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

Taihape Machine Gunner Doesn’t Make it Home

John Addis

John Addis

John Vere Addis was born on 15 August 1890 in Napier to parents Daniel and Mary Addis who owned a farm just outside Taihape.

Prior to World War One, John was working on the family farm and enlisted on 16 January 1917. After both ‘routine’ and special machine gun training, he left New Zealand on 26 April 1917 aboard the Turakina with the 25th Reinforcements, Specialist Company (Machine Gun Section), arriving at Plymouth, England on 20 July 1917.

Once in England, 42732 Private John Addis entrained north and marched into Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain – a bleak, unfriendly place. Here, all New Zealanders underwent training of musketry drill, trench digging, gas training, bomb throwing and of course, plenty of marching.

On 8 August 1917, John was posted to the New Zealand Machine Gun Depot at Grantham, a railway junction town of considerable size on the Great Northern Railway. The town was about 170 kilometres from London and was the ‘centre’ of the British machine gun world. Later in the war when the value of the machine gun was realized, over 50,000 men would be camped there for training.

John Addis and the other New Zealanders were camped at Belton Park and received training from the British instructors. At times there were around 550 New Zealanders training there. The park was the private property of Earl Brownlow and the grounds surrounding Belton House were beautifully kept.

The New Zealanders, so near to Nottingham, Leicester and Lincoln, were particularly fond of the area and John spent nearly ten weeks there learning accuracy of fire as well as the mechanical construction of the weapon. In the nearby towns, there were theatres, concerts, picture halls and the men could participate in local sports teams.

At the completion of John’s training he was sent to Etaples, France on 19 October 1917 and was posted to the Machine Gun Corps on 28 October. Soon he was at the front line in Belgium utilising his skills as a Machine Gunner especially during the attack at Polderhoek Chateau.

On 5 December, John Addis and other Lewis gunners came under heavy attack by a party of 50 Germans and it was during this attack that John was killed in action. He was 27 and he would join his younger brother Daniel, who was killed on 7 June 1917 as one of Taihape’s war dead.

The body of John Addis was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. He is also commemorated on the Taihape War Memorial. His medals and memorial plaque are on display at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.