cup, has been awarded to the winner of the first rugby test between New Zealand and France in each calender year since 2000.
Dave Gallaher was one of 13 former All Blacks to die during the Great War. 133 international rugby players, including the 13 All Blacks, died during the conflict.