Monday, April 25, 2011

The Price Of Freedom

Visiting the old Hobsonville Cemetery recently, I noticed the gravestone of one Edmund Sager Midgley. An ornate carving, with his two wives reposing alongside, it also recorded the deaths of two sons and a grandson to war. That struck me as a very high price for a family to pay...
Edmund Sager Midgley was born in Yorkshire in 1848, son of farmer William Midgley and his wife Maria Sager. He emigrated to New Zealand and married Ellen Clark, an Auckland lass, at St.Ninians in Avondale in Jan.1890.
They had three sons: Sager Owen (b.1891), Percy Lionel (b.1892) and Herbert Latimer Midgley (b.1895). Ellen died in 1897, and Edmund remarried in 1899 to Margaret Hepburn nee Cantwell, an arrival from Ireland.
The lads may have had their imaginations fired by the news of kiwi soldiers battling the Boers in South Africa. Certainly the younger two left farming and stepped up to 'do their bit' during the First World War...
Pte.Percy Lionel Midgley #12/174 departed with the Auckland Regiment NZEF for the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. In the second week of the ill-fated campaign, on 8 May 1915, British forces made a frontal assault on Krithia village. In broad daylight, it was carnage: 6500 British casualties in courageous head-long charges, including 800 NZers. Percy Midgley died that day, aged 22. His body was never identified: his MIA notice appeared in the Evening Post 16 June 1915.
Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery is 1km SW of Krithia. It is the final resting place of 3,360 WWI servicemen - two thirds are unidentified. It also contains the Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial, erected to commemorate those kiwis who fell at Gallipoli and whose graves are unknown. It contains 179 names, including Percy Midgley.
Herbert Latimer Midgley also joined the NZ Expeditionary Force and went to France with the 1st NZ Cyclist Company, which performed valuable reconnaissance and communications work. Midgley #10370 rose to the rank of sergeant during his two years at the front, and was posthumously awarded the Military Medal (MM) for numerous acts of bravery under fire.
London Gazette, 11 Feb.1919: "Operations during Somme advance Aug-Sept.1918. On 3 Sept.1918, the 53rd Brigade wanted information as to the position of the enemy on the east side of La Tortelle river and also the state of the ground on the banks of the river. Sgt Midgley led a patrol out and came under severe machine gun fire, but he personally pushed on himself in full view of the enemy and tested the ground of the river bank. He bought back most useful information. On numerous occasions he has done valuable work under fire in a very cool and determined manner showing a splendid example to his men." Herbert was wounded shortly after and later died in a military hospital on 7 Nov.1918, aged 23. He lies in the Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Cambrai, France.
Having lost his first wife and two sons in 20yrs, at least Edmund's death in 1922 spared him from the loss of his grandson Andrew Herbert Edmund Midgley.
Andrew went to WWII with 4 Arm.Brigade, NZ Armoured Corps and was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) for bravery. Midgley A.H.E. #81144 served in Italy with 18th.Armoured Regt., which was equipped with Sherman and Stuart tanks, Lynx scout cars and a variety of other vehicles. As the regiment pushed back the German line and dashed for Trieste he too was killed in action, on 16th.April 1945 - just two weeks shy of his 26th birthday. He is buried in the Faenza War Cemetery, Italy.
Anzac Day: Lest We Forget.
( of St.Ninian's, courtesy of Timespanner)


Sandy said...

Great post! Love that people are taking time to research the grave photos they snap :) So much history to be found on the net - learn lots researching and help retain the memory of those gone.

LOL I cross 'Timespanners' path again also... Here's a set from St Nins i did also. It's a beaut wee church

Lyndal Stewart said...

Thanks so much for you words and research. Andrew midgley was my great uncle- my grandads brother. I have Andrews war letters at home in a shoe box and they are amazing. Our families story is a sad one, but I can tell you dorm reading Andrews letters home that although hard, he enjoyed his time overseas and times and felt honored to serve for nz. Thanks for you post- well researched.

P.s. I was actually born in Hobsonville not far from where the gravesites are....history for the Midgleys run deep in the area. Our family used to own he land that west gate is now on too...