Alexandra man keen to serve

John Quinn Adamson (left) and his son Pat Adamson (right). Also pictured are John Quinn's war medals. Photo supplied & Gerard O'BrienOn August 7, 1914, New Zealand's excited restlessness gave way to imperial duty as the British Empire accepted an offer of troops for the war effort. Thousands pressed to enlist for duty and among them was John Quinn Adamson - Otago's first volunteer. Timothy Brown reports.

John Quinn Adamson came to be known as 8/1, son Pat Adamson recalls.

''8/1 was his regiment and his number and he was always known as 8/1,'' Mr Adamson (82) says.

''Even at the butcher's shop, his order always had written on it '8/1'.''

The Otago Infantry Battalion was the 8th regiment of the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force during World War 1 and John Quinn Adamson was its first volunteer.

While most people knew him as 8/1, to Pat Adamson and his three older brothers he was ''just dad''.

John Adamson volunteered as a private in the army following the British Empire's acceptance of an offer of troops from New Zealand on August 7, 1914.

He was still living with his parents when war was declared and, like many, saw service as an opportunity for adventure.

Military records show the 20-year-old labourer enlisted in Alexandra - at the time a small rural town of about 800 people - as he was swept up in the wave of excitement and duty which captured New Zealand in the early days of World War 1.

His father was a man who lived for King and country, Mr Adamson said.

''He just did his duty. It wasn't a great deal,'' he said.

John Adamson embarked from Port Chalmers on the troopship Hawkes Bay or Ruapehu, arriving in Egypt by late 1914.

He served during the Gallipoli campaign and was wounded during fighting in the Dardanelles in 1915. However, he was one of the lucky ones, as New Zealand's death toll from the campaign totalled 2721.

The North Otago Times reported on June 23, 1915: ''His parents have received no intimation beyond the fact that he is among the wounded now in the First General Hospital, Birmingham''.

The article also referenced him as ''the first volunteer for active service''.

After recovering at a convalescent hospital, Mr Adamson re-entered active service and was promoted to corporal in April 1916.

He saw service in France on the Western Front.

While serving at military camp in Trowbridge, England, during 1918, he met Rosa May Hiscock.

The pair married on January 28, 1919, in Salisbury, England, and after Mr Adamson was discharged, the couple settled in Alexandra, before moving to Dunedin.

His father did not dwell on his years as a soldier and shared very few details of his service, Mr Adamson said.

''Those in the war very seldom spoke about what they saw,'' he said.

''I don't think the memories were happy.''

His father was rewarded for his service with a small parcel of land, Mr Adamson said.

''They had a small holding just out of Alexandra,'' he said.

''It was just a small holding that wasn't profitable. It was too small.''

The couple moved to Dunedin, where Mr Adamson worked as a taxi driver and the couple raised their four sons.

He took a job at the Methven brass and iron foundry and ''he worked there until he died'', on September 12, 1956, aged 62.

''He wasn't very old,'' Pat Adamson said.

''I think [the war affected him] - he didn't talk about it much.''

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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