Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Revealing more of the lives of three men from the Great War remembered in Southern Cemetery ..... and a thank you

Lance Corporal Alleyne G Webber, circa 1914
This is Lance Corporal Alleyne Gordon Webber of the Otago Mounted Rifles.

He was born in New Zealand, died at Gallipoli and he is remembered on a monument in Southern Cemetery.

It is quite humbling to uncover the life of lance Corporal Webber and more so because it has brought together a number of people who have contributed to the story of this young man and his brother and friend.

I first came across Lance Corporal Alleyne Gordon Webber on a photograph of his monument taken by David Harrop.

David has a long association with the cemetery and his permanent exhibition commemorating those who participated in both world wars can be seen in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern.

The memorial also records the names of Private Gerard K Webber and Private Alan Hamilton Ross.

The memorial, in Southern Cemetery, 2015

Private Webber was wounded at the last engagement during the Battle of the Somme and died here in Manchester of his wounds just seven months after his brother Alleyne.

Private Ross was killed at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme just fourteen days after it started.

I doubted that I would ever discover much about the Webber brothers and assumed that it would be Private
Ross whose life would be easier to uncover.

He had been born in Paddington in London, and attended Dover College and came from a wealthy family.

His life had been researched by one of his descendants and I am indebted to Genevieve who kindly allowed me to share her research.

But during the course of yesterday I came closer to knowing much more about the Webber Brothers.

Dee who read the original story* went looking and found a shed full of references to the Webber family which in due course I am hoping she will share, but that would be to steal her thunder so instead I shall return to Genevieve who also went looking for references to Alleyne and Gerard and discovered that

The Life Class - A Sketch Club Night, G K Webber, circa 1910
Gerard Webber painted this scene at a sketch club meeting at the Canterbury College School of Art. 

Typical of the day, the class is dominated by male students. 

Subdued interior studies such as this were common and, although slightly sketchy in treatment, Webber has accurately captured the details in the room and the effects of the falling light in the foreground. 

This work was presented to the Canterbury Society of Arts by Webber’s father, Alfred, in 1919. 

Webber was born in Auckland and attended the Elam School of Art before studying at the Canterbury College School of Art from 1910 to 1913. 

He was awarded the Brangwyn Scholarship to study at the Slade School of Art in London c.1914 but enlisted with the British Armed Forces serving in the 10th Royal Fusiliers.”

Detail of the monument, showing Private A H Ross, 2015
Now that will explain how a young ma from  New Zealand ended up in a British Regiment and how he met the “splendid Friend and Comrade Alan Hamiliton Ross, [of the] 10th Royal Fusiliers."

Genevieve also uncovered the 1916 college magazine for The Auckland University* which featured Alleyne.

And in the magazine there was a photograph, and a short entry on this “quiet and retiring ........ capable and conscientious young gentleman [who] was an exceptionally strong swimmer and was well known in yachting and rowing circles.”

Detail showing the Webber brothers, 
The account detailed his career before enlisted, his bravery at Gallipoli and commented that just a “few days before [he died] he had been recommended for one of the first commissions in the regiment.”

I have no doubt that in the fullness of time I will return to the lives of all three men and especially to the college magazine which reveals much about the sacrifice made my New Zealand during the Great War.

But for now I think it is enough to reflect on what has been learnt by the joint efforts of four of us from David who lives in Stockport, Dee in Wythenshawe and Genevieve in Australia.

Pictures; Lance Corporal Alleyne Gordon Webber, 1914 from The Kiwi, The Life Class - A Sketch Club Night, G K Webber, circa 1910, courtesy of Genevieve Kang, and the memorial to Lance Corporal Webber and Private Weber and Ross, Southern Cemetery, 2015, from the collection of David Harrop

Research by Dee Leetch and Genevieve Kang

*The Kiwi, The Auckland University Magazine, August, 1916, Vol 11,

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