Auckland Infantry Battalion
Two months before taking part in the Gallipoli landing, these former Collegians and members of the 3rd Auckland Company used their day leave from Zeitoun Camp near Cairo to go sightseeing. For Private Andrew Fordyce (far right), the Pyramids at Giza and the Botanical Gardens were the only tourist attractions he chose to see while at camp.1
Behind the camera was fellow Collegian Robert Blackwood Steele. Like three of the men pictured, Steele was working as a school teacher when war broke out. Steele, Ernest Hayter (left), Jock MacKenzie (second left) and Fordyce had attended both Auckland University College (AUC) and Teachers’ Training College before the war. Robert Frater (second right) studied at University while working as a clerk.2
All five men joined the Auckland Infantry and left New Zealand with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 16 October 1914. Three would survive the War.
Born in the Bay of Islands in 1890, Ernest Hayter was the son of Sarah (nee Beckett) and James Hayter, a farmer.3 In 1906, he passed the pupil-teacher exams and in 1911–1912 studied at Training College and AUC.4 He received a Certificate of Proficiency, BA standard, from the University of New Zealand in 1913, as did his brother Reuben.5 Ernest Hayter was teaching and living at Church Hill, Waikato when he signed up.6
John (Jock) MacKenzie [spelt McKenzie in the Roll] was born in 1889 in Lochbroom, Ross-shire, Scotland to Alexander and Catherine MacKenzie.7 The family moved to New Zealand and farmed in the Hawke’s Bay. John MacKenzie was one of three brothers who served.8
Andrew Bruce Fordyce was a schoolteacher at Gordonton in the Waikato when he enlisted, aged 24. The son of Margaret (nee Williamson) and Thomas Fordyce, he was at AUC from 1910-1912 and Training College from 1911-1912.9
Robert Andrew Frater was born in Auckland in 1891 to Martha and Robert Frater, a sharebroker. Educated at Auckland Grammar School where he excelled at sport, Frater took papers at AUC in 1913-1914 while working at his father’s firm, Frater and Co. Just shy of six foot, with light brown hair and grey eyes, Frater was aged 23 and a member of the 3rd Regiment Infantry Reserve when he enlisted on 11 August 1914.10
Meanwhile, Robert Steele was teaching in Maungatawhiri Valley south of Auckland when he enlisted in September 1914.11 Born in 1890 to Mary and Alexander Steele, he was placed 20th in the 1907 junior civil service examinations.12 After Auckland Grammar School, Steele attended University in 1909 and again in 1911-1912 while also studying at Training College.13 A keen photographer, some of Steele’s pictures from Egypt and Gallipoli were published in the Auckland Weekly News, giving those back home a soldier’s view of the campaign.14
Transported on the Lutzow, the Auckland Infantry were among the first of the 3100 New Zealand troops to land at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.15
Second Lieutenant Frater was in command of a machine gun section during the battle of the landing.16 Steele, a machine gunner in Frater’s section, described some of the action: ‘Shrapnel screamed over our heads and we would seek cover lying close to the ground. Lieutenant Bob Frater gave the order for us to advance and collect, as we got the chance, over the ridge in the next gully. We were under a perfect hail of shrapnel and bullets...’17
Steele received injuries at Gallipoli 20 as did Fordyce. Also a machine gunner, Fordyce was shot in the leg and evacuated to Malta. In a letter home he wrote: ‘My road lay over a place as clear of cover as your hay paddocks so its [sic] no wonder that I was hit. Unfortunately for me it was in my right leg and it fractured the bone so there was nothing for me but to lie down for five hours in the blazing sun with those bullets whistling round.’21
Hayter and Second Lieutenant John MacKenzie also saw plenty of action, with MacKenzie serving at the landing, Helles, the raid at Quinn’s Post and the advance on Chunuk Bair.22
New Zealand troops evacuated from the Gallipoli peninsula in December 1915 and regrouped in Egypt before heading to France and the Western Front 23 where the Auckland Infantry were involved in the major campaigns.
Sergeant Hayter received gunshot wounds in late September 1916 during the Somme offensive.24 After discharge from Brockenhurst Hospital in England, he went to Sling Camp and trained as a quartermaster.25
MacKenzie died on 21 February 1917 at a clearing station south of Armentières, France. Aged 27, he was shot after successfully leading his company on an assault of the front line, an action which won him a posthumous mention in despatches.26
Snatching time out from war, Steele and Fordyce (and Ernest Hayter's brother Reuben) were part of a group of 24 `Old A’s' from Training College who in June 1917 held a reunion at a café six miles behind the front line at Authie, Somme. They dined on salmon, lettuce, tinned fruit, custard, strawberries, red currants and biscuits, and toasted their fallen mates with cocoa.27
Lieutenant Fordyce saw combat throughout but was hospitalised numerous times; in October 1916 for a heart problem brought on by conditions in the trenches at Armentièries; in 1917 after being shot in the face at Passchendaele, Belgium and in 1918 after being shot at Crevecoeur, France. He was mentioned in despatches by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haigh for ‘distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty...’ and returned home in July 1919.28
Back in New Zealand
A little has been learnt of the lives of the three men who returned home.
