TWISLETON Francis Morphet
9/662 Major, Otago Mounted Rifles
5625, Legion of Frontiersmen
Gazetted 14th January 1916 21st-28th August 1915 Kaiajik Aghala. Came particularly under notice for distinguished service. (at Gallipoli). Gazetted 28th January 1916, In Connection with the operations described in General Sir Ian Hamilton's despatch dated 11th December 1915. Served in Gallipoli and also France. Queen's South Africa Medal
Born 17 February 1873 Settle, Yorkshire, England
Died of Wounds 15th November 1917
Buried at Ramela Cemetry, Jerusalem
Francis (Frank) Morphet Twisleton was the son of Thomas Twisleton, a farmer and businessman, and his wife, Mary Ann Morphet. After attendingGiggleswick Grammar School, and later farming in Yorkshire, Frank emigrated to New Zealand with his brother Thomas. They arrived in 1895 and traveled around, working on farms. A skilled horseman, Frank enlisted in the Second New Zealand Contingent of mounted soldiers on 19 January 1900 and arrived in South Africa late the following month. Thomas followed him in the Fourth (Rough Riders) Contingent, and was killed in battle the next year.
Frank Twisleton was a patriotic young man with a taste for adventure. However, the long treks, inadequate rations and harsh weather quickly destroyed any romantic notions he had about the South African conflict. The Second Contingent served there for more than a year, taking part in the guerilla warfare that followed the fall of Pretoria, and did not return to New Zealand until May 1901.
On his return to New Zealand he began farming in the Poverty Bay district and in 1911 joined the Legion of Frontiersmen, founding and commanding "C" Squadron, Gisborne, Poverty Bay. Contemporary photographs show numbers of Frontiersmen at camp and on exercise at his farm.
In December 1914, Capt. Twisleton led his Squadron mounted and in uniform from Poverty Bay to Trentham to volunteer as a unit. The military authorities were so amazed by the ability of these men and their bearing that they were asked to form the camp guard on visiting day. Much as they pressed, they were not allowed to be a named unit, but the military authorities did grant them permission to wear their lapel badge on their uniform. Twistleton was gazetted Lieutenant in the Otago Mounted Rifles and was sent to Egypt and then on to Gallipoli serving throughout that campaign where he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery.
Twisleton took part in the bloody assaults on Bauchop's Hill and Hill 60 during August 1915. In his vivid account of the second of these actions he described the roar of battle as so overpowering that he felt as though he 'was being driven into the ground by being hit on the head'. Twisleton was slightly wounded during the initial charge, and took the opportunity afforded by a lull in the fighting to dig small pieces of shrapnel out of his leg with his pocket-knife. In the aftermath of the battle for Hill 60 he commanded a post where the stench was appalling because it was partly constructed out of the bodies of Turkish soldiers. Later he wrote, 'I felt as though I could scrape the smell of dead men out of my mouth and throat and stomach in chunks.' At the beginning of September 1915 Twisleton was evacuated from Gallipoli with severe dysentery; he did not return. For his bravery and initiative during the campaign he was awarded the Military Cross and mentioned in dispatches.
Promoted to Captain, Twisleton In March 1916 was transferred to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion. He served with the soldiers of the battalion on the western front from April 1916 to August 1917. Their duties involved hard, dangerous work just behind the front line, which Twisleton believed did not get the recognition it deserved. His experiences at Gallipoli and on the western front confirmed his low opinion of the competence of most British officers. In his view they had 'no practical grip of things' and thought themselves superior in all respects to their men.
Many of the other New Zealanders who had survived Gallipoli were transferred to Palestine, where the Frontiersmen among them endeavoured to serve together where possible and called themselves the Mounted Rifles Active Service Troop of New Zealand Command, meeting regularly. Morale amongst them was raised when Twistleton was posted to the Brigade. Sadly, he was only to serve with them for a very short time, being fatally wounded during a heavy engagement where his command was heavily outnumbered. He died on November 15th, 1915. His age was reported as 44 years. He was an able organiser and a charismatic and born leader of men.
