Topic: Laurent VC Street (TDN 5/12/2015)

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Laurent VC Street 

The Laurent family - Rodolphe and Elizabeth, with sons Edward, John, George, Leonard and William, along with several daughters - were some of the earliest settlers in Tarata.

Henry (‘Harry’) John Laurent was born there in April 1895 where his parents – John and Mary – were farming. Harry went to Tarata School until the families left the district around 1907 for Hawera.

The family was originally French and Harry’s grandfather, Rodolphe de Saint Laurent1, who arrived in New Zealand in 1852, had been an officer in the French Army.

After he left school Harry worked at several Hāwera dairy factories then joined the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in May 1915. He was wounded in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. In September 1918 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery, skill and enterprise” during the Kiwi assault  on Trescault Spur. Laurent’s patrol of 12 men had advanced well beyond the front line and attacked a German strongpoint. They killed 20 of the defenders and took 112 prisoners which the patrol then got back to Allied lines under German fire.

In July 1919 when Laurent returned to Hāwera, he was given a hero’s welcome and he and the Mayor, Edwin Dixon, each planted an oak tree in the grounds of the Watertower. (Later in 1919, a third oak was planted by John Grant VC when he, too, returned to Hāwera.) The three trees may still be seen in the Watertower grounds.

After the war Laurent returned to far less dangerous civilian life and worked in a grocery store and later as a commercial traveller in Hāwera.

Harry then served as an Area Commander in the Home Guard during World War II. He died in Hastings in 1988 aged 92 – the last of the World War I VC winners to pass away. He was given a full military funeral and his ashes are interred in the Hāwera Servicemen’s Cemetery. His VC is held by Waiouru Military Museum.

1. Rodolphe Marie Martin Joseph de St Laurent, born Normandy, France, 1826


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Laurent VC Street (TDN 5/12/2015)

Laurent VC Street (TDN 5/12/2015) by Ron is Copyright Act 1994