Frank William Bartlett enlisted from Silverdale for WWI in September 1917 and, after training, sailed to Glasgow early in 1918. He was off to France in April and posted to the 3rd battalion NZ Rifle Brigade in May.
He was wounded twice in his short time in Europe – the first time only slightly but the next, in September 1918, was more serious. He recovered and by late October was back with his unit in France.
It is highly likely that he took part in the final act of the New Zealand troops in the European war: the liberation of the old fortress town of Le Quesnoy. This involved the NZ Rifle Brigade and the remaining infantry brigades scaling the walls by ladder, like knights of old taking a siege town.
Both Frank’s paternal and maternal grandparents lived on either side of the Orewa River on a farm known as Bankside. The land was originally settled by John and Martha Blake, Frank’s maternal grandparents. In 1861 the Blakes had, after building a thatched sod cottage, developed large seedbeds.
When Frank returned to Silverdale in 1919 he resumed his lifelong passion for Botany, which was fostered, in no small part, by a teacher at the Wade School.
His father died soon after his return home. Frank inherited the dairy farm and, on the death of his mother in 1927, stands of trees from his maternal grandparents’ time. He had already begun to have these trees authoritatively identified in 1925 when he married Thelma Meldrum from Orewa.
He developed an extensive range of contacts in botanical circles and was regularly consulted for his knowledge of gumland plants. He once dryly commented to a friend that he made more money from his trees than his cows.
Along with Neil Barr and others he established the Lower Northland Farm Forestry Association, which later became a national organisation. He also managed to solve the tricky problem of how Jamaican plants appeared in one of his paddocks, deducing that they had arrived in a load of guano used to fertilise that particular spot and nowhere else!
When Frank died, aged 82 at Bankside in 1979, Alan Isler, Auckland Regional Botanist wrote: “Frank Bartlett was a quiet, unassuming, well-read man with an incredible first hand knowledge of plants of the gumlands, the forest, the roadside and the gardens”.
Frank’s remaining children still live in the house that he helped his father to build.