He was survived by a wife and two daughters, who were able to visit Lt. Col. Driscoll in London in April 1918. Driscoll wrote that year of the New Zealanders who visited Legion headquarters in London after the War that "they all speak of poor Twistleton in the highest terms of praise." In his early life, Twistleton reputedly had little time for the Maoris, but changed his mind completely after having Maoris under his command in France. He wrote in his diary that "given sufficient Maoris he would attempt any obstacle."
In 1917 Twisleton's wife and daughters took up residence at Brockenhurst on the south coast of England, and he was able to see them during periods of leave. After serving briefly in France with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, in October 1917 he was posted to the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment in Palestine. Late in October he was promoted to major and given command of a squadron. In an action at Ayun Kara, on 14 November, he led his men with great dash before being shot in the abdomen. He was sent to the ANZAC receiving station, but died there the following day. The Legion of Frontiersmen posthumously awarded him their highest honour, the Pioneer Axe, and in recognition of his services made his widow an honorary lieutenant of the Legion.
Perhaps his diaries may still survive with his descendants in New Zealand?
22 July 1915
TWISLETON, Lieutenant Francis (Frank) Morphet Otago Mounted Regiment.
Discharged from the sick list; he had not been previously reported wounded. He was a Commander of the Legion of Frontiersmen and he left Gisborne in charge of the members of the local Squadron, who were selected to make up Otago's quota of mounted men. He is a sheep-farmer of the Waimata Valley and an enthusiastic Frontiersman, with South African war experience. [AWN 22.07.1915]
20 January 1916
TWISLETON, Lieutenant Francis (Frank) Morphet M.C.,
Lieutenant Twisleton left Gisborne with the Gisborne contingent of Frontiersmen attached to the Otago Mounted Rifles. He served in the South African war for 16 months, leaving NZ with the second contingent. On returning he took an active part in the establishment of the Legion of Frontiersmen and when he left Gisborne he held the rank of Captain. He was in command not only of the Poverty Bay Squadron but also held the temporary command for NZ. He was one of the originators of the offer to the Government of a Squadron of Frontiersmen for service at the front but the offer was declined. Subsequently, however, a draft of about 30 Frontiersmen was taken from Gisborne to make up the deficiency in the Otago Mounted Rifles quota of the second reinforcements. Lieutenant Twistleton, who is a Yorkshireman, is 44 years of age. He was in most of the important engagements at Gallipoli. He is now in a convalescent hospital in Egypt, having had an attack of enteric. [AWN 20.01.1916]
29 November 1917
TWISLETON, Captain F M, Auckland Mounted Rifles, has died of wounds. He went with the 2nd Reinforcements, taking with him into camp forty members of the Poverty Bay squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen. They were attached to the Otago Mounted Rifles to make up deficiencies. He gained the Military Cross for service on Gallipoli. When the troops were sent to France the Otago Mounted Rifles under his command were formed into a company of the Pioneer Battalion and he served with them throughout the Somme and Messines operations. Latterly there was further reorganisation and Capt Twistleton, who had been suffering in health, applied for a transfer to Palestine. This was apparently granted as he is listed with the Auckland Mounted Rifles. Mrs. Twisleton and children are at present residing in England. [AWN 29.11.1917]
Francis Morphet Twisleton, who died of wounds 15th November 1917 resulting from the action at Ayun Kara, and buried at Ramela Cemetry.
