JPs and World War One RSS

We Are Remembering Them…

Ric Carlyon - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

1914 - 2014, 100 Years since WW1 began

JOHN A. LEE

A Man of Many Parts

John A. Lee took so many roles during his lifetime - Swagger, Soldier, Writer, Politician - that seldom is he recalled as a Justice of the Peace.  While his active service at the front during World War One might also have been forgotten, those who subsequently met, or saw him, noticed that he lived with an obvious and debilitating reminder of his soldiering - the loss of his left arm.

Early Life
John Alfred Alexander Lee was born in Dunedin in July 1891 and had a hard early childhood, exacerbated when he was frequently truant from school which he left altogether aged 14 to work first in a bootshop, then at a printer’s.  The teenager was involved in crime and was sentenced to detention from which he repeatedly attempted, or effected, escape. He was later an itinerant worker on farms, taking to the road as a swagman. Changing his name to Alexander Leigh he worked in the central North Island where he was twice arrested and imprisoned for 12 months in Mt Eden Jail.  It’s thought that while incarcerated he heard Socialist orators who made a lasting impression.

Off to War
In March 1916 at age 26 Lee enlisted for service in the First World War, the name on his papers John Alexander Lee, his occupation given as Barman.  He was drafted to the 1st Wellington Infantry Regiment with the registered number 16560 and left for overseas from Wellington in July 1916.  

But it may be for only a while.
But if fight here we must
Then in God is our trust.
So, send me away with a smile
.

- WW1 song “Send Me Away With A Smile”

 

Distinguished Conduct Medal

He served in France with distinction… in two ways. He discovered himself finding that he was articulate, quick-witted, clever and able to write and he used these qualities to spread the Socialist viewpoint, earning the nick-name “Bolshie Lee”. He also displayed bravado while in conflict. In 1917 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal when, alone, he captured an enemy machine-gun post at Fanny’s Farm near Messines. The recommendation reads: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During our offensive he showed great dash and coolness in attacking and capturing a machine-gun with its team. Later, when the advance was held up by an enemy post, he skilfully rushed it with two of his comrades, capturing two machine-guns and forty prisoners”.

Injured
Within the year, in April 1918, Lee was still in France, on duty at Mailly Maillet, working in mud and slush. The Wellington Regiment’s History records that the Battalion was coping in trenches difficult to walk through, cleaning up these trenches and digging a new support line. On the 9th of April, the enemy was very inactive and casualties were but slight. It was during this relatively quiet time, on 12th of April, that Private Lee was injured by a shell which shattered his left arm.

Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother's darling boy?
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It's time to lay the sword and gun away
.
-W.W.1 song “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier”

He was evacuated, his arm amputated and he spent months recovering in various hospitals in England. Lee was discharged due to his wounds in August 1919.

Repatriated: New Career
Once back in New Zealand he married long-time girlfriend Marie (Mollie) Guy, settling in Auckland where he opened a small soap-making business, promoted the interests of returned soldiers and joined the Labour Party.

Then raise the scarlet standard high,
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here

-Labour movement song

His persistence to enter Parliament paid off when he was first elected in 1922. With some breaks (defeated at the ballot box and ill-health) he was an MP through the depression of the 1930s espousing his theory that a colonial economy must be replaced by cultural nationalism leading to economic independence. Labour became Government in 1935. Lee showed political dynamism but was not admitted to Cabinet: he was later appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary.  He still didn’t make Cabinet in Labour’s second term but he was made responsible for housing. He revelled in the task and in 3 years saw 3,500 new houses built.  

Triumph on hearing of the completion of more houses in the early 1940s 

Writings
His writing in the 1930s soon earned critical acclaim, novels based on earlier experiences (“The Hunted”, “Civilian into Soldier”) and reflecting the depression (“Children of the Poor”), while other works championed socialist causes.
Lee also wrote about parts of the Labour Party’s policies and manifesto that he was against, making a case against Prime Minister, Michael Savage, whom he cuttingly attacked in a published essay. This led to Lee being expelled from the party, just 2 days before Savage died of cancer. Ousted, Lee formed a new political party whose members, on the Democratic Soldier Labour Party ticket, contested the 1943 election. Most were unsuccessful and Lee lost his seat of Grey Lynn. His “Shining with the Shiner” appeared in 1944.

