James Kay Horsfield
He was the grand-father I never knew. He died fighting in the Battle of the Somme in France, aged 40, on my mother’s 9th birthday, 12th October 1917.
Like the 1915 invasion of the Gallip0li peninsula in Turkey by the Anzacs, it was militarily unsuccessful, and resulted in the tragic loss of 1.5 million Allied force lives.
This photograph of my grandfather, shows that as a young man I had a strong physical resemblance to him. Despite not ever having known him, I identify with him and grieve his passing and the hardship it brought to his young widow as she struggled to support three young children on her own.
He married my maternal grandmother I understand as a result of a shipboard romance when they both migrated at the turn of the century to Auckland, New Zealand. He subsequently found work as a book-keeper/accountant for a mining company in the very north of the South Island, some distance from Nelson, but proved to be a poor provider for his young family due to a drinking habit.
Sadly it also led him into minor larceny on a couple of occasions. The first time he was cautioned but after a second offence, he received a short custodial sentence.
At the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment. Before leaving London for action in France his war record documents that he disobeyed military protocol, going awol to visit his family at Evesham in South England not having seen them for many years. It was the last time he saw them.
The Anzac Meme
No two Australians/ New Zealanders will observe Anzac Day for the same reason. Time dims the memory of those war events more than a century ago. For some of us the memory of someone who did fight will make the day a significant one.
For us all however, it is an occasion to honour the many who put their lives at risk in the Armed Services.
My grand-father may not have been a perfect New Zealand citizen, or a particularly good husband and father, but I have no doubt that he loved both his family and his country, and was prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice in dying for them. He deserves my utmost respect and honour for this. I just hope that I would do what he did in such circumstances.
In my opinion this is the Anzac meme which I trust we will never forget. To fight against the odds in even in the most impossible circumstances, putting our own lives at risk.