Newtown - Norman Cummins

Norman Cummins served in German Samoa and Egypt, before losing his life in the Somme in 1916.

 

Norman was born in Wellington on the 10th of April, 1893. He lived in Drummond St in Newtown.

In 1902, Norman was in Standard 2 at Newtown School. When his class had its end-of-year examination on reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic, Norman was away sick.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Norman was working as a packer at the Wellington branch of Alexander Cowan & Sons, paper merchants.

Norman signed up to fight with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force five days after war was declared, on the 9th of August 1914.

Occupation of German Samoa

He was one of the 1374 soldiers who formed the NZEF advance party that took German Samoa in the first month of the war.

He asked to be discharged from the army on his return to Wellington in April 1915. He was well known in the athletic world being a prominent member of the Brooklyn Harriers and the winner of many championships in 1915, including the Wellington Provincial Championship.

In October 1915 he volunteered to serve once more.

Egypt and the Somme

This time Norman went to Egypt, with the 9th Reinforcements. He was a member of the Otago Infantry Battalion, D company. He sailed from Wellington on 8 January 1916 in the troopship Maunganui.

He sailed for France on board the Llandovery Castle, bound for the Somme.

Four months later, Norman became one of 1500 New Zealand soldiers to die in the Somme. He was killed in the September offensive on the first day of fighting, and was only 23 years old.

When news of this reached Wellington, in respect of his memory a proposed Marathon Race in connection with athletic sports at the Basin Reserve was abandoned.

Norman is remembered by the Caterpillar Valley war memorial in France for New Zealanders who lost their lives in the Somme in WWI.

Find out more

  • Norman is one of the ‘Berry Boys’, around 120 New Zealand soldiers who had their photo taken at the Berry & Co. photography studio in Cuba Street, Wellington, before heading overseas to fight in World War One.
  • 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 on the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s movements in the Pacific and the capture of German-occupied Samoa can be found on NZHistory.net.
  • Information on the New Zealand Division’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme can be found on NZHistory.net.

Image references

  1. 'Norman Cummins', Berry & Co Photographers. 1916-1917, Te Papa. See Norman's individual page on the Te Papa website.
  2. Newtown, Wellington, with Mein Street and Newtown School. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/1-020029-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  3. Wellington District Education Board Class Schedule, Newtown School, 1902. Accessible at Archives NZ.
  4. Alexander Cowan and Sons watermark.
  5. New Zealand ships, Apia, Samoa, during World War 1. Willis, Ida Grace: Photographs of NZEF in Samoa and Belgium. Ref: 1/2-148889-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  6. World War 1 New Zealand troops in Samoa. Ref: 1/2-066851-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  7. Norman’s certificate of discharge, from his Defence Personnel Record, digitised and accessible online via Archives NZ.
  8. Troopship Maunganui, HMNZT 49, Wellington Harbour. Dickie, John, 1869-1942 :Collection of postcards, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-014623-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  9. New Zealand soldiers on their way to the trenches of the Somme. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013109-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
  10. New Zealand Division war memorial, Caterpillar Valley, France. New Zealand War Graves.
  11. Excerpt from Free Lance, 'The Sports Roll of Honour', 13 October 1916. Accessed via Papers Past.
  12. Excerpt from Evening Post, 'New Zealand's Roll of Honour', 15 September 1920. Accessed via Papers Past.