Post Politics
It was the end of politics. Lee turned to his pen, writing needling and “revealing” articles of indictment against the Labour Party, labelling it despotic, hostile to democratic process, a victim of greedy unionism and corrupt politicians. In 1950 he took over a book shop, Vital Books, which prospered as an outlet for specialist, educational and text books. In the 1960s he took up his pen again, this time to write recollections, like “Delinquent Days, “Simple on a Soapbox”, and in 1970s he published his diaries and recollections. “For Mine is the Kingdom” was a tee-totaller’s outrageous account of the life and times of brewer and hotelier Sir Ernest Davis. “Roughnecks, Rolling Stones & Rouseabouts, With an Anthology of Early Swagger Literature” followed in 1977.

John A. Lee, DCM, J.P., was awarded an honorary LLD by the University of Otago in 1969. He died at Auckland on 13th of June 1982, aged 92, his wife Mollie having predeceased him in 1976. He is remembered in the heart of his old parliamentary electorate, Point Chevalier. John A. Lee Corner on the north-west quadrant of the busy intersection of Point Chevalier and Great North Roads is named in his memory. It's location neatly ties his local parliamentary career and his literary achievements given that “his” corner is opposite the local public library. 

 

We are Remembering Them:
+ John Alfred Alexander Lee, J.P, Service number 16560
+ Enlisted at the age of 25 as a private in the 1st Wellington Infantry Regiment  
+ 1916 Embarked on active service  in July
+ 1917 Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal
+ 1918 Seriously injured at the front in France, evacuated to England
+ 1919 Discharged from duty, returned to New Zealand
+ 1921 Entered politics
+1943 Defeated at the polls
+ 1982 Died Auckland aged 92

 

Sources:
London Gazette 14 Aug 1917
Papers Past
Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
The History of the Wellington Regiment
New Zealand Defence website

RCC

 

We Are Remembering Them...

Ric Carlyon - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

REGINALD  LANGDALE EVATT

Served in 3 Wars

Reginald Langdale Evatt, of Wellington was made a J.P. in 1935, but he should be mentioned in this series because he participated in several firsts in the service of his country. He fought in the first overseas conflict involving New Zealand troops, the 1899- 1902 South African (Boer) War. Then in 1914 he was among the first to see active service in the First World War, a member of New Zealand’s Samoa Advance Party. Invalided out of Samoa, Evatt returned to New Zealand later to re-enlist… and he was soon off to the front in Europe. Not done when World war Two broke out, he took a leading home-role during that conflict.

Evatt was born in Dunedin in 1881 - in his youth Evatt showed great interest in the military. Aged just 15 he joined College Rifles in Wellington in 1897. He also took up rowing. Both pursuits were to be for life. His grasp of military matters was illustrated in the Letters to the Editor column of the “Evening Post” newspaper in July 1900 when he wrote correcting a previous article’s derivation of “Tommy Atkins”, at the time a name given to any hero in conflict, particularly to British troops. The original article said the name first emerged in a military handbook or soldier’s manual, a term for a soldier. The youthful Evatt set out to correct this, saying the name went back further: he quoted a reliable source which recalled that Tommy Atkins had been a real soldier serving in India in 1857. He was a sentry and, despite unofficial suggestions that he should abandon his post in the face of a strong Sepoy advance, he held to his duty, unrelieved. Atkins remained at his sentry and was killed. Thereafter, Evatt wrote, anyone distinguished by deeds of bravery was called “Tommy Atkins”, a memorial to the original Tommy which lasted far longer than medals or mentions. This, said Evatt, put “Evening Post” readers right.  The word “Tommy” survives today: generally used to describe any British soldier or items connected with the British Army, as in “Tommy Gun”. And there are other derivations of the name Tommy Atkins – one such talks of an equally brave soldier by that name who was killed during hand-to-hand fighting in Flanders in 1794.

