Over the top

Water bottles were an important piece of kit for the soldiers. One local soldier, Andy Dewar wrote this in his diary:

Being the very last bay, it was lucky if any tea came along as far as us. As it was, we didn’t have anything to drink for two days and what with dysentery, the mud, the water and the shelling- well it was Hell. I drank the oil out of a sardine tin and very nearly took to the water in the trench but Harry stopped me.

In these circumstances a drink from a water bottle was a life saver.

When I started researching our military collection to prepare for the World War One Centenary Commemorations I came across this water bottle. There was no history recorded about it, though I was able to identify it as being from the First World War. Later I spotted a name written on the leather so I was able to identify who had carried this bottle Chaplain Captain George Percival Cuttriss.George was born in Dunedin and had served with the New Zealand Forces during the Boer War.

In 1915 he enlisted as a Chaplain with Australian Forces. Before the war he was working as a Minister. While serving George recorded military history and later wrote a book called Over the Top with the Third Australian Division about some of his experiences in France.
In the Preface George wrote:

In response to numerous requests from the 'boys,' this brief volume of story and sketch is published. It makes no pretension to literary merit, neither is it intended to serve as a history of the Division. The indulgence of those who may read is earnestly solicited, in view of the work having been prepared amidst the trying and thrilling experiences so common to active service. The fighting history of the Australian Forces is one long series of magnificent achievements, beginning on that day of sacred and glorious memory, April 25, 1915. … 'Over the Top with the Third Australian Division' is illustrative of that big-hearted, devil-may-care style of the Australians, the men who can see the brighter side of life under the most distracting circumstances and most unpromising conditions...

But by 1918 those conditions were affecting George and he requested to be replaced. Providing spiritual support to people in the face of the devastation of war wasn’t easy.

After the war Cuttriss returned to New Zealand and for a time lived in Oamaru. He remained interested in veterans’ affairs and stood for parliament.

This blog is part of the From Little Towns in a Far Land series. Chloe Searle, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the North Otago Museum, shares some of the personal stories behind the Waitaki District's contributions to the First World War.

Chris Meech