Cyril Edward Purser

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Wanganui, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand

General information

Turner/ Metalworker

Army information

New Zealand
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Featherston, Wellington, New Zealand
 —  Canterbury Regiment, 3rd Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)


Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Private Cyril Edward Purser
Cyril Purser was born in Wanganui, New Zealand on 14 July 1896, first child of Edward George and Annie Jane Purser. He appears to have only one sibling, Rowena, born in 1901.
Cyril was working as a metal turner for Allen Brothers, an engineering company in Wanganui when he enlisted on 21 August 1916 at Featherston Camp. He joined the 20th Reinforcement, training at Trentham and Featherston camps. Cyril embarked from Wellington on 30 December 1916 on the troop ship Athenic, arriving at Devonport on 3 March 1917.
He spent one month at Sling Camp, England, before transferring to nearby Codford Camp where he was posted to 3rd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, part of the New Zealand Infantry 4th Brigade.
He sailed to France with the brigade on 28 May 1917, just before the Battle of Messines. As new to the Western Front, he and his unit were probably used for as a labour force for more experienced units.
During the preparation for the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) he was posted to a NZ reinforcement camp on 30 September 1917 and was there until 9 October. Therefore he was not involved with the battles of Broodseinde (4 October) or First Passchendaele (12 October) although it is possible he was among those drafted to provide extra stretch-bearers after the heavy New Zealand losses on 12 October.
The New Zealand Division was in the Polygon Wood sector after the end of the Third Battle of Ypres. Much of the time was spent in wiring, repairing crumbling trenches and improving defences. The landscape was covered with waterlogged shellholes.
Neither the New Zealand Division history or that of the Canterbury Regiment give detailed information for the November 1917-February 1918 period so it is impossible to say with any certainty how Cyril Purser died on 22 November 1917. On the night of 21/22 November, 3rd Canterbury Battalion relieved the 3rd Auckland Battalion at a position called Joiners Rest, at Polygon Wood and it can be presumed he was killed during this event. The opposing German forces generally held higher ground and movement in the New Zealand lines was often observed and shelled or machine-gunned.
He was buried with several others of the 3rd Canterbury Battalion killed the same day. He is now at Buttes New British Cemetery, Plot I, Row A, Grave 9.

Files 1

Sources 7

"The history of the Canterbury Regiment, NZEF 1914-1919", Ferguson, David, Auckland, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, 1921, pg. 204-208.
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Archives New Zealand
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Auckland Cenotaph
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Auckland Weekly News
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Births deaths marriages New Zealand
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NZEF Project
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