South Africa

In September 1899 the South African (Boer) War broke out: New Zealand was fast to commit to send her troops off-shore for the first time.

Rulers of Colonies,
Stand by your guiding star;
Forget not ’twas old England
That made us what we are.

“Sons of the Colonies” … N.Z. patriotic song to encourage recruiting

Suitable soldiers were selected from permanent or part-time volunteer forces and the first contingent left just one month later, following a string of family, public and official farewells.   

Private Evatt, as a member of the College Rifles, could be expected to enlist. He did, and was drafted to the 6th Contingent due to leave Auckland at the end of January. His passion for rowing as a member of the Star Boating Club would have to be shelved, meantime.

Either as a last minute duty, or carefully planned ceremony, Reginald Evatt was best man at his brother’s wedding in Wellington on 17th January.

He embarked on SS “Cornwall” which left Auckland on 30th January 1901 transporting 602 troops to East London, South Africa. Throughout their war service they and the 5th Queensland Bushmen operated under the celebrated Lt Col Herbert Plumer in almost every part of the action. Records show the column distinguished itself by consistently good work, the New Zealanders frequently reported in close combat with the enemy, taking and capturing soldiers as well as Boer military transports.

Far from overseas our brothers flocked to join the flag
Joining us at British part was neither bluff nor brag
Foot to foot they stood with us beneath that dear old flag
When we went marching on Pretoria

- Victory Song, c.1902

 

Evatt survived the war despite repeated bouts of Malaria and returned to Wellington: he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps for service in Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and in South Africa 1902.


 

The Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps

Back in Wellington…

Defence doctors confirmed the Malaria that Reginald Evatt had suffered in South Africa kept recurring and in May 1902 Evatt was discharged “on completion of service” and with “Character exemplary”.  He returned to civvy street, his occupation given at this time as warehouseman. He kept up his membership and close interest in College Rifles and resumed rowing.

In June 1909, by which time he was Colour Sergeant, he received the Volunteers’ 12 year Long Service Medal and the following year he was made Lieutenant in the Wellington Guards Rifles.

He might have had a bout of the ‘flu about this time because R. L. Evatt, accountant with the jewellers Walker and Hall’s Wellington office ,was listed in a newspaper advertisement among those who endorsed “Fluenzol”, described as “a magic remedy”.

1912, and he was promoted to Captain and recalled his many successes in rowing at local, provincial and national level by presenting his club, Star Boating Club, with a trophy  for the Junior Fours. In 1913 it’s noted that he was absent from rowing regattas, attending Army camp. Later in the year he was presented with a 16 year Long Service Medal and was made a member of the Executive Committee of the Navy League.

Conflict in Europe

Evatt as a long-serving member of the volunteer forces, and having experience at the front in South Africa was a certainty to go overseas if the looming war in Europe escalated and New Zealand troops were sent. Matters in the Northern Hemisphere deteriorated: war was declared. New Zealand would be assisting the war effort. In August 1914 it was published that Evatt would be among those officers to go abroad as part of New Zealand Expeditionary Forces. Advice of this had reached him at the same time that he received notice of promotion from his employers, Walker and Hall in Wellington, offering a position in the company’s Sydney office. Uncertain what to do in the circumstances he cabled management in Sydney and received a reply wishing him God Speed with the military and that a place would be held open for him on his return.

Shortly after World War One was declared, London asked the New Zealand Government to help with "a great and urgent Imperial service”.

Overseas there came a pleading,
"Help a nation in distress."
And we gave our glorious laddies -
Honour bade us do no less,

- W.W.1 Song - Keep the Home Fires Burning 


With great haste troops were assembled in Wellington, fitted out and, after the briefest of official farewells at Basin Reserve, two troopships sailed for war. The destination had been kept secret.   

