65936 ~ LAURENCE FREDERICK BLOMFIELD
James is an ex-pat Kiwi who has lived in Australia since the 1970s. During a recent clean out of a room in his Gold Coast home, James came across some of the collected treasures that had belonged to his parents and at one time graced the family home. One of these treasures has made one Wellington family very happy indeed. James explains in his email to me:
“ Last weekend I was cleaning out a room at our home and throwing out old bits of clutter that you gather over time. Amongst the items I came across was this little stone trinket box that we have had for years. Inside the box was the medal. I recall as a child (I am now 51) this medal was always in this box so it had been with us for a very long time. As much as I can remember having seen it over the years, it was not until last weekend during the clean-up that I actually noticed on the edge there was the inscription of the name of the owner. I was not aware that medals had that. It prompted me to jump on Google to see what we could find out. Our family moved to Australia from Auckland in 1978. This box was purchased by my mother and father in India on a trip they did there in 1967. It was empty when they purchased it so the medal at some point was put in the box and it has travelled around ever since wherever they went. My mother passed away about 7 years ago and Dad has recently gone into a home (he is now 95 years old) and in cleaning out his house, the box ended up in my hands. I just had it sitting in a room at our house. As I mentioned, I can recall it over the years but unfortunately, do not know how it came to be in our possession. The box just sat on a shelf so it was not something that anyone every really opened or looked at so its contents just sat there year after year.”
James also told me it (the medal) had been of no interest to him as he thought it to be his father’s. besides, at that time it was just a blackened object – nothing about it being attractive enough to even warrant finding out more about it, and so he never gave it another thought.
Now, fifty years later, having found the box again, amazingly the medal was still inside! James was just a little more curious this time to see exactly what it was. Clearly the blacking was indicative to him of a heavily tarnished metal object (medals that contain a significant amount of silver will tarnish in this manner) so James took to the medal with some metal polish. What an amazing transformation he said – a bright and shiny silver medal (no ribbon). James had also seen that there was writing on the edge of the medal – a number, initials and a last name which was not his father’s after all. His curiosity piqued, James wanted to know more.
The medal was named to 65936 CPL. L. F. BLOMFIELD N.Z.E.F. James could not ask his mother as she was deceased, and his father at 95 is a permanent resident of a retirement home and has a touch of dementia.
To determine my research start point, I had a number of questions I hopped James would be able to find out answers for from his father. These included: “do you know if your father and Laurence Blomfield knew each other? Had they served together, been neighbours or work colleagues? Could his father have found the medal on an Anzac Day parade or at an RSA (places both renowned for medals becoming detached from clothing)? Finally, had James’ father been interested in collecting military memorabilia, that is, do you think he would have purchased it out of interest, say, from a second hand shop, market or the like?”
When next he visited his Dad, James asked him about the medal. Regrettably, Graeme Legat’s memory is now beyond the recall of such distant detail and so could not be of any help. James had seen the MRNZ posts on Facebook and visited our site so decided to place the future of the medal in our hands, to hopefully find a home for it with Laurence Blomfield’s descendants.
Even without his father’s recall, I assessed several possibilities that could point to the medal’s origin. Graeme Legat, a native of Winton in Southland, had been a young Storeman living and working in Invercargill at the time he was enlisted in 1945 for service in the Second World War. 628485 Private Graeme George LEGAT – NZ Army Ordnance Corps, 2 NZEF was a veteran of service in the Pacific with the Third Echelon. When Graeme returned to Invercargill after the war, he married and soon had a family of two sons, James being one of these. James said from the time his father had returned from the war, he always made a point of attending Anzac Day parades for the best part of his working and retired life. Perhaps there was a connection between Graeme’s WW2 service and the person whose name was on the British War Medal, which he had presumable held onto for over half a century – longer? I was hoping James would be able to provide some of the answers.
Origin of the medal
My initial search focused on any possible relationship between Laurence Blomfield and Graeme Legat. The answers I came up with were not particularly helpful: Laurence “Laurie” Blomfield was born in 1895 and Graeme Legat in 1923, the difference between them being approximately 28 years. This meant that in 1915 Laurie was 10 years old and Graeme not yet born. In 1939, Laurie was then 44 and Graeme 16. Laurie was almost at the age limit (45) for overseas war service (he was eligible for the Home Guard however). Graeme would be eligible for overseas service from about 1943 onwards. Therefore, the age variations of both men effectively ruled them out of both wars, or at least ever serving together.
