LAURENT Henry John
24/213, 2nd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade, 1st NZEF
Harry’ LAURENT was born in 1895 at Tarata in the Taranaki. He attended Hawera District High School before leaving to work in a cheese making factory. When war broke out in 1914, Laurent joined the NZEF and was sent first to Egypt and from there to France to serve with the NZ Rifle Brigade. During the fighting in France, LAURENT showed great leadership and was promoted to Sergeant. During the Allied advance towards the end of the war, the New Zealanders came up against a strong German position at Gouzeaucourt Wood. On 12 September 1918 during confused attacks on this objective, Sergeant LAURENT was sent out with a twelveman patrol to probe the enemy defences. Finding a heavily fortified trench system, he immediately attacked. After handtohand fighting the twelve Kiwis killed thirty of the enemy, captured the trench and took 112 enemy soldiers prisoner. When the Germans counter attacked, LAURENT managed to retreat in good order, keeping his prisoners under control and fighting a rearguard action. “The success of this daring venture was due to Sergeant LAURENT’s gallantry and enterprise.” This rather incredible action resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross to Sergeant LAURENT. After the war, LAURENT was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant before leaving the Army. While working for an engineering firm in 1921, he married Ethel HOMEWOOD. At the beginning of WW II he was recalled for service in local defence and was appointed a Major in the Home Guard. He served throughout the war in a variety of appointments including commanding the Hawera Area Defence Unit. Lieutenant Colonel Laurent finally retired from the army in 1949.
For most conspicuous bravery, skill, and enterprise when during an attack he was detailed to exploit an initial success and keep in touch with the enemy. With a party of twelve he located the enemy support line very strongly held, at once charged the position, followed by his men, and completely disorganized the enemy by his sudden onslaught. In the subsequent hand-to-hand fighting which ensured be showed great resourcefulness in controlling and encouraging his men, and thirty of the enemy having been killed the remainder surrendered, a total of one officer and 111 other ranks in all. The success of this daring venture, which caused his party four casualties only, was due to his gallantry and enterprise
War Medal 1914-19
NZ War Service Medal
Coronation Medal 1937
Coronation Medal 1953
Jubilee Medal 1977
Born 15 April 1895, Tarata, NZ
Died 9 December 1987, Hastings, NZ, aged 92.