An ANZAC Story: Sergeant Sydney John Vine MM

VineSydneySydney John Vine, my Grandfather, served with the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War 1. His service commenced 15 August 1914 and included Egyptian, Egyptian E. F, Gallipoli and Western European Theatres of Operation. He was finally discharged 2 June 1919 following repatriation to New Zealand. Sydney died at Wellington Hospital,” from Melrose”, 8 July 1922 of Pneumonia, “Death due to War Service”.

Several life events made Sydney an “ANZAC with a Difference”. Because of his early death, resulting from, we believe, being gassed on the Western Front, compounded by very little shared oral history within the family, one can only speculate about his motivation in enlisting for a journey that would take him back to his homeland via all major World War 1 fronts involving New Zealand forces, repatriation to New Zealand and his death very soon afterwards.

I have used a timeline to relate his life events. Some of the dates will be found to be relevant to the more ambiguous parts of the story.

Born 7 November 1887, Upper Brook, near Kings Somborne, Hampshire, England, he was the fourth son of Harry and Annie Hannah (Nee Crumpler) Vine, whose family comprised 12 children, 5 sons and 7 daughters. His father’s occupation was given as “Thatcher” when the birth was registered by his mother at Stockbridge in the County of Southampton on 15 November 1887. Sydney was baptised at Kings Somborne, 1 April 1888.

The 1901 Census records Sydney’s occupation as “Telegraph Messenger”.

The Census, 2 April 1911, lists Sydney as a Groom in the household of Henry Cunliffe Shawe, Weddington Hill, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The household also included Charles Shawe, Rifle Brigade Captain, born 1874.

Wife to be, Winifride Annie Edwards, arrived in Wellington, 24 October 1911 aboard the Ruapehu and was engaged as a scullery maid at Government House. She returned to England on board the New Zealand Shipping Company’s liner Ruahine which sailed from Wellington for London on 15 January 1914.

My father William John (Jack) Vine, born 29 July 1914 at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, was also, I suppose, “aboard”, as Winifride was pregnant. We can treat this with some humour now but it would have been rather different in that day and age. Winifride, being pregnant, did not return to her own Edwards family in Middlesex, but sought “refuge” with Sydney’s family in Chichester until his arrival in England via Egypt, Gallipoli and Malta and their marriage on 28 September 1915.

Confirmation of the fact that her own and very strict Roman Catholic family treated Grandmother’s return to England as a disgrace is contained in a letter I have from late cousin Pat (Nee Murray) in Perth, Western Australia, telling of Winifride’s mother saying that no unmarried daughter of hers would ever be allowed home if pregnant.

At the time of his enlistment for 1NZEF, 14 August 1914, (a fortnight after the birth of his son in England) Sydney was employed by Captain Shawe at Government House, Wellington as a Chauffeur and Manservant. Captain Shawe was Aid-de-camp and Military Secretary to Lord Liverpool, then New Zealand’s Governor. Sydney’s Next-of-kin was given as his Father, Harry Vine of 172 Chilgrove, nr Chichester, West Sussex.

His employment at Government House, Wellington, relates to Sydney’s association with Captain Shawe through his employment as a Groom at Weddington Castle near Nuneaton, Warwickshire as recorded above.

This sequence of events raises the question of what prompted Sydney to enlist? Was it romance, patriotism, adventure or perhaps a combination of the first two? If it was romance, and that is quite likely, this story would make a good Mills and Boon novel!

The record shows that Sydney had been shipped to England to convalesce from a severe case of dysentery. Sydney had been evacuated from Dardanelles, 15 August 1915 “Sick to Hospital Ship”, embarked for Malta per HS Ascania, and on 25 September 1915, 3 days before his marriage, embarked for England per “Plassey” with “Jaundice”. He was later admitted to Military Hospital, New End, Hampstead, 6 October 1915.

The marriage took place at West Dean, Sussex, just down the lane from father Harry’s place of residence, 172 Chilgrove. Algernon Lucey officiated. It seems quite possible that none of Winifride’s family was present. In fact of her six surviving siblings at the time, one was involved on the Western Front and 4 had departed overseas.

March 1916 saw Sydney return to Active Service and was posted to New Zealand Field Artillery as a Gunner on 1 April 1916 from which date he was attached to Depots at Hornchurch and Codford. On 24 September 1916 he marched out for overseas, Posted to 15 Battery 13 October, and promoted through the ranks to Sergeant, 15th Battery, 19 July 1917.

12 August 1917 he proceeded on leave to UK and returned on 26 August. This may have been related to the health of his second son, Sydney Charles who had been born on 24 April 1917 in Chichester, not far from Chilgrove. Sydney died in the last quarter of 1918 with his death recorded at Hartley Wintley.

Sydney’s time on the Western Front, like that at Gallipoli, was not without incident.

Sydney John Vine, Sergeant, Field Artillery, 15th Battery, 1st Brigade was on 17 December 1917 awarded the Military Medal “For gallant conduct. When word was received at the Battery that the F.O.O. (Lieutenant Bridgeman) was lying wounded in a shell hole forward, this N.C.O. and another immediately got out and after a long search under heavy fire, found him and brought him safely back to a Dressing Station.” This incident was at Passchendaele.

Under the head “Honours & Awards” Wellington’s daily newspaper, The Evening Post, Volume XCVI, Issue 36, 10 August 1918, Page 10 records: “At the Royal Investiture by the King at Aldershot last week the following New Zealanders received their decorations:- …MM … Sgt S Vine, all NZFA”. The King was at that time, George V.

By researching the Service Record of Lieutenant Guy Clive Bridgeman MC I have determined that most probably this incident occurred on 29 September 1917 when Lieutenant Bridgeman was “Wounded in action”.

My search for relatives of Second Lieutenant Bridgeman opened with the discovery of his burial site in the Servicemen’s section, Featherston Cemetery, and to my delight, I am in communication with a nephew, David, who resides near Otaki, and coincidently has a son serving at Trentham Military Camp where my wife was employed for close on 30 years.

In my first communication with nephew David he told me of his impression that Sydney was the “rescued” rather than as I understood, the “rescuer”. However reading the citation for the Award of the Military Cross to Lieutenant Bridgeman reveals that it relates to another and earlier incident.

On 22 November, 1918 with the Great War over, Sydney left Belgium and “Marched out to England – NZ Field Artillery Depot, Aldershot”.

30 December 1918 he “Marched out to NZ Disc Depot Torquay” and embarked for New Zealand on the SS Remuera with his family, at that time, wife Winifride, and sons William John (Jack), born Shoreham by Sea, Sussex 29 July 1914, and Thomas Alfred Noel (Tan or Noel), born 18 December 1918, Birth registered at Hartley Wintney. Another son, Sydney Charles had died in December 1918, aged 1.

Further family born following my grandparents’ return to New Zealand were Patricia Drayson, Geoffrey William and Eileen Winifride, the latter 7 months after Sydney John’s death 8 July 1922.

Turning back to speculation about what might have motivated Sydney’s Enlistment with 1 NZEF, I settle on the fact that it is commonly recorded that posting to Egypt was for training “prior to being sent to France”. Involvement at Gallipoli was a diversion delaying reuniting with Winifride Edwards and their marriage.

The tragedy is that whilst he amazingly survived the Great War he died so soon after its conclusion leaving his wife of 7 years widowed with 5 orphaned children, the eldest just 8 years of age and the youngest still to be born.

R.I.P Grand Dad.

Replies and comment most welcome