Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Twelve Grandsons of Matthias and Lena Brunning who served during WWI

The wartime period was a difficult one for those of German descent, who were suddenly transformed from valued, hard-working neighbours into enemy aliens, despite having been settled in New Zealand for many years and being naturalized British citizens. Germany as a geopolitical entity didn't even exist when the original settlers took sail for their new home. To deflect unwelcome attention, the village of Sarau was renamed Upper Moutere, and traditional German customs and spoken German were abandoned, however they often suffered abuse, bullying at school and discrimination. 

Nonetheless, many enlisted with the NZ Expeditionary Force, and including John Brunning, twelve of Matthias and Lena Bruning’s grandsons served during the First World War.

From Marlborough came John Brunning, son of Dietrich (Dick) Brunning and Betsy Aroa and his cousins Sidney Charles and Arthur Charles Schwass, sons of Frank and Louisa Schwass. Sidney served in France during WWI. He was wounded and invalided to England where he met and married English girl, Dorothy Middleton, whom he brought back to New Zealand with him in 1918. Arthur also returned and farmed at various locations around Marlborough - Springlands, Awatere, Port Underwood and Seddon.

Also born in Marlborough were Clarence and Norman Sigglekow, sons of Richard’s sister Lena Bruning and her husband William Sigglekow. They were both living at Aporo (Tasman  with their widowed mother when they joined up. Norman embarked with the Main Body on 16 October, 1914, and served in Egypt and Turkey. He was killed at Gallipoli on 7 August, 1915. Clarence was working at the apple orchards of Tasman Fruitlands Ltd before he set out for Egypt on 13 June, 1915. He was wounded in September 1915, but served until the end of the war, when he returned to New Zealand and married Ethel West. They settled in Edgecumbe.

From Riwaka came the two brothers, Charles John and William George Harvey , sons of Richard Brunning’s youngest sister Eleanora and George Harvey, who were born in the Moutere but living with at Sandy Bay when they enlisted. Charles Harvey died at Codford Hospital, England on 7 May 1918, from complications of influenza, William returned to New Zealand and married Hazel Frater. They made their home at Riwaka.

John's uncle, Charles Christian Bruning, married Fanny Sarah Clarkson in 1872 and settled in College Street, Motueka. They had a family of fourteen. Four of their nine sons went off to war. They were Maurice Henry Bruning who served with the NZ Veterinary Corps and was wounded at Gallipoli, Henry Lionel (Harry), Frank, who left with the Main Body on October 16, 1914 and was also wounded at Gallipoli, and Arthur Leslie, who enlisted with the Australian Imperial Army, Medical Corps, from Brisbane. He served with the 7th Field Ambulance, 6th Reinforcements, and was accidentally drowned in the Somme River on 8 May, 1918.

Henry (Harry) Lafrentz, son of Richard Brunning’s sister Anna (Annie) and Heinrich (Henry) Lafrentz was born at Redwoods Valley. He was working as a farm hand in Upper Takaka before he embarked with the Main Body on 16 October, 1916. He served in Egypt and Turkey and was probably killed in action at Gallipoli on August 10, 1915, when he was declared missing, though his official date of death is recorded as 21 August, 1915, the day his body was found. 

Henry Lafrentz was the centre of another Motueka WWI mystery a couple of years ago when a letter dated 1915 was found on the back of  six Tuck's postcards , set into a picture frame, and picked up at the Red Cross shop in Nelson. The sender was “Harry” in Alexandria, Egypt, the recipient  “Ettey” in Takaka, New Zealand. The story of how Coralie Smith from the Motueka Historical Association tracked down the identities of Harry Lafrentz and Janet (Ettey) Harwood features in the Motueka Historical Association Journal, Volume 8.*

Ref:  And So it Began: Volume 8. Further Stories of Motueka Through the Years., pp 110-116.(2013) Motueka & Districts Association (1980) Inc

Tasman Fruit Lands Ltd, Annual meeting of shareholders
Nelson Evening Mail, 16 March, 1913.

Raphael Tuck & Sons postcards: Wikipedia

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