Minister apologises for Gallipoli relative gaffe

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Last updated 05:00 21/05/2014
Michael Woodhouse
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Immigration Minister.
Frank Woodhouse
NOT A RELATIVE: Frank Woodhouse

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Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Woodhouse has upset an Otago family by wrongly claiming Trooper Frank Woodhouse, who died in Gallipoli aged just 20, was his great uncle.

Woodhouse told a reporter while he was in Turkey for the 99th anniversary of the Anzac landings last month that he had seen the name on a memorial there and after checking online found it was his great uncle.

But a spokesman for the aggrieved family, Gareth Woodhouse, said the man was his great uncle, not the minister's. The family had his medals, a letter from the King about his service, and the original of a picture now on the Auckland Cenotaph website.

He had sent a "long, pointed" email to Michael Woodhouse about his claim and he had come back with a "semi-apology".

Gareth Woodhouse said he had not done an exact genealogy, but Frank was the brother of his grandfather Cecil, who just before he died had told him about Frank.

He said Woodhouse was a minister of the Crown and Veterans' affairs minister. "The family feels Michael Woodhouse should have done more research before making claims to the media about Frank Woodhouse."

Michael Woodhouse yesterday said he had not intended his comments to the reporter to be on the record and he now accepted the man was not his great uncle. He had expressed his regret to the family if he had caused any upset.

"I certainly didn't intend to offend them," he said.

"I accept that the comment about the nature of any familial relationship was premature. It wasn't a comment to claim some kind of great lineage to him."

He still believed he had a family connection to the soldier and there were several families of Woodhouses in the region. "I'm quite sure there is shared DNA there."

"Laterally" the soldier may be a first or second cousin three or four times removed.

The day after Anzac Day Michael Woodhouse was reported in the Otago Daily Times saying he discovered the unknown family link when he saw the name F Woodhouse on the Hill 60 Memorial. He checked the name with Archives New Zealand online and found it was his great uncle. A picture of the man showed he was "not dissimilar to me . . . ".

Until then he had believed he had no family that took part in the campaign so, "you could have knocked me over with a feather . . . It was a profound experience and I do feel a little more connected now", he told the newspaper.

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The minister had put a picture up on his website of him looking at Frank's name on the memorial, but he had since deleted comments put there by the minister's family.

Records show Trooper Frank Woodhouse, a labourer from Alexandra, served in the 4th Reinforcement of the Otago Mounted Rifles. He was listed as missing believed killed on August 27, 1915, aged 20.

His family had researched his death and found he was shot and fell in the water.

"He never even made the beach," Gareth Woodhouse said.

- Stuff

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