Rank: Wireless operator
Bruce Barclay was born in Fifeshire, Scotland in January 1897.
Most of his early years were spent on the farm of Rosslyn Lea Asylum managed by his father. In his teenage years he and his elder brother, Archie, rode bicycles and taught themselves a range of cycling tricks.
He was just 17 when war erupted, while working as a cadet with Midland and Scottish Railways. He volunteered as a Marconi wireless operator and was accepted for training in London.
At 18, Bruce Barclay, found himself sailing out of Belfast as “sparks” on a merchantman. He sailed from Montevideo to Lemnos to deliver horses for the Gallipoli campaign.
Bruce served as a Marconi operator on HM Transport Nitonian EO1 in 1915 and the diary of his voyage transporting troops to the Dardanelles is attached to his record.
He suffered the arctic cold of the Barents Sea and White Sea as they delivered supplies into Archangel for the Russians before the revolution.
Twice within three weeks he was torpedoed in the Atlantic and each time spent four bitter days in the ships’ boats.
His son Archie recounts “My Mother told me his hair turned white after the second sinking”. He was just 20. But there was no let-up. He was back to sea within weeks and celebrated his 21st birthday at Basra in the Persian Gulf. He sailed to South Africa, India, Australia and the United States.
Bruce returned from his service in World War 1 to manage the family farm in Scotland. He didn’t enjoy this experience and in 1927 emigrated with his wife Clare and small daughter Wilma, to Napier, New Zealand. They had a son, Archie, in 1929.
He was to be part of a small team of radio “Hams” (amateur transmitters) who put Napier back in contact with the world after the devastating earthquake of February 3, 1931. Led by George Tyler, this group sent and received all messages to and from the Government for the next two weeks or more until other communications were re-established.
As a Marconi telegraphist, he was a highly-skilled Morse-key operator, sending and receiving at about 35 five-letter words a minute, a speed well up with the best.
Bruce kept up his wireless telegraphy as an Amateur Radio Operator, with the callsign ZL-2DK. His son recalls him on many a night calling up his “ham” friends with the Morse key; or sitting by the radio switched to shortwave band, pad ready, pencil poised, taking down the morse-coded telegrams sent ship-to-shore or the reverse. They all appeared in a flying string of neat, legible, capital letters.
In World War Two, Bruce joined the National Reserve in 1940, a step up from the Home Guard but along the same part-time lines.
During this period he developed pneumonia and was discharged from the army. He returned to Napier to run a grocery store.
In 1950 they exchanged his business for a small 4-acre farmlet in Taradale, growing apricots and asparagus. But he had had his day in the sun and was always extremely proud of his Marconi-man status, his years in the Merchant Marine and his service in two World Wars.
He continued to work the land but by then Bruce was suffering the first stages of stomach cancer and gradually declined until he died a painful and lingering death in October 1954, aged just 57.