Saving Private Fred
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.