It was 1918 and Terence was nearly 19 and studying for his solicitor exams in Auckland. All 3 of his older brothers, Charlie, Jack and Jim (my grand-dad), were already fighting in France and their mother (my great grand-mother) Joanna was repeatedly refusing Terence the necessary parental permission to enlist early (i.e prior to his 20th birthday). We have letters between them at the time and he was desperately bargaining with her. If he passed his exams with a good mark, she’d agreed to give her permission and to coax his father to do the same. I can only imagine how hard that must been for her to agree to, her baby and last safe son wanting to join the fight.
A week before his solicitors exam Terence received a white feather in an envelope. An entry in his journal at the time indicates he was distraught. Humiliated.
Terence sat and passed his exam in May 1918 and enlisted 3 days later. He went into camp at Trentham and was part of the 40th NZ Expeditionary Force which left Auckland for England on the MV Tahiti in July 1918. They made port in Egypt on route and unluckily picked up flu.
In the 2 week period before the Tahiti landed in England, more than 50 men died. Great uncle Terence was one of them. There’s some question about the actual cause of death in many cases – it is recorded that a delirium struck and a number of the young men hurled themselves into the sea from the deck of the Tahiti and were never seen again. The official war records state “Drowned, lost at sea”.
One month later the war ended.
Charlie, Jack and grand-dad all distinguished themselves and made it home in pretty much one piece. They say that Joanna never recovered from losing her youngest son.
My dad is Terence II and my nephew is Terence III.