Wellington brothers James and Alexander McLean left New Zealand together in June 1915 to fulfil their patriotic duty in World War I. Their dramatic experiences, encounters, lengthy hospitalisations and eventual return from Europe make for a remarkable story.
On 16 September 1916 both young men were shot at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in France within minutes of each other. Both stopped their bullets on the left side of the chest. Both ended up in hospital beds, side by side, in Southampton.
The brothers’ war-time letters home, preserved in family scrapbooks, are central to this narrative. So too are a selection of postcards, brittle military documents and faded photographs dating back to the First World War. While extensive additional research was required to piece together the brothers’ movements upon leaving New Zealand, the availability of their military records on-line was instrumental in mapping their odyssey.