June 8th is ‘Anniversary Day’ or ‘Bounty Day’ on Norfolk Island. On this day in 1856 the Pitcairn Islanders landed at Norfolk Island to start the Third Settlement. Less than 60 years later, men from the island were volunteering to become ANZACs in the Great War.
Following a recent visit to Norfolk Island, FFFAIF President Russell Curley filed this report on the War Memorials of Norfolk Island. [All photos in the report come from The Curley Collection.]
Norfolk Island War Memorial
The Memorial is situated opposite All Saints Church, on the South-Eastern corner of the intersection where Country Road becomes Quality Row at Kingston. This was the site of the First & Second Settlements, on the southern side of the island and is loacted at 29o 03’ 20.84” S, 167o 57’ 25.46” E. The Memorial was erected using locally sourced blocks, rendered and painted white, at a cost of £145/18/3 ($A291.83) and was unveiled on Anzac Day, 1929. It is surrounded by a white post and twin rail fence and has a flagstaff at each corner. The Australian flag flies at the North East and the Norfolk Island flag at the North West corner. The remaining staffs are used as required. The Memorial’s North face lists 77 names of those who served in WWI on the upper section and ten names of those who died on Active Service during WWII (9) and Korea (1) .
The Eastern face inscription reads:
COMMEMORATE THE SERVICES
OF THE INHABITANTS OF THIS ISLAND
WHO FOUGHT IN
THE GREAT WAR
1914 – 1919
The WWI Memorial’s names include at least two females, Sarah Nobbs and Evelyn (Eva) Nobbs RRC, [Staff Nurse AANS]. The Cross of Sacrifice appears next to 13 names.
The Norfolk Island RSL Sub-Branch Memorial Club WWI nominal roll lists 81 names, which represents about half of the eligible male population on the island at that time. The 81/77 discrepancy remains unresolved.*
Of the 30 surnames listed on the Memorial, eight (Adams, Buffett, Christian, Evans, McCoy, Nobbs, Quintal and Young) are directly descended from the Pitcairn Islanders (HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives) who arrived on Norfolk on board the Morayshire on 8 June 1856. From those eight families, there were seven enlistments from the Adams family; five from Buffett; five from Christian; seven from Evans; one McCoy; six from Nobbs (including two females); 14 Quintals and one Young. Of the other surnames listed there are, no doubt, several who can claim similar descendancy through marriage.
The National Archives of Australia holds records for no less than 47 who served with the AIF, and on enlistment gave their place of birth as Norfolk Island. These records include two enlistments whose names do not appear on the Memorial (George Evans Hill [20th Bn AIF] who may be ‘George Evans’ and Austin Thomas Quintal [1st Pnr Bn AIF] who may be either ‘A. Quintal’ or known by another name). The remainder may have served with the NZEF or other forces. [The NZ National Archives are not yet digitised and weren’t investigated for this post.] A list of the inscribed names may be viewed by clicking here.
Norfolk’s highest ranking soldier from WWI was Major James B Metcalfe DSO, MC & MID [MD, 10th FAMB] Died of Wounds at 20th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) on 25/4/1918. Major Metcalfe practised Medicine in Wellington, NSW, at the time of enlistment and is also included on the Wellington (NSW) Honour Roll. Other Commissions held by Islanders were three captains, including Major Metcalfe’s brother, Captain Francis B Metcalfe [MD, AAMC], who died after amputation of a leg in England on 18/10/1916, and two Lieutenants. Captain Metcalfe was employed at the Children’s Hospital, Brisbane before enlistment at Enoggera, QLD. Other decorated men were Lt JS Robinson MC, Sgt Harry Anderson DCM & clasp (bar), L/Cpl Byron Quintal DCM [53rd Bn AIF] and Pte Arthur B. Menges DCM.**
“Norfolk Island had a remarkable statistical participation rate per head of population for major world war conflicts unsurpassed certainly in Australasia and perhaps the world. Despite difficulty with transportation to & from Norfolk Island and Australasia, nine men departed for the Boer War, 81 of a possible 160 men joined the Australian and New Zealand military for WWI, 280 of a possible 365 men plus eight women joined the Australian and New Zealand military for WWII, and continued participation with Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Gulf, Kuwait, Somalia, Afghanistan, East Timor, and other United Nations peace keeping forces. The Norfolk Island population dealt with the resulting casualties of war, the prisoners of war, the missing in war, the injuries from war, and some adjustment disorders. Norfolk Island detached military personnel were well decorated and the Norfolk Island Infantry Detachment assigned to protecting its shores were mentioned and recognised for appropriate military service.” *
The Islanders who remained on the island during WWI, had to deal with severe climatic conditions – some of the worst recorded. “On the day WWI was declared, Norfolk recorded its lowest minimum temperature of 4.5oC. Moreover, unprecedented drought conditions, existing over a wide region of the Pacific, compounded the difficulties. Being an island, Norfolk was naturally susceptible to the vagaries of the weather. When a severe drought struck the island, as in 1914, crops failed and this was to be the pattern in subsequent years.”**
*Norfolk Island RSL Sub Branch – looking after the community! ISLANDERS GO TO WAR: Author unknown.
** Norfolk Island and its Third Settlement – Raymond Nobbs (Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2006)
If you know of an Anzac War Memorial you would like to see featured in Memorial Way contact Chris at email@example.com
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers – presently buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood – dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and applauds Minister Snowdon and his British counterpart, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans, Kevan Jones MP, for their joint decision to DNA test the remains at exhumation and use every reasonable method to attempt identification of each soldier.