Topic: 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Deans
A soldier of the Great War killed in action during the attack on Broodseinde Ridge, part of the Passchendaele battle.
2nd Lieutenant Alexander Deans – 27693
Alexander was born at Riccarton on 23th November 1890, son of John and Catherine Edith Deans. Educated firstly was educated first at Cook's School then at Christchurch Boys High School he was not only a smart scholar but also showed a keen interest in both football and cricket. In 1909 he was vice-captain of the Rugby fifteen and captain of the cricket eleven. He also won the senior free-hand drawing prize. He was one of the school monitors and served four 4 years with Christchurch Boys High School Cadets. He continued his military interest and was one of the most active members of the 1st Mounted Rifles (Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry) holding the rank of First Lieutenant in 1916. At the time of his enlistment he was engaged in farming at Homebush. He was 5ft 10 ½ in tall with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. He also had a number of small scars including on his lower lip. He was married to Nora nee Knight and father of two children, the youngest being barely three months old. His wife also travelled to England as her contact address was given as C/o Mrs F. Harris, Basford Hall, near Leek, Staffordshire.
Alexander enlisted on 30 May 1916 at Trentham. He had previously been in command of Wellington Infantry in Camp at Trentham. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 3rd July. He embarked on 19th January 1917 on board the Waitemata with 3rd Battalion Canterbury Regiment. He disembarked at Devonport on 29th March and was taken on the strength at Sling Camp and assigned to the 5th Reserve Battalion, posted to D company. On 1st April, still at Sling he was posted to 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment then to 2nd company, 3rd Battalion at Codford on 2 May 1917. He left for France from Codford with the 3rd Battalion on 28 May disembarking at Le havre the following day. He was detached to the school of instruction in the field on 17 June 1917 for a one week course re-joining the unit on 24th June. He was first reported wounded in action on 4th October but later reported killed, aged 27. The New Zealand Division took part in the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917, tasked with seizing part of the Broodseinde Ridge called Gravenstafel Spur. On that day the New Zealand soldiers overwhelmed German forward positions, captured 1100 prisoners and helped to extend the front line eastwards. This was achieved at a cost of 1700 casualties, including 350 deaths. The following week the disastrous attack on Passchendaele and high casualties resulted in the survivors of the New Zealand Division being withdrawn over the following weeks, meaning the possible witnesses to his death could not be gathered. As an officer and platoon commander he would have been a particular target for German snipers. Alexander was one of two officers killed that day the other being the Rev. G. S. Bryan-Brown, C.F. His body was not recovered or identified and his name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke. In New Zealand Alexander is remembered on the Malvern County and Sheffield War Memorials.
Researched and written BY L M Seaton
CWGC Cemetery locale history: The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence. There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele. The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. Other New Zealand casualties are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The TYNE COT MEMORIAL now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett 20 June 1927. The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of TYNE COT CEMETERY, which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. The original battlefield cemetery of 343 graves was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery. There are now 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery, 8,369 of these are unidentified. The cemetery was designed by Sir Herbert Baker.