A soldier's burial

 
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Richard's Story

Louisa Seddon Couldn't have a proper funeral for her son.

The Seddon family never had a chance to bury their oldest son.

The Imperial War Graves Commission had a strict rule - no bodies of soldiers were sent to be home. It would have been impossible to return nearly a million bodies to their home countries and have them re-buried all over the world. It was considered fairer to leave men where they fell. This was  hard on families desperate to bury their loved ones at home. Many would never be able to visit the overseas graves of their loved ones because of the time and money it would take to make the trip.

This was a very hard rule for Richard John Spotswood Seddon’s mother, Louisa, to accept. The wife of the late Prime Minister Richard Seddon, Louisa spent years writing letters to the Commission to try and make an exception to the rule. They did not change their minds. She even wrote personally to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Making an exception for the son of an ex-Prime Minister it was maintained would be unfair given all the other families who were equally devastated by the loss of their children, parents, relatives and friends.

The Seddons were heartbroken. Louisa was able to visit the grave site but it was not quite the same as having the chance to honour her beloved son with a proper funeral.

The wooden cross from Seddon’s grave was brought back to New Zealand by his sister and still hangs in the Seddon Memorial tomb as a token of Seddon’s life and sacrifice.

 

 

 

Research Support

You have been given the Grave Card for Richard Seddon. This was given to his mother to show her and other family members where Richard was buried. You are now tasked with discovering more of the story behind Richard John Spotswood Seddon. How much of his story can you piece together?  The suggestions below will help you on your research journey. The How We Find It Fact Sheet will also be a helpful tool in helping you discover the pieces of Richard's puzzle.

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FIND richard'S RECORD OF SERVICE

You're in luck. Richard served in the New Zealand Army so his records can be found online at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph. You'll need to be extra careful here - Richard actually has two separate records (under the same serial number). This is your most important search.  Collect as much information as you can. Once you've found Richard's Serial Number move to Archway and search for his service documents there.

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where is richard buried?

The body of the Unknown Warrior, returned to the National War Memorial in Wellington in 2004 is the only New Zealander killed in action in the First World War to be buried here. Richard's mother, Louisa, did everything she could to bring her son’s body home. Directly after the war she travelled to England and France, and visited her son’s grave, with the hope of bringing Dick back with her on her return. Even the body of the son of New Zealand's most loved Prime Minister was not to return home. Use Richard's Service Number to search for the location of Richard's grave.  Download the Cemetery Plan and use it in conjunction with Google Maps to find his final resting place. 

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a timeline of leaving for france to death

Search for Richard's Casualty Register in his Archway File (Page 262 and 263). Casualty Registers give us a list of places and dates that document where soldiers were. One document can give us a lot of information. Use a platform such as Timetoast to create a timeline of his arrival in England through to his death in France. How quickly do things move ? How long does Richard spend fighting? Can you find the locations on the Casualty Register on Google Maps today?

 

Discover more pieces of Richard's Story.

WHERE WERE RICHARD'S GRAVE CARD AND MEDALS DELIVERED TO?

Examine Richard's History Sheet in his second archway file to find the address for all correspondence with Louisa Seddon after his death.  We can see that Louisa would have had Dick's grave card and his medals delivered here.  It lists 'Eccleston' at Golder's Hill.  Can you use Google and a search for 'Golder's Hill Wellington' to locate either the house or the road that is Golder's Hill today? Why would the Seddons have named their home Eccleston?

who were the seddons? Why would louisa have more chance of bringing her son home than anyone else?

Richard was one of 9 children from a very famous New Zealand family.  Richard's father is an important character in the New Zealand Story.  Who was he and what was his nickname? Can you create a family tree of the Seddon Family? What does Richard's father's job have to do with the fact that Dick attended Kumara School on the West Coast and then Wellington College?

FIND WHERE THE WOODEN CROSS FROM RICHARD'S GRAVE IN FRANCE IS TODAY.

The Imperial War Graves Commission was responsible for maintaining the graves of soldiers overseas and for erecting the more uniform headstones.  Unlike other countries, New Zealand families were not offered the chance to add words to their family member's headstone. One of Dick's sisters removed the wooden cross from Dick’s grave in France when a uniform headstone was erected, and brought it home to New Zealand. You can still see this same cross at a tomb in Wellington's Karori Cemetery.  Can you find out where this cross sits today?


Solve the Unsolved Mystery.

DISCOVER WHY NO NEW ZEALAND NAMES RECORDED ON THE MAJOR FIRST WORLD WAR MEMORIALS. 

Many New Zealanders are confused when they visit the memorials of major battle sites from the First World War. Why are there no New Zealand names on the major imperial memorials at Cape Helles in Turkey, Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium and at the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme in France?  New Zealanders fought and died here but their names are not recorded on these memorials like the names of every other allied force.

Throughout the war, Prime Minister Bill Massey and his coalition partner, Sir Joseph Ward, visited the Western Front and England for extended periods and returned again for the treaty negotiations at Versailles. As a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, Massey accepted that he had no voice in the conduct of operations but insisted that he be listened to on the matter of Gallipoli graves. Against the wishes of the Imperial war Graves Commission, Massey’s government determined that New Zealand names would not appear on the imperial monuments but be recorded on New Zealand Memorials to the Missing, located where the men had fought and died. Of all the Dominions, New Zealand alone marked each of its major battle sites with a national memorial.

What was the final New Zealand decision in relation to marking the sites where soldiers had fought and died?

 

Search Further

acknowledgements

Seddon's Grave Card is connected with the story of Richard John Spotswood (Dick) Seddon who attended Kumara School, Fitzherbert Terrace School and Wellington College. The original photograph is held by both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and The Seddon Family Archive. This story is told with the permission of Bridget Dadly on behalf of the Seddon Family.

 

Find documents connected with the life of Richard John Spotswood Seddon here

Richard John Spotswood Seddon's memorial cross rests here. 

 
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Wellington College 

The Walking with an Anzac Team found the first clue in Richard's story when they visited Wellington College. The archivist suggested we visit the gravesite of Richard's father (RJ Seddon, Prime Minister 1893 - 1906) where the story was uncovered. Further research on the same platforms you have used today allowed us to discover Richard's Story.  

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Richard John Spotswood Seddon

Richard's handwritten Service Records can be found on Archway here   

Research starting points for Richard's story.

 

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“It is very hard for you mum, and I wish we could do more...”

Stuart Seddon's Letter to his mother

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