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Gifts for King and Country

April 9 2014

Gifts for King and Country

This ‘unknown soldier’ was part of the New Zealand Medical Corps – staff at the Kerikeri Mission Station would like to know more about him and other unidentified comrades in arms.

Do you recognise this man?

The photo of this New Zealand World War I Medical Corps soldier is just one of several in the Kemp House collection, though staff have no information about him – or many of his brothers-in-arms whose photos are also in the collection.

“We would love to hear from anybody who might be able to identify this particular soldier or any of his mates – and who might even be able to provide information about them and their possible connection to Kemp House,” says the Kerikeri Mission Station’s Visitor Services Coordinator, Katrina Matete.

The photos of the soldiers came to light as part of preparation for a new exhibition in the Stone Store Attic – Gifts for King and Country: Ernest Kemp WWI Exhibition.

Ernest – the great grandson of missionaries James and Charlotte Kemp, who helped establish the Mission Station in 1819 – served in the Mounted Rifles Brigade in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine during the First World War. In 1974, at the age of 86, he generously gifted Kemp House to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

“Ernest was literally one of thousands of young New Zealand men and women who left their families and homes to serve overseas,” says Katrina.

“As New Zealand prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I we felt it was appropriate to highlight his war experiences as part of that commemoration – particularly in light of his later service of gifting his family’s home to the nation.”

Ernest joined up on January 3, 1917 and in November that year headed off to Egypt on His Majesty’s Troopship No. 98 – otherwise known as SS Tofua.

During the war he saw active service in the army against the Turks at Jisr ed Damieh crossing on the River Jordan, as well as the capture of Es Salt, Suweilch and Amman.

“Ernest was affected by the heat and unsanitary conditions of the area, and contracted malaria. Eventually he was invalided back to New Zealand in late December 1918, and arrived back home in March 1919 where he was discharged from military service,” says Katrina.

“Ernest returned home to sheep farming at Cape Runaway, and the exhibition also covers this part of his life along with his war service, his family life and eventual retirement at his family home in Kerikeri – which also happens to be the country’s oldest building.”

The exhibition will feature framed photographs from the Kemp House collection including images of Ernest’s cadet training at Wanganui Collegiate through to his war service, which follows his journey through the Middle East while also looking at the 31st Reinforcements Mounted Rifles Brigade.

Gifts for King and Country: Ernest Kemp WWI Exhibition runs April 24-May 12. Admission to the exhibition is $5 per person. Access to the exhibition plus guided tour of Kemp House is $10 per person.

If you have any information on the soldier in this photograph please contact Katrina Matete at


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