6/666 J. A. Kjaer N.Z.E.F.

14-15 Star, british War Medal and Victory Medal to 6/666 Private Jens Andreas Kjaer
Canterbury Infantry Battalion (Main Body)
Killed in action at Gallipoli between 25th april - 3rd May 1915 

 

 

Early life:

Jens Andreas Kjar was born at Algade 12, Nykoebing Mors, Denmark, on March 30th 1881.
His father was rope maker Peter Thomsen Kjaer, born in Mors, Thy, Denmark on March 30th 1826.
His mother was Mariane Jensen Oigaard, born in Nykoebing Mors, Denmark on March 11th 1844. (8)


Jens was christened in Nykoebing Church June 12th 1881. (8)


Jens was the youngest with three elder sisters (Marie Birgith (b. 1869), Ane Katrine (b. 1874), Petra Marie (b. 1877)), as well as three elder brothers (Thomas (b. 1866), Marius (b. 1868), Lars Christian (b. 1873). In 1880, a year before Jens was born; the family lived and worked (rope making business) at Algade 12 in Nykoebing Mors. With them lived a rope maker, two rope maker apprentices and a servant boy. (6)


In 1890, Jens lived with his parents and his elder sister Petra and Brother Lars at the same address. With them lived two rope makers and an apprentice. (7)


Jens was confirmed in Nykoebing Church on April 28th 1895. (8)


On May 19th 1896, Jens’ father Peter Thomsen Kjaer hanged himself. He was 70 years old at the time of his suicide. He was buried three days later. (8)


What impact this had on Jens and his family will probably never be known.


On September 20th 1899, Jens’ mother Mariane Jensen Oigaard died, 55 years old. (8)


Leaving Denmark for South Africa:

The death of his mother Mariane, probably influenced Jens’ future decisions. Not much were holding him and his brother Lars from leaving Denmark.
On March 23rd 1900, Jens (now a machinist), his brother Lars (a machinist engineer) and his wife Emma left Denmark, sailing for Cape Town, South Africa. (9)
 

What Jens were up to during his first years in South Africa, is not known.

According to an article with the headline: "BUCKETS OF DIAMONDS.", in Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XLI, 25 April 1914, Page 9, his brother Lars Thomsen Kjaer, working as a mining engineer, were digging for diamonds from his arrival in South Africa, until he left for Australia 14 years later!
Maybe Jens was digging for diamonds as well? (3)


What I do know is that Jens enlisted with the Duke of Edinburgh's Own Rifles (Volunteers) in 1903. He served as a part-time volunteer in that outfit for 2 ¾ years. (5)
 

Between 1903 and 1906, the regiment, like the other Cape Colony part-time volunteer units, carried out normal peacetime activities, i.e. shooting parades and drills. They were presented with a King's Colour, by the king's sister Princess Christian, in October 1904, and they celebrated their 50th anniversary in November 1905. In August 1906, they and the other Cape Town units were deployed for about three weeks to help the police suppress widespread rioting in Cape Town. (4)


I presume Jens left South Africa about the same time as his brother, that be in the beginning of 1914. How he ended up in New Zealand, I do not know. But he was employed at a mining company in Hotikita in 1914.

 

Joining New Zeland Expeditionary Force: (1) + (2)

Jens attested at Hokitika on August 14th 1914 for the New Zeland Expeditionary Force.
His last employer was Montezuma Ltd., a mining company at Hokitika.
He was 35 years and 5 months old, 5 feet 8 inches and weighing 168 lb.
His chest measured 35 ½ inches at minimum and 41 ½ inches at maximum.
His complexion was light, eyes were grey, hair was brown and his religion was “Lutheran”.
Beside defective teeth and a defective right eye, he was in pristine condition.


This was also proven by a note in Grey River Argus , 27 May 1915, Page 5:

"Another member of the Westland contingent included in the list of the missing on Tuesday was Private A J Kjaer. He was a Dane and was known by the sobriquet of K Jam. He was a magnificient stamp of manhood, and when passed at Hokitika, the medical officer stated he was the finest steamp of a man that had come forward for examination." (10)


On september 15th 1914, Jens wrote a rather moving letter to his sister in Denmark:


Regimental Institute

15 September 1914


Dear Brothers & Sisters

I believe that it is my duty to write to you, for blood is thicker than water, to let you know that I am yet amongst the living, and comfortable under the circumstances.
I hope that you will not be brought into the war, and that all will be well with you. I am now a English soldier, and am amongst volounteers. There were so many young men that I knew who went away to the war that I thought it was my duty to go with them, for a man should fight for the country where he earns his bread.
I do not know where we are going, but we are going to Sea in two days time, and we sail under secret orders. In case I should die you will be informed, and I have given the Military Authorities your name, and place of birth, so that you can get my money if I should get shot. I am writing my name in English - Jim A. Kjaer - i am also writing Louise in case your address is not correct. I must now close. We have not much ime. You must keep this letter and show it in case it is necessary, because of my name in English.


