8/724 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb  - Otago Infantry

Arthur Llewellyn Webb was born in Wellington on the 21st March 1896 the youngest of seven children born to Richard Attew and Mary (nee Llewellyn) Webb.[i]

Arthur was raised in Sutherland Street, Kilbirnie, Wellington attending primary school in the area prior to going to Wellington College 1909 – 1911. Arthur then went to Victoria University, Wellington possible as a trainee teacher.

On the outbreak of war Arthur Llewellyn Webb was in his third year of university
study when  he enlisted on the 13th August 1914.  On his military papers
Arthur’s birth date is noted as the 5th July 1894 which made him over 20, the
minimum age to enlist, but his real age was 18 years and six months. He is also
listed as being a school teacher where he was possible a trainee teacher.[ii]

Due to the large number of men enlisting and the need to fill the ranks of all
the regional battalions Arthur was assigned as 8/724 Private Arthur Llewellyn
Webb to D Company, 14th South Otago, Otago Battalion.

Also allocated to D Company , 14th South Otago were
8/809 Private Kenneth (Ken) Henry Boulton from Paremata and
8/821 Corporal William Edward Earp from Tawa.[iii]

8/724 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb 

The Otago Battalion as part of the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary
Force (NZEF) left Dunedin  on the 14th October 1914 for Egypt. In Egypt the
NZEF joined with the Australian forces  to become  the Australia and
New Zealand Army Corp (Anzac). Preparations for  landings in the Dardanelles
were conducted.

The Otago Infantry landed 25/26th April 1915 at ANZAC Cove. Initially the Otago Infantry were held in reserve then moved to defensive lines but the key to the ANZAC position was a hill, Baby 700,  and the capture of this position would force the Turks back onto Third Ridge and give the besieged in ANZAC Cove much needed breathing space and allow them to go
onto the offensive.[iv]  The Otago’s were part of the forces committed on 2nd May 1915 but due to a number of delays
they ended up attacking in daylight against prepared Turkish forces. The result was a disaster for the Otago’s as they and other Allied troops were forced back from Baby 700 to their original positions.

‘No complete account exists of the losses suffered by Otago in this attack. The War Diary records five officers
wounded, eight missing, 11 men killed, 174 wounded and 208 missing, leaving a strength of 365 out of 800 who went into the attack. But in truth the Otagos never knew how many were lost.’[v]

Among those who were later officially declared dead were 8/809 Private Kenneth (Ken) Henry Boulton and 8/821 Corporal William Edward Earp.

The remnants of the Otago Battalion were then shipped down the Gallipoli Peninsular to land near Cape Helles. As part
of a combined British assault on the 8 May 1915 they were again attacking, in daylight, prepared Turkish positions in the Second Battle of Krithia. The New Zealand forces which included Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago Infantry companies again suffered heavy casualties at the ‘Daisy Patch.’ The survivors of the second Battle of Krithia were
withdrawn from the area on 19th May 1915 returning to Anzac Cove.

In August there was a major push from Anzac Cove to capture the high ground of Sari Bair. The NZ Mounted Rifles and Maori Contingent with a daring night assault on the 6th / 7th August 1915 captured key points that guarded the valleys leading to the high ground. Daylight assaults failed but in the pre dawn of the 8th August 1915 The Wellington Battalion moved up Rhododendron Ridge to capture the summit of Chunuk Bair. Through the day the Turkish forces desperately tried to drive the Wellington Battalion, some Auckland Mounted and British troops from this key point. In the night
8th / 9th August 1915 the Otago Battalion and Wellington Mounted Rifles moved up to relieve the Wellingtons.

Chunuk Bair would be recaptured on the 10th August 1915 following a massive counter attack launched by the Turkish Commander Mustafa Kemal[vi].

Private Webb was wounded on the 8th August 1915 and was evacuated from Gallipoli on the 11th August 1915 with a gunshot wound to the arm. Private Webb was taken to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital at Murdos for treatment.
The wound was not serious as he was discharged at the end of August for service in the base depot. However the effects
of the campaigning in Gallipoli had their impacts and on the 25th September 1915 he was admitted to 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital with jaundice. Private Webb remained in hospital for a month and then was evacuated on the 10th October 1915 on the hospital ship (HS) Aquitania for England where he was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester. Private Webb remained in England until January 1916  when it was determined he was fit enough to return to active duty.

Private Webb returned to Egypt and the 1st Otago Battalion on the 23rd January 1916. The Battalion was retraining in preparation for service on the Western Front.

Private Webb and the 1st Otago Battalion left Egypt on the 6th April 1916 and on arrival in France moved up to a quiet sector of the front to get used to conditions on the Western Front. Also arriving in France was Private Webb’s older
brother 24/2116 Lance Corporal Cecil Ernest Webb, C Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB)[vii].
It is possible that the two brothers meet prior to the September, Battle of the Somme.

