After attending Auckland Grammar School, Wilson took papers at Auckland University College (AUC) while studying to be a teacher at Auckland Training College (ATC). He was one of the 28 foundation students at ATC when it was re-established in 1906 under principal Herbert Milnes.2
Described by Milnes as `A student of good ability but wedded to sport’, Wilson was a popular student who was elected as ATC’s first Senior Prefect.3 He was involved in many extra-curricular activities, including the University Glee Club, the All Saints choir and this 1907 Training College performance of R.B. Sheridan’s The Rivals, in which he played Thomas.4
Wilson graduated as a primary school teacher in 1910 and took up a teaching post at a school in Newton in central Auckland.5
A passionate sportsman, Wilson excelled at cricket and athletics and was a superb rugby player. He captained the AUC rugby team for six years and led them to their championship win in 1914, long after he had graduated from ATC.6
As an Auckland representative, Wilson played 22 matches between 1906 and 1910. He was called up for the 1910 All Blacks tour of Australia and played a preliminary match in New Zealand and most of the opener against New South Wales until injury forced him off the field for the rest of the tour.8
In ATC’s Manuka magazine, Wilson described the Australian crowds in Sydney cheering on the Wallabies with ‘deafening cries of ‘Blue! Blue! Blue!’’ while giving `stunted applause’ for the New Zealanders. As well as enjoying official sight-seeing trips, Wilson spent some half-days visiting schools in Sydney and Brisbane.9
'I got down off my perch at a quarter past two on the night of the evacuation and I moved down the trench and it was empty. And I joined them up at the rendezvous and as we went down the line our steps seemed to ring and echo through the stillness of the night.'
Wilson was aged 29 and teaching at Newton West School when he enlisted in March 1915. He was one of eight cousins who left to fight in the war and one of four who did not return.10
He left Wellington on the Willochra with the 6th Reinforcements in August 1915 and was assigned as a private to the 3rd company, 1st Auckland Infantry Battalion (1st AIB).11
By the time the 6th Reinforcements arrived on the island of Lemnos in late September 1915, the Main Body was severely depleted with many dead and wounded and a large number returned home unfit to fight.12 The 1st AIB were on Lemnos having a respite from fighting and returned to the Gallipoli peninsula with their reinforcements in early November 1915. They spent six weeks dug in at Rhododendron Spur, 700 feet up the ridge of Sari Bair in relatively good physical conditions but under heavy fire from the Turkish troops.13
By the end of November, planning was underway in secret to evacuate the Allied Forces from the peninsula. Wilson played a pivotal role in the evacuation as one of the Battalion’s covering party or rear-guard who remained behind to defend the line until the early hours of 20 December 1915.14
Wilson was promoted to sergeant while the Battalion regrouped and trained in Egypt before shipping out in April 1916 to France and the Western Front.15
From May to August 1916, the 1st AIB fought in the trenches in and around the Armentierès sector and then in September entered the fighting at the Somme.16 One month after being promoted to second Lieutenant, Wilson was wounded in action on 17 September, probably near Flers. Transferred to the 2nd Field Ambulance and then the No. 45 Casualty Clearing Station, Frank Wilson died of wounds two days later and was buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.17 He was one of 19 Collegians18 and around 2100 New Zealanders who died during the Somme offensive.19
Impact on New Zealand teaching and rugby
The War took a huge toll on Wilson’s generation of New Zealand teachers and created a shortage of teaching professionals for the duration. From ATC, the smallest of the four training colleges, more than 150 current and former staff and students went to war. Thirty-one of those men died.20
Nationally, nearly 200 Kiwi teachers died out of more than 1000 who served while some who returned to New Zealand did not resume teaching. In December 1918, returned servicemen were encouraged to continue teacher training under a special provision in which they could divide their time between training and school placements. Nine took up that option at ATC in 1919 and seven in 1920.21
The War also had a major impact on the sport of rugby, with most rugby union matches suspended from the outset. Thousands of rugby players served and in some areas whole rugby teams left to fight. However, many men continued to play in their military unit’s team, including Wilson, who captained the 6th reinforcements’ side at Trentham Military Camp. By war's end, 13 former All Blacks and 163 provincial representatives were dead.22
Emma Scheltema, Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library
- 'Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’, R107881170, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- Louise Shaw, Making a difference : A history of the Auckland College of Education, 1881-2004, Auckland, 2006, p.38; Auckland Teachers Training College Roll, Faculty of Education and Social Work Archives, University of Auckland.
