Gordon Cumming Bremner

Gordon Cumming Bremner was born at Wanganui on 30 October 1891. Completing his schooling, Gordon took up a career as a farm hand in the central North Island of New Zealand. Fulfilling his obligation to participate in Compulsorily Military Training, Gordon enlisted in the 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles of the Territorial Army on 1 March 1911. Serving in the Territorial Army for three years, Gordon enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in January 1915.

Taking his attestation on 11 January 1915, Gordon spent three months training at Trentham before embarking on Troopship No 23, the SS Waitoma, on 17 April 1915 as part of the 4th Reinforcements for the voyage to Egypt. Disembarking at Suez on 25 May 1915, Gordon underwent further training at Zeitoun Camp. Early in June, Gordon departed Alexandra, joining the 11th (Taranaki) Company of the Wellington Battalion in the Dardanelles on 9 June.

Bremner GC 01 B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon Bremner with B Company 4th Reinforcements, Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 01a B Coy 4th Reinfs

Gordon spent the uncomfortably hot months of June and July with the Taranaki Company rotating between Courtney and Quinn’s Posts at Gallipoli as the Wellington Battalion consolidated its position. Participating in the Battle of Chunuk Bair and wounded in action on 8 August, the injury saw Gordon evacuated from Gallipoli on HMS Alaunia.  Gordon arrived back in Alexandra on 13 August and was admitted to the 1st Australian (No.3 Auxiliary) Hospital at Heliopolis on 14 August, where in addition to his battle injuries, Gordon received treatment for appendicitis. Diagnosed with neurasthenia, the term used to describe “shell shock” or what is referred to in modern times as a Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) saw the transfer of Gordon to the New Zealand General Hospital at Abbassia on 13 September. With Gordon’s condition classifying him as unfit for service, he was transferred to the Lady de Walden’s Hospital at Alexandria on 8 October in preparation for his repatriation to New Zealand, departing on the SS Tahiti on 20 November. Arriving in New Zealand on boxing day 1915 and admitted to a convalescent home at Rotorua, Gordon spent several months recuperating. Recovery was slow, and although his health had improved, Gordon remained classified as medically unfit for military service resulting in his discharge from the NZEF on 19 April 1916.

Bremner GC 07a Otago Witness Sep 1915

Motivated to continue serving, Gordon re-joined the Territorial Army on 1 June 1916 and applied for enlistment into the NZEF on 10 December, but his C2 medical grading precluded his reenlistment to the NZEF. Gordon’s records do not record his activities during 1917, but in February 1918, Gordon was medially reclassified as C1 – Likely to become fit for active service after special training. Gordon’s medical upgrading was well timed, as on 15 September 1917, authorisation for men medically unfit for active service was granted so they could replace Territorials who remained on duty at the coast defence forts in the main centres. Gordon was ordered to report to the Officer Commanding of the RNZA Wellington on 26 Feb 2018, and on 27 February 1918, Gordon was enlisted as a guard with the Garrison Artillery at Fort Ballance at Wellington.

Bremner GC 09 Garrison Artillery

Gordon Bremner Garrison Artillery. Norm Lamont Collection

On 31 December 1918, Gordon married Irene Pearl Williams at Wellington. Their marriage saw the birth of eight children and the adoption of another.

  • Zita Millicent (adopted), born 27 Dec 16 Christchurch,
  • Jean Kathleen, Born 21 Sept 20 Wellington,
  • James Alexander Gordon, born 31 Jan 22 Taumarunui,
  • Allan Duff, born 21 Apr 24 Wellington,
  • Jessie Elizabeth, born 20 Sept Wellington,
  • Louise Gladys, born 29 Sept Wellington.
  • Nancy Irene, born in 1930,
  • John Keith, born in 1934,
  • Joyce Kay, born 9 Feb 1936

After four years, the armistice of 11 November 1918 brought the First World War to a close, and by late 1919 Gordon was at a crossroads regarding his future. As a Bombardier (Corporal) in the Artillery, he was well placed to transfer from the Territorials into the Permanent Force and, with his savings, purchase a comfortable house and pursue a peacetime army career or he could take his discharge and seek fresh pastures. Gordon chose to seek fresh pastures and, with his pre-war experience as a farm hand, decided to become a farmer. Utilising the Soldiers Resettlement Scheme, Gordon invested his savings in a farm in the King Country. With marginal and isolated land allocated to returned servicemen, Gordon’s attempt to develop and farm the land was an experience shared by many other returned servicemen and was a futile and hopeless endeavour. After two years of backbreaking and heart-breaking work, Gordon and his family abandoned their farm and, now homeless with savings expended, returned to Wellington in October 1922.

