Topic: Reginald Secker Snr (1884-1917)

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In 2015 Julie Richards came in to the Tauranga City Libraries to remember her great grandfather Reginald Secker, as part of the Threads of Memory project. Photos: Lee Switzer.

Julie Richards in 2015Does this article look wrong? Click here for an archived version. 

To be honest, I hadn’t thought about my great grandfather much at all, after all he died in 1917, and so I never met him, my own father never knew him, and indeed his own son only knew him for a very short time. So this project prompted me to ask a few questions, and to learn a few things about this man.

The story of my great grandfather, Reginald Secker, is a very common one, so typical of many of the men who died in WW1. His story is not marked by recounts of bravery, there are no spectacular medals, no letters from the front, very few photos, no remains, no grave. Yet it is because of this that I think his story needs to be told, because he represents all of the common soldiers, of which there were too many, whose stories will never be told.

I do not know much about my great grandfather's early life, though information lists him as a grocer's assistant, born in 1884, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, England, marrying his wife Gertrude in 1907, at the age of 23. My grandfather was born soon after. Ten years later he would be dead. Reginald enlisted in 1915, aged 31. He volunteered for the 4"‘ Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Like many of his fellow soldiers, he chose to go to war. I guess the feeling to fight for one’s country was very strong, patriotism was high and he must have felt the pull very keenly in order to leave his wife, and two little boys, by that stage, behind. (enlistment photo). I have no information of what happened between his enlistment and his death. There is one photo of him that must have been sent to my great grandmother, as Reginald has been marked with an X to show which one he is. The photo is interesting mainly due to the casual jovial look of the soldiers, and also because my great grandfather has Lance Corporal stripes, which I think can only be gained after some time in service. So we know this photo was taken some time during his active service (photo).

There has been some confusion about which battle he died in. The monument in his town of St Ives, in England, lists his death in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. We now know that to be an error, and that he in fact died in the Battle of Arras. There were no remains, as must have been the case for many who went to WW1. Nothing of them returned. He is however commemorated by a plaque at the Arras memorial in Pas De Calais, France. His date of death is listed as 29"‘ April, 1917. What happened after that? My grandfather, who must have been about 8 or 9 at the time of his father's death, did once speak of the ‘cable or telegram’ that arrived when his mother answered the door, telling of his father's death, and of the emotion and shock. Following that, I’m told my great grandmother survived by playing the piano for the talkies, and selling lollies from the front of her house. However, she must have, at some point, made the decision that life in New Zealand would be better for herself and her two boys, and departed from a grim post-war England in 1920.

This is how I came to be a New Zealander.

Even though my great grandfather was British, there is a curious connection between him and New Zealand, in that the tunnel of Arras was dug by New Zealanders miners, and it is very possible that he benefitted from underground shelter the New Zealanders provided. Reginald may have taken some comfort in the fact that, after his death, his small family would also find refuge and a new life in the same country of these strong and skilful people.  I am Julie Secker, daughter of Harry Secker, granddaughter of Reginald Secker Jnr, and Great Granddaughter of Corporal Reginald Secker, who died in World War 1.



A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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Reginald Secker Snr (1884-1917)

Year:c.1915 and 2015
First Names:Reginald
Last Name:Secker
Date of Birth:1884

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