THOMAS MURDY BALL – WW1 Tunnelling Company officer’s medal reunited.


The second of four NZ Engineer Tunnelling Company medals sent to MRNZ by Michael M. of Invercargill has been reunited with the recipient’s grandson (see also Post 01 Jan 16 – 21418 George Ogden).

The medal was named to 46223 SJT T.J. BALL NZEF has been reunited with descendant family thanks to the assistance of a UK based genealogist.  It is to be noted that the second initial on the medal is in error and should have been “M” rather than “J” making the medals even more unique.  Such errors were not uncommon due to the large numbers issued.TMBall

Thomas Murdy Ball was born in November 1887 in Auckland to parents Richard Jennison Ball and Clara MURDY who had emigrated from Nottingham in England sometime in the mid 1850s.

During his early years Thomas laboured in the Auckland area.  Later took his Civil Engineering exams and secured employment with the Public Works Department (PWD) in Wellington.

Thomas was enlisted for WW1 in Dec 1916 and as he was a young civil engineer he was assigned to the 5th NZ Engineer Tunnelling Company Reinforcements.  By Apr 1917 he had been promoted to Temporary Sergeant and mobilised to England.  He sailed with the NZEF 25th Reinforcements and upon arrival at Boscombe Sgt. Ball was attached to the NZ Command Depot and later to the Light Railway Operating Company.

In Oct 1918 Thomas was transferred from the NZ Engineers Tunnelling Company HQ to the 21st Light Railway Operating Section and embarked for France.  While on leave in Paris in Oct 1918, Sgt. Ball contracted influenza followed by pneumonia which resulted in his hospitalisation in Alexandria and then transfer to a hospital ship in Jan 1919 for early repatriation to NZ.  Sgt. Ball was discharged no longer fit for active service in April 1919 having completed 1yr 316 days on active service.  For his war service Sgt. Ball was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Thomas Ball returned to his pre-war occupation as a civil engineer with the PWD (later to become the Ministry of Works) taking up a post at Stratford.  By the time WW2 had started, he was again working the PWD in Wellington.  Thomas volunteered for active service however his engineering expertise (and advancing age) made him eminently suitable for home defence service duties only – he was by now 55 years old.

Thomas remained on the Territorial Force (TF) Roll between the wars and as the war progressed and the vast majority of younger eligible men mobilized, he was eventually enlisted for active duty with 2 NZEF (TF) in April 1942.

WW2 – 2/29/344  Temp. Lieutenant Colonel T. M. Ball  DESC, 2 NZEF (TF)

Thomas, who by now was married to Margaret (nee de LINDSAY), was assigned to the Defence Engineer Service Corps (DESC) based in Wellington.  On joining the DESC Thomas’s extensive civil engineering experience and qualifications resulted in him being appointed a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel.  With a new service number, 2/5C/13 Temp.  Lt Col. Ball’s appointment was one of five DESC Lt Col. engineering directors; Thomas’s appointment was Director of Works & Buildings for Air Force & Navy.

Lt  Col. Ball’s active service was to be brief as continued ill-health forced his untimely discharge in July 1942.  After a period of recovery he eventually returned to his employment at the PWD in Wellington.  Just five years later on 24 Jun 1949, 2/5C/13 Temp. Lt Col. Thomas Murdy Ball died of a sudden heart attack at his Karori home – he was 62.

Ball - full sizeTracing Thomas Ball’s descendants was greatly assisted by Rob Ball of Hucknall, Nottinghamshire who had responded to one of my queries of the Ancestry Family Trees that contained “Thomas Murdy Ball”.  A name like ‘MURDY’ makes research so much easier due to its uniqueness and as luck would have it Rob was working on the Ball family from Bulwell in Nottingham.  He discovered a Thomas Frederick Ball, the brother of Richard Jennison Ball, who had married a Clara MURDY.  Rob also found that Thomas, Clara and Richard had all vanished from the English census records by 1890.  A check of likely emigration destinations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand located Richard and Clara Ball in New Zealand – both had died here in the 1930s. 

The confirmed immigration to NZ of the Ball brothers plus their link to the rather unique “Murdy” name of Thomas’s wife Clara, was all I needed to make the connection to Thomas Murdy Ball.  Rob was also able to steer me toward the great-grandson of Richard Ball’s brother Thomas Frederick Ball – Peter M. & wife Diane of Auckland. 

The son of Thomas Frederick Ball and wife Ada (nee BARKER) was Frank Mason Ball.  Frank and wife Amy Ann LYMAN had three daughters, one of whom was Faye Florence Ball – Peter M’s mother.  Peter’s great uncle therefore was Thomas Murdy Ball.

Peter is now the proud custodian of Thomas Murdy Ball’s British War Medal.  We are still looking for Thomas’s Victory Medal ?

My thanks again to Michael M. for sending MRNZ the medal, and to Rob Ball (Hucknall, UK) for his valuable addition to our research.

The reunited medal tally is now 44.

Ball - engraving

Thomas Murdy Ball

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