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

‘German’ Kiwi Receives Gallantry Award

Arthur Von Keisenberg

Arthur Von Keisenberg

Arthur Otto Von Keisenberg was born in Masterton on 16 August 1898 to parents Arthur and Emily (nee Braggins) Von Keisenberg.

Arthur (junior) was working as a Civil Servant for the Public Health Department in Wellington at the outbreak of World War One and with previous Territorial service, enlisted on 9 August 1914 to become part of the Samoan Advance Party that sailed from Wellington on 15 August 1914, landing at Apia as part of the ‘invasion’ force.

Prior to World War One, Samoa was governed by Germany who had a strategic wireless station on the island, providing vital communication to their Pacific fleet. Britain asked New Zealand to capture the island and the Kiwis quickly obliged, forcing a quick surrender by the Germans with little resistance.

After the occupation, the New Zealanders including Arthur carried out garrison duties and he remained there until March 1915, returning home aboard the Talune on the 22nd.

When Arthur returned home, the mood in New Zealand had changed and anti-German sentiment was strong. Arthur, proud of his German heritage would not change his surname and to prove his loyalty to New Zealand, endeavoured to enlist in the NZ Expeditionary Force. This did not go down well and one Member of Parliament (MP) questioned his loyalty in the house and his NZ-born mother Emily was so incensed that she struck the MP with her umbrella on the steps of Parliament.

He was forced to remain in New Zealand until his standing as a well-respected civil servant enabled him to enlist with the NZEF and embark on 26 April 1917 aboard the Pakeha bound for Plymouth, England.

After a period of training at Sling Camp, at Signalling School and specialist machine gun training at Grantham, Arthur Von Keisenberg headed to France with the Machine Gun Corps and was thrown into the thick of it.

On 1 October 1918 near Crevecoeur and after crossing the Canal L’Escaut, Lance Corporal Arthur Keisenberg took control of an enemy light machine gun and engaged the fleeing Germans, inflicting heavy casualties. He then got his own gun into action and inflicted further mayhem on the enemy who were counter-attacking. For his gallantry and devotion to duty, he was awarded the Military Medal (MM).

On 5 October, he was caught up in a heavy attack and received severe bomb wounds to his left thigh and his right leg, smashed. This would end his war and after hospitalisation, Arthur returned home aboard the hospital ship Marama, being discharged on 29 January 1919.

Arthur eventually settled in Auckland, passing away on 7 March 1984. His ashes are buried in Masterton.