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

No Known Grave For New Plymouth Man

Thomas Bertram Kelly

Thomas Bertram Kelly

Thomas Bertram Kelly was born in New Plymouth on 28 July 1896. Once out of school, he completed Territorial service with the 11th Taranaki Regiment.

At the outbreak of war, Tom Kelly was working as a dairy factory hand in Waitara Road, Brixton and enlisted on 28 March 1916, moving to Trentham Camp with the Wellington Infantry Battalion.

After a period of training, Tom Kelly embarked from Wellington on 28 June 1916 aboard the Tahiti bound for Devonport, England and once there, entrained to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain – a bleak, unfriendly place. Here the men underwent training of musketry drill, trench digging, gas training, bomb throwing and of course, plenty of marching.

Tom Kelly was promoted to Lance Corporal and then Corporal but for some reason, reverted back to Private prior to heading to France. On 15 November 1916, Tom Kelly marched the two-mile trek to Bulford and then entrained to the south coast and off to France and into the field.

Stationed in the Sailly sector, the NZ Division were involved in maintaining trenches, patrolling and short raids before heading into Belgium and the successful attack at Messines in June 1917.

Full of confidence after their successes, the men moved to Ypres and into the first battle for Passchendaele on 4 October 1917.

Although the men took their objective of Bellevue Spur, it came at a huge cost. The fighting was intense with heavy machine gun fire and ear-splitting artillery bombardments. The Battle of Broodseinde was a success but the NZ Division lost 330 men with a further 1323 wounded. One of those men killed was 1499 Private Thomas Bertram Kelly whose body was never recovered. He was 21.

Thomas Kelly is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, New Zealand Apse, Panel 6, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, as well as the New Plymouth Cenotaph.