Roy Lane Cunliffe

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Johnsonville, Wellington, New Zealand

General information


Army information

New Zealand
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Trentham, Wellington, New Zealand
 —  New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 1st 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.)


Polygon Wood Cemetery
Plot: /
Row: G
Grave: 9

Distinctions and medals 3

Points of interest 2

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

My story

Roy Cunliffe was born in Johnsonville, Wellington, New Zealand on 19 April 1892, son of James and Ada Cunliffe. He had three brothers and three sisters.

In 1914 Roy was a painter and also served as a gunner in the New Zealand Territorial Army. He served in D Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery in the Samoan Advance Party from 8 August 1914 until discharge on 23 March 1915. This force captured German Samoa in late August 1914, mainly to disable the radio facilities there.

Roy enlisted again on 7 March 1916 into the 14th Reinforcement, service number 13739, as a NZ Rifle Brigade reinforcement. He trained at Trentham and Featherston camps before embarking from Wellington on the troop ship Maunganui, on 26 June 1916 and arriving at Devonport, England on 22 August. He was at Sling Camp for about one month, sailing to France on 14 September 1916 at the time the NZ Division began fighting during the Battle of the Somme. He was posted to D Company, 1st Battalion of the 3rd (New Zealand Rifle Brigade) Infantry Brigade on 1 October 1916.

In March 1917 his battalion was in the Ploegsteert sector. He received a gunshot wound to the face on 13 March. It was described as ‘slight’ and he was treated at the 13th Stationary Hospital in France before rejoining his unit in May 1917. He had leave in UK from 19 August until 6 September 1917.

It is presumed that Roy took part in the Battle of Messines and First Battle of Passchendaele but survived both events.

The New Zealand Division was in the Polygon Wood area, 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. The opposing German forces generally held higher ground and movement in the New Zealand lines was often observed and shelled or machine-gunned.

The Division relieved the 21st Division from 13th November, when the 3rd (NZ Rifle Brigade) and 4th NZ Infantry Brigades took over the front line. On 1st December the NZ Rifle Brigade relieved the 4th Infantry Brigade in the Becelaere Sector, with the 1st Battalion ( Roy’s unit) relieving the 3rd Otago Battalion. The brigade headquarters was at the Polygon Butte.

On 3 December part of 2nd Brigade attacked Polderhoek Chateau, with limited success and heavy casualties. The brigade history does not offer much detail on this period so it is difficult to say how Roy Cunliffe died on 4 December 1917. There were heavy snow storms during the time.

His body was recovered and is buried in Polygon Wood Cemetery, Row G, Grave 9.

Files 1

Sources 7

"The official history of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (The Earl of Liverpool's Own)", Austin, WL., Wellington, L.T. Watkins, 1924, pg. 255-258.
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Archives New Zealand
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Auckland Cenotaph
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Auckland Weekly News
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New Zealand births deaths marriages
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Stand to! memorial clip
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