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Christchurch Kench family military service in World war 1

Christchurch Kench family military service in World war 1


Private Frank Lawrence Kench, Number 40220 – New Zealand Expeditionary Force 1 Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment, enlisted on 18 October 1916, aged 24 years old – born 4 October 1892 at Muscott, Welton, Northampton, England. At that time of enlisting Frank was a shepherd, employed by W.B.Clarkson and Sons - head offices being in Flax Hill, Kaikoura. Clarkson’s were a very large sheep exporters and land owner in the Kaikoura, Awatere districts.  Frank had been a shepherd at Molesworth Station and worked in the Kekerengu area.

Frank was posted to C Company on 11 November 1916 and served a total of 2 years 218 days in the army the majority being overseas. He embarked on HMNZT 78 from Wellington on 15 February 1917, disembarking from the Navua at Devonport, England on 26 April 1917. He left to fight in France on 26 May 1917 being wounded during December 1917 and spent sometime in hospital. He rejoined his unit in 1918. After the war he returned to NZ on the Carpentaria in April 1919 and Frank was discharged on 16 June 1919.

His history sheet establishes that in April 1917 soldiers freshly arriving from New Zealand went to Sling Camp in Wiltshire, England for training and induction prior to deployment. In May 1917 he left for Etaples Field in France.  Etaples is sited in the north of France, 15 miles south of Boulogne- sur – Mer. Etaples Fields was a notorious base camp where intensive training in gas warfare, bayonet drills with long sessions of marching at the double across the dunes took place before deploying for battle.  Etaples was also known as a giant hospital city and Frank was probably in hospital there having been wounded in December 1917.  The exact nature of his injuries is difficult to determine from records but not believed to have been of a serious, life threatening nature.  Etaples Fields was the scene of a mutiny by British soldiers in 1917.

Frank Kench was decorated with the British War Medal and the Victory medal - Reference: History sheet of Private F.L.Kench, 40220, NZEF, C Coy 22

Frank married Florence Emma Kench nee Child at Christchurch on 21 January 1923 – (Florence’s parents where John and Emma Child nee Shilito from Canning Town, London) – Their children are Dorothy Maud Simpson nee Kench, Keith Lawrence Kench – died aged 13 months, Ronald Boyd Kenchand Barry Milton Kench  After returning from WW! Frank was a shepherd in Taihape but settled in Christchurch and was a tram driver for 30 years before retirement. Frank Kench died in Christchurch on 10 June 1956

Franks elder brother Private Hubert George Kench, born 1887, Number 85855 enlisted on 12 August 1918 and was posted to Trentham with A Coy 45 for training.  With the war ending he was discharged on 24 November 1918 and therefore didn’t see active service overseas. Hubert known as Bert died in 1966.  He had two sons Lawrence (Lawrie) Hubert Philip Kench and John (Jack) Cuthbert Harold Kench. They lived in Christchurch.

Private William Kench, born 1890 - registered number 196 - William was the middle Kench brother. For reasons that remain unknown he didn’t immigrate to New Zealand with the rest of the family in 1906/07 but remained in England even though he was only 16- 17 years old when the rest of the family sailed to New Zealand – he later immigrated to Australia. William served with the Northampshire Yeomanry in France from 1914.

In 1941 William enlisted in the Australian Army 11th Garrison Battalion as a private N 102504 from Williamtown, Newcastle, NSW. William was 51 years old by this time but his records indicated he may have provided his DOB as June 1894 not June 1890. He was later a driver and then a cook.  After being discharged on 15 June 1948 he enlisted with RASR and was allotted army number NP 84352 serving as a cook. William died 25 September 1958 in Murrundi, Yamboyna Street, Manly, Queensland.  He always recorded his next of kin as his sister May Cowell nee Annie Kench in England. No known or recorded descendants.

The Kench family had arrived in New Zealand on the SS Kumara on 2 February 1907 – arriving at Lyttleton via Wellington having departed from London on 13 December 1906.The records show that Frank Senior - a miller, his wife Annie Sydney Kench and three of their four children made the journey to New Zealand.  Hubert aged 19 years, Annie, 17 years and Frank. L. (Junior), aged 14 years.

Annie Sydney Kench died at sea on 17 January 1907, aged 44 years from stomach tumours. Annie May Cowell nee Kench (sister of F.L. Kench) returned to live in England some years later. Our branch of the Kench family can be traced back to around 1630 beginning in Thurlaston, Dunchurch, Warwickshire and a long line of millers and mill owners.

Author: skudder1_6250