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

From Insurance to Decorated Soldier

Lt Henry Wilding (NAM 1991.588)

Lt Henry Wilding (NAM 1991.588)

Henry Gordon Wilding was born on 3 November 1891 in Auckland to parents Henry and Marie Wilding.

His occupation was as an Insurance Inspector for the South British Insurance Company branch in Whangarei. He had served with the Territorial Army from 1908 to 1914 with the NZ Garrison Artillery, attesting with the NZEF on 19 October 1914. Henry Wilding enlisted with the NZ Field Artillery on 24 November 1914, aged 24 and headed to Trentham Camp before embarking with the rank of Lieutenant on 13 Aril 1915 from Wellington bound for Suez, Egypt.

After training at Zeitoun Camp on the outskirts of Cairo, Henry Wilding left for Gallipoli.

Life for artillerymen at Gallipoli was difficult due to the terrain and at times the effectiveness of their guns was not great.

On 16 November, Henry Wilding was admitted to hospital in Malta and kept there until 2 January 1916. It is not known why he was in hospital but disease on Gallipoli was still a problem and Turkish snipers were still active on the peninsula.

After Malta, Henry Wilding was fit for service and would continue to serve in Egypt and France with periods of training in England with the Field Artillery. Because of his previous service Henry Wilding was quickly promoted to Captain and then Major.

Henry Wilding was wounded on the Somme, France, with a penetrating wound to the chest but would see out the war overseas, being decorated as a result of his bravery under fire.

He was awarded his first Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in June 1918 “For distinguished service in connection with military operations in France and Flanders” and a bar to the DSO (a second award) in October 1918 “For conspicuous gallantry and initiative. During a strong counter attack by the enemy, some of our air infantry fell back on this officer’s Battery. He immediately rallied the infantry, and running one of his guns forward, fired over open sights and held the position until reinforcements arrived. His promptitude and courage saved a critical situation.”

He was also Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) for “distinguished and gallant service.”

He returned to NZ aboard the Maunganui on 17 May 1919 and was discharged on 23 July 1919. He became a farmer in Morrinsville.

In World War Two he enlisted as a Major on 2 October 1939 and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He had two brief embarkations overseas with the 1st Heavy Artillery Group to Africa and India, and then to Fiji. In May 1941, having transferred to the Territorials he was appointed as Colonel Commandant of the Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment and held that position until he reached retiring age for rank in 1956.

He died on 25 September 1975, aged 84 (he lied about his age on enlistment so this is debatable).