Somes Prisoners

Deaths of Prisoners Interned on Somes Island

There are no internee graves in the Somes Island cemetery. A key reason for this so far as WWI is concerned anyway, is that only one prisoner actually died on the island - and he had to be taken to Wellington for an autopsy. The rest died in hospital on the mainland. They are buried in unmarked graves scattered around Karori Cemetery.

World War One: 1914-1918

Landgraf, Friedrich Wilhelm

Landgraf died on 20 February 1915 on Somes Island from heart disease immediately after carrying water up from the wharf. This was an arduous task and the strain presumably was too much for him. He was the only prisoner to actually die on the island.

He was buried Karori Cemetery, No. 57 Path P, Public 2. 

Ref: National Archives (NA) file: J 46 225/1915, Inquest, Landgraf, William.


Aleason, Carl

Aleason died on 14 June 1915 from a heart and lung disease. He was a Turkish seaman from a visiting ship, and was interned from that ship. He died in Wellington Hospital, to which he had been admitted while en route from Auckland to Somes. He was never actually on Somes, though this was only due to the state of his health. 

He was officially ‘released’ from custody on 11 June 1915, as he lay dying in the hospital. Evidence suggests that the authorities preferred not to have his death as a POW on their records.

Burial details are not on his file, however, doubtless he is in a pauper’s section of Karori Cemetery. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/33I, Aleason, Carl. Also see AAAB 482/44f, Kellerman, F., Capt. P.W. Skelley to POWIB, London, 5/9/1916, which gives his date of death. His death was registered at Wellington in the second quarter of 1915, as Carlo Alexois, Folio 1259)


Schulte, Gustav

Schulte died on 9 March 1917. He was buried Karori Cemetery, No. 281, Path H, Public 2. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/10c, Schulte, Gustav (Note: I have not sighted this file). Also WTU microfilm: Micro MS 18, Somes Island Official Papers 1917-1918, Statement to Justice Chapman by Eduard Pottkamper, 3/4/1918 (item no. 50). Pottkamper draws Justice Chapman’s attention to guards using opera glasses belonging to Schulte in about October 1916, which Schulte had recognised at the time. When he had complained about it, Schulte had instead received 14 days fatigue work. Following his death, Schulte’s mother in Germany had granted Pottkamper power of attorney for his property in New Zealand. A guard from the office was sacked for stealing some of Schulte’s property.  


Rohde, August

Rohde died on 7 May 1917 of Morbus Cordis Mitral and Syncope, and is buried Karori Cemetery, No. 30 Path U, Roman. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/36I, Rohde, August.


Volkmin (Volkmann), George Otto

Volkmann died in Wellington Hospital on 31 July 1917. A fellow internee/patient at the time, Wilhelm Knab, said that he was in the bed alongside Volkmann, in Ward 4, Wellington Hospital in July 1917. He said the nurses were very inconsiderate and antagonistic toward them and neglected them and even delayed bringing drinks of water. The doctor also said the things they complained of were good enough for them. 

On the morning of Volkmann’s death he commented to the doctor that he was very short of breath, but the doctor laughed and ordered him to get up. He said he could not, but the doctor left orders to make him get up. Another internee in the ward subsequently helped him dress and go to the fireplace. In the afternoon the doctor returned and called him “the biggest loafer on earth” and that nothing was the matter with him. 

Volkmann died that evening. An hour before he died, he asked the nurse for a drink of water with a little brandy, but was refused. POWs Lassau and Meshoullam (Michelon) were also present.

He is buried Karori Cemetery, in No. 290, Path P, Public 2. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/10j, Volkmin, George Otto. (Note: I have not sighted this file) Also WTU microfilm: Micro MS 18, Somes Island Official Papers 1917-1918, Statement to Justice Chapman by Wilhelm Knab, 4/4/1918 (item no. 62). 


Dietz (Titz), Joseph

Dietz died  of stomach cancer at Wellington Hospital, on 3 November 1917. He was buried on 5 November 1917 at Karori Cemetery, No. 74 Path U. Roman. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/6f, Dietz (Titz), Joseph, also under an erroneous spelling, AAAB 482/16c, Leitz.