Samoa Bound

Captain Evatt was aboard the troopship Monowai now bound for Samoa where New Zealand’s Advance Party was to seize the island of Upolu which had been occupied by the Germans, now the enemy, for 14 years. Some 1,300 New Zealand soldiers were aboard troopships Monowai and Moeraki. They were accompanied by escorting warships, and arrived off Samoa on 29th August. The first boat ashore at Apia delivered the Surrender Document to the Germans. The enemy realised the inevitability of the situation, accepted and signed. Troops stormed ashore in long boats to oust German officials, take over public buildings, and raise the Union Jack… and all without a shot being fired. It was the first time in the history of the Empire that a British Dominion overseas, New Zealand, had sent an invading force across the ocean and captured a foreign territory. And Samoa was just the second territory in the War to be seized from the Germans in the name of the King. Togoland in West Africa had been taken days before.  

But the heat, flies, mosquitos and different food in the tropics didn’t agree with all soldiers. Some had tonsillitis and the ‘flu, while others, like Captain Evatt suffered with malaria, perhaps worsened by his earlier bouts in South Africa. Like others, he could not seem to regain good health. Meanwhile some troops reckoned they were dying from boredom: once the occupation had been completed, trenches dug and observation posts created, they found little to do.

Briefly in Wellington

Evatt’s condition was much more serious than ennui - he was invalided out and he returned to New Zealand in December 1914.  He was given leave of absence by the Military and his employers, Walker and Hall, true to word, transferred him to Sydney. Evatt was attached to Australian Imperial Forces as “temporary”. He then applied to the New Zealand Defence authorities to join the Australian Forces but this was turned down. When the First World War ground on New Zealand military officials offered him a position, paying the Evatt family’s transfer from Sydney to Wellington. By February 1916 Captain Evatt was passed fit and immediately reported for further military duty.

Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit.

W.W.1 Song "Over There" 

Within weeks he was posted to the 15th Reinforcements B Company and promptly organised the formation of a company band, the instruments financed by the musician-troops and public subscription.

B Company 15th Reinforcements Cap Badge

In July came the embarkation date for the B Company of the 15th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Battalion. The Mayor of Wellington farewelled the troops on the 25th July and next day they sailed for the front aboard SS Waitemata, arriving in Egypt on 3rd October 1916.

Waitemata… transported the 15th Reinforcements 

At the Front

Evatt found himself in the midst of the action in France. By April 18th 1918 he was in the trenches at La Signy Farm. After a quiet spell the enemy started bombardment through the fog and mist with Allies’ six inch Howitzers pounding La Signy Farm buildings with many direct hits. Wellington troops were relieved by 1st Otago and marched off to canvas camp.

You might forget the gas and shell
You'll never forget the Mademoiselle

-W.W.1 song - Mademoiselle from Armentières

During relief operations Evatt was wounded. After nearly 2 years at the front he was injured badly enough to be evacuated to England to recover and the following year, 1919, he returned to Wellington.

Never quite made it to ‘Civvy Street’

Reginald Evatt quickly resumed interest in rowing, elected to the committee of the Star Boating Club and made Life Active Member. He remained in uniform in the Reserves and in September 1918 he led the troops on parade in the ceremony to welcome the new Governor-General, Viscount Jellicoe.

In 1921 he was elected Captain of the Star Boating Club and the following year he was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration. In 1925 he was given command of the 1st Battalion, Wellington Regiment and was presented with his Long Service Award for 27 years’ in the military.

In Sept 1926 the weekly newspaper Truth, back-grounding Evatt said… “He came back with honourable scars and decorations. Although he looks a tremendously stern soldier when on parade, in ordinary life he is a plain chap with a gift of good fellowship and a fund of breezy anecdotes”. He continued administering the sport of rowing and for many years was elected to senior club positions at Star, including Captain for successive years and Vice-President. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1935.

More Conflict

In 1939 with the world at war again, the Star Boating Club enlisted a body of young men, a platoon, for military service. "The club’s showing an excellent spirit in the formation of a platoon for the Wellington Regiment,” said the Chairman, Mr. R. L. Evatt. “It is a fine gesture, and an example to all sporting bodies in the country. I am looking forward to see the platoon on parade, and I expect great things from it".

