BLYTH Morris Lawrence (Curly)
26/332, Lieutenant Colonel, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, WW1
801022, Lieutenant Colonel, Home Guard Service, WW2

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Gazetted New Year Honours 2001
For services to war veterans and the community.

Military Medal
Gazetted 16 August 1917, p8429
For gallantry during the operations east of Ploegsteert Wood on the night of 13/14th June 1917.  He personally guided parties of his Company to the posts which had to be established, and set a fine example of courage and determination under shellfire.  He was acting Company Sergeant Major and passed through a heavy enemy barrage several times during the night in the course of his duties.  His work in the Assembly Trenches under heavy fire prior to going over was particularly fine.  When the objectives were gained he did very valuable work towards consolidating them and fearlessly exposed himself to the enemy fire.  He has since been seriously wounded.

Legion of Honor (France)
Awarded 1998

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Military Medal
British War Medal
Victory Medal
War Medal 1939-45
New Zealand War Service Medal
Efficiency Decoration
Legion of Honor (France)
Cross of Lorraine (France)

Justice of the Peace

Born 18 September 1896 Leeston, New Zealand
Died 10 October 2001 Auckland, New Zealand
Ashes buried at The French Garden, St Andrews Anglican Church, Cambridge, New Zealand

[New Zealand Herald, 12 Oct 2001]
First World War soldier. Died on Wednesday, aged 105.

Lawrence Morris Blyth was born in the central Canterbury community of Leeston in 1896.  Before he joined the fourth battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, he was working as a fencer, in the Waipukurau District in central Hawkes Bay.

Sent overseas, he first went to Egypt, where the New Zealand Infantry Division was formed, and was then sent to France in 1916 "where we were introduced to trench warfare". He celebrated his 20th birthday in the trenches.

By September of that year Curly Blyth, as he was known because of his dark locks, was preparing to fight in the second phase of the Battle of the Somme.

"We were given a very difficult assignment, having to advance on a 1000-yard front for 2 1/2 miles [4km]," he said in an article in the Herald in 1993.

"Our objective was the village of Flers ... To assist us we were given four tanks, only one of which reached our objective. The other three scarcely got past the starting line."

After 23 days of continuous fighting the New Zealanders, who completed their task and won praise from Field Marshal Haig, were relieved and went back to the trenches.

Curly Blyth was also at the Battle of Messines, where he won the Military Medal.

During his time in France he was gassed at the Somme and shot in the head at Messines - "a fortunate injury saw me sent to hospital in England, which meant I did not have to endure the hell of Ypres and Passchendaele".

He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and sent back to France, where the bitter fighting ended, following a great New Zealand victory, storming the ramparts of the fortified town of Le Quesnoy on November 4, 1918, and the signing of the Armistice, halting the war 10 days later.

Lieutenant Colonel Blyth's close association with that town, which had been occupied by the Germans for more than four years, lasted until September 18 this year, when his 105th birthday was marked by a telegram from the Mayor of Le Quesnoy. His possessions include a medallion making him an honorary citizen of the town and a list of the 12 New Zealand soldiers buried beside townspeople who died in the war.

In later life he did not talk much about the fighting, but of Le Quesnoy he said in 1991: "I can see things clear as can be, even now. There was old 'Bluey' and 'Darkie' ... every bloke has a nickname.

"Spending all that time together, you develop friendships. Battle brings out courage, comradeship and loyalty."

But there is a cost. New Zealand had more than 100,000 soldiers and nurses serving overseas in 1914-18 out of a population of just over one million. The country's war dead totalled more than 18,000, compared with about 12,000 in the Second World War.

Lieutenant Colonel Blyth had a brother, Jackson, who survived Gallipoli but died later in Persia. Two other brothers, Jim and Edward, were also at Gallipoli.

When thinking of the losses he also thought of his mother. "The strain of having four sons overseas, of waiting for that dreadful letter, shortened her life," he said. "She died at 51, also a casualty of the war, though not many people understand that."

He rose to Lieutenant Colonel in the home forces during the Second World War. In addition to his Military Medal, in 1998 he was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

He had a prominent menswear shop in Auckland's Karangahape Rd for more than 50 years and was a president of the Karangahape Rd Businessmen's Association.  His wife, Ethel, predeceased him. He is survived by his children, Margaret and Jackson.

He will be farewelled with full military honours at St Mary's Church, Parnell, on Monday at 2 pm.