New Zealand as a child on ‘‘struggle street’’ and then made it to the top, Gallaher’s life was a success story in so many ways, Passchendaele Society president Iain MacKenzie said.
He was modest, basic, quiet and just got on with it, qualities which were very well respected in the New Zealand psyche, MacKenzie said. ‘‘New Zealanders are a bit reticent to have big heroes . . . but it’s his unique position as a rugby legend and also someone with considerable war experience.’’
Gallaher’s rugby career began in Auckland in 1895 where he played for a number of clubs
before being chosen to play for New Zealand on the 1903 tour of Australia.
After the British tour, Gallaher retired as a player and became a selector for Auckland and New Zealand for most of the following decade.
Described as a pleasant, modest, likeable chap and a competent ordinary soldier, the towering rugby great shouldn’t have been in the combat zone at all, given he was in his mid-40s.
But after hearing of the death of his younger brother at war in 1916, Gallaher concealed his age and volunteered.
It was this white lie to avenge his fallen brother which eventually led to his death. On October 4, 1917, Gallaher was shot in the head and died the next day.
Since 1924, All Black teams playing in Britain and France have made pilgrimages to his grave at Nine Elms British Cemetery near Poperinge in Belgium.
There have been months of centenary commemorations in Europe to mark the Battle of Passchendaele. These will also include a New Zealand national commemoration to be held on October 12 in Belgium near the Tyne Cot Cemetery where more than 500 New Zealanders are buried.
Fields of Remembrance Trust secretary Juliana Austen said the Originals tour Originals tour, and then the unease after the Passchendaele campaign, both contributed to a sense of nationhood and independence in New Zealand.
Dave Gallaher should have been too old to serve in the Great War but concealed his age to enlist.