John Peter Priest

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Haroldswick, Unst, Shetland, Scotland, United Kingdom

General information

Last known residence:
Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Mill Hand, Sawmill

Army information

New Zealand
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Service number:
Enlistment date:
Enlistment place:
Ohakune, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
 —  New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Polygoneveld, Belgium
Cause of death:
Died while on active service


Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood
Plot: XIII
Row: B
Grave: 13

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 2

#1 Last known residence
#2 Enlistment place

My story

Rifleman John Peter Priest was 23 years of age when he enlisted the 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion on 28th October 1916.
The former sawmill hand was still single. He was born in Haroldswick on the Shetlandisle Unst, Scotland but lived already 3 years in New Zealand.

Up to the end of 1917, the Allied posture had been on the basis of an early resumption of the offensive. However, it soon became apparent that the Russian collapse (the Revolution had by now taken place) would be followed by a German drive on the Western Front in the Spring.
This fact, together with the desirability of waiting for the American forces indicated a need to strengthen defences instead.
This, accordingly, became the priority on the New Zealand Division’s front, as elsewhere, and a great deal of effort was made to this end in difficult winter conditions.
On January 14th, in heavy snow, the Brigade returned to the line, taking over from the 2nd Brigade. The relief was a comparatively quiet one, and was accomplished by 08.30 p.m.
The 2nd Battalion relieved 2nd Otago in Reutel, the 3rd relieved 1st Canterbury in Judge, and the 4th took over Noord from 1st Otago. The 1st Battalion handed over Cameron Covert to 2nd Canterbury and went to the support position in Albania and Polygonveld, west of the Butte.
A thaw setting in on the following day, the front line and support trenches began to collapse in many places and soon became knee-deep in mud. At night rain came on, flooding the trenches and swamping the low-lying shelters. Drainage was a difficult problem. The general conditions were such as would favour an abnormal outbreak of “trench-foot”.
Minor raids and skirmishes by both sides continued, and from time to time, artillery fire intensified. There was a great deal of shelling on cross-roads, and other centres of activity, and casualties were occasioned in rear areas.
On January 20th the Rifle Brigade was relieved by the 2nd Brigade and moved back into Divisional reserve.
During these operations an accident happened with a bomb killing several men.

Rifleman John Peter Priest was accidentally killed in active service and buried at the edge of Polygon Wood. Later his body was exhumed and reburied in the Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood plot XIII, row B, grave 13.

Sources 7

"From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth, the New Zealand Division on the Western Front 1916-1918",Gray J.H., Willsonscott Publishing, Christchurch NZ, 2010, page 175-177
Sources used
"The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade", Austin W.S., The Naval | Military Press Ltd, Uckfield UK, 2007, page 259-262
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NZEF Project
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Service Record
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The Long Long Trail
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