Discovering the life of Alexander Rizk – New Zealand ANZAC

Our member Peter McIvor describes some the excitement and sorrow he encounter in his search for his ancestor, Alexander Rizk and raises some important questions for family historians.

One Easter Sunday, my Qantas flight from Queensland touched down in Wellington at midnight. Cousin James was at the airport to meet me and within the hour we were sitting down talking about his grandfather Rizk Alexander. James had enjhoyed the article in our Newsleter about his grandfather but pointed out some minor errors. The first matter was that of the serviceman’s grave. James showed me the receipts for the purchase of the family plot in Karori cemetery and it was obvious that when Rizk fanally died of complications from beging gassed in World War 1 on 24th August 1924, the family purchased a plot for his burial. I was also surprised to see the receipts for his memorial stone. I has alwys thought he received a serviceman’s grave. It turns out that later he received a serviceman’s headstone, buth this was simply deposited on the grave already purchased by the family.

An hour later I was in bed, but had no sleep all night – as always, talking about Rizk and what he went throught always fireds my imagination, with his latest discovery turning over in my mind all night, and me wondering why the War Graves Commission had not paid for his grave in the beginning, and whenter his family was reimbursed. In addition I could not help contrasting his lief to my own. Both my brother and I had served in the New Zealand Army, but never saw active combat. I thought about the older brother Kareem in his late 20’s purchasing a burial plot for his younger brother, who died from the consequences of being gassed. The contrast between our lives could not be more start, especially in the reflecing on this last fact.

In the morning after breakfast, James ogut our his box of photos for us to look at. I was astonished when James showed me a floder under the photos with very old documents inside. One of the first to catch my eye ws the original certificate awarding him British subject status dated November 1922. I had never seen documents like this before in my life, and was amazed that they were in such good condition. I was astoudned to find a British passport embosssed on the front cover in gold lettering British Passport, Dominion of New Zealand. I then opened it to realise it was Rizk’s passport from 1922. Among the documents were also his scroll of remembrance and also a scroll signed by King George V in Buckingham Palace to Rizk’s widow.

So I had my answer! Rizk had indeed become a British subject following tghe war, and before he passed away. Of note, he had married Dorothy Khouri in 1919, a New Zealand born woman opf Lebancese background. This is another avenue of enquire we need to follow. So many questions, if only I had thought to ask Aunt Dorothy, rizk widow, before she passed away in 1985! But I was young then, and these questions never occurred to me at that age, even thought since childhood I had always been the family historian

Further details about Alexander Rizk are available at the Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph at and with additional images of documents referred to in this article.

Rizk Alexander NZ Passport 1922 002 (a)

Passports of Rizk Alexander and his wife Mrs Dorothy Mary Alexander. His noted: British Subject by naturalisation of Syrian origin. Letter presented in New Zeland on the 26th November, 1922. Mrs Alexander’s passport noted: British Subject by birth widow of a naturalize British Subject of Syrian origin. Letter presented in New Zealnd on 24. 11. 1922

Rizk Alexander note from George V (small res)

Commemorative Scroll for Alexander Rizk (low res)

Memorial Letters from King George VI on recognising Alexander Rizk’s death.

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