- Tyne Cot, New Zealand Apse
- Panel: 8A
Distinctions and medals
John Henry Laloli was born in 1894 in Roxburgh, Otago, New Zealand. He worked as clerk with the New Zealand Railways in Greymouth, West Coast. John enlisted in March 1916. Late 1916 he was posted to “D” Company of the 4th Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade, part of the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, of the New Zealand Division.
The New Zealand Division participated in the First Battle of Passchendaele, on the 12th of October 1917. The Division’s attack was carried by the 2nd New Zealand Brigade on the right of the Divisional front and the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade on the left. The attacking Battalions of the latter were the 2nd, 3rd and 1st New Zealand Rifle Battalions, the 4th Battalion was to be in reserve. The 2nd Battalion had to capture the first objective, called the Red Line. After they had secured this line, the 3rd Battalion was to consolidate the 2nd objective, namely the Blue Line. Lastly, the final push was allotted to the 1st Battalion, which had to capture the 3rd objective, the Green Line. The 4th Battalion, in reserve, was to follow in the rear of each Battalion and had to assist where necessary, forming defensive flanks wherever these were required.
At zero hour 5.25 a.m. the opening barrage commenced and the 2nd Battalion moved forward behind it, followed by the 4th Battalion. However the artillery barrage was sparse and proved to be too weak. As a result the artillery didn’t succeeded in silencing the German machine-guns operating in the concrete pill-boxes. These pill-boxes immediately opened fire, causing severe casualties. On top of the unforgiving machine-gun fire the German artillery put down an artillery barrage of their own, inflicting casualties on the attacking troops and the troops coming forward from the rear. Notwithstanding the relentless machine-gun fire the men pushed on. They were forced to advance to the left, as the right proved to be an nearly impassable morass. Here the Ravebeek stream had inundated the valley. The banks of the Ravebeek had been shot apart by the constant shelling and the rainwater could not be irrigated from the lowlands. This forced the attacking troops to push left, round Wolf Farm in the hope to gain the high grounds at the head of the valley, creating a gap between the two Brigades of the New Zealand Division. The remnants of the 2nd Battalion were soon held up near Wolf Farm, a German strongpoint, with a string of heavily fortified pill-boxes. Any further progress was impossible, as the men were enfiladed by the pill-boxes and another strongpoint at Bellevue. They were forced to dig in.
By this time the 3rd Battalion came up in aid of the 2nd, although they did not succeed in capturing the Red Line. The 3rd Battalion moved through the 4th Battalion at 6.30 a.m. When they reached the line of the 2nd Battalion, the attack was once again renewed. But even the reinforcements couldn’t prevail against the deadly hail of bullets. Though some ground was gained on the far left near the Cemetery.
Meanwhile the men of three Battalions had become intermingled. All ranks were soaking wet. Men and guns alike were caked with mud, further impeding the attack. The Cemetery was captured Notwithstanding the relentless German machine-gun fire and the difficult conditions. In the centre the parties pushed on to the edge of Wolf Copse capturing the strongpoint at Wolf Farm on the way. By 8 a.m. the attack came to a standstill. Every further progress became impossible and the Battalions were forced to dig in on a line running from the Cemetery to a point slightly beyond Wolf Farm. Both flanks were held by the 4th Battalion so to establish touch with the neighbouring Brigades and to form defensive flanks. Some platoons of the Battalion were in close support.
Lance Corporal John Henry Laloli was killed in action during the attack on the Wolf Farm area. He died a couple of days before his 23rd birthday.