Evatt himself was not to be missing while there was any action about. He changed uniform when he was posted to command Wellington City - Poneke Battalion of the Home Guard during World War 2, leading men again in time of conflict.

Dog Stories

Colonel Reginald Evatt must have liked dogs. Starting with the last story first. Evatt, according to an article in the Evening Post, September 1939, was seldom seen without his dog “Digger” at his side. “Digger” was the regimental mascot of the First Wellington Regiment while the colonel was in charge and it accompanied him to meetings of the Savage Club where the dog was beloved of all members. "Digger" was spoken of as a life member of the Club. He had in his time appeared on the stage, marched through Wellington many times with the troops, and travelled thousands of miles by steamer, train, and car. But 15 years of a busy life meant he was getting a bit slow. In 1939 he was run over by a motor-lorry and died a few hours later.

Then there was “Nip”, but several stories about him conflict more than somewhat. Some say the dog was discovered on the “Monowai” soon after the ship sailed for Samoa in 1914. Evatt claimed the dog was his… ship’s officers said dogs weren’t allowed so Evatt proclaimed “Nip” as the Advance Party’s mascot and the dog was allowed to stay. The story goes that the pooch died in Samoa and lies at rest there under a shady palm tree.

But there’s another documented yarn that “Nip” was with Evatt in Europe during campaigns there, a brown spaniel pup that was particularly well known to troops on the battlefield in France. He was mascot of the Wellingtonians and after being wounded at least once, was eventually killed in action. He was honoured with an obituary notice in "Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F.”, the small paper published in London by Sir (then Trooper) Clutha Mackenzie.

Perhaps there were two dogs name “Nip”, both mascots and both owned by Evatt.

Reginald Langdale Evatt, J.P., soldier, died on 20th April, 1948 and rests in Karori Cemetery, Wellington.


We are Remembering Them:

+ Col. Reginald Langdale Evatt, J.P. Service number 1/553

+ Enlisted at the age of 15 in College Rifles, Wellington

+ Private in the Samoa Advance Party, World War One  

+ Evacuated, ill, to New Zealand

+ Re-enlisted B Company of the 15th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Battalion, promoted to Captain

+ Saw action at the front in France, World War One

+ 1918, wounded in action, invalided out, recovered in England

+ 1919, returned to New Zealand

+ Remained in the military reserves

+ 1935, appointed a Justice of the Peace

+ Commanded Wellington City Home Guard 1939-45 during World War Two

+ Died Wellington, 1948, aged 66.


Sources:

Papers Past

Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

The History of the Wellington Regiment

New Zealand Defence website

We Are Remembering Them...

Ric Carlyon - Saturday, August 16, 2014

WILLIAM FORREST, J.P.

The J.P. who “…went to war, anyway”

The story of patriot William Forrest, J.P., who was determined to participate in the First World War and would not hear those who said he was too old.

28 year old Scotsman William Forrest and his wife Janet (Jessie), arrived in New Zealand aboard the “British King”.

 

British King – made the first direct steamship voyage UK-NZ in 1883

They eventually settled in Paeroa where Forrest owned the rights to the “Defiance” gold claim and continued his timber, drainage pipe and contracting business. He quickly entered community life… he was a devoted Presbyterian and a member on the A and P show committee: he was appointed to the inaugural Paeroa Domain Board.

 

Forrest had joined the Masonic Lodge in Scotland in 1874

He resumed active involvement with the Masonic Lodge, forming Lodge Ohinemuri. He was a keen supporter of the local fire brigade… and in 1897 was appointed a Justice of the Peace and the District Coroner for Ohinemuri and surrounds.

