MOUNTED RIFLES 13/2024 Sergeant William Carter
Clockwise top: Brass breast and pocket buttons from NZEF tunic. Next, "Out at Last" registered letter containing demob papers from 1919, are among the treasures of the Carter family. Big Bill Carter stands at left of photograph with two of his fellow transport drivers from the Waikato Mounted Rifles in Palestine 1917. Next, painted in her WWI camouflage, known as Dazzle paint is the New Zealand Shipping Company's "Tofua", HMNZT 28. The Tofua prepares to leave for the Great War with a further batch of Reinforcements Troops and Bill Carter onboard. (Famous in postage stamp collecting circles as the ship that regularly picked up the mail from 'Tin-Can Island'). But there is much much more for us to read and decipher in Bill's pay book (download by clicking on cover in image below). Not only is it a pay book (equivalent to $10 per week in today's money) but doctors have made pencil entries in the back folder when Cholera and TB inoculations are administered - Promotion, demotions - advancements - and important location entries, are also included.
by Steve Butler
from an interview with Heather Nichols, Williams daughter.
The Carter family had hacked and burned out the Waerenga Valley and turned the bush country into productive dairy farms by the 1880’s. Into this verdant valley in the northern Waikato were born seven brothers and two sisters, the oldest brother was William Frederick Carter a big strapping lad who readily applied himself to the hard work of breaking in and maintaining the family property.
At fourteen “Willie’s” determination and ability in looking after and harnessing the big Clydesdale horses on the farm was noted by the local area General Merchants –Pulham & Begbie – a job was offered and Willie began driving coach teams between the company’s Waikato depots of Taniwha – Te Kauwhata – Rangiriri and Hinewai.
By mid 1915 news that the war was not going well for the New Zealanders in Gallipoli stimulated many young men into action. Willie, now a proficient horse master and teamster was ready and keen to enlist. Along with a brother he signed up with the NZMR and began training at the military camp at Featherston in the lower North Island.
There are no records of letters that Willie had sent home from the war, and his daughter Heather recalls that her father said little of his time away with the Mounted Rifles. However we are fortunate that among the family keepsakes is Willie’s 1915-16 pay book that tells us so much of his life and movements in the Middle East during the Sinai Palestine Campaign that ran from 1916 through to the Turkish surrender in October 1918 and then the return home in 1919.
From the first series of pay entries and war history files we can see that Willie began training on the 16th May 1915 and was a member of the 4th Waikato Transport team when his reinforcement detachment departed New Zealand on board HMNZT 28 (The New Zealand Shipping Company’s passenger ship the “Tofua”) on the 14th August 1915.
The 4,345 ton Tofua made the crossing from New Zealand to Egypt by mid September, the pay book shows that Willie and his team of heavy Clydesdale cross horses were in place in the Zeitoun Military barracks on the 17th September 1915.
The photograph of the team of Willie's six Clydesdale crossed horses holds pride of place in the Carter family home today. These strong animals and other teams like them were the key to transporting munitions and supplies from dock cargo to camps and from camps to advancing troop movement depots. Transporting such heavy loads with large teams was a soul destroying venture in the Middle East - feeding and watering these big animals in the heat required determined hard men.
At this time the British High Command were in a quandary, their foolhardy and disastrous plan to make an all out frontal attack along the Gallipoli front on August the 8th had left many thousands of men dead, and as a result, the Turkish Campaign was hanging by a thread. The war on the peninsular had reached a stalemate. The terrible loss of life during failed assaults had left both sides unprepared to risk any more massed charges across an enfiladed no-man’s land.
With the arrival of troopships of various reinforcements most of these men were shipped on from Zeitoun Camp to fortify Gallipoli trenches, however the Teamsters of the transport section remained in Egypt. These men and their teams of heavy horses were a key to supplying the front, and began the arduous work of unloading supply ships and trains of food and munitions.
Man and horse found the hot dry conditions of the Canal and Nile areas of Zeitoun, Serapeum and the new Kantara rail head exhausting work.
With the final withdraw from Gallipoli and the Turkish mainland the war took on a new course as the Anzac mounted units crossed from Cairo over the Suez Canal and engaged the enemy in the Sinai Desert early in 1916.
For Willie and the transport teams the work became more intense with their arrival deep in the Sinai Desert at Hill 70, a massive sand dune that has not shifted for generations. They arrived mid summer in a hostile desert, for the big horses and their heavy loads their tasks took them to their limits of endurance.
Water was scarce and the scathing “Kamsheen” winds peppered man and beast alike with flying pellets of hot sand - it required hard dedicated men to manage the teams in such conditions.
But for all the heat there was an interval during the week that Willie attacked physically with a passion – it was playing Rugby football – and Willie was a member of the feared Auckland Mounted Rifles team that went through the war with victories over all challengers.
An interesting cross reference of the pay book and the official history of the Auckland Mounted Rifles is that a pay book entry places Willie at Hill 70 at the same time that the AMR history records that an official game of Rugby was played there against a Scots side – one of Rugby’s first Internationals – when the AMR team played a team of Scottish Infantry who had just held back a Turkish attack a few days before at Dueidar.
The book “The Story of Two Campaigns” records:-
“The cordial relations that were established between the Scots and the New Zealanders had their beginning at Hill 70 in a Rugby football match.”
Alas, we can’t be certain that Willie played in that game, however the family knows that although selected to represent New Zealand in an Army team to tour England after the war he was unable to do so when he broke his ankle – folklore has it that he was replaced by one of the soon to be famous Brownlee brothers who went on to become an All Black post war.
Because there is only one pay book that has survived and the entries finish in February 1917 the movements of Willie's 4th Waikato transport section are not known precisely.
The heavy horse transports and Willie continued on through Palestine supporting the fighting men in the field, and they were never far from the firing line, and many, like his brother and others in the transport section, they were destined never to return home.
An abbreviation of William Carter’s war record can be taken from his war history papers:
Willie's pay book lays out the movements of the Heavy Transport Teams. HMNZT 28 the S.S.Tofua takes the Reinforcements to Egypt and to Zeitoun Camp, Cairo.
13/2024 reg number
address Waerenga near Te Kauwhata Waikato.
attained rank of Sergeant -transport.
Foreign service 3 years 360 days
NZ service 148 days
total service 4 years 144 days
commenced duty 16/4/15
dec: 1914-15 star - Brit war medal
Hospital malaria temporary to Aotea Hosp. 14/8/18. (from 10/8/ to 18/8 -Kantara -Cairo- Aotea hosp)
one other sick note hospital Cairo 30/12/17 - 20/1/18 no reason other that "sick to hospital"
amr trooper 16/4/15
amr corp 26/6/15
In Egypt 1/8/16
amr in Egypt reduced to trooper 29/10/16
promoted Transport Sergeant 2/8/17 to wars end.
died Hamilton 16/11/80.
footnote: William returned home in 1919 and began driving teams as a private roading contractor, building the numerous roads about the Waikato district as the country was opened up more by settlers and the new combustion engined motor car. He married in 1925 and had a family of three daughters. He returned to Dairy farming in the Waerenga Valley where other brothers and their families farm, and still farm today. Willie sold his property and retired in the mid 60's - a line of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren survive him.