Kosel, Karl August Hugo

Kosel, who was known as ‘Hugo’, died of exhaustion early in the morning of 31 July 1918, on the Petone foreshore during a four-man escape attempt. 

He was buried at Karori Cemetery on 2 August 1918, and is in Plot 301, Path H, Public No. 2. 

Ref: NA files: AAAB 482/ 51f, Kosel, K.A.H., J 46 780/1918, Inquest, Kosel, Carl A.


Heyer, Albert

Heyer died the night of 25 September 1918 of general paralysis and pneumonia (and had suffered from Delusional Insanity for some time), at Porirua Mental Hospital. 

He was buried on 28 September 1918 at Karori Cemetery, No. 139 Path H, Public 2. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/61h, Heyer, Albert.


Manthei, William

Manthei was a long-time Somes prisoner, but had been transferred to Motuihi by the time of his death. He died at Avondale Mental Hospital, Auckland, on 30 March 1919 after 3-4 days of unconsciousness.  He was buried on 2 April 1919 at Waikumete Cemetery, Public Division, Plot A 3 - 60. 

Manthei had been admitted to Avondale Hospital suffering from delusional insanity and was previously at Porirua Mental Hospital. The resulting inquest put his death down to pulmonary congestion accelerated by shock sustained by his having attempted to commit suicide by hanging on 27 March 1919, at the hospital. 

His admission to Avondale Hospital on 19 March 1919, followed his attempt to escape from Narrow Neck Internment Camp the previous day. 

Manthei was on Somes Island from August 1914 to 2 July 1918, the transfer being the possibility that there might be an  improvement to his condition that might result from experiencing Motuihi’s warmer climate. He suffered Phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis) and had spent time in Porirua Mental Hospital over the period, where he had threatened suicide in 1917. 

Ref: NA file: AAAB 482/49k, Manthei, William.  


More detail on these men to follow...



Other associated general National Archives files are AD 1 15/150, Funerals, POW, and AD 1 15/159, Graves, POW, Location & Register. AD 1 15/150 indicates that the N.Z. Government was responsible for burial costs, including payment to a chaplain. At at 27 July 1917, the Catholic priest Rev. F.L. Dignan (whose complaints of the terrible state of the camp’s buildings in 1919 caused a stir) visited the internees and had also been engaged to perform the burials.

Former assistant camp commandant, Stan Rogers’ memoirs in WTU microfilm: MS Papers 5553-1, Rogers, Stanley Dick, contains references to the death of an internee named “Hugraff”, who doubtless is F.W. Landgraf. Rogers’ description of events is flawed and there is no evidence in relevant files that he was around during Landgraf’s actual demise. Rogers refers to events ashore, including attending the autopsy and arranging the burial. It is possible he was present at that time.

AJHR, 1919, H-33, p. 20. Justice Chapman said in about May 1918, that he thought five men had died during the life of the camp, although I have listed six (including the hastily discharged Aleason) prior to that date.

Karl Joosten’s letter to W.J. Pugh on 7 September 1918 mentions that seven internees who were formerly confined on Somes had died and were buried at Karori Cemetery. Joosten asked that Pugh have the N.Z. Government reserve their graves for them. Inmates on Somes also  wished to erect crosses on these graves. Pugh replied to the Director of Personal Services (Matheson’s superior) on 26 September 1918 that presumably these graves were reserved and that the Director would not object to internees erecting these crosses at their own expense.  NA file: AAAB 449/52a.

There are no markers at present on any of the graves and those the prisoners would have liked to install in 1918 are unlikely to have existed. This was because the prisoners were transferred to Featherston soon afterwards and most were then shipped out to their homelands aboard the troopship 'Willochra'.

World War Two: 1939-1945

Several deaths - To be completed

Guttenbeil, Hermann Edward

Guttenbeil died from heart failure on 15 June 1943 at the Pahiatua Internment Camp, aged 57 years. The Paihatua Cemetery's records describe him as the "Forces Chaplin". He was buried on 17 June 1943, in Area 6 of the cemetery, in Block 6, Plot 2.


WTU = Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

NA    = Archives NZ (formerly National Archives)