New Zealand soldier who fought at Somme honoured century after his death

By Kieran Campbell, in France

Alexander Ormond was among 72,000 soldiers listed on the Thiepval Memorial in France. Photo / Supplied
Alexander Ormond was among 72,000 soldiers listed on the Thiepval Memorial in France. Photo / Supplied

A century after his death, the family of Second Lieutenant Alexander Ormond have finally been able to honour his sacrifice.

Ormond, from Mahia in Hawke's Bay, was among more than 2000 New Zealanders killed in the Battle of the Somme.

LISTEN: NZ Herald correspondent Kieran Campbell spoke to Rachel Smalley on Newstalk ZB from France

He died fighting with the Manchester Regiment on September 30, 1916. Not only was body never returned to his homeland, it was never found.

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Ormond's name is on the Thiepval Memorial - a colossal brick monument to more than 72,000 troops who fought with British and South African forces and whose bodies were never found.

On Monday his great-great-niece, Aleisha Macgregor, shed a tear when she found his name on the memorial.

Read more: New Zealanders gather to commemorate the Battle of the Somme

In a small, sombre ceremony she created a small shrine, placing a paua shell, pounamu, and two silver fern pins alongside a simple black and white portrait of the man she never knew.

"I thought it would be nice that whoever visited that area would know he was from New Zealand," said Macgregor, an able steward with the Royal New Zealand Navy.

"The fact that he didn't return home ... I guess I'm here for [my family] because they couldn't make it here and they couldn't have a proper ceremony for him."

The 25-year-old, who joined the Navy four years ago, is the first in her family to make the pilgrimage to northern France.

She's there to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest episodes in World War I.

New Zealand ground troops first saw action on September 15, 1916. Macgregor, from Gisborne, will attend ceremonies on Thursday to mark the exact anniversary.

"It feels like I've got a lot on my shoulders, carrying a lot for my family members," she said. "[My parents] were proud, very proud. [Dad] doesn't show it, but I think he might have been emotional. He just told me to enjoy my experience and embrace it all."

Aleisha MacGregor placed some uniquely Kiwi  items at the memorial on which her ancestor's name is inscribed. Photo / NZ Defence Force
Aleisha MacGregor placed some uniquely Kiwi items at the memorial on which her ancestor's name is inscribed. Photo / NZ Defence Force

- NZ Herald

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