Rupert Brooke would not have been thinking of the far north of New Zealand when he wrote, in 1914: 'If I should die, think only this of me / That there's some corner of a foreign field / That is for ever England.'
Unlike Brooke, who died of blood poisoning (from a mosquito bite on his lip) whilst en route to Gallipoli in 1915, Archibald Coubrough Noble survived World War I, although his wounds would finally take their toll a decade later. The poet's corner of a foreign field is on the Greek island of Skyros. Archie Noble's is in St Saviour's churchyard, in Kaitaia.
Much about Archibald Coubrough Noble has come to light since his great nephew, Captain (Retired) Kerry Noble, who lives in Belford, Northumberland, contacted the Northland Age.
"Upon my father's death, I discovered a 'Wilfred' (World War I Victory Medal) inscribed on the rim, '13/572 Cpl A C Noble N.Z.E.F.' I knew this to be my paternal grandfather's brother, my great uncle. I had no clue, however, why he would be serving in the Anzac forces," he wrote.
"On further research I found he had served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, and their war diary shows he was wounded at Gallipoli in August 1915. There the trail ended.
"His full name was Archibald Coubrough Noble, wrongly spelt in some of the records."
ConnectionEarlier this month Mr Noble received an email from FamilySearch, which threw up a connection to a branch of his grandmother's family in Timaru in 1901. That led him to a third cousin "over there," who had been able to provide further information, including Archie's service record, showing that he had transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps, and was wounded again in battle in the Canal Zone, in Sinai, in December 1916.
"After a long spell in hospital he went on leave to England, presumably to visit his family, where he took ill again from his wounds," Mr Noble wrote.
"He was eventually shipped back to New Zealand, where he was discharged as medically unfit for further war service, in February 1918.
"My cousin also discovered his grave record that locates him in St Saviour's churchyard, Kaitaia, having died on April 3, 1927. Obviously he was accorded a war grave, so, presumably, was classed as 'Died of Wounds,' although they were suffered some 10 years earlier."
An older brother, Robert, who according to an obituary was killed before the war, is registered as dying in Carlisle in 1906, aged 23.
The story was an unusual one, Kerry said, given that it involved two brothers fighting on two fronts for two nations. Major Thomas Gibson Noble, Kerry's paternal grandfather, was killed on July 1, 1916, on the Somme, leading the second wave of Tyneside Scottish at Y Sap Crater, La Boiselle.
"I have recently discovered he was promoted A/Lt Colonel before he was killed, presumably to take over the entire 1st Battalion, as the CO was killed in the first wave," he wrote.
"I'm trying to access the regimental war diaries to ascertain exactly what occurred."
Unlike Archie, Thomas has no known grave.
EmigrationRecords indicate that Archie emigrated to New Zealand in 1907, at the age of 21, but the family doesn't know why, or how, he ended up in Kaitaia. The Northland Age, however, made it clear that he had well and truly made his mark on the town, where he established Nobles Ltd., a main street drapery, millinery, footwear and furnishings shop.
He died on April 3, 1927, at the age of 42. Three days later the newspaper published an obituary, headlined 'Archibald Conbrough (sic) Noble, Life of Unselfishness, announcing that 'A gloom was cast over Kaitaia on Sunday morning last when the news was received from the Mangonui Hospital that Mr Noble, well known to all in the Northland as just Archie, had passed away.'
Mr Noble, it added, had developed heart trouble as a result of wounds received.
Prior to leaving for the war he had represented the firm of Milne & Choyce, and later John Court Ltd, of Auckland. After his return he travelled in the interests of George Court & Sons. He had opened his drapery in Kaitaia about six years before his death, 'and to-day his shop is a credit to the town in which it stands,' although he had periodically spent time as a patient at a home for wounded soldiers in Parnell.
He had made several trips back to England, most recently a few months before he died, to visit his mother in Wath, near Ripon, in Yorkshire.
'Mr Noble was very popular in both his business and social life,' the obituary added, 'and it will take a long time for those who new him, and his friends were many, to forget one who possessed a fine unselfish nature.'
His casket lay in his shop prior to his funeral, where returned soldiers 'from all parts of the Mangonui County' paid their respects to a comrade who had 'passed over the top for the last time.'
... Yesterday's demonstration of love and affection for one who shared with others the dangers will ever remain as evidence of the undying spirit of the New Zealand soldier.'
As Kerry Noble suspected, his great uncle was buried with full military honours.
'It was possibly the largest funeral seen in Kaitaia for many years, and bore striking testimony to the high esteem in which the deceased was held. It was a sight that would have gladdened the heart of his dear Mother in her hour of grief had she been able to witness it. The effect of the stunning blow which was dealt to her when the tidings of Archie's death were flashed over the wires, it is hoped will be alleviated somewhat when she reads, as she will in the course of time, this record of the funeral ceremony of her last surviving son.
'This of course cannot make up to her for her irreparable loss. It cannot completely heal a broken heart, but it will help to lessen the pain experienced by a grief-stricken Mother. It will tell her that here in this remote portion of New Zealand — the most remote outpost of the British Empire — she has the deepest sympathy in her bereavement of a large section of this community.'
It might have added that her son died amongst friends.