A Bootmaker Goes to War

This is the story of Albert Summers, a young bootmaker turned WWI soldier. Allow two hours for the full tour.

Summers Boys with Charlie Superimposed 1919

Brothers in arms

Albert Summers was born at Rangitumau, north of Masterton, in 1892. He was one of 16 children. By 1914 he was living in Lower Hutt, and working as a trained bootmaker. He enlisted in July 1916 into the 19th Reinforcement.

Albert served overseas along with four of his brothers.


Featherston Heritage Museum
Fitzherbert Street
Behind the Fell Locomotive Museum

Before you follow Albert's story stop at the Featherston Heritage Museum. Here you'll get a feel for the layout and environment of the Featherston Military Camp and other aspects of training life through the photographs and memorabilia on display.


NEXT STOP (2 min drive)
Featherston Military Camp
State Highway 2

Featherston Military Camp

Featherston Military Camp was a temporary home for over 60,000 soldiers in training between January 1916 and November 1918. The barracks housed 4500, with a 'canvas camp' holding another 3,000.

Infantry would spend about two months in camp, while mounted rifles and artillery did almost all their training at Featherston. The camp opened in January 1916 and over 60,000 men trained here.

Like many soldiers when Albert enlisted he was first taken into the army in Trentham before quickly moving over to Featherston for field training.

Here's a good map to see the layout of the military camp in relation to current roads.


Papawai Camp (10 min drive)
Fabians Rd, near junction with Papawai Rd

Papawai Camp 1918

Papawai Camp was next to the Papawai Rifle Range, where the trainee soldiers did their musketry (shooting) training. Up to 500 men could stay at the camp in tents.

Albert and his fellow soldiers would march from Featherston to Papawai for a day's shooting - a round trip of 20km.


Kaiwaiwai & Kahutara Halls (15 min to Kahutara and then 10 min to Kaiwaiwai)
Highway 53, Featherston-Martinborough Rd (Kaiwaiwai Hall)
Corner of Kahutara Rd and Pukio West Rd (Kahutara Hall)

Kaiwaiwai HallKahutara Hall

Soldiers in training needed some downtime. These community halls were once part of the Soldiers’ Club at Featherston Camp. Here Albert and his mates would have gone to relax when they weren't training. The club buildings were dismantled and re-assembled as community halls in Kaiwaiwai and Kahutara in 1921. 



ANZAC Club (10 min)
Bell Street


The ANZAC club in Bell Street was built by local settlers and opened in October 1916. Trainee soldiers on leave came here for concerts, dances or a drink or two at the club canteen. Albert would have spruced himself up for dances here with local girls.

On some of his days off he would also have taken a train to Masterton to visit his family.


Rimutaka Summit (20 min)
State Highway 2

Marching over the Rimutaka Hill

Between September 1915 and April 1918 about 60,000 infantrymen marched over the Rimutaka Range to Trentham Camp in Upper Hutt. The soldiers would set off before dawn, accompanied by the camp's brass band. 

Cuppa time at Summit with a woman from the Wairarapa Patriotic Association

By mid-morning the troops reached the summit, where the Wairarapa Patriotic Association provided a meal for up to 2,000 men at a time.

From Trentham, Albert sailed to England in 1916 and joined the 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment. He survived the Messines and Passchendaele campaigns, and the Second Battle of the Somme. While in France, he took up bootmaking again to keep his battalion well shod.

Albert with Charlie's grave in France

This picture shows Albert at the grave of his brother Charlie, who was killed in France in 1918.

After the war Albert returned to Masterton, married, and remained in the Wairarapa until his death in 1966.


Service number:

Albert Summers 31372


Other stories you might like to follow:

62 Bell St
Featherston 5710
New Zealand