Topic: Robert Samuel Laurie (1921-2004)
Robert (Bob) Samuel Laurie (1921-2004) is remembered by Tauranga resident and grandson Harley Couper. Bob was always the stern pipe smoking Grandpa to me that sent letters back covered in spelling corrections and who enjoyed tinkering with things in his garage. My fondest memory was him making a kite with me from light wooded rods and brown paper. After his death I recall my Uncle recounting how Bob had given up smoking. He had used a hypnotist to stop and found it very effective. However once someone congratulated him for giving up the habit and noting it took a great deal of self-discipline, he was ashamed of his "easy way out" and retook the habit so as to give it up again the hard way.
RBNZ employee photo of Bob Laurie
Born and raised in Wellington, Robert (Bob) Laurie was a Clerk at the time war broke out.
Robert (Bob) Samuel Laurie (1921-2004) is remembered by Tauranga resident and Grandson Harley Couper. Bob was always the stern pipe smoking Grandpa to me that sent letters back covered in spelling corrections and who enjoyed tinkering with things in his garage. My fondest memory was him making a kite with me from light wooded rods and brown paper. After his death I recall my Uncle recounting how Bob had given up smoking. He had used a hypnotist to stop and found it very effective. However once a someone congratulated him on giving up the habit, noting it took a great deal of self-discipline, he was ashamed of his “easy way out” and took up the habit again so as to give it up again the hard way.
Bob’s military service commenced August 23, 1941 and ended February 2 1946, totalling 4 years, 164 days. His service was with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and 312 of those days were spent overseas, specifically Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
New Zealand Flight Riggers, later called Aircraftmen or Airman, standing before one of the aircraft they worked on while serving in Guadalcanal. Corp Robert (Bob) Laurie standing at far right.
Background on Guadalcanal
The son of John (Jack) Amritage, a Canadian with the R.N.Z.A.F Flight Riggers, describes the significance of Guadalcanal as follow.
When intelligence work supplied the information that the Japanese were building an airstrip in the Solomons, a rapid high-level response by the Americans led to the accelerated formation of a large Task Force to throw them out, and thus nullify the threat to American bases at the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, which, had they fallen, would have left New Zealand and Australia wide open.
From Wellington on 22nd July, 1942, the US 1st Marine Division sailed 11,000 strong to the New Hebrides for rehearsals before landing on 7th August in the Japanese-occupied Solomon Islands at Tulagi and Santa Cruz. Their main target was the unfinished Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal, (now the capital, Honiara).
Upon these landings, the 2,500 Japanese soldiers and other workers melted into the jungle and awaited reinforcements. For the next five and a half months the right to possess the 2,500 square miles of humid disease-ridden jungle that made up the island was bitterly contested. The fighting on the island was savage, as was the fighting around the island, which resolved into a series of five major naval engagements. These became known as
- The Battle of Savo Island, 7-9th August, 1942.
- The Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s, 23-25th August, 1942.
- The Battle of Cape Esperance, 11-12th October, 1942.
- The Battle of Santa Cruz, 25th October, 1942.
- The Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15th November, 1942.
A further engagement was the Battle of Tassafaronga
Emperor Hirohito, the real Japanese Supreme Commander, required Guadalcanal as a bargaining chip for peace feelers that he thought may bear fruit after the massive losses at, and failure to take, Midway Island, which confirmed to him that the war was lost. The Americans had an absolute requirement of the island to progress northward from a strategic base that could attack by air the large Japanese base at Rabaul in New Britain, amongst other considerations. After these battles, the Japanese went on the defensive. It was the turning point in the war against them. NZ and Australian servicemen from all the services took part.
(The airfield was named ‘Henderson Field’ after an American pilot killed at the battle for Midway Island).
Source: The recollections of JOHN JACK ‘WINNIPEG’ ARMITAGE (http://rnzaf.hobbyvista.com/donserv.html)
Sketch by Airman Robert Laurie of his RNZAF accomodations at Guadalcanal
US and New Zealand personnel at Guadalcanal, including at top right Corp. Robert (Bob) Laurie
Engagement announcement 1942 October 19 in the Evening Post
Only months into his war service, the announcement was made of the engagement of Leading Aircraftman Robert Samuel Laurie to Dorothy Jessie Blair, the marriage taking place the following year.
Bob Laurie married the only surviving daughter of Captain Andrew Dougall Blair, a First World War Veteran of the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve who at one stage engaged three submarines aboard a Q-Ship with W.E. Sanders as his Navigator. Dorothy Jessie Blair had been taken from her mother and raised from the age of six in New Zealand by her father’s sister Florence (Flossie), who had married Will Sproat (first Headmaster of Dunedin North Intermediate). They had their first child, Julia (Julie) Christine Laurie (1945-1995), while Bob was serving in Guadalcanal. Upon his return to New Zealand his presence at home resulted in floods of tears by the toddler who didn’t know what this strange man was doing in her home.
Corp. Robert Laurie qualified for four medals, and though his family never saw him wear them, they are mounted ready for wearing and in pristine condition.
- 1939-45 Star (for service between Sept 3 1939 till Sept 2 1945 of at least 6 months, though operational aircrew had no such minimum requirement).
- Pacific Star (for any operation in the Pacific, South China Sea or Eastern Indian Ocean between Dec 1941 and Sept 1945).
- War Medal 1939-45 (for military personnel serving at least 28 days anywhere, including New Zealand, between Sept 1939 and Sept 1945).
- N.Z. War Service Medal (for New Zealand personnel serving in New Zealand for at least one month fulltime or home guard or reserve for six months part time, between Sept 1939 and Sept 1945).
Source : Campaign Medals of New Zealand by Alan Coates. ISBN 0-476-00396-2
Post war, Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Bob Laurie began working for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand on January 27, 1947. During the early years of the R.B.N.Z. the bank adopted the newly invented MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer) also known as the Phillips Hydraulic Computer. This fluid based kiwi invention used fluidic logic to make calculations designed to model the workings of an economy. It’s history and workings are described on the R.B.N.Z Museum site here (please click).
By February 1960 Bob was made Chief Clerk and on 1 January 1963 he was promoted to Principal (an old term for a line Manager) in the new computer department. On 1 November 1966 he was promoted to Assistant Controller of the R.B.N.Z. Computer.
During the 1960s and 70s he would have been responsible for the operation of early mainframe computers such as the Burroughs B. 273, which was replaced by the Burroughs B. 3500 in 1971, a model also popular with the US Military.
An advertisement for the Burroughs 3500 Mainframe Computers from the early 1970s
Bob suffered from headaches during his working life, which his daughter Julie attributed to the small monitors he worked with and the fact that one of his eyes was very weak. Bob and Dorothy also had a son, Bruce Laurie.
Staff of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, circa 1940s or 1950s, Bob standing at right with glasses.
Bob retired from the Reserve Bank on March 7, 1980.
Source: Personal Communications with Human Resources staff at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in February 2016.
During his retirement he was a keen sailor, built at least one small Yacht and was the Commodore of his local Yacht Club. Late in life he married again.
He died in Waikanae on September 27 at the age of 83 .
This page archived at Perma CC in November of 2016: https://perma.cc/C29B-AKW4