Ashleigh Bruce Fitchett - his story

The Fitchetts were a prominent family in the early history of Brooklyn.

Ashleigh Bruce Fitchett 1888 -1963

Bruce (as he was known to the family) was the third child of Ashton Buddle Fitchett and his second wife Laura Sophia. He mother died when he was 15 months old and he was brought up by house keepers and his half-sister Louisa.

Bruce served his apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer at Cables Foundry in Kaiwharawhara and then worked at Foxton Flax Mill before starting his own business in Wellington.
During World War 1 he was part of the Wellington Infantry Regiment and saw service in France. He was wounded in the second battle of the Somme in 1918. This ended his wartime service.
He was conscripted into the NZ army and trained as a Lewis machine gunner at the army camp in Featherston in 1916.

He was shipped of to Britain and France and arrived just after the battle of Passchendaele but in time for the second battle of the Somme. He was concussed during a charge when a German bullet penetrated the front of his helmet and was deflected by his chin strap, travelled around the side of this head and out the back of his helmet. His comrades, seeing a hole in the back of his helmet, concluded that he was dead, and travelled on. He later recovered consciousness and rejoined his unit to be greeted as a ghost.

He was later wounded at the back of his left knee by an explosive gullet. He convalesced in England where he met his future wife.

At the end of the war, he was discharged from the army as a Lance Corporal in Britain, travelled by ship to the US and there purchased a Harley Davidson motor bike. He travelled across the US, spending time in Detroit looking at car factories.

In 1941, he rejoined the NZ Army to assist in training driver mechanics then urgently needed by the armed forces. With several other older officers, they prepared a 6 month course which would train men to service their trucks and perform most simple repairs in the field. He worked as an instructor until 1947, rising to the rank of captain. Their last task was to train the army of occupation.

He died in 1963 of heart disease and is buried at Paraparaumu cemetery

What was he like:
- a tall gentle man (6 foot 3 inches)
- very quietly spoken
- very practical and enjoyed inventing things to overcome household problems
- very shy and loathe to speak out.

His granddaughter, Marion Fitchett shared Bruce’s story that had been recorded by his son, Ashton Fitchett with us.