Stanley Rogers was born in Wellington in 1886. He was a bridge builder with the New Zealand Railways when the war broke out, and he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary in August 1914.
Rogers already had military experience, having served with the New Zealand Volunteer Force and then the Territorial Force since 1905.
He served as Assistant Commandant at the internment camp on Somes Island until March 1915, then spent the next four months training troops at Trentham in Wellington and Narrow Neck in Auckland.
Rogers arrived in France May 1916 via Egypt.
As an Assistant Provost Marshall, he had a military police role, most of his work involved managing traffic to and from the front, and collecting intelligence information.
This kept him in close contact with the New Zealand Division at Messines and Passchendaele throughout 1917.
Awarded the Military Cross in November 1917, for his bravery and devotion to duty, he remained in the Ypres sector during the German spring offensives the following year, helping stop the German advance.
We had loaded these trenches with double and more rations, water, small-arms ammo and Mills hand grenades – the latter being the saving grace when the showdown came…
Bright’s boys were told when the forward troops withdrew through them they had to hold the trenches at all costs…
When Fritz came over five to one, what a mess there was to clean up; but the boys held the trench till next day, when they were relieved.
On occasion, Rogers had to supervise military prisoners, including conscientious objectors and deserters.
While based at Mud Farm, near Dickebusch in Belgium, Rogers’s unit received two men who refused to fight.
I took them to the bunkhouse, showed them how the boys made up their beds, said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness, so be neat and tidy,” and left them there.
Round dinnertime, I showed them the Messroom and their place at table… my boys spoke to them as if they had been there for months. After dinner they went outside the Messroom and stood there – they were simply dumbfounded and did not understand the situation.
They had been used to being bumped into a cell, and this was MUD FARM, the old Corps Detention Barracks.
Rogers also had the grisly task of supervising the execution of a British soldier found guilty of going absent without leave.
I explained to him he ought to take the shot of morphia for his comrades’ sake, as he must not look at them, it might unnerve them. He agreed, and the doctor came in and told him to sit down. The boy pulled up his sleeve and took the shot.
In one minute he was out… The two M.P.’s had to carry him with his feet dragging to the chair. He was strapped in, and the volley came.
They blew the white target out that the doctor had pinned over his heart… The doctor then pronounced the prisoner dead, the ambulance came out, and the padre was waiting at the graveside…
In late 1917, while in the town of Ypres, Rogers was visiting a colleague when a German aeroplane flew overhead. He wrote about the experience in a letter to his brother.
Now this Fritz pilot must be commended for his observation; he was flying just over roof high, so he stalled and doubled back and dropped two bombs in the yard, and they were saucer bombs.
Then I heard cries and orders, and I got up and looked out of the window. The yard was a shambles, with about 80 to 100 men wounded. You never saw such a mess; most of them had their legs taken off at their knees. Of course, I’ve been in the trenches, through Messines and the 3rd Battle of Ypres, but that was all widespread… but this is the biggest mess I have ever seen in one lump.
Rogers was permanently deafened in his left ear from the blast. He continued to serve on the Western Front for the rest of the war and was mentioned in dispatches for his work.
Rogers arrived back in New Zealand in late April 1919, and continued to receive medical treatment for his injuries until January the following year.
Stanley Rogers died on 3 March 1975, aged 88.