Best wishes and remembrances to you all.


Your loving brother,

Jens

As a part of 13th (North Canterbury and Westland) Regiments, Canterbury Infantry Battalion (Main body), Jens embarked on Atltenic (H.M.N.Z.T. No. 11) on September 23rd 1914. The two transports Atltenic and Tahiti left the Lyttleton Harbour on October 2nd, arriving at Wellington the next day.

Here the troops were taken ashore for daily exercises and training on the outskirts of Wellington, while living on the ships.

The escort ships arrived on October 14th and the convoy formed up, and left Wellington on October 16th 1914.

Although limited space onboard, the time was spend with physical training, musketry and drills.
The convoy reached Hobart on October 22nd and Albany on October 28th where most of the Australian transports, where found awaiting.

On the morning of November 1st the Australian and New Zealand transports left Albany. The convoy whit Atltenic arrived at Colombo on November 15th, and Aden on November 25th.

At this time the order was received that the Australian and New Zealand Expeditionary Forces were not to go direct to France, but would land at Alexandria and would complete their training in Egypt.

The convoy arrived at Alexandria on December 3rd, and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was ordered to camp at Zeitoun, four miles from Cairo.

Here the time was spent with drills and field training, which hardened up the condition of the men, after a long transport.


First action:

On January 25th 1915 news were received that the Turks were advancing on the Suez Canal.

The Auckland and Canterbury Battalions being sent to Ismailia, on Lake Timsah, midway between Port Said and Suez, to support the 11th Indian Division.


Jens with 13th Regiment Company and two platoons of the 1st Regiment Company were stationed at El Ferdan.


On February 2nd the enemy made an attack. At 7 a.m. a Turkish Battery of four small guns opened fire on the Signal Station, finding the range immediately; they hit the buildings several times. At this juncture H.M.S. Clio came up and silenced the batteries, though she was hit three times in so doing. The action was ended at 1 p.m.

Similar attacks was seen along the line, but after three days of fighting, the Turks retreated.

This was the first action for Jens Andreas Kjaer.


The Canterbury Infantry Battalion remained n the Canal area, until it returned to Zeitoun on February 26th 1915.

The 4th Australian Infantry Brigade had arrived in Egypt in the meantime, and had been included in the New Zealand and Australian Division.


Field training and practises on a larger scale intensified. Meanwhile it was guessed that an offensive against the Turks was being planned.

 
Gallipoli:

After som constructive critique from from a British Medal Forum member, I have chosen to revise this chapter. I have relied heavily on The History of the Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1914 - 1919.
 

The 12th and 13th Companies left for Alexandria before the rest of the Canterbury Battalion, entraining at Palais de Koubbeh station on April 9th, and embarking on the Itonus the same day. Battalion Headquarters and the 1st and 2nd Companies entrained at Helmieh station on the 10th, and embarked on the Lutzow the next day.

When the New Zealand and Australian Division arrived at Murdos, the general plan for the attack was given to the Divisional Staff.

The time at Mudros was spent in company and battalion training ashore, and in practising boat drill with a view to the landing.


The orders for the attack on the Peninsula provided that the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps should land at "Z" Beach, between Gaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut, and capture the ridge over which ran the Gallipoli-Maidos and Boghali-Koja Dere roads. The Australian Division was to land before the New Zealand and Australian Division, and was to provide a party, consisting of the 3rd Australian Brigade, to effect the first landing, and to cover the disembarkation of the remainder of the Corps.


I have decided to include the war diary of the Canterbury Battalion, from the landing on April 25th to the attack on Baby 700 on May 3rd 1915:


April 25th 1915

At 4.30 am on April 25th 1915, the first wave of Australians landed at what was later to be called ANZAC Cove.
The Headquarters and 1st and 2nd Companies of the Canterbury Battalion, went ashore at 12.30 p.m. The transport carrying the 12th and 13th Companies did not arrive at its anchorage off Anzac till 5 p.m., and these companies on landing were immediately dispatched to the lower slopes of Walker's Ridge, which they reached at about 9.30 p.m. The night was spent in consolidating the position under heavy fire and in the face of several infantry attacks.
 

