2/53 Gunner  Archibald (Archie) Francis Leadbetter D Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery

5/789 Sergeant Archibald Archie Francis Leadbetter – NZ Army Service Corps

Archibald (Archie) Francis Leadbetter was born in Wellington on the 14th October 1888 the only son in a family of four.[i]

Archibald’s father Robert Leadbetter was a baker and had worked in Edinburgh, London and Kimberley (South Africa)[ii] before arriving in Wellington. In 1886 Robert married Sarah Caroline Cowley,[iii] the couple purchased a small bakery in Taranaki Street, Wellington. In 1889 Robert and Sarah purchased a larger bakery, the Star Bakery in Tinakori Road, Wellington. The couple ran the business until 1894 when Robert Leadbetter died. Sarah continued to operate the bakery until 1903 when it was sold.[iv]

In August 1914 World War One began and New Zealand’s first commitment to the war effort was to prepare for the
capture of the German colony, Samoa. Archibald Francis enlisted on the 8th August 1914, his military papers show he served in the reserves with the Civil Service Rifles and later D Battery of the New Zealand Field Artillery (NZFA). Archibald was living with his mother in Northland and the 26 year old was working as a storeman for the auctioneers Bethune & Co, Wellington.[v]

2/53 Gunner Archibald Francis Leadbetter, D (Mountain) Battery, sailed in the advanced party of the Samoa Expeditionary Force (SEF) leaving on the 11th August 1914. Following the initial excitement of the landing the members of the SEF
settled down to the boredom of the occupation.

A letter written from Apia by another member of D Battery sums up the feeling[vi]

24th Nov 1914
Dear Mr Shannon,

     I am just dropping you a few lines to thank you for the books
and papers you have so kindly been sending me. I can assure
you they have been highly appreciated. It is getting very
monotonous here now, and I will be glad to see the end of
Samoa. I almost wish I had waited and done your books and
gone with one of the other batteries. . . . . .

Also serving in Samoa was 1/314 Sergeant Ernest Hollis, 5th (Wellington) Regiment who in 1916 married Archibald’s younger sister Katherine (Kitty) Mary Leadbetter.

The advanced party of the SEF was relieved in February  1915 and returned to New Zealand where Gunner Leadbetter
on the 28th March 1915 was discharged, ‘at his own request.’

Archibald returned to work as a storeman with Berthune & Co remaining with them until November  when on the 19th November 1915 he was re-enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
(NZEF). Archibald entered as 5/789 Driver Leadbetter, Detachment No 5
Company, New Zealand Army Service  Corp. While in camp Driver Leadbetter
was promoted to Lance Corporal then to Sergeant and left for overseas
service on the 12th February 1916 as 5/789 Sergeant Leadbetter, Army
Service Corps, Detachment No. 5 Company, Field Ambulance Section.[vii]

5/789 Sergeant Leadbetter Jan/Feb 1916 

The No 5 Company NZASC first were shipped to Egypt where on the
20th February 1916 Sergeant Leadbetter reverted to Driver Leadbetter,
this was normal for arriving reinforcement NCO’s. Driver Leadbetter was
promoted back to Sergeant on the 23rd February 1916 and travelled with 
his unit to France on the 9th April 1916.

The military files of Sergeant Leadbetter over the next three years simply
note that he was attached to the No 1 Company and then the No 2
Company and that he was given leave in twice,  August 1917 and September
1918. The ambulance units however were hard worked carrying men
wounded during service at the front line and also during the major
actions of Somme, Messines, Passchendael.

World War One ended with the signing of the Armistice on the 11th
November 1918 and many of the longer serving members of the NZEF
were demobilised to New Zealand. However the New Zealand Division also
supplied men for the Army of Occupation and Sergeant Leadbetter moved
France with the Division, from France to Germany. It was not until the 9th
February 1919 that Sergeant Leadbetter was sent to England for processing
and return to New Zealand.

Sergeant Leadbetter returned to New Zealand in May 1919 where he was discharged from the NZEF on the 28th May 1919 ‘on termination of his period of engagement.’

Archie returned to civilian life and on the 29th October 1921 married Evelyn Teresa Bradley. Evelyn was the second daughter of Mr & Mrs John Ralph Bradley. The Bradley family lived in Hongekea Bay when John was the manager of the Karehana Bay farm leased by the Shannon family[vii] and later was a general carrier operating in Plimmerton[viii].  Archie and Evelyn moved into Wellington and had three children an older son and twin boy and girl.

On the 28th March 1938 Evelyn Teresa Leadbetter died leaving Archie to raise his three children; 12, 10 & 10. In 1940
Archie and family moved out to Steyne Avenue. Plimmerton  [ix],  it was war time conditions and the family remembers
that the house had black out curtains and there was a bomb shelter in the section. Archie also joined the Plimmerton
Home Guard.[x]

Late in life Archie married his next door neighbour Kathleen  (Katy) Richardson (nee Shannon). Archie bought with him his dog ‘Nip’ who doubled as the guard dog.[xi]

Archie and Nip - Steyne Avenue Plimmerton 

Kathlene died in 1964 and Archie’s death on the 18th October 1970 was reported it the Defence Department by his son Robert.[xii]


Archie’s younger sister Katherine (Kitty) Mary  Leadbetter married in 1916 Lt Ernest Hollis prior to his departure for the Western Front. Another sister Hilda May married Lt Douglas Goodall Cody, also in 1916,  prior to his departure for France. As Captain Cody he was awarded the Military Cross for Acts of Gallantry.

Thanks to the extended family of Archie for the information of his life after 1920. 

Paperspast Online
NZBDM Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
A Shannon Family from Antrim, Ireland to New Zealand – private publication
Oral History – Johnson / Leadbetter family

Sergeant Leadbetter - Johnson / Leadbetter family
Archie and Nip - Johnson / Leadbetter family 
Background NZ Ambulances in the field, France - RSA collection, National Library

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] Notices, 27th August 1886, Evening Post 
[iii] NZ BDM
[iv] Notices, 6th February 1903, Evening Post
[v] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 2/53 Gunner Archibald Francis Leadbetter
[vi] Letter from 2/16 Bombardier Arthur Roland Charlton, D Battery to Mr G V Shannon Director of the Manawatu & Wellington Railway Co
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 5/789 Sergeant Archibald Francis Leadbetter
[viii] Oral history Johnson / Leadbetter family
[ix] Oral history Johnson /  Leadbetter family
[x] Oral History Johnson / Leadbetter  family 
​[xi] A Shannon Family – by family members.
[xii] Archway Archives New Zealand
NZ Ambulances in the field -  France 1917 ​