Attempting to find work with the Main Ordnance Depot at Trentham in October 1923 and again in March 1924, Gordon was initially unsuccessful but did secure work at the Trentham Racecourse and later as a foreman with the Public Works Department in Trentham Camp. Gordon eventually secured a position as the relieving Camp Firemaster and was in charge of the night patrol, with accommodation for his family in a target shed adjacent to the rifle range. The delivery of the first motorised ambulance to Trentham Camp saw Gordon appointed as the driver. In July 1925, Gordon’s luck changed as he was accepted for service into the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (NZAOC) and was attested as a Private into “E” Section of the Main Ordnance Depot on 21 July. Up to his enlistment in the NZAOC, Gordon had remained efficient in the Territorial Army, with his service between 1916 and 1925 equalling four years and 211 days.

Bremner GC 14

Gordon Bremner as Trentham Camp Ambulance Driver C1925. Trentham News 1 September 1955 Norm Lamont Collection

Gordon’s enlistment into the NZAOC in normal circumstances allowed him to retire at the age of fifty-five with a comfortable pension, but this was not to be. Due to the worldwide depression and economic recession, the government was forced to savagely reduce the strength of the Army by using the provisions of section 39 of the Finance Act, 1930 (No. 2)  military staff could be either.

  • Transferred to the Civil service, or
  • Retired on superannuation.

Using this act, Gordon was discharged out of the NZAOC and transferred to the Civil Service on 31 January 1931 to work in the same position as a lorry driver but at a lower rate of pay.

Discharge 1930

Less than a week after Gordon’s transfer to the NZAOC Civilian staff, a disastrous earthquake struck Napier and Hastings on 3 February 1931. The NZAOC was called upon at short notice to supply tents, blankets, bedding, cooking and eating utensils for use in the stricken areas. As part of the civilian ordnance staff, Gordon’s skills as a lorry driver were put to full use delivering these stores and equipment to Napier and Hastings. All military employees, including the civilian staff such as Gordon, who engaged in the relief effort, deserved major credit for how they carried out their duties under trying conditions.

Gordon’s wounds continued to cause him issues, and in February 1933, Gordon was admitted to hospital for an operation on a duodenal ulcer which was causing him some discomfort. As a result of the surgery, a souvenir of Chunuk Bair, a piece of Turkish shrapnel, was removed from Gordon’s stomach.

Gordon continued to serve with the NZAOC in a civilian capacity for the remainder of the 1930s. Although New Zealand entered the Second World War in 1939, the NZAOC did not transition into a full wartime footing until 1942, when the threat of invasion by Japan was perceived as possible, saw the mobilisation of the full military potential of New Zealand. The NZAOC transitioned from an organisation primarily staffed by civilians into one with a military establishment, with many of the NZAOC civilian staff, including Gordon returning to uniform. Gordon was attested into the Temporary Service of the NZAOC at Trentham on 24 August 1942 and allocated the service number 814628. Promoted to Corporal on 1 September 1942 with promotion to Sergeant following on 1 August 1944.

Bremner GC 15 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

Bremner GC 14b

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

With the end of the Second World War, Gordon transitioned into the post-war Interim Army as a Sergeant on 26 June 1946 and then into the Home Service Section (HSS) of the Regular Force as a Sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps (RNZAOC). As a driver in the Receipts and Issues Group of the Main Ordnance Depot, Gordon was often out on runs around the Wellington region collecting and delivering stores to units and to transport agencies such as the railways. His pleasant manner, willingness to oblige and friendly ways ensured that he was a respected and popular member of Trentham Camp. Gordon’s activities were not limited to Trentham Camp, and throughout his post-war service at Trentham, he undertook many tours of duty to the other Ordnance depots at Linton, Waiouru and Hopuhopu. Receiving three extensions to his service Gordon served throughout the 1950s.

