A recent acquisition to the museum collection is a Prussian bugle made in Hanover, Germany, in 1915. It is inscribed with "Bugler A. Dunkley 20511 N.Z.E.F. Passchendaele 12 Oct 1917".
So how did a German bugle end up with an inscription commemorating a Whanganui soldier?
Angus Dunkley was born in Rangiora on March 15, 1890 along with his twin sister Betsy. A few years later, the Dunkley family moved to Whanganui. Angus attended the Wanganui Boys School achieving a First-Class Attendance Prize in 1900.
His life, until he enlisted in the war, was unremarkable. The only mentions of him in the local papers were for his attendance prize, a mock Court Martial where he played the role of an insubordinate soldier in 1911 and when he was fined two shillings and sixpence for using a bicycle after dark without a light in 1914.
Angus worked as a driver for the F F & Ice Company and volunteered as a bugler for three years with the Wanganui Rifles.
On May 1, 1916, at age 26, Angus decided to enlist in the Army. Physically, Angus was five feet six and a half inches tall, weighed 140 pounds, and sported light brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He was assigned to H Company 16th Infantry Regiment as a Private.
Angus completed his basic training at Trentham Military Camp before catching a troopship, the Navua, from Dunedin, on August 21, 1916. He voyaged to England and stayed in Sling Camp, Bulford. On November 15, 1916, he left Sling Camp for France.
Angus was appointed Bugler because of his previous experience; the role of the Bugler was an appointment not a rank. A Bugler was considered senior to a private soldier; however, in the Rifle Brigade all Buglers were also Riflemen. Only the Rifle and Light Infantry Brigades had Buglers. The remainder of the infantry had a Drummer. There could be up to 16 Buglers in a regiment as it was a dangerous role. Buglers were responsible for rousing the troops with Reveille, playing the Last Post and calls to eat. In battle, they would also be required to convey command signals via the bugle. Buglers were often the target of snipers; a dead Bugler could potentially cut the enemy's line of communication.
Angus served his time on the Western Front and was sent temporarily to different regiments, such as the Otago 3rd Rifle Brigade, for weeks at a time. On November 21, 1917, he was injured by mustard gas. He recovered, only to be hit by shrapnel the following year, from which he also recovered.
At the end of the war, Angus embarked on his return journey to New Zealand on the troopship Rimutaka, which arrived in Wellington on May 25, 1919. He was discharged from the Army on June 25, 1919, having served a total of three years and 56 days on active service. Of that time, two years and 282 days were spent getting shot at overseas in some of the worst battles in which New Zealand soldiers have ever taken part.
The date recorded on the bugle, 12 October 1917, marks one of the blackest days for New Zealand servicemen. A failed attack on Bellevue Spur at Passchendaele left a total of Kiwis 843 dead or mortally wounded.
We do not know if the bugle was picked up then or at a subsequent battle. We do not know who picked it up, whether it was Angus himself or if it was presented to him later. We do not know who the Prussian bugler that blew this bugle was.
It does mean, however, that Angus Dunkley's time during World War I will be forever remembered with this war trophy.
Angus never married, and the bugle came to the museum though descendants of his friend, Frederic Palmer, to whom Angus had given the bugle. Angus died in Whanganui on April 6, 1970.
The museum does not have a photograph of Angus but if anyone in the community does, we would love a copy.
* Trish Nugent-Lyne is the collection manager at Whanganui Regional Museum.