- Auckland Teachers Training College Register, vol. 1, 1906-1913, Faculty of Education and Social Work Archives, University of Auckland;The Manuka : Being the magazine of the Auckland Training College, 6, (1914), p.2.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle (AGSC), 4, 2, (1918), p.13; 1907 Principal's Report, Auckland Teachers Training College, Faculty of Education and Social Work Archives, University of Auckland; New Zealand Herald, 23 September 1907, p.7, accessed via Papers Past.
- Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, (AJHR), 1919, E-0I, p.80, accessed via AtoJs Online.
- Lindsay Knight, All Blacks A to Z, Frank Wilson #166, http://stats.allblacks.com/asp/profile.asp?ABID=969, accessed 26 October 2015; AGSC, p.13.
- Paul Neazor, All Blacks A to Z, Victor Macky #198, http://stats.allblacks.com/asp/profile.asp?ABID=522, accessed 5 November 2015.
- Knight; The Manuka, 3, (1911), pp.9-11.
- The Manuka, pp.9-11.
- 'Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’; New Zealand War Graves Project, Frank Reginald Wilson, www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/frank-reginald-wilson, updated 2015, accessed 27 October 2015.
- ‘Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’.
- Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli : The New Zealand story, Rev. ed., Auckland, 1998, p.331.
- 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 [N.Z.], 1922, pp.72-76.
- ‘Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’; AGSC, p.13.
- ‘Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’.
- Burton, p.93; Peter Cooke, John H. Gray, Ken Stead, Auckland infantry : the story of the Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly's Own) and North Auckland regiments and of the citizen soldiers who served New Zealand, Auckland, 2010, p.137.
- ‘Wilson, Frank Reginald - WW1 12/2616 – Army’; Frank Reginald Wilson.
- The other Collegians known to have died during the Somme offensive, which lasted from 1 July 1916 until 18 November 1916, are: Cedric G. Adams, William M. Alexander, Colvin S. Algie, Geoffrey C.W. Armstrong, Leslie R. Bremner, Alexander C. Cardno, Albert M. Cranwell, James D. Dinneen, Samuel [Stanley] O. Esam, Joseph F. K. Hunter, Donald L. Jack, John D. Macleod, Henry S. McLean, Alfred J. Powley, G.B Sheridan, George M. Stewart, Bertram Wallace and Harold J. Worsley.
- Ministry for Culture and Heritage, First World War by the numbers, www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/first-world-war-by-numbers, accessed 5 November 2015; A.U.C. roll of honour, 1914 - 1920. MSS & Archives E-2, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- Shaw, p.57; The Manuka, 9, (1918), pp.1-5.
- Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Teachers who served, www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/children-and-first-world-war/teachers-who-served, updated 1 September 2014, accessed 19 March 2015; Shaw, p.59.
- Clive Akers, A Wartime World Cup, ww100.govt.nz/a-wartime-world-cup, accessed 26 October 2015; AGSC, p.13; Kiwi : Official organ of the Auckland University College, 10, 1, (1915), p.35; Ron Palenski and New Zealand Rugby, Home and Away, www.nzrugby.co.nz/ww100/rugby-and-the-first-world-war/home-and-away, accessed 26 October 2015; New Zealand Herald, 31 December 2013, p.16, accessed www.nzherald.co.nz.