Hayter, who also suffered hearing loss from the war, returned in March 1918 and served at Trentham Camp. In the early 1920s, he was teaching in Grey Lynn. He died in Auckland in January 1984.29
Steele was discharged overseas in August 1919, and worked in England and Scotland, before returning to New Zealand with his wife. In the early 1940s, the couple were in Kaikohe where Steele worked as an agricultural instructor and served in various capacities during the Second World War. He died in 1976.30
Discharged in August 1919, Fordyce taught at Te Poi in 1920 and later became a headmaster. In 1924 he married Florence Frost in Auckland. He died in Christchurch in 1955 aged 65.31
Jo Birks, Special Collections
- A.U.C. Roll of Honour. MSS & Archives E-2. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services; Andrew Fordyce letter transcript, 25 June 1917, accessed 20 July 2014 via Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum.
- A.U.C. Roll of Honour; ‘Steele, Robert Blackwood - WWI 12/604, WWII 801761 – Army’, R24063700, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; ‘Hayter, Ernest - WW1 12/129 – Army’, R16793527, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; ‘Mackenzie, John - WW1 12/160 – Army’, R10921876, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; ‘Fordyce, Andrew Bruce - WW1 12/102 – Army’, R21004119, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; ‘Frater, Robert Andrew - WW1 12/1026 – Army’, R21005037, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of Internal Affairs; New Zealand Herald, 27 February 1942, p.7, accessed via Papers Past.
- Auckland Star, 11 July 1906, p.5, accessed via Papers Past; ‘Hayter, Ernest’, A.U.C. Roll of Honour. MSS & Archives E-2. University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- Auckland Star, 16 April 1913, p. 5, accessed via Papers Past.
- ‘Hayter, Ernest - WW1 12/129 – Army’.
- ‘Mackenzie, John - WW1 12/160 – Army’, R10921876, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- ibid.; ‘Alexander Fraser McKenzie’, Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum.
- ‘Fordyce, Andrew Bruce - WW1 12/102 – Army’, R21004119, Archives New Zealand, Wellington; ‘Fordyce, Andrew Bruce, 1890/5383’, Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of Internal Affairs; ‘Fordyce, Andrew Bruce’, A.U.C. Roll of Honour.
- ‘Frater, Robert, 1891/1194’, Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of Internal Affairs; Auckland Grammar School, The Kiwi; official organ of the Auckland University College, 11, 1916, pp. 23-24; ‘Frater, Robert Andrew’, A.U.C. Roll of Honour; ‘Frater, Robert Andrew - WW1 12/1026 – Army’.
- ‘Steele, Robert Blackwood - WWI 12/604, WWII 801761 – Army’, R24063700.
- `Steele, Robert Blackwood, 1890/9183’, Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of internal Affairs; Evening Post, 3 February 1908, p. 3, accessed via Papers Past.
- ‘Steele, Robert Blackwood’, A.U.C. Roll of Honour.
- Auckland Libraries heritage images database, accessed 2 August 2014.
- Peter Cooke, John Gray, Ken Stead, Auckland infantry, Auckland, 2010, p.96; Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli : the New Zealand story, 5th edition, Auckland, 2014, p.366.
- Robert Steele in Richard Stowers, Bloody Gallipoli, Auckland, 2005, p.41.
- Ormond Burton, The Auckland Regiment: being an account of the doings on active service of the First, Second and Third Battalions of the Auckland Regiment, Auckland, 1922, p. 29.
- ‘Frater, Robert Andrew - WW1 12/1026 – Army’; Cooke, Gray, Stead, 2010, p.96; Listen to a Radio New Zealand Spectrum documentary about Robert Frater here.
- Auckland Weekly News, 20 May 1915, p.44, accessed via Papers Past.
- Andrew Fordyce letter, 25 June 1917,Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum, accessed 28 July 2014.
- Northern Advocate, 21 May 1917, p.2, accessed via Papers Past; Cooke, Gray, Stead, 2010, p.141.
- Cooke, Gray, Stead, 2010, pp.127-128.
- ‘Hayter, Ernest - WW1 12/129 – Army’; Northern Advocate, 21 May 1917, p.2, accessed via Papers Past.
- ‘Hayter, Ernest - WW1 12/129 – Army’.
- Ormond Burton, 1922, p.127; Cooke, Gray, Stead, 2010, p.141.
- The Manuka, 1919, 10, p.13; The Manuka,1920, 11, p.4-5. NZP 378.95 M26.
- ‘Fordyce, Andrew Bruce - WW1 12/102 – Army’.
- The Manuka,1920, 11, p.63; ‘Hayter, Ernest - WW1 12/129 – Army’.
- The Manuka, 1919, 10, p.13; The Manuka, 1920, 11, p.4-5. ‘Steele, Robert Blackwood - WWI 12/604, WWII 801761 – Army’; `Steele, Robert Blackwood, 1976/28679’, accessed via Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of internal Affairs.
- The Manuka, 1920, 11, p.63; Cooke, Gray, Stead, 2010, p.93; New Zealand Herald, 27 September 1924, p.1, accessed via Papers Past. Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum.