Despite his ill health, Frank Twisleton's courage and common sense shone through in several theatres of war.


Frank Twisleton loved service and he loved adventure.

A Yorkshireman, the young Twisleton emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and brother Thomas in 1895.

Farm work saw Frank become a skilled horseman and made it a straightforward decision to enlist in January 1900 with the Second NZ Contingent of Mounted Rifles for the Boer War.


Thomas followed his older brother to South Africa, but never returned home. He died of pneumonia in August 1901.

Frank Twisleton arrived back in May 1901 and published a book about his experiences, With the New Zealanders at the Front. Dedicated to Thomas, Twisleton wrote about campaigns at Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Johannesburg and Diamond Hill from a soldier's perspective. He did not hold back at what he considered the incompetence of British officers and the harsh treatment of soldiers.

After moving to a farm near Gisborne, Twisleton set up "C" squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen, an imperialist group which thrived in parts of the British Empire and filled its ranks with Boer War veterans through an appeal to patriotism and vigilance.

Legion members camped and trained on Twisleton's property while the returned soldier lobbied for official recognition for his corps and to lift the age limit on servicemen from 35 to 40.

Officials let the legion form rifle clubs and in September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of World War I, Minister of Defence James Allen told Twisleton in a letter: "The age for first reinforcements has been raised to 40 years."

A month later Twisleton, at 41, volunteered with several Poverty Bay Frontiersmen. Commissioned as lieutenant, he was posted to the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment and landed at Gallipoli on 20 May 1915.

Letters he wrote from the peninsula described the discomfort of trench warfare. It was a "very funny sort of life one leads, we burrow like rabbits and live more or less underground and do most of our work at night".

After the bloody assault on Hill 60 in August, he wrote that the immense noise of battle felt like he "was being driven into the ground by being hit on the head".


Wounded in the exchanges, Twisleton used a pocket-knife during a pause in the attacks to dig shrapnel out of his leg. In a vivid passage of his second account of war, he described fighting from a position where the stench was ghastly because it was partly built from the bodies of Turkish soldiers. He wrote: "I felt as though I could scrape the smell of dead men out of my mouth and throat and stomach in chunks."

He cheated death on one occasion when a rifle bullet hit a revolver he carried in a holster by his groin.

Ill with severe dysentery, Twisleton was taken off Gallipoli. His courage and leadership during the campaign saw him awarded the Military Cross and a mention in dispatches.

In early 1916, he shifted to the Pioneer Battalion and served for 18 months in the Somme and Messines operations, dangerous work close to the frontline.

His wife, Emily, and their two daughters, Mary and Nancy, were staying in southeast England at the time and the dedicated soldier was able to see them during leave.

Dogged by indifferent health, Twisleton made one more move, this time to Palestine. Back on horseback, Twisleton, by now a major and handed his own squadron, led his men into action at Ayun Kara, a village in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

Shot in the abdomen, Twisleton was taken to a treatment station but died from his wounds.

Colonel Guy Powles, who wrote an account of the New Zealanders in the Sinai and Palestine, described the soldier as a man of "fearless courage" and a splendid horseman, who "proved to be of that stuff of which the pioneers of the British Empire are made. Simple and direct in speech, his shrewd judgment and strong practical common sense proved at all times a tower of strength to his companions".

Twisleton died on November 15, 1917. His headstone can be found at Ramleh Cemetery near Tel Aviv in Israel.

Visit to read first 86 stories in the series 100 Kiwi Stories runs every Monday and Thursday.