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Charles Harold French

Portrait during the war period - No known copyright restrictions

Portrait during the war period - No known copyright restrictions


  • Title
  • Forenames
    Charles Harold AWMM
  • Surname
    French AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    Old Charley AWMM
  • Service number
    WWI 12/1951 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi / Hapū / Waka / Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    Unknown AWMM Valley Road, Mount Eden, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    Mrs Jane Elizabeth French (mother), Valley Road, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Pre 17 April 1915 AWMM Single AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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  • War
  • Campaign
    • 1915-1916 Gallipoli AWMM
    • North Africa AWMM
    • 1914-1919 Western Front AWMM
  • Armed force / branch
    Army AWMM
  • Service number
    WWI 12/1951 AWMM
  • Military service
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Military decorations

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Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
    WW1 Unknown AWMM Tinsmith/Civilian AWMM
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment


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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    • Hospital Diseases , Wounds, WWI AWMM
      Wounded in head AWMM
    • Died of Disease, Cause of Death AWMM
      Heart Failure AWMM

Last known rank

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Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • Family believe head wound contributed to later development of Parkinson's Disease.

    In a newspaper cutting supplied by his niece Mrs S L French, the following incident from the Gallipoli campaign was recounted by C H French to his RSA comrades under the heading "When 25 Men Fooled Johnny Turk". "The 25 Anzacs were the rearguard of the NZ Division, leaving Gallipoli; and it was one of them (who survived later hazards in the Somme and adjacent lively suburbs) who at a recent Grey Lynn Returned Services Club smoke idly mentioned the matter and speculated upon the fortunes of the rest of that rearguard.

    The story was prised out of ex 12/1951 "Old Charley" French (a livewire member of the G.L.R.S.C.)

    A brooding quiet hung over the Suvla Bay sector when, the day after the rest of the Div. had been evacuated, the 25 selected volunteers, mostly N.C.O.'s took over Rhododendron Spur and the Div.'s trenches, and were allotted some 200yds of trench perman. Each man had a number, and a Maori password was set. The first man was well out on the extreme left of the sector, the second 200yds further in, Charley another 200yds in, and so on, until the Div.'s whole sector was manned.

    As well as rifle and bayonet, each man had five "pitcher bombs" - rather like a bottle with the fuse acting as cork, Charley says, that went off five seconds after extraction of the "cork"; and at irregular intervals they fired shots hopefully and raised trench periscopes to lull the unsuspecting Johnny Turk.

    Late in the afternoon Lieutenant-Colonel Alderman, Officer commanding the Auckland Battalion, came round for a final check-up. Check-ups by officers at intervals followed, on numbers and password, and there was no sign by Jacko to show that he suspected anything amiss.

    At 2 a.m the extreme left man came in, to be checked through by No.2, and at two minutes' through interval came No.2 to be checked through by No. 3 (Charley), and so on, until the 25 were gathered in the far sap, wher the O.C. took a final check. Warning was issued that they might meet lively opposition from the strong Turkish patrols down the ravine, and that if it came to a showdown, it was every man for himself, and to make for the beach. (Watson's Pier, Charley thinks it was).

    The silent rearguard was fortunate. Slipping through the ravine they encountered no questing Turk patrol and somewhere around 4.15 a.m. they were down on the pier as the pinnace from a destroyer came snuffling in. Again each man was checked by his number into the pinnace, Colonel Alderman being the last man aboard.

    And so out to the waiting destroyer.

    Here again, each man came up the gangway to give his number, and as he did so a sailor came forward, saying "You're my man. Off with your equipment, mate." Then down below for a welcome clean up and a mighty breakfast, coming up on deck again to find his rifle and equipment cleaned and in first class order.

    Just before dawn a pinnace from the flagship sped ashore, landing a demolition party to fire hospital tens and equipment; and then, says Charley fondly, the whole show from Quinn's Post to Rhododendron Spur, already mined, went up in one magnificent explosion. All the abandoned ammo went skywards in a farewell nose-thumbing gesture.

    Quite a percentage of the rearguard afterwards were killed on the Somme and Mailly-Mailly, but perhaps Charley says, some stray survivor of that 35 year-old show might read this and feel old memories stirring." AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    29 April 1959 AWMM
    Age 69 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Cremated at Waikumete Crematorium, Glen Eden, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name
    St David's Church, 68 Khyber Pass Road, Grafton, Auckland 1023 AWMM

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