from "New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine" Powles:-
Every available man was hurried as far forward as possible to deal with this threatened attack, and Colonel McCarroll put into the firing line signallers, gallopers and batmen from his own Regimental Headquarters to hold on until the 3rd Squadron could be brought up. The latter advanced in magnificent style under the command of Major Twisleton. This gallant officer brought his men mounted to within a few yards of the heavily attacked line, where they dismounted and engaged the enemy. Major Twistleton here fell badly wounded, and subsequently died of his wounds. This gallant officer was the Commander of the Legion of Frontiersmen in New Zealand. He had served with the Otago Mounted Regiment on Gallipoli with distinction. He had gone to France with the Pioneer Battalion, and after serving on the Western Front for some 12 months had come back to the Mounted Brigade —joining the Wellington Regiment just before the advance against Beersheba. For his good work during these operations he had been given a squadron, and it was in leading his men at a critical period of this day’s fighting that he fell. He was a man of great soldierly qualities and of fearless courage, and he was a splendid horseman. He was born in Yorkshire and came to New Zealand as a young man, where he had proved to be of that stuff of which the pioneers of the British Empire are made. Simple and direct in speech, his shrewd judgment and strong practical common sense proved at all times a tower of strength to his companions.
Courtesy New Zealand Herald, Monday May 11, 2015
Frank Twisleton loved service and he loved adventure. A Yorkshireman, the young Twisleton emigrated to New Zealand with his parents and brother Thomas in 1895. Farm work saw Frank become a skilled horseman and made it a straightforward decision to enlist in January 1900 with the Second NZ Contingent of Mounted Rifles for the Boer War.
Thomas followed his older brother to South Africa, but never returned home. He died of pneumonia in August 1901. Frank Twisleton arrived back in May 1901 and published a book about his experiences, With the New Zealanders at the Front. Dedicated to Thomas, Twisleton wrote about campaigns at Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Johannesburg and Diamond Hill from a soldier's perspective. He did not hold back at what he considered the incompetence of British officers and the harsh treatment of soldiers.
After moving to a farm near Gisborne, Twisleton set up "C" squadron of the Legion of Frontiersmen, an imperialist group which thrived in parts of the British Empire and filled its ranks with Boer War veterans through an appeal to patriotism and vigilance. Legion members camped and trained on Twisleton's property while the returned soldier lobbied for official recognition for his corps and to lift the age limit on servicemen from 35 to 40.
Officials let the legion form rifle clubs and in September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of World War I, Minister of Defence James Allen told Twisleton in a letter: "The age for first reinforcements has been raised to 40 years." A month later Twisleton, at 41, volunteered with several Poverty Bay Frontiersmen. Commissioned as lieutenant, he was posted to the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment and landed at Gallipoli on 20 May 1915.
Letters he wrote from the peninsula described the discomfort of trench warfare. It was a "very funny sort of life one leads, we burrow like rabbits and live more or less underground and do most of our work at night". After the bloody assault on Hill 60 in August, he wrote that the immense noise of battle felt like he "was being driven into the ground by being hit on the head". Wounded in the exchanges, Twisleton used a pocket-knife during a pause in the attacks to dig shrapnel out of his leg. In a vivid passage of his second account of war, he described fighting from a position where the stench was ghastly because it was partly built from the bodies of Turkish soldiers. He wrote: "I felt as though I could scrape the smell of dead men out of my mouth and throat and stomach in chunks."
He cheated death on one occasion when a rifle bullet hit a revolver he carried in a holster by his groin. Ill with severe dysentery, Twisleton was taken off Gallipoli. His courage and leadership during the campaign saw him awarded the Military Cross and a mention in dispatches.
In early 1916, he shifted to the Pioneer Battalion and served for 18 months in the Somme and Messines operations, dangerous work close to the frontline.
His wife, Emily, and their two daughters, Mary and Nancy, were staying in southeast England at the time and the dedicated soldier was able to see them during leave. Dogged by indifferent health, Twisleton made one more move, this time to Palestine. Back on horseback, Twisleton, by now a major and handed his own squadron, led his men into action at Ayun Kara, a village in Turkish-ruled Palestine. Shot in the abdomen, Twisleton was taken to a treatment station but died from his wounds.
Colonel Guy Powles, who wrote an account of the New Zealanders in the Sinai and Palestine, described the soldier as a man of "fearless courage" and a splendid horseman, who "proved to be of that stuff of which the pioneers of the British Empire are made. Simple and direct in speech, his shrewd judgment and strong practical common sense proved at all times a tower of strength to his companions".