GEORGE ERNEST EVERARD WALDRON – Sniper victim’s ‘Death Penny’ found overseas is reunited with Taupo descendants.

6/1747 – GEORGE ERNEST EVERARD WALDRON

I recently contacted the Convenor of the Lake Taupo Branch of the NZ Society of Genealogists, Diana Humm, after seeing a comment she had posted on the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph website against the name of George Ernest Waldron.   The Waldrons of Canterbury are connected to my family and it transpired that as a result of my genealogical interests I had come across the Memorial Plaque (ka ‘Death Plaque’ or ‘Penny’) which had been sent to George’s parents together with his medals, to commemorate his war service and self-sacrifice on the Somme on July 9th, 1916.  Our subsequent discussions resulted in Diana providing proof of her close ancestral links to the Waldron family through George’s sister, Fanny Elizabeth Rebecca (Waldron) OSBORNE.  Fanny was Diana’s great-grandmother.

On the evening of July 8th as I sat down to start writing up this post I did so without any thought to time or circumstance other than the fact it was getting late and that I really wanted to get a something written before turning in.  It was around 22.45 p.m. (10.45 p.m.) when I started tapping the keyboard (using a 24 hour clock after 37 years of practice is a hard habit to break) and once I start I usually want to keep going until at least I have completed a draft.

After numerous corrections, three cups of coffee and a couple of hours of tapping away I finally finished the draft post.  It only remained for me to add the pictures – that could wait until later in the morning as the eyelids were well and truly in the droopy mode.  I glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of my screen which said – 01:37 p.m. – 09 July, 2017.  Definitely time to jump into the rack I thought …… and then it dawned on me…..  

Pte. George Waldron, the 23 year old soldier from the city of my birth whom I had just spent the last two and a half hours writing about, had been killed on the Somme in France on 09 July 1916.  How coincidental is that I thought, that I should be bringing his memory back to ‘life’ by writing about his death at that very moment, the 101st anniversary of George’s death …. spooky !

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George Ernest Everard Waldron was a Christchurch lad born in Richmond, a French Polisher by trade who worked for one of the biggest turn of last century department stores in central Christchurch at the time, Strange & Co. Ernest

When volunteers were called to bolster the Empire’s troop commitment in Europe to repel the invading ‘Hun’, 22 year old George and some of his friends, all of whom had been in their school’s Queen’s Cadet Rifle Volunteers, eagerly made their way to the King Edward Barracks in Cashel Street to sign up and be medically tested for fitness to go overseas.  

George had rarely left the confines of Richmond and even Christchurch let alone travelled on a ship, so the prospect of a sea voyage to a “a great patriotic adventure” with friends, to the other side of the world was not something George wanted to miss.  The eager adventurers would soon learn that they would no longer be going to England but Egypt.  Britain had declared war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914 and so Suez would be the new destination for these ‘green’ NZEF recruits.

21 year old George Waldron was living at home with his English born parents, Robert Ephraim Waldron and wife Harriet (nee STEVENS) at 12 Cumberland Street in the Christchurch East suburb of Richmond.  On 10 March 1893 George Ernest Everard, the ‘baby’ of the family of five surviving siblings and last of that generation of Waldrons, was born eight years after older brother Fred and the apple of his mother’s eye.  Needless to say when young George announced that he had enlisted Harriet Waldron was wracked with anguish and shock, but his father Robert, the hard working, stoic labourer and a man’s man, was understandably concerned but very proud to have a son answering their King’s ‘call to arms’ by volunteering to fight for freedom and the Empire.

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6/1747 Private George Ernest Everard Waldron was assigned to the 1st Company, 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 3rd Reinforcements NZEF and proceeded to Burnham on 06 January 1915 to start his basic training which would last for the next 38 days.

On 14 Feb 1915 the 1st Battalion of the Canterbury Infantry Regiments were ready to go.  They embarked with other attachments to the 3rd Reinforcements on HMNZT 17 Maunganui at Lyttelton, the start of a 42 day voyage which would finish at the small desert town of Suez situated at the southern end of the Suez Canal.  Once at Suez the troops faced another journey of 77 miles through the desert to Cairo and once there, a further 9 miles north-east of Cairo to the NZEF’s Zeitoun Camp.

Pte. Waldon’s first assignment was to the Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC) where he was employed transporting and stacking ammunition stocks for the Dardanelles campaign.  The landing at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula had begun on 25 April; Pte Waldron was transferred from the DAC to the Ist Canterbury Battalion in June and by 11 July he joined his Battalion at Gallipoli. 

On 25 Aug, Pte. Waldron was admitted to the Hospital Ship Elysio with an injured foot; the following day he was evacuated to the NZ General Hospital in Cairo with Influenza and Haemarrhoids where he remained until Jan 1916. Pte. Waldron rejoined his unit which was then based at Ismailia on the western side of the Canal.  On 06 April the unit was moved to Port Said and embarked on HMT SS Franconia for the move to join the NZ Division forces already deployed in France to the Western Front.  Once in France the 1st Battalion proceeded to the front line town of Armentieres where they set about being billeted and integrated with the Division.  

From May to Aug 1916, the Division would be manoeuvring into position in preparation for what would become known as the Battle of Flers, the first significant battle on the Somme that New Zealander were to be involved in. On the 9th of July, Pte. George Ernest Everard Waldron’s war ended abruptly with hardly a shot being fired by his unit.  George was killed outright by a sniper’s bullet.  He is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentieres, Northern France.

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Awards:     1914-15 Star, British War Medal, 1914-18, Victory Medal, Memorial Plaque, ANZAC Commemorative Medallion (1967)

Service Overseas:   1 year  147 days

Total NZEF Service:   1 year  185 days

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Pte. Waldron’s Memorial Plaque has been sent to Diana.

The reunited medal tally is now 148.

 

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