Alfred Bines

43716 Alfred Bines NZMR. Alfred saw action during the Palestine Campaign until wars end. The images on this page have been taken from Alfred's own collection and were offered to the Association to make available to the general public by Alfred's son, Graham Bines.
We see here a somber young man looking back at the camera in this 1917 photograph, the badges on his collars are the New Zealand Signals Corps, shown left. In the center, Alfred's dog tags still a family treasure - along with a battered and dented sterling silver cigarette case that covered many an arid desert mile - presented prior to leaving New Zealand in 1917. The inscription reads: "Presented to A. Bines on his departure for the Front by his fellow employees at S.S.A.E. 20/2/17" .
( SSAE "Sargood Sons and Erwin" was a large warehouse supplies company since ceased trading in the 1930's.)




Alfred Bines – Trooper, Signalman or Sapper?
by Steve Butler

When Alfred Bines joined the NZMR in 1917 it would be a safe bet to refer to the young man as Trooper Bines, after all, mounted servicemen in the New Zealand Army followed English tradition and named those of the “mounted rank and file” as “Troopers”.  Another pointer to a casual observer that this indeed was his rank were the photographs showing Alfred wearing the hat and collar badges of the NZMR prancing horse – this design on his badges certainly showed that he was a Trooper in the NZMR Reinforcements making ready to depart for Egypt.
Then the name of his rank gets confusing.  His family in New Zealand recall he was often referred to as Sapper Bines as he was posted to the Engineers, which of course also included the “Field Troops” and the “Signal Troop”. A soldier of private rank in the Engineers would certainly be called “Sapper”. – Now other photographs show Alfred again in uniform but with the hat and collar badges of the New Zealand Signals Corps – surely then he should be referred to as Signaler Bines? – (many of the slide show photos show him in action as a heliograph operator.)  Still confusing, however we should be able to unravel the puzzle just by looking at his Regimental Number – the prefixes denote the unit and therefore the naming of the rank of a private soldier.  For example members of the Auckland Mounted Rifles had the prefix number of “13/”, that would make him a Trooper, and if “4/” that would make him a Sapper – but alas there was no Signals unit prefix, and also we find that after the tenth reinforcements departed the Army dropped the prefixes all together and we find that Alfred Bines’ regimental number is: 43716.  No luck here at all, we will have to bow to family memories; Sapper Bines.
Interestingly a private soldier joining different units within the British Army, as quick as changing his collar badges, can become one of the following: a Trooper, Gunner, Sapper, Signalman, Guardsman, Fusilier, Kingsman, Rifleman, Ranger, Driver.

We can be certain on a number of factors: Alfred left his employment with the large warehouse company of the day “Sargood Sons and Ewing” and joined the NZMR with his childhood and lifetime friend Jock (who appears in a number of the photographs).  He left the family home in King Edward Avenue, near the Tram Barn in Epsom and boarded the “HMT (His Majesty’s Transport) Devic” in 1917 and departed New Zealand for Egypt and the Great War.

Right: To view Alfred's slide show of photographs taken during his service in Sinai and Palestine click anywhere on the image.

Alfred served in both the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, crossing the arid Sinai Desert into Turkish Palestine and finally to wars end in Amman in October 1918.  Like most New Zealand troops in the Middle East the return home was delayed with the unrest by rebel factions in Egypt and the Mounteds remained until the riots were settled early in 1919.

With the collection of photographs that Alfred brought home was a letter that showed the comradeship that existed between the British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers. The letter is a warm response to a presentation, but it would appear that the letter also places a date of a Signals Training Camp that many of the photographs relate too. It would appear the signatory of the letter would have been the instructor of signals at the Camp mentioned on the back of a number of photographs included here - the Instructor Sergeant Clark signs the letter 27th December 1917.
  Finally Alfred was on his way home on “HMT Ulimaroa” after serving two years 184 days in service of his country.  While he had been away the family had moved to a large house on the slopes of One Tree Hill where his family was there to greet him on his return.
Within a short while he was demobbed and started work again with his old employment at SSAE, married and raised his family and remained in the warehouse supplies until the outbreak of World War Two. 

Comrades in arms: Among the family collection is this letter written by an English Sergeant of the Royal Engineers. It reads:

Base Signal Depot
To the Boys of the A.I.F. and N.Z.E. Sigs.

May I have the great pleasure in sending you all this small token of thanks, wishing you all, also the very best of wishes and a very prosperous New Year.  Many thanks indeed for the kindness in which you have indeed shown yourselves toward me, and I can assure you that your most beautiful keepsake presented to me yesterday, is and will continue to be treasured by me, and will remain with me throughout life bearing great happy thoughts of the Boys of Australia and New Zealand.
I remain yours most sincere,
H. Clark, Sergeant Royal Engineers




By 1940 he was again under the colours, joining the Army in the Area Records Office in Newmarket as a Warrant Officer (WOI) where he served out the hostilities.  He then joined the Regular Force, dropping his rank in the peacetime Army to WOII.
Alfred died while still in service in 1953 after 13 years in his second “stint” in the New Zealand Army.

click on the above PDF icon to download full image of the NZMR Engineers and Sigs stationed at Richon Le Zion November 1918.

Right: Signals badge prominent on the hat, Alfred (no hat) and another sapper sit on the fence of a suburban mansion while on leave in Cairo. Each man wears a decidedly different weight tunic uniform. On the right brass dress buttons, on the left, leather covered.


Right: After two years 184 days Alfred arrives home to this father's house on One Tree Hill and walks through this front door of the family home. He marries and raises his family here and in turn passes the house on - the family still live here nearly a century on.