6/666 Pte. Jens Andreas Kjaer was killed in action between April 25th and May 3rd 1915, at the Gallipoli Peninsula. Exactly when and how Jens died, will probably never be known.
Originally he was reported as missing in action between April 25th and May 3rd – this was on May 20th 1915. He was later presumed killed in action on May 3rd – this was on July 23rd 1915.

Jens was mentioned as missing in Grey River Argus, May 24th 1915, Evening Post, May 24th 1915 and again in Evening Post, August 2nd 1915, as believed killed in action.
 

The first days of the Gallipoli campaign were confused and disorganised. Units had become mixed up and was soldiers fighting all over the place, sometimes alongside Australians but mostly with other New Zealanders.
Therefor it took some time to get things reorganized and estaplished who were missing and killed in action - this was made possible in early May 1915.
 

As I've learned, many were simply recorded as missing between April 25th and May 3rd. Many was later accounted for, but those who died with no eyewitness account was presumed to have died between April 25th and May 3rd.
For many years these were the dates given by Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the NZ Defence Department. Over the years, however, May 3rd has become the established date for casualties with no specific death date of death, and the specifics of whose death remain unknown.
 

My opinion is, that Jens were killed before May 3rd - probably between April 25th and April 27th. He probably met his end at Baby 700 or the so-called Second Ridge (which later became infamous for Quinn's, Courtenay's and Steele's Posts).
 

April 26th 1915
During the morning of April 26th the whole of the Canterbury Battalion was concentrated on Walker's Ridge, and the companies were re-organised as well as possible, though there were still numbers of the men of the battalion astray with other battalions.


April 27th 1915
On April 27th the Canterbury Battalion was ordered to take over the remainder of Walker's Ridge from the 2nd Australian Battalion.
The day passed quietly in the Canterbury Battalion's sector; though enemy snipers were very active, and could not be located.


April 28th 1915
On the morning of April 28th, the 1st Company relieved the 13th Company, a platoon of which was sent out to bury about fifty Australians, whose bodies were lying on the beach near Fisherman's Hut. Immediately the platoon left the trenches it came under heavy and accurate fire from enemy snipers. And having lost two killed and three wounded, it was ordered by the Commanding Officer of the Battalion to return.


April 29th 1915

At 2 a.m. on April 29th, a false alarm of an enemy attack along the beach, on the left flank, roused the whole battalion. Otherwise the day passed without incident.


May 1st 1915

On May 1st reports from airmen had led the Staff to believe that the enemy were placing guns on the hill above Nibrunesi Point, south of the salt lake at Suvla Bay, and the Canterbury Battalion was ordered to supply a party to destroy the emplacements and guns.


May 2nd 1915

At 4.40 a.m. on May 2nd, Captain Cribb with two subalterns and fifty men of the 13th Company, and Captain F. Waite and two sappers of the New Zealand Engineers, embarked on the destroyer Colne and were landed at the Point.


The force was divided into three parties, of which one worked round each side of the hill and a third went straight up a nullah towards the top. About two hundred yards from the top this party came on a trench containing a party of sleeping Turks, who on awaking attempted to resist. Three were killed and four wounded, and the remainder surrendered. The locality was then thoroughly searched, but no sign of guns or emplacements was found. The force thereupon re-embarked with fifteen prisoners, and returned to Anzac without having suffered any casualties.


The general position at Anzac was now much the same as on the day of the landing. Numerous Turkish counter-attacks had failed to break the line at any point; but many of the positions hastily taken up on the day of the landing were not well sited or suitable either for defence or for jumping-off places for new attacks. The trenches of the Australian Division, in particular, being sited on the southeastern side of Shrapnel and Monash Gullies, were difficult and dangerous to approach, as they were enfiladed from a hill to the north-east, known as Baby 700. It was from this hill that most of the Turkish counter-attacks had been launched; while numerous machine-guns in its strong defences swept the top of the ridge, on the south-west slopes of which lay the Australian trenches.


The attack was timed to begin at 7.15 p.m. on May 2nd. The capture of Baby 700 was assigned to the New Zealand Brigade, and the task of the 4th Australian Brigade was to make good a line connecting Baby 700 with the left flank of Quinn's Post—the latter being the left flank of the Australian Division. The Naval Brigade was held in reserve.
The Otago Battalion was ordered to lead the attack of the New Zealand Brigade, with the Canterbury Battalion in support and the Auckland Battalion in reserve. The Wellington Battalion was to hold the trenches of the Brigade on Walker's Ridge.


