Joseph Alexander Govan, New Zealand Forces

by Warren C O Power

My maternal grandfather, Joseph Alexander GOVAN, born on the 16 December 1896 in Coromandel New Zealand joined the New Zealand Forces on the 28 August 1915, in North Auckland, and was medically passed fit by Dr P. J. Power. He was then attested at Trentham on the 20 October 1915 by Captain C Holland. Prior to this he had been a teacher at the Parenga school in North Auckland. He was then shipped to the Suez arriving there on the 8 February 1916.

At Moascar he was transferred from the 2nd Battalion to the NZ 2nd Infantry Brigade on the 20 March 1916 and made a temporary Lance Corporal. He then embarked upon the H.T. Ascania for France from Alexandria on the 8 April 1916. On the 23 April he was appointed Temporary Corporal whilst in the field at Rebecq and then he was promoted to Corporal on the 14 May 1916 at Armentieres. Whilst with the 2nd A.I.B he was wounded on the 15 September 1916 when the second Phase of the Somme Offensive began. The New Zealanders attacked, with the aid of four Tanks, from the site of the Windmill on Pozieres Ridge. This was their first blooding in Battle of this area, and the first time the Tanks had ever been used. They took the town of Flers that day but the next day the skies opened up and the ground became a quagmire. By this time my grandfather had been shot and lay out on the Battlefield, shot through the abdomen. He lay there for over two days before they realised he was still alive.

The New Zealanders mounted attacks constantly under a massive German bombardment that buried their trenches and by the time they were relieved on the night of 3 October 1916 had suffered 7000 casualities - a reputation second to none. These casualties brought New Zealand Divison's total casualties for 1916 to a terrible 10,000. (Australians At War by A.K. MacDougall. 2002).

My grandfather was admitted to the Field Hospital and then to the No 26 General Hospital at Etaples on the 17 September 1916. He then was put on HS Panama for England and admitted to the NZ General Hospital in Brockenhurst on the 3 October 1916. A month later he was put on light duties and I would say it was this time he took off to visit his cousins in the Ship Building town of Govan in Scotland, now a suburb of Glasgow. On the 18 January 1917 he was classified as unfit for duty by the Medical Board.

On the 17 March 1917 he was struck off the Strength of the NZEF and boarded HMT Maunganui at Devonport to head home to New Zealand. He convalesced at his mothers place in Buckland, Auckland and whilst there received three white feathers in the letter box. A group of ladies used to go around giving men whom they thought were eligible to be overseas fighting a white feather. My Grandfather still carried the bullet inside him, lodged up close to his spine, and my mum told us how she and her siblings were not permitted to speak whilst at the table or else the bread knife would come down on their knuckles. He carried this pain for twenty years at which time the skin started turning yellow and the Doctors were forced to operate.

My Nana used to show us grandkids the "bullet" covered in flesh, in a glass jar of methylated spirits. She said he had also been gassed with mustard gas. Granddad never spoke of the War, and never marched on ANZAC Day. My brother and I, and our 1st cousins did as we were in the Boys Brigade/ Highland Pipe Band. Granddad died at the age of 72 from Pnuemonia after having had a heart attack and been released from the Hospital. He died on the 28 June 1969 whilst I was in the Navy.


Warren C. O. Power in West Melton 3337 Australia (ex Kiwi).

Over us no prince or barons known.
We are all one of lordship alone.
An equal and like life we share.
Lord of himself is each man there.
and each is faithful to the other.