Sav­ing Pri­vate Fred

South Waikato News - - Front Page - CAITLIN MOORBY

A Man­gakino fam­ily’s war story has strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties to that of Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan, with the los­ing two sons dur­ing the Great War.

Wil­liam and Mary Mc­conkey’s sac­ri­fice dur­ing WW1 shook the small South Waikato com­mu­nity and saw them rally to stop their chil­dren be­ing sent back to the front line.

The cou­ple had five sons and two daugh­ters, four of them – Fred, Alf, John and Arthur – went to war.

A cen­tury on and their fates have cap­ti­vated their great niece, Dawn Mc­conkey.

Af­ter pour­ing through fam­ily ge­neal­ogy records she dis­cov­ered the dev­as­tat­ing toll war took on her fore­bears – one son died of ill­ness, an­other was killed in ac­tion, a third was badly wounded and in­valided out, and a fourth was put on fur­lough af­ter suf­fer­ing se­vere bat­tle wounds.

In Jan­uary 1915, Fred and Alf joined the Auck­land In­fantry Bat­tal­ion on the same day, but Alf was soon di­ag­nosed with a lung con­di­tion.

He was in­valided home and died at Waikato Hospi­tal in De­cem­ber.

Fred re­mained with the bat­tal­ion and fought at Gal­lipoli be­fore his unit joined the New Zealand Divi­sion and the war on the Western Front in France.

He was wounded twice and in Septem­ber 1918 was sent home to re­cu­per­ate.

Mean­while, their brother John en­listed in the NZ Ri­fle Bri­gade and was posted to the Western Front in De­cem­ber 1916.

A year he was wounded in ac­tion and was ren­dered un­fit for mil­i­tary ser­vice and dis­charged.

Mean­while, Arthur – who had served in the Boer War –

signed up for the NZ Ma­chine Gun Bat­tal­ion, but was killed in ac­tion serv­ing on the Western Front.

Back in the Waikato, Fred was well again. But when he was due to re­port back for over­seas ser­vice in Novem­ber 1918 some­thing changed in the com­mu­nity.

It ral­lied to­gether to stop him be­ing sent back to war – the Mc­conkeys had al­ready suf­fered enough, they said.

Their pleas worked and Fred was dis­charged from fur­ther mil­i­tary ser­vice in De­cem­ber 1918.

The Mc­conkey broth­ers are listed on the Piron­gia War Me­mo­rial Hall Roll of Hon­our. AND 7.

Their fates have cap­ti­vated their great niece, Dawn Mc­conkey.

The house where Wil­liam and Mary Mc­conkey were mar­ried. John Mc­conkey suf­fered se­vere bat­tle wounds fight­ing at the Western Front. He re­turned to New Zealand where he was dis­charged in Septem­ber 1918.

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