At 7 p.m. the Turkish positions were heavily bombarded by the guns of the fleet and the guns on shore. This bombardment lasted for a quarter of an hour. At 7.15 p.m., the 16th Battalion, on the right of the 4th Australian Brigade, advanced under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire to the objectives assigned to it, and dug in there. On its left, the 13th Battalion also advanced; but as it had received orders to move in touch with the Otago Battalion, and the latter had not yet arrived, the left flank of the 13th Battalion was held back, while its right advanced.


The Otago Battalion had left Walker's Ridge at 4.30 p.m. and had moved along the beach with the object of advancing up Shrapnel and Monash Gullies and attacking from Pope's Hill. But the battalion was delayed. Whatever the reasons, the battalion did not reach Pope's Hill till an hour and a half late, on an occasion where punctuality was essential for success.


The Otago Battalion attacked Baby 700 at once; but it had lost the benefit not only of the artillery bombardment, but also of the co-operation of the 4th Australian Brigade. It was met by a withering fire from machine-guns and rifles in the trenches on Baby 700, and was held up one hundred yards from its objective. There the battalion lay down, opened fire, and began to dig in. Troops of the 4th Australian Brigade moved up and established touch with Otago's right flank; and one Australian company actually reached the Turkish trenches, but could not bold them, and had to return to the general line established by its Brigade. The firing line on the Divisional front at 11 p.m. had its right flank resting on Quinn's Post, and from there curved towards the enemy till it was three hundred yards forward of Pope's Hill. From this point the line curved back again towards our line, the left flank of the Otago Battalion being a hundred and fifty yards forward of Pope's Hill.


The Canterbury Battalion, though in support of Otago, had been ordered to assemble at 7.50 p.m. at the headquarters of the Wellington Battalion, on the south-west slopes of Walker's Ridge. The 1st Company, in the lead, was ordered to move up to the advanced trenches of the Wellington Battalion, and to hold itself in readiness to move up on the left of the Otago Battalion, when the latter had taken its objective. On Otago arriving and moving forward, the 1st Company also advanced, but found the slopes from Baby 700 to Walker's Ridge strongly held by the enemy.


The ground was at this time covered with heavy scrub, and the only approach from Walker's Ridge against Baby 700 was a saddle called "The Nek," a razor-edge over which only one man could cross at a time. Captain Gresson, in command of the company, went back to make a personal report to the Brigadier and received direct orders to advance no further. The company was in an exposed position, and on the moon beginning to rise, Captain Gresson decided to withdraw to the Wellington trenches. The company reached the trenches without casualties.


May 3rd 1915

In consequence of the reports received from the 1st Company. the Brigadier ordered the remainder of the battalion to stand by and await further instructions. It therefore remained behind Walker's Ridge till 3 a.m. on the 3rd, when it was ordered to dig communication trenches up to the Otago Battalion's new positions. Very few tools were available, but about 4 a.m. Captain Critchley-Salmonson reported to the Commanding Officer of the Otago Battalion with about fifty men, and was ordered to prolong the left of the line. The remainder of the working parties went astray: some of the 1st Company page under Lieutenant H. Stewart, and a platoon of the 13th Company under Lieutenant Shepherd, eventually reached the Otago line; but a party of two hundred and fifty men under Lieutenant Stitt was held in Monash Gully by order of the Officer Commanding the 4th Australian Brigade, who forbade any more troops to come down the Gully, owing to the approach being enfiladed by machine-guns. This party apparently. also reached the firing line later: at all events Lieutenant Stitt and a number of men joined forces with Lieutenant Stewart's party.


Dawn was now approaching, and the enemy, who had brought up machine-guns during the night, opened a heavy enfilade fire with rifles and machine-guns upon the trenches of the Otago Battalion. Two companies of the Nelson Battalion (Royal Naval Division) had by this time reinforced Otago; but about 5 a.m. most of the garrison of the line had to withdraw to the trenches from which the attack was launched. Small parties of the Otago Battalion still held on in the advanced trenches, but they were compelled to retire during the day; although one party held out for two days, until it was ordered to cut its way out. The 13th Australian Battalion also held its trenches till nightfall on the 3rd, when it was withdrawn to the old line.


Thus the result of the attack was no ground gained: and though it was claimed that heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy.

 

Jens’ next of kin, was his sister Marie Iversen. After the war she was sent the plaque, scroll and Jens’ medals (1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-19 and Victory Medal.)


I believe that Jens was one of the first Danish born Commonwealth soldiers to be killed in action. 

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