Saturday, 8 February 2020

The Don Hosie Story

By Helen Pollock writer/ researcher and the New Zealand Military Historical Society Journal, which first published the article.

My father, Sapper Bill Young of the NZEF Signallers Corps, survived the Great War and service in WW2, but died when I was only nine.

I remember my parents talking about the Great War and sometimes about their friend Don Hosie, when I was very young (in the fifties). Their conversation might go like this…..

“Don Hosie was very tall and handsome - it was terrible that he was killed in the Great War….

He and my father went everywhere together – (they attended Kaikorai Primary School, the Dunedin Art School and went to the Kaikorai Presbyterian Church and Bible Class”.

Don Hosie was a bit older than my father and went to the war some months before him and was killed there.
Kaikorai Presbyterian Church and Bible Class c 1912
Left Bill Young (my father) 3rd left back row Don Hosie
Young Family Collection

Left: Don Hosie before sailing from New Zealand with the 23rd Reinforcements March 1917 at ‘Canvas Town’, Featherston Camp: Gordon Neill Collection

It is only relatively recently I read Don Hosie was also an architect and had won a national competition with his design for the Sargeant Gallery in Whanganui, when he was only 21.  

It is a sad story.

The Sargeant Gallery website details the story of how Don Hosie’s Dunedin employer Edmund Anscombe, claimed credit for the winning design, (entry number 16).
An enquiry was held at the time, by Hurst Seagar, (the adjudicator of the architectural competition for the design of the Sargeant Gallery), during which the young Don Hosie refused to testify against his employer: the epitome of what was considered manly and honourable behaviour at that time.
Don Hosie said he believed he would have other opportunities after the war.
Behind the scenes Hurst Seager had heard that the winning design was not in fact by Anscombe, but by his articled pupil, Donald Hosie, who was only 21 years old. Over a period of a few days there was much to-ing and fro-ing of telegrams between Hurst Seager and Anscombe in an attempt to clarify who in fact was the designer of entry number 16, but clarity did not eventuate.
Anscombe said only that the design had come from his office.
Seager resolved to visit Dunedin to interview all parties.

 Seager arrived in Dunedin on 25 October and called together the Otago branch of the
New Zealand Institute of Architects, which included G W Gough [chair], E W Walden, P Y
Wales and J Barton. Together they conducted interviews to ascertain the author of design
number 16. The committee duly reported that they ‘held four meetings and obtained what
evidence was possible under the circumstances. Owing to the extreme loyalty of Mr Hosie
to his Principal [which we heartily appreciate] we were unable to obtain from him a clear
statement of facts necessary to make the enquiry conclusive. Especially do we regret that
Mr Hosie felt compelled to refuse to answer very important questions relating to matters
of fact before he had had an opportunity of conferring with his Principal and Lawyer.’

Hosie’s reluctance to state categorically that he had been the author of the design because
he was an articled pupil, left Hurst Seager in a difficult position, especially as Anscombe
was eager to be regarded as the architect for the project.

Seager summarised Hosie’s position thus: ‘his feelings were that he was a young man and
would have his chance again, and he would rather that his name was not mentioned at all
and to let Anscombe have the credit. He did not like to feel that Anscombe should have
a chance of saying that he, Hosie, had not played the game while a pupil.’

Another complicating factor was that Hosie had been called up for army training and
service in WWI. Hurst Seager said of Hosie ‘that he is I understand, a fine manly type of
young fellow who is anxious to go to war, but although all other architects have allowed
their pupils to cancel their indentures, I understand that Mr Anscombe refused to allow Mr
Hosie to do so.’

The Mayor of Whanganui intervened (perhaps to solve embarrassment with the Whanganui Council) for Don Hosie to be held back from going to war until he had completed the working drawings. Don Hosie completed the drawings before he sailed for Europe in March 14 1917 on the Ruapehu.

His employer Edmund Anscombe ensured that Anscombe Architects was employed to oversee the construction the Sargeant Gallery, according to the design of Don Hosie.

Don Hosie became a corporal in the Otago Regiment 2 Battalion (23rd Reinforcements), and on March 14 1917, left New Zealand for the battlefields of Europe.

The foundation stone for the Sargeant Gallery, was laid in September 1917, 
just three weeks before Don Hosie was killed in action, along with 845 other young New Zealand men, attempting to cross shell holes of mud and uncut barbed wire, in the face of unremitting machine gun fire from the Germans positioned on top of Bellevue Spur, and amongst shells falling from both sides. This was within the first two hours of the Battle of Passchendaele October 12th 1917.

Corporal Don Hosie aged 22 years, was buried at Passchendaele New British Cemetery on the road to Passchendaele just past S’Gravenstafl, on Bellevue Spur, very close to where he fell.
Almost a century later, on a cold, wet and bleak day, in 2012, I visited his grave.  I wondered if any of his family from Otago on the other side of the world, had ever had the opportunity to visit.

His name is inscribed on the Kaikorai Primary School Memorial in Dunedin.

Don Hosie’s beautiful architectural drawings for his design of the Sargeant Gallery, can be seen on the Sargeant Gallery website.

The design is in the form of a Greek cross with a central sculpture hall under the dome. The gallery is constructed from brick faced with Oamaru stone with windows and walls designed to reduce the amount of direct and reflected light.

In 2012, the Sargeant Gallery won an Enduring Architecture Award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects. The jury noted: “The Sargeant Gallery, built to the design of Donald Hosie, has an outstanding reputation as one of New Zealand s finest provincial art galleries with an enduring importance in the cultural life of its city.” It currently undergoing renovations.

