Farewell Zealandia

In the final entry of this series, I present a further four songwriters and lyricists who served in the New Zealand Army in the First World War.

Don't forget:

Henry Sidney Buttle Ribbands & Charles (Chas) Lawrence James

Henry Ribbands was born in the Isle of Wight in 1872, and immigrated to New Zealand shortly after the turn of century. Upon arrival he settled in Hastings and began work as an insurance agent for AMP.

Aside from his insurance work, Henry was somewhat of a poet and lyricist. Teaming up with local musician and band-master Archibald Rae Don, he penned a number of patriotic songs, including "We shall get there in time" and "Our Territorials: a chorus march song".

In October 1916, Private Ribbands enlisted into the army. He was sent to Sling camp in April the following year, and was on the battlefield in France by June. His three-year term of service was comparatively uneventful, apart from a brief stint in “Pigeon School” and a reprimand for being absent without leave for 8 days in 1919. He was back in New Zealand and discharged from service by September that year.

During his period of service Private H.S.B. Ribbands joined forces with a fellow member of the 22nd Reinforcements, musician and band-leader Sergeant Chas L. James, and together they published The Long White Cloud"; an homage to New Zealand.

Cover of 'The Long White Cloud', showing clouds behind the title, and a dedication to the 22nd Reinforcements.Cover of Ribbands and James' "The Long White Cloud". Record page.

Listen to Ribbands and James' "The Long White Cloud"

Player not working? Listen to the recording at Radio NZ (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Upon his return to Hastings H.S.B Ribbands re-joined his song-writing partner Archibald Don, and together they composed and produced their master-work: the comedic opera Marama, or, The mere and the Maori maid . Marama was a sensation, drawing full-houses and rave reviews, initially in Napier and Hastings and later to Auckland. Such was the show’s resonance that it had revivals in 1940, and again in 1995.

Chas L. James was born in Oamaru in 1888 and spent most of his life in the South; moving first to Invercargill, then to Dunedin where he worked as a clerk. Chas was also a keen singer, performing with the Oamaru Choral Society and at various local events and celebrations.

Like Henry Ribbands, Chas was recruited into the 22nd Reinforcements in 1916, and sent to France early the following year. He was soon promoted to Corporal, and a week later joined the Otago Regiment as a member of the band. Within a few months he was transferred to the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps to become band instructor. He was eventually discharged at the same time as Ribbands, and returned to Oamaru and later Christchurch where he worked as a civil servant.

Charles (Chas) Andrew Martin & Archibald Hugh Bogle

Chas Martin was born in 1894 in Dunedin, and was employed as a salesman with the Bristol Piano Company when he enlisted at the beginning of June 1916.

Painted portrait of Chas Andrew Martin in academic robes.Portrait of Chas Andrew Martin. Ref: PAColl-5384.

During his two year term of service, was a somewhat regular visitor to the army medical services: on the journey over he was admitted to the ship’s hospital for five days with a sprained ankle; in May of the following year he was sent to the field hospital with trench fever, requiring a further evacuation to Walton-on-Thames; and only a few weeks after his return to France in October, Charles was back in hospital with scalded shoulders after a mug of hot tea slid off of a candle-wax covered shelf above him.

Born in 1883 Archibald Bogle was a Wellingtonian, but spent time in Wanganui where he worked as a professional surveyor. He joined the New Zealand Engineers division in November 1915, but it was not until November the following year that he was sent to Europe with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Archibald Bogle peering through surveying equipment as other men look on.Archibald Bogle sitting his examination to become a professional surveyor, Whanganui River area. Ref: 1/2-112399-F.

While on service in the Somme Private Chas Martin teamed up with Lieutenant Bogle, and composed music for a patriotic poem that Bogle had previously published in Spike. Chas then posted the resultant part song back to his former employers in Dunedin, who in 1918 published New Zealand! My Country! .

Typeset cover of 'New Zealand! My Country!'.Cover of A.H. Bogle and Chas. A. Martin's "New Zealand! My Country!". Record page.

Following his discharge in June 1919, Chas Martin returned to Dunedin where he became a music teacher and continued to compose: in 1930 he published "Ode on a Grecian Urn", a musical setting of the famous Keats poem.

Archibald Bogle returned to surveying following his discharge 1919. He also re-joined the army for two tours to Tonga during World War II in the rank of Captain (1941) and later Major (1943).

Finding the song-writers

The information for these brief biographies was drawn chiefly from military records held at Archives NZ (many of which digitised and available online), Papers Past, and the various public records available through Ancestry (subscription required). Because this information is not particularly comprehensive, it is more than likely that the odd mistake or omission has found its way in. We heartily welcome any corrections, additions or other comments in the comments section below!

Special thanks to David Dell and Chris Bourke for their assistance and advice.

By Matt Steindl

Matt is the Turnbull's Music Research Librarian.

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Michael Brown August 11th at 10:49AM

Thanks for this illuminating series Matt.

chris August 12th at 6:47PM

Yes, I agree. Interesting stuff. Thanks.