A be­lated sol­dier’s burial

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page -

A Waikato po­lice file notes that when he was found his only pos­ses­sions were three war medals and a pen­cil in the pocket of his jacket. His clothes and boots were in poor con­di­tion.

Skelly may have gone AWOL at least four times af­ter he was wounded in Au­gust 1916, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t de­serve re­spect af­ter he com­pleted ser­vice to his coun­try. That re­spect was granted to him thanks to a mil­i­tary ser­vice at Mata­mata Ceme­tery on July 13, where his head­stone was un­veiled more than 80 years af­ter he had died.

Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs New Zealand pro­vided the head­stone. Dig­ni­taries from both the Aus­tralian and New Zealand armed ser­vices were present for the ser­vice.

Speak­ing at the ser­vice, Lieu­tenant Colonel Ju­lian Sewell said it was his priv­i­lege to hon­our one of their own. ‘‘This is typ­i­cal of thou­sands of New Zealand soldiers. To­day we have found one of our own and we will re­mem­ber him.’’

Mata­mata Pi­ako Mayor Jan Barnes was also at the ser­vice and wel­comed Skelly home. Mayor Barnes thanked the armed ser­vices for iden­ti­fy­ing Skelly so the mil­i­tary ser­vice could be held.

From the date of Skelly’s dis­charge un­til his death, lit­tle is known, but a lot is known about the time he spent in ser­vice.

On Jan­uary 14, 1902, he en­listed for ser­vice in Aus­tralia with the Com­mon­wealth Con­tin­gent for ser­vice in the Boer War.

On Au­gust 24, 1915, Skelly en­listed in the 1st Bat­tal­ion, Auck­land Reg­i­ment and em­barked for Egypt as part of the 8th re­in­force­ments on Novem­ber

13, 1915. He ar­rived in Egypt on Jan­uary 15, 1916, and af­ter a short stay he sailed for France on April 6, 1916.

Dur­ing his ser­vice in France, Skelly was wounded in a night at­tack on Au­gust 13, 1916, when he re­ceived a gun­shot wound to his right leg. A pe­riod of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from his wound fol­lowed.

In Jan­uary 1917, Skelly was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal with bron­chi­tis and dis­charged as fit but ad­mit­ted again in Fe­bru­ary 1917 with chest com­plaints. He re­ceived treat­ment and had surgery that re­sulted in the loss of a num­ber of his ‘‘dig­its’’.

He re­mained in hospi­tal un­til July 6, 1917, when it was rec­om­mended his evac­u­a­tion to Eng­land for re­cov­ery and dis­charge.

On Jan­uary 10, 1918, he em­barked on MS Arawa and re­turned to New Zealand, dis­em­bark­ing at Auck­land on March 7, 1918.

He was dis­charged on May 20, 1918. By then he had com­pleted 156 days on home ser­vice and two years and 115 days of ac­tive ser­vice.

Af­ter Skelly’s death, Waikato po­lice ar­ranged for a pau­per’s fu­neral. As there were no funds avail­able, two po­lice con­sta­bles dug the grave to avoid the 2/6 sex­ton’s grave dig­ging fee.

His grave is in block five, plot 58 of the Mata­mata Ceme­tery.

RECOG­NI­TION:

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.