Voices from the Past

A Young Man Disappears

TaucherRupert Sydney Taucher was born in Masterton on 21 September 1895 and lived his early life in Carterton. Moving to Te Kuiti to work, he completed two years’ Territorial service with the 16th Waikato Regiment and when World War One started, Rupert was working as a labourer in the Te Kuiti area.

Rupert Taucher enlisted with the Wellington Infantry Battalion on 18 September 1916 aged 21. After nearly four months training at Featherston & Trentham, 33476 Private Rupert Taucher embarked from Wellington on 21 January 1917 aboard the Ulimaroa bound for Plymouth, England.

On arrival on 27 March 1917, Rupert 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.

He then headed to nearby Codford Camp and on 27 May 1917 he left for France (Rouen), going into the field soon after arrival. On 6 September 1917, Rupert was admitted to the No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station with a gunshot wound to the buttocks, a common wound amongst the soldiers. After a short period of hospitalisation, Rupert returned to his unit (17th Ruahine Company) on 27 October, which was stationed around Ypres in Belgium.

On 24 November 1917, Rupert was part of a cable-laying party and for some reason he became separated from the rest of the group. When the men returned to camp, Rupert was not with them and what happened to him was unknown.

A Court of Enquiry was held on 25 January 1918 and several witnesses were interviewed with one soldier saying he saw Rupert about 150 yards to the left of the cable-laying part and he appeared alright. No one could really say what occurred so the enquiry declared it was “Reasonable to suppose dead in the field on 24 November 1917.”  Rupert never returned and his body never found. He was 22 and is commemorated on the Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

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A WWI embroidered silk postcard sent from Pte. Rupert Taucher to his mother at home in New Zealand. Click on an image to enlarge.