On the 15th September 1916 the New Zealand Division went ‘over the top’ at the Battle of the Somme. At zero hour,
6.20 a.m., the allies opened an intense barrage on the German trenches. After six minutes this barrage began to creep forward at a rate of 50 yards per minute towards the Switch Trenches which were the first objective. The 2nd Auckland and 2nd Otago’s were the first to leave the front lines. Ten minutes after zero the C Company and B Company
of the 4th Battalion 3rd NZRB moved into the attack.[viii]  The 1st Otago Battalion was held in reserve moving up later to relieve other New Zealand units.

Private Webb’s brother Lance Corporal Cecil Webb in C Company was one of the ‘first over the top’  but was wounded on the hip, leg and back during the first day of the attack and was evacuated from the battlefield to England. 

The attack initially was a success with objectives taken but stiffening German resistance and the appalling weather bogged down the advance. On the 27th the 1st Otago Battalion launched an attack against the Grid system of trenches. The
14th (South Otago) and 4th (Otago Rifles) were the leading companies as they crossed[viii]

Factory Corner-Eaucourt L'Abbaye Road, From this stage the ground fell away abruptly and the attacking troops almost immediately came under a withering blast of fire from enemy rifles and machine guns posted along Gird Trench and Gird Support. The two leading Companies, 14th and 4th, valiantly endeavoured to press on against
this hail of fire; but it was only a question of distance when they were literally swept away by it. Every officer and almost every man became a casualty.

The problem presented by having to handle such a number of wounded called for the greatest exertions of the stretcher parties who work unceasing throughout the night under almost insuperable difficulties of mud and Distance. Many of the wounded succeeded in staggering back unaided, but there were others who were so sorely wounded as to be beyond the aid of the bearers when their turn came.[ix]

Stretcher bearers at the Somme

Private Webb was one of these casualties his military file records the court of enquiry into his death:

Private Lyndon of the Otago Infantry Battalion stated ‘At about 7 am; 28th September 1916 I saw 8/724 Pvt Webb in the Goose Alley Trench. A stretcher bearer informed me that Pvt Webb had been wounded in the stomach on September 27th when the 14th Coy were attacking Grid Trench. The st-br stated that owing to the nature of the wound that Pvt Webb was not to be taken down to the RAP (Regimental Aid Post) I have not seen or heard of Pvt Webb since 28th September 1916.’[x]

The Court of Enquiry verdict, 29 November 1916, simply notes Died of Wounds received 27 September 1916. While Private Webb was buried in the Grid Trench area the  total destruction later in the war over the the Somme Battle Field meant that Private Webb's body was not recovered.

Private Webb, like 1200 other New Zealand casualties, has no known grave and is remembered on the New Zealand Memorial at Caterpillar Valley. Private Webb is also remembered on the  Wellington College’s Memorial and the Kilbirnie School Memorial.

In 1919 the Wellington Education Board published a list of men employed by the board who were died in World War One, A.L. Webb is one of the 27 names recorded.

In December 1921 the Webb Memorial Cup was presented to Plimmerton School originally for the student ‘ ‘who stands highest in general merit, consideration being given, not only to school work, but also to punctuality, cleanliness, good manners, sport and popularity’ [ix] the cup later was awarded to the school dux runner
up. The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1921 and continued to be awarded through
to 1972 when the Webb Memorial Cup and a number of other school trophies were no
longer presented.

The newspaper report on the presentation of the cup indicated it was in memory of
Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb killed at the Somme but is seem more appropriate that it
would also be for Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb the young trainee teacher just 20 years
old when he died on the Somme.

The battered Webb Memorial Cup (now restored)

Private Arthur Llewelly Webb and his brother Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb are also
remembered at the National War Memorial Carillion with bell no 35  ‘Rongomai’ 
(sounding the way ) purchased by members of the Webb family.[iix]

The Webb Memoril cup after 1972 had been stored with other trophys and become battered, it was
restored at no cost by the Village Goldsmiths, Wellington. 

Official History of the Otago Regiment, NZEF in the Great War 1914 – 1918
Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/809 Private Arthur Llewelyn Webb
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb
NZ BDM online
Paperspast online
The New Zealand Story - Chris Pugsley

8/809 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb - Wellington College 
Stretcher bearers in the mud of the Somme - Goggle
Webb Memorial Cup - Allan Dodson 2014

[i] NZ BDM
[ii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/809 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb
[iii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/809 Private Kenneth (Ken) Henry Boulton and 8/821 Corporal William Edward Earp.
[iv] Puglsley - The New Zealand Story; pg 173
[v] Puglsley  – The New Zealand Story; pg 184
[vi] Anzac.govt.nz – Gallipoli Tour Guide
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 24/2116 Sergeant Cecil Ernest Webb 
[viii] Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade
[ix] Official History of the Otago Reiment, NZEF in the Great War 1914 - 1918
[x] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 8/809 Private Arthur Llewellyn Webb
[ix] Memorial Cup, 24 December 1921, Evening Post
[iix] Naming the Bells, 21 May 1928, Evening Post 

Stretcher bearers in the mud of the Somme