Sunday, 7 June 2015

Today 98 years ago - James Baird an almost forgotten All Black died at Messines

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1917 - No known copyright restrictions
On June 7, 1917 at 3:10am New Zealand and Irish divisions fought alongside Australian and British troops at the Battle of Messines Ridge in Flanders, Belgium. The battle was considered one of the few Allied successes. The losses were significant. The NZ division suffered almost 3,700 casualties (killed, missing and wounded). Of the 700 Kiwi soldiers killed in action, three were All Blacks: George Sellars, James (Jim) McNeece and Reginald (Reg) Taylor.
     The fourth All Black to die as a result of that battle, James Baird, died from wounds (abdomen penetration wound) the same day. He was in the 4th Company of the 1st Bn Otago Infantry, in the first wave of the attacking New Zealanders. He was brought to the australian 1st Casual Clearing Station at Bailleul (Belle in Flemish)
just over the border in France. he died there later that day and was buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, .
I suggest, James was wounded by artillery fire and moved to the 1st Australian casualty clearing station in Bailleul, with the intention of then moving him to the base hospital at St Omer. 

James was aged only 23 when he died. Too young some would argue to be an All Black but most would agree - too young to die. As the ANZACs took the town of Messines itself as a result of the battle, the Irish took the town of Wijtschaete just a few kilometres further round the ridge.

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