Local JP
Sitting in the weekly session at the Paeroa Police Court, it is recorded William Forrest presided over cases such as riding a horse on a footpath, assault and using profane language within hearing of a public place. A memorable charge was heard when police alleged a man obscenely exposed himself within view of a Paeroa street. JPs Forrest and Thorpe found the man guilty, agreed jail was appropriate but decided it wasn’t very serious and sentenced the miscreant to just 10 hours inside! As coroner, William Forrest oversaw many inquests, the deaths often the result of accidents in the mines or drowning in dams or streams used in connection with mining.
Forrest was nominated three times for election to the local licensing committee, but failed on each occasion. Perhaps voters were wary of a potential Presbyterian conservatism when it came to deciding sale of liquor, even though he was also an active member of the local branch of the Liberal and Labour Party.

Move to Pt Chevalier
Forrest moved to Auckland around 1910 to carry on his drainage business and, continuing his community service, he was elected to the Point Chevalier Road Board in 1912. He became Chairman. His experience with drainage works made him most suitable as a member of the Auckland Suburban Drainage Board when suburbs were beginning to expand.
In July,1914 World War One began and within the year Forrest was one of those in Pt Chevalier to form a branch of the National Reserve.

“Prepare, prepare the iron helm of war..."
-William Blake

He had his 60th birthday in 1915, and, ever the patriot, he was determined to show the way and tried to enlist. Army recruiting officers turned him away.  “Too old!”.

“I’m going, anyway”
By July he was preparing to go to war on his own account. “I am resigning public office, leaving my wife and family in Auckland, paying my own way to England where I will volunteer my services, prepared to go to the front…”  he told the Ohinemuri Gazette, “…I am going to serve wherever, in whatever capacity. I consider there’s scope for my efforts in connection with the manufacture of munitions or in the transport and supplies department of the army, and I will cheerfully take the wages of an artisan”.
Forrest travelled to London. Once there he managed to persuade the military that he could be of assistance, he received training and was given his orders to proceed abroad. His dream was coming true, even if he must have been one of the oldest New Zealanders to enlist for active duty, he was off to the front!

Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It's a long, long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.
             W.W.1 song It’s a Long Way to Tipperary!

Early in 1916 Sergeant William Forrest, R.E., was sounding personally fulfilled and self-satisfied when, in a letter home from France, he reported “…I am of course, not a combatant, but am in the 3rd Labour Battalion of the Royal Engineers. I am as happy as a cricket and quite contented, and very glad that I came, because I feel I am successfully ‘doing my little bit’. I have been drilled and trained for months, and am nearly a month out here, right in the middle of the thick of it. I am quite comfortable too, and a spice of danger is only sauce to one when danger is so common”.

The War Catches Up
By mid-1917, possibly after the major allies’ thrust at Messines, things weren’t so bright with official reports that Lieutenant Forrest was suffering shell-shock and influenza and was moved to England to convalesce. 

Take me back to dear old Blighty…
Put me on the train for London town!
W.W.1 song Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty

Recovered, the determined soldier returned to the front in France with a Labour Company but after serving a further 12 months was laid low again, this time with fever. Doctors ruled him unfit.

William Forrest, J.P.

After another stretch in a UK hospital, William Forrest came home to a further period in hospital. Once recuperated he set out on a series of unsuccessful petitions against the Government claiming loss of contracting business on a tunnelling project allegedly curtailed because of the war. He claimed he was, financially, a “ruined man”. He later returned to Paeroa, where he led a quiet life and died in Thames Hospital on 28th of January 1937 at the age of 82.

 

We Are Remembering Them:
 Lt William Forrest, J.P., R.E.
+ Enlisted at the age of 60 as a private in the Royal Engineers
+ 12th Labour Battalion, promoted to Sergeant.
+ 3rd Battalion of the Royal Engineers, France.
+ 37th Labour Battalion Royal Fusiliers through the Somme, promoted to Lieutenant.
+ Twice invalided out, recovered in England: ruled unfit after the second time.
+ Returned to New Zealand for further convalescence aged 65
+ Died Thames, 1937 aged 82.

Sources:
NZETC website
Timespanner website
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal
Papers Past website
World War One Songs – various websites

RCC


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