Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A New Zealander at Gallipoli: Gunner Stephen John Prew, 15 Sept 1915


Stephen Prew and his family at their home Well Cottage, Prew's Hill, Knowle.  Front row (l-r): Louie, William T. and Harriet (parents), Reg; 2nd row (l-r) Edward, Emma; 
3rd row (l-r) William (served in the Royal Field Artillery), Stephen, Arthur, Alice, Albert, Florrie, Walter
Image credit: Fairlynch Museum 

Gunner Stephen John Prew was among those Gallipoli casualties with links to the Lower Otter Valley who had emigrated from Britain to overseas Commonwealth territories.  

The New Zealand Field Artillery badge 

Born in 1893 at Upton Pyne, a few miles north-west of Exeter, he was the son of William Thomas and Harriet Prew. His parents later moved to Well Cottage, Knowle, in East Budleigh parish, and in 1911 he is recorded as living with them and working as an assistant grocer.  

When war broke out he and his brother Albert were living in New Zealand,  Stephen seemingly at Hamilton in the Waikato region of North Island as this was recorded as his enlistment address. 

He was unmarried. Albert was listed as his next of kin, living care of a Mrs Hain in Otahuhu, a suburb of Auckland in the North Island. Like other local men such as Tristram Copplestone Palmer and Reginald Cowd, they had hoped for a better life in that country. New Zealand’s economy had improved by the 1900s and in 1904 assisted migration was restored, making the country an attractive proposition for new immigrants.  

A typical embarkation scene in Wellington as troops prepare to leave for the Great War. Courtesy of Archives New Zealand (Archives Ref: AAME 8106, 11/17/3, R20939655) Source: http://ww100.govt.nz/the-new-zealand-expeditionary-force-sets-forth

On 6 August 1914, shortly after the First World War broke out, Britain accepted New Zealand’s offer of an expeditionary force of approximately 8000 men. Stephen Prew was one of those who volunteered. He embarked on either the troopship Arawa or its companion vessel Limerick at Wellington, leaving New Zealand on 16 October and arriving in Suez on 3 December.   

A 5.4 inch howitzer and crew during WW1 

Large numbers of New Zealanders had volunteered for artillery and a brigade of three batteries, totalling twelve 18-pounder field guns, had been raised. A fourth battery was equipped with 4.5-inch howitzers.  Although not as destructive as the 18-pounder, the howitzer's range (6300 metres) and ability to fire at a high angle was invaluable amidst the hilly terrain at Anzac.

A gun of the 3rd Battery, N.Z.F.A. at Cape Helles, Gallipoli
"After our experience of cover in France, the sheet of galvanized iron and row of sandbags is almost ludicrous. Notice the typical Gallipoli hair-cut and the absence of many garments," reads a diary extract of the time
Source: The New Zealanders at Gallipoli by Major Fred Waite DSO, NZE 
Published by Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington, 1919

Photo credit: Capt Farr DSO, MC

By December the New Zealand artillery force was in Egypt, training in readiness for the Gallipoli landings. On 26 April 1915, the NZFA had the honour of being the first battery ashore at what has become known as Anzac Cove on the western side of the Gallipoli peninsula.  

Stephen Prew was killed in action on 15 September 1915 at Gallipoli, aged 22. His grave is unknown, but his name is recorded on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial in Canakkale, Turkey. The memorial is one of four erected to commemorate New Zealand soldiers who died on the Gallipoli peninsula and whose graves are not known. It bears more than 850 names.  

Stephen’s name is also listed on the Auckland Museum War Memorial in New Zealand, and on the village and church memorials in East Budleigh. The latter memorial lists him erroneously as Driver rather than Gunner. 

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!!

1 comment:

  1. Roz Hickman commented 25 Oct 2015 on Facebook: William Thomas (father) was a Devon Constabulary Officer, born in Otterton in 1859.