Island Bay - Doug Dibley

Doug Dibley answered an advertisement for medical helpers and was sent to the Front. He was New Zealand's longest surviving Gallipoli veteran.

 

Alfred Douglas Dibley, known as Doug, was born in Wellington in 1896. He grew up in the Southern Bays, and attended Island Bay School.

As World War One entered its second year in 1915, Doug was working as a Clerk for Vacuum Oil Company, a predecessor of Mobil.

Joining the New Zealand Medical Corps

By the end of that year the number of New Zealand men volunteering to serve abroad was dwindling.

Doug answered an advertisement calling for medical helpers at Trentham Military Camp in Upper Hutt, where soldiers from the Wellington region were trained before sailing overseas.

Instead, he found himself on his way to Turkey as a member of the New Zealand Medical Corps.

Doug was lucky – he arrived in Gallipoli not long before the ANZAC evacuation, escaping the disastrous attempts to take Chunuk Bair and Hill 60 in August 1915. Like the other survivors of the Gallipoli campaign, in December of that year stretcher-bearer Doug was transferred to Egypt. In Egypt, Doug was posted to the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade.

Illness and discharge

When the focus of the fighting shifted to Europe, many of the New Zealand soldiers who had been in North Africa were transferred to France. Doug went with them, but in April 1917 he was recorded as being in St Omer hospital, “dangerously ill” with cerebrospinal meningitis. This disease was common among soldiers and often proved fatal.

Doug survived, but he had several relapses. In August 1917 he was well enough to be transferred to Hornchurch Convalescent Hospital in Essex, England.

However, the after-effects of his illness meant he was no longer fit for active service. Doug returned to New Zealand at the start of 1918, arriving in Auckland with a large contingent of other wounded soldiers on 3 January.

No one wins in the end.

Doug Dibley

New Zealand's last surviving Gallipoli veteran

Doug married Susannah Karl, and took over her father’s farm in Rotorua, where they raised eleven children.

When Doug died in 1997 at the age of 101, he was New Zealand’s last surviving Gallipoli veteran. Of his experience of war, he said simply: “No one wins in the end”.

Find out more

  • Details of New Zealand soldiers’ activity in World War One can be found by examining their digitised defence personnel file, most of which can be accessed online via the Archives NZ catalogue.
  • More information about Doug can be found on his individual record page on Auckland Museum’s Cenotaph Database.
  • A partial transcription of a 1997 interview with the 100-year-old Doug is available at Nga Taonga.
  • An account of the ANZACs’ involvement in the WWI Gallipoli campaign can be found on NZHistory.net.

Image references

  1. Photo from: Alfred Dougles Dibley, individual personnel record, Cenotaph Database.
  2. Wellington District Education Board Class Schedule, Island Bay School, 1904. Accessible at Archives NZ.
  3. ‘An Urgent Call: Men Wanted’, Dominion, 1915. Accessed on Papers Past.
  4. 'A Call For Local Men', Feilding Star, 1915. Accessed on Papers Past.
  5. Daroux, James Henry, 1870-1943. Looking over the Military Camp at Trentham. Calvert, L (Mr), fl 1963: Postcards. Ref: PAColl-5749-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  6. Dibley’s indication of his intention to serve only in NZ, from his Defence Personnel Record, digitised and accessible online via Archives NZ.
  7. Probably a photograph of the ANZAC Mounted Division, or the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade. The place is either in Egypt or Palestine. Photographed by an unknown photographer some time between 1916 and 1918. Photograph of mounted New Zealand Soldiers. Powles family: Photographs. Ref: PAColl-5268-2-3-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  8. Dibley’s sickness record, from his Defence Personnel Record, digitised and accessible online via Archives NZ.
  9. General view of the hospital and grounds of Grey Towers, the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch, England, during World War I. Shows patients undertaking physical training in the background. Two rows of marquees appear in the foreground. Photograph taken circa 1918 by Thomas Frederick Scales. Accessed on DigitalNZ.org.
  10. ‘Home from the war’, New Zealand Herald, 1918. Accessed on Papers Past.
  11. Doug Dibley, photograph Nicola Topping, New Zealand Herald. Photo from Alfred Douglas Dibley, individual personnel record, Cenotaph Database.