Parliamentarians in two world wars
A number of New Zealand members of Parliament died while on active service in the two world wars that are commemorated on Anzac Day, 25 April.
As an MP observed upon the deaths of three MPs in 1941, Parliament would not want ‘to ask anything of the people which Parliament is not willing to undertake itself’ (NZPD, vol 261, 1941, p. 14).
In the First World War five members of the House of Representatives served – W H D Bell, J G Coates, J B Hine, T E Y Seddon and W D Stewart. Bell resigned his place in the House; the others retained their seats. Seddon and Stewart, who were from opposite sides of the House, ‘paired’ for the duration of the war so that their absence would not affect voting numbers. One member of the Legislative Council, W E Collins, also served.
Bell accompanied the New Zealand force which took possession of German Samoa before joining the British Army in France. He was killed in July 1917 on the Western Front. Coates was awarded the Military Cross and bar for his gallantry on the Western Front and was wounded at Passchendaele. Hine was severely wounded in Palestine. Stewart suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in Egypt and France; this invalided him back to New Zealand and crippled him for the remainder of his life.
In the Second World War some 13 MPs served during the war, four in the Home Service. They were J M Allen, J B F Cotterill, A N Grigg, J Hargest, A G Hultquist, W J Lyon, T H McCombs, T L Macdonald, R M Macfarlane, E P Meachen, C F Skinner, A F Moncur and C L Carr. A member of the Legislative Council, F Waite, also served.
Five MPs died on active service. Allen, who fought on Crete, was killed in action in Libya. Grigg, who had served in the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross, was also killed in action in Libya. Hargest died in Normandy after the D-Day invasion, having served with distinction in the First World War. In the Second World War he had served in Egypt, Greece and Crete and had escaped from a POW camp in Italy. Hultquist died of influenza after the fighting in Greece. Lyon, who had served with the British army in the First World War, was killed in action on Crete.
New Zealand’s involvement in the two world wars and the contribution made by MPs are commemorated in Parliament House. The debating chamber, first used in late 1918, was dedicated to New Zealand’s wartime contribution. Around its walls are battle wreaths and plaques carved in wood. The 12 commemorating First World War battles were installed in 1918. The remaining 18 plaques, including those commemorating the Second World War, were added in the 1960s.
In the first-floor main foyer a roll of honour plaque lists the five MPs who died in active service in the Second World War. There is also a painting of Chunuk Bair depicting the deadly struggle in 1915 over this crucial vantage point on the Gallipoli peninsula. Close by the painting is a bronze plaque commemorating Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, an inspirational leader who fell during the attack on Chunuk Bair.
Regular tours of Parliament, including on Anzac Day, are available for those who might wish to see these commemorative works. Information on tour times and contact details can be found on the Tours and Educational Visits page (See related documents).