National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Bushman Killed on the First Day of the Somme

F E F Tansey

F E F Tansey

Frank Ellis Fermore Tansey was born in Dannevirke on 17 April 1896 to parents Michael and Frances Tansey.

The family moved to Raetihi and Frank was working as a Bushman near Murumuru at the outbreak of World War One. Frank had completed Territorial service and lied about his age so he could join up. He was only 19.

Frank Tansey enlisted on 2 November 1915 and after three months training at Trentham, Maymorn and Featherston Camps, 26/1127 Rifleman Frank Tansey embarked from Wellington on 5 February 1916 aboard the Navua bound for Suez, Egypt.

After a short period of training in the heat of the desert, Frank Tansey embarked from Alexandria on 7 April 1916 bound for Marseilles, France. On arrival, Frank entrained to Northern France and villages to the west of Armentieres.

For the next three months, Frank Tansey and the majority of the New Zealand Division were responsible for trench digging and maintenance, patrolling and the occasional night raid.

From July 1916, the night raids intensified and the men conducted eleven raids, additional to the routine patrolling, as well as repelling four raids by the Germans.

In August the New Zealand Division was withdrawn from the area to prepare for the Somme battles.

On 15 September 1916, the ‘Kiwis’ moved to the Somme and experienced their first real taste of trench warfare around Flers and Courcellete. At some stage during that first day of fighting, 26/1127 Rifleman Frank Tansey was killed in action.

Frank was originally buried 3 miles northwest of Combles, France but was later reinterred in the A.I.F. Burial Ground in Flers (Grave I. C. 7) when the Graves Commission consolidated the allied burial sites. Frank Tansey is also commemorated on the Raetihi Memorial gates.

As a sad footnote, Frank’s brother Lionel (an Ohakune solicitor) died on 12 March 1919 due to illness associated with gunshot wounds received at Passchendaele in 1917. Another brother, Ray, joined the British Army and was awarded the Military Cross for action on the Western Front.