Roseneath - Hugh (Decimus) Bridge

The youngest of ten brothers, Hugh (Deci) enlisted in 1916. He survived Passchendaele in 1917, but lost his life in action a month later.

 

Hugh was born in Wellington in 1890. He was the youngest of ten brothers, a fact that gave him his middle name and nickname, ‘Deci’. They grew up in Oriental Bay, where Hugh attended Roseneath School.

He was a member of the Wellington Football Club and of the Star Boating Club, and sang with the Wellington Operatic Society, where he met his wife, Joyce Jackson.

Joyce and Hugh were married in Wellington on the 9th of April, 1914, four months before World War One began on the 4th of August. They lived in Queen’s Drive in Lyall Bay.

Enlistment

It is probably because of his marriage that Hugh did not immediately enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, unlike his brother Lance, who signed up in the first week of the war, and his other brothers Cyprian and Lionel, who began active service in September 1915.

When Cyprian and Lionel had been gone a year, however, Hugh left his newborn daughter Audrey Leonore (known as “Peggy”) and his job as a clerk at the company that would become Guthrie Bowron, and sailed for England as a member of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

He disembarked in Devonport on the 21st of November, 1916, and marched into Sling Camp.

...it was really Hell.

Hugh Bridge

In a letter to his uncle after the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917

Passchendaele

When he left for the Front on May 26, 1917, it was to join the New Zealand troops who would die in such great numbers in the Belgian mud in the Battle of Passchendaele on October 12.

Hugh wrote to Joyce about the battle, being careful to leave out any details that he thought “would make [her] hair stand on end”, and noting merely that “never before has there been so many casualties to NZers”. In another letter to his uncle in London he confessed that “to those at home” he had “made light of everything but it was really Hell”.

Hugh’s letter to Joyce after Passchendaele reassured her that her “old man [was] safe and sound and there is no doubt will be home with you and Peg [their daughter] one of these bright days.” Little more than a month later, Hugh was dead, killed by sniper fire. He was 27 years old.

Hugh is buried in Belgium, in Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, West-Flandaaren. He is remembered on the memorial outside Roseneath School, along with his brother, Lance.

Bridge family archives

 

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.
  • Information about New Zealand soldiers’ involvement in the Passchendaele Offensive can be found on the New Zealand Passchendaele Society.

Image references

  1. Smythe, Audrey Leonore: World War One correspondence of Hugh Decimus Bridge, 1916-1918 , fl 1976-1992; New Zealand. Army. NZEF. New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Bridge, Hugh Decimus, 1890-1917 Ref: MS-Papers-4689.
  2. Oriental Bay, Wellington. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948: Collection of post card negatives. Ref: 1/2-000513-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  3. Wellington District Education Board Class Schedule, Roseneath School, 1904, accessible at Archives NZ.
  4. Star Boating Club, Wellington. Jeffares, Isaac Henry Bowen, 1868-1936: Photographs. Ref: 1/2-080675-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. From Hugh Bridge’s digitised defence personnel record.
  6. Smythe, Audrey Leonore: World War One correspondence of Hugh Decimus Bridge, 1916-1918 , fl 1976-1992; New Zealand. Army. NZEF. New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Bridge, Hugh Decimus, 1890-1917 Ref: MS-Papers-4689.
  7. Sling Camp, Salisbury Plain, England, during World War 1. Johnson, Margaret :Collection of photographs and postcards of assorted subjects. Ref: PAColl-6129-02. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 
  8. New Zealand military hospital at Codford, England, during World War 1. Fry, Patricia Susan, 1924- :Photographs and postcards from World War I. Ref: 1/2-092196-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 
  9. An advanced New Zealand headquarters known as the Capitol, Ypres Salient. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-012927-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 
  10. Photo from NZHistory.net.
  11. Photo from NZHistory.net