Topic: Private Hursey Lawrence Rapley

Topic type:

A soldier of the Great War killed in action during the battle for Messines.

Private Hursey Lawrence Rapley - 31534    Rapley, Hursey Lawrence 

Hursey was born 16 October 1895 at Ellesmere, son of Joshua and Mary Jane Rapley. He was brought up and educated at Lakeside and was well and favourably known throughout the district. Before enlisting he was working as a labourer for James Lee of Christchurch. Just before he embarked he was the guest at a social in the Lakeside School and was presented with a pair of military hair brushes. At similar occasion also at Lakeside, he was presented with a tobacco pouch. He had previous military experience having served with the 13th Regiment, the North Canterbury. He was 5ft 11½ in tall with a fair complexion, blue-grey eyes and red hair.

He enlisted 24th July 1916 and was assigned to the Canterbury Infantry Regiment , 19th Reinforcements, C Company. He was promoted to Lance Corporal at Featherstone camp on 4 August.  He was one of those who suffered illness at Featherstone camp falling ill with influenza and was admitted to hospital for four days on 17th August 1916.  He did not recover completely for he was also hospitalised for influenza when back at Trentham in September, this time for 5 days. However he recovered and was able to embark for the front on 15 November 1916 from Wellington, arriving in England on 29th January. He marched into Sling Camp on the same day and was reduced to the rank of Private. He proceeded overseas on 1st March and was added to the strength at Etaples on 3rd March 1916. On 25th May he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment. He was killed in action on 7 June 1917 during the battle for Messines, aged 22.  In New Zealand he is remembered on the Leeston Plaque of the Ellesmere County War Memorial and on the Ashburton War Memorial. He is also named on the Lakeside Roll of Honour.     

Researched and written by L M Seaton              

CWGC Cemetery locale history: Messines (now Mesen) was considered a strong strategic position, not only from its height above the plain below, but from the extensive system of cellars under the convent known as the 'Institution Royale'. The village was taken from the 1st Cavalry Division by the German 26th Division on 31 October-1 November 1914. An attack by French troops on 6 -7 November was unsuccessful and it was not until the Battle of Messines on 7 June 1917 that it was retaken by the New Zealand Division. On 10-11 April 1918, the village fell into German hands once more after a stubborn defence by the South African Brigade, but was retaken for the last time on 28-29 September 1918. The MESSINES RIDGE (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL stands within Messines Ridge British Cemetery and commemorates over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died in or near Messines in 1917 and 1918 and who have no known grave. This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died. MESSINES RIDGE BRITISH CEMETERY, in which this memorial stands, occupies ground that belonged to the 'Institution Royale'. It was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefield around Messines and from a number of small burial grounds in the area. The dates of death of those buried here range from October 1914 to October 1918, but the majority died in the fighting of 1917. There are now 1,531 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 954 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate a number of casualties known or believed to be buried among them, or who were buried in other cemeteries where their graves were destroyed by shell fire. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Charles Holden.

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Private Hursey Lawrence Rapley


First Names:Hersey Lawrence
Last Name:Rapley
Date of Birth:16 October 1895
Place of Birth:Ellesmere
Date of Death:7 June 1917
Place of Death:Messines, Belgium
Memorial or Cemetery:Messines Ridge Memorial to the Missing
Age at death:22
User Name:L M Seaton
Other names known by:First name spelt Hursey on Ellesmere Memorial
Occupation before enlisting:Labourer
Marital Status:Single
Regiment or Service:Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 2nd Battalion
Enlistment details:24 July 1916
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of Joshua and Mary Jane Rapley, of High St., Leeston, Canterbury. Later 106 Peter Street, Ashburton, New Zealand
Service Number:31534
Rank last held:Private
Embarkation:15 November 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Maunganui or Tahiti
Theatres of War:Western Front
Cause of Death:Killed in action
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Private Hursey Lawrence Rapley by Selwyn Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License