Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served".
Born in 1887 in Hampshire, England, Sergeant Vines’ final resting place may be found in Karori Cemetery, Wellington, New Zealand. Why then is this Englishman born and bred lying in a Serviceman’s grave halfway around the world from his birthplace? And what is his link to Weddington, Nuneaton?
Sergeant Vine was an important staff member of Weddington Castle and Estate, and is listed as being, by 2nd April 1911, "Groom in household of Henry Cunliffe SHAWE including a son Charles SHAWE, Rifle Brigade Captain b. 1874."
However, by 1912 he had followed Captain Shawe to New Zealand, working at Government House there. Records show that he sailed out from Southampton with Captain Shawe from Weddington Castle, on 13th November 1912. They arrived in Auckland just over a month later.
At the outbreak of World War One, he followed Captain Share into the Army and served in the 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade (British Army) for 7 years sometime prior to 15 August 1914 when he enlisted with the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEP) in Wellington, New Zealand. Sergeant Vine was at this time listed as Captain Shawe's "chauffeur and manservant”, until being posted overseas with the New Zealand forces.
He went on to see extensive action in World War I – in some of the most brutal battles including, on 25 April 1915, the ill-fated landing at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
He later fought in Egypt, the battle of the Somme and Ypres, where he was awarded the NZEF Military Medal: “For gallant conduct. When word was received at the Battery that the F.O.O. (Lieutenant Bridgeman) was lying wounded in a shell hole forward, this N.C.O. and another immediately got out and after a long search under heavy fire, found hit and brought him safely back to a Dressing Station.” He was also awarded 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his actions in battle. He died in Wellington in 1922, leaving behind 6 children.
The above chronicles events in the short life, 35 years, of Sydney John Vine. Whilst he amazingly survived the Great War, in which he served on all Fronts in which the New Zealand Division was involved, he died soon after its conclusion. His death on 12 July 1922 at Wellington Hospital, at the tail-end of the Influenza Epidemic as a result of weakened lungs sustained on the Front in Belgium, was listed as "Death due to War Service".
As with all who are remembered on ANZAC Day, this is not only a time to recall the horror of War and the need for unity not conflict, but reminds us that our present lives and relative comforts were hard won by those in the past; and we in the present owe a responsibility to work for a better future.
You can read a full history of this remarkable ANZAC here.