The Sarjeant Gallery is the only architectural work of Don Hosie.

Another poignant end to this story concerns ‘Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial’ high on the ridge of the Otago Peninsular guarding Otago Harbour. An intimate portrayal of an ordinary WW1 soldier, 3m tall atop a blue stone plinth of approximately 10m tall, stands against the skyline, astride a prominent rock formation; ‘Arthurs Seat’. The soldier, wearing a great coat and with a rifle slung over his shoulder, ‘guards’ the entrance to the harbour. It can be seen across Dunedin.

The inscription on the plaque below shows the names of 52 young men from this small farming community, so remote from the European battlefields. The inscription includes six sets of brothers!

The memorial unveiled in 1923, was designed by Dunedin architect Edward Walden, but the figure of the soldier was sculpted by Robert Hosie, the older brother of Don Hosie.


‘The Soldiers Memorial’ Otago Peninsular, Dunedin. Design Edward Walden, Sculptor Robert Hosie
Top left At the Unveiling of the ‘Soldiers Memorial’ 1923 Photo Otago Daily Times
Top right and below Photos: Helen Pollock

My sculpture, ‘Falls the Shadow‘,  was initially installed at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in 2008 for the 92nd anniversary of the signing of the Armistice.   

Falls the Shadow: Auckland War Memorial Museum 2008
Sculptor Helen Pollock
Photo Krystof Pfieffer

When I began making ‘Falls the Shadow’ back in 2007, I wrote to the then Chair of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum Trust, Freddy DeClerck to ask for clay from the Battlefield of Passchendaele which I intended to fuse with ‘rough unprocessed clay’ from New Zealand. He responded to my request for clay with these words:

“In fact we have local brickworks and they are digging in the vicinity of the place where the New Zealand soldiers were waiting in the fields; the night before the attack of 12/10/1917.
We have dug the clay out of the ground where the brickworks are now.
On this(sic) fields have been the Canterbury and Otago soldiers the night before the attack of 12/10/1917”.

Helen Clark as then New Zealand Prime Minister, ceremonially received the battlefield clay in Passchendaele and facilitated its journey back to New Zealand.
As the young men did in Great War, ‘Falls the Shadow’ eventually made the sea journey to Europe and in October 2012, was permanently installed in the Passchendaele. Memorial Museum.
I can’t think of anywhere more suited to its purpose.
The sculpture is dimly lit and, in its little blue/black painted brick room, looks rather like a battlefield shrine in a bunker.
It is the last exhibit you see as you leave the museum and it is a peaceful and hopefully uplifting after all the images of war.


‘Falls the Shadow’ at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke, Flanders.
Sculptor: Helen Pollock

Additional information from the Belgians Have not Forgotten

 1. The architect Samuel Hurst Seager was a New Zealanders from Christchurch New Zealand (born in London/UK). Seager was also the architect of the Battlefield Memorials in Longueval, Messines and Passchendaele (about 1.5 km from the grave of Don Hosie).
Our City O-Tautahi, also known as the Old Municipal Chambers in Christchurch was used in 2009 for the exhibition The Belgians Have not Forgotten. Also this building was from S Hurst Seager. 
        2. Don Hosie was missing in action, believed to be killed in action on 12 October 1917. There was a witness (10 Coy 2Bn Otago Rgt) saying: I saw Hosie at the assembly point on 12 Oct 1917 prior to the advance on Belle Vue Spur. There was heavy artillery, machine gun fire and the company suffered heavy casualties. I did not see Hosie again. He did not come out of the trenches with the company. He has has been buried in a field grave later on during the war and his body was found in 1920 and brought over to Passchendaele New British Cemetery.He was found at the blue spot in a red cross on the map (under D, above 10, East of the Ravebeek) where he was buried with several other soldiers (also Canadians) during the war. I suppose he has been buried after the Canadians took Passchendaele (after 10 Nov) because the area where he was buried was part of the German Flandern Stellung and has been taken by the Canadians. 

Australian battlefield map, Don Hosie was buried in a field grave on the Flandern I Stellung, most probably after the Canadians took Passchendaele on Nov 10th 1917.

We could find this spot thanks to the Burial Return Sheet of the CWGC.

Burial Return Sheet Don Hosie and other Soldiers.

Corporal Donald Peter Brown Hosie
Unit: NZEF, Otago Regiment, 2 Battalion
Conflict: WW1
Additional Details: Son of Robert and Sarah Hosie, of "Tauranga," Wairoa St., Roslyn, Dunedin, New Zealand. Born at Otago
·         Service Number: 40951
·         First Name: Donald Peter Brown
·         Surname: Hosie
·         Rank: Corporal
·         Date of Birth: Not known
·         Next of Kin: R. Hosie (father), Kirkland Hill, Kaikorai, Dunedin, New Zealand
·         Occupation: Architect
·         Nationality of Force: New Zealand
·         Force: Army
Unit: NZEF, Otago Regiment, 2 Battalion
Casualty Details
·         Date of Death: 12 October 1917
·         Age: 22
·         Conflict: WW1
·         Cause of Death:
Killed in action
Embarkation Details
·         Body of Embarkation: New Zealand Expeditionary Force
·         Place of Embarkation: Wellington, New Zealand
·         Embarkation Date: 14 March 1917
·         Transport: HMNZT 79
·         Vessel: Ruapehu
·         Destination: Devonport, England
Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph, Auckland War Memorial Museum
·         Cemetery: Passchendaele New British Cemetery
·         Cemetery Reference: XV. C. 13.
·         Country: Belgium

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