A young soldier who died exactly 100 years ago has been officially acknowledged as the first New Zealand casualty of World War One.

At Waikumete Cemetery this morning the New Zealand Defence Force formally declared that Robert Arthur Hislop, a Territorial soldier from the North Island Railway Battalion, was the first member of the New Zealand Armed Forces to die as a result of their war service.

In a moving graveside ceremony, Hislop's place in New Zealand military history was confirmed by an Army officer while a Defence Force chaplain offered thanks for his brief service with the battalion, an element of the Territorial Force mobilised at the declaration of war to guard key locations around New Zealand. In a traditional military gesture, a bugler sounded the Last Post, which signals that a soldier's duty is over.

Twenty one year Hislop was on picket duty on the Parnell Railway Bridge on the evening of 13 August 1914 when he fell between two sets of rail lines to the road below. He died in Auckland Hospital from his injuries on August 19, two weeks after New Zealand joined Britain in the war against the German Empire. Hislop was given a military funeral attended by the rank and file of the Territorials and the NZ Expeditionary Force.


Over the decades the circumstances of his death faded from history and the inscription on his gravestone at Waikumete in Glen Eden - which describes him as "the first NZ soldier to give his life during the Great War" - became so weathered as to be virtually illegible. His great-niece Sue Atkins learned about Hislop's war service when she started investigating her family's history. She was given invaluable help by Sarndra Lees, collection manager human history at Auckland Museum, who researches people and their history behind the gravestones.

The grave of Robert Hislop in Waikumete Cemetery. Photo /
Richard Robinson

Sue Atkins said her wider family were honoured that Robert Hislop had been acknowledged in a special way.