Bremner GC 14 1950s

Gordon Bremner. Norm Lamont Collection

In 1955 a review of Gordon’s service was undertaken, and in acknowledgement of his Sixteen Years and Nineteen days of qualifying service in the Territorial Army, NZEF and NZAOC from 1911 to 1931, Gordon was awarded the New Zealand Long & Efficient Service Medal on 12 May 1955. The New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal was rendered obsolete with the standardisation of awards on 23 September 1931, and Gordon’s award of this medal is notable as due to its late claim, Gordon award was the last one of this type awarded.

LSES Medal Bremner

Reaching retiring age in 1956, Gordon was discharged from the New Zealand Army on 6 August 1956 after close to Forty-Five years’ service, the majority of which was spent at Trentham Camp, where he had been a witness of its growth from a rudimentary Training Camp in 1915 to a modern Military Camp.

Gordon retired in Upper Hutt and passed away at the age of 76 on 28 November 1967. Gordon now rests at the Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand.


Gordon Bremner Tombstone, Wallaceville Cemetery, Upper Hutt. Courtesy Dave Morris

During his service, Gordon was awarded the following medals.

  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal War Medal 1939-45
  • New Zealand. War Service Medal.
  • New Zealand Long & Efficient Service Medal

Gordon had also been issued with the Silver War Badge. The Silver War Badge, also known as the “Wound Badge” or “Services Rendered Badge” was issued during the First World War to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service.

In August 1967, Gordon received his Gallipoli lapel badge in the post with a letter apologising for the delay in sending out the Medallion. Gordon Gallipoli’s medallion would arrive a week after his funeral.

Gordon’s son James also pursued a military career in the Ordnance Corps. Working as a civilian storeman at the Main Ordnance Depot in Trentham, James was attested into the Army on 12 June 1940. Serving in Italy with the New Zealand Ordnance Corps with the 2nd NZEF from 1943 to 1945. Remaining in the NZAOC at the Main Ordnance Depot, James retired from the RNZAOC as A Warrant Officer Class Two on 21 April 1961.

MOD Cricket 1952

Copyright © Robert McKie 2018


3 thoughts on “Gordon Cumming Bremner

  1. Dave Morris

    Very good. The Cricket photo of the early 1950’s is interesting. A couple of names I remember. Was T. Prout a civilian; I remember the name?

    Can I point out some observations?

    · First paragraph name is Cumming; Title able is at variation: Cummin

    · Picky question: If he was born in 1891, surely he was born in Wanganui? What are your thoughts?

    · Portrait photo of Gordon Arty hat badge. Is that an RSA badge on the right side of chest?

    · “As a Corporal in the Artillery” Should this be Bombardier?

    · “on 31 January 1931to work in the same position as a lorry driver but at a lower rate of pay” space needed between 2 words. Between Trentham News photo and Discharge Certificate photo

    Attachment from Register of BD&M NZ. If interested

    Link to son James:


    Thanks for the write up.

    Dave Morris,


    smiley beret


    • rneilmckie

      ave, Some good questions and have fixed the obvious typos.

      The use of different types of spelling is an interesting point, For Gordon’s place of birth I originally used the modern spelling “Whanganui” but considering all his files have the older spelling of “Wanganui” I have reverted the spelling to the older spelling. On a similar theme in his files, Serjeant is used, which is correct as that was the spelling back in the day, bu to the modern reader Sergeant is more familiar so for consistency that is the spelling I use.

      The wearing od the RSA Badge was to identify him as a veteran. When the photo was taken he was a young man in uniform and with no obvious and visible war injuries there were some of the members of the public were very judgmental about young men in uniform who were not or had not served overseas. So until medal ribbons were issued (which didn’t happen until the 1920’s) the wearing of the RSA badge on the right chest whilst in uniform might have been a approve or accepted form of dress. On a side point, the NZRSA membership badge when worn in civilian dress is to be positioned on the Right lapel.

      All the files refer to Gordon as a Corporal, Regulations as the time l have Bombardier as a rank so now I have listed him as Bombardier with Corporal in brackets?


  2. Pingback: Warrant Officer Class One Douglas Keep Wilson | "To the Warrior his Arms"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.