Laurence Blomfield was born and bred in Auckland, his parents residence at the time being 18 Lawrence Street, Herne Bay (then a suburb of Ponsonby – perhaps his name was derived from the street name?). Laurence returned to the same address after the war, whilst Graeme Legat had spent a good period of his early life in Southland, Working as a Farm Labourer on the family farm “Estcourt” at Wairio, he later became a Clerk and Company Director. In the 1950s and 1960s Graeme’s occupational postings had taken him from Southland to Whangarei, staying for a number of years in each location. Laurie Blomfield on the other hand had started his working life as an apprentice mechanical engineer in Auckland, a life-long occupation and place of residence. Laurie had only ever lived in Ponsonby, Onehunga and Otahuhu/Greenlane.
Their respective residential locations and type of employment again did not point towards any discernible professional contact. Last, Laurence Blomfield had died in Auckland in 1965, while Graeme did not move to Tamaki, Auckland until the 1970s, thus again ruling out the possibility of their paths crossing, much less the possibility of forming a friendship that might have resulted in Laurence’s medal ending up in Graeme’s possession. With these ownership possibilities eliminated, that left only either chance or opportunity for Graeme Legat to have come into the possession of Laurence Blomfield’s medal; chance – he had found it; opportunity – he had been given the medal or purchased it for whatever reason?
Who was Laurence Blomfield?
Laurence Frederick Blomfield was one of seven siblings born to parents Frederick William “Fred” BLOMFIELD (1857–1943), a Cabinetmaker from Holborn in Middlesex, and his wife Sarah Rose CUTLER (1863–939) of Auckland. Fred’s mother Elizabeth Emily Blomfield was left with a large family to care for after her husband William died. Elizabeth (known to later generations of Blomfields as ‘Grandma Blom’) out of interest, had attended a number of meetings of the Albertland Settlement Association in London. A staunch Baptist family, Elizabeth was endeared to the idea of establishing a new non-conformist settlement in NZ, a notion ardently advocated by a well known Baptist Evangelist in London. Elizabeth was excited at the prospect of being a founding member of such a settlement, particularly as London had become overpopulated, unemployment and disease was rampant, as was the general filth and grime of the city. Even the promise of a new Queen on the throne (Victoria) did little to inspire her loyalty to remain to London.
For families willing to emigrate to NZ on the other hand, males would receive 40 acres on arrival, with another 40 for the wife, and a further 20 acres for each child, on the condition the family lived on the land for five years. The Albertland block to be used for settlement consisted of 30,000 acres in the upper reaches of the Kaipara Harbour, about 80 miles from the Port of Auckland. After discussing the prospects with her eldest son Samuel, already married with two children, the Blomfields committed to emigrate and were soon on their way to New Zealand.
The widow Elizabeth Blomfield (46), Samuel (26) and his wife Emma (22), Frances (19), Mary Anne (17), Ellen (11), Fred (5), Alice (2) and Grace (9 mths) boarded the Gertrude on 30 October 1862 and departed London Docks on 4 November 1862. The passage for each person cost approximately £16, or $31. The Gertrude arrived safely at Auckland on 9 February 1863 after 111 days at sea.
By the time Fred Blomfield married in 1884, he was 22 and had taken work in Auckland as a labourer before becoming an apprenticed cabinetmaker. The remainder of the family had also gravitated to Auckland central and after several temporary moves around Auckland, Fred and his wife Sarah settled at 62 Ponsonby Road (opp what is now Western Park) where Fred set himself up in business as a cabinetmaker and where his and Sarah’s family were born. Rosebud Elizabeth Blomfield (1885–1971) and Ivy Martha Blomfield (1886–1967) both remained Spinsters, whilst the remainder married, Hazel Caroline (Blomfield) MEAD (1890–1957), Daisy Olive (Blomfield) FEARON (1892–1978), Laurence Frederick Blomfield (24 Nov 1895 – 25 May 1965), Carl William Blomfield (1899–1984), and Violet Constance (Blomfield) DONOVAN (1901–1981).
City Engineering Ltd.
As the nation drew in its collective breath at the possibility of a European war, news of which filled the newspaper columns, Laurence Blomfield was the only eligible male by age in the family for overseas war service. His younger brother Carl would not have his twentieth birthday, the minimum age of enlistment (except for those who could spin a good lie), until July 1919.
At the time Laurie registered for war service, he was an apprenticed mechanical engineer at City Engineering Ltd., Auckland. In fact Laurie had virtually been a ‘first day boy’ with the company. Reuben Porter, Harold Mason and Edwin Jones opened their business, City Engineering Ltd., (CEL) on 1st December 1910 in Cleave Avenue, Auckland central (off Cook Street). Laurie was taken on within days of opening and remained with the company through its various iterations over the next 20 years, except for the war years. In March 1912 the company moved to Vogel Lane and in October 1915, CEL was re-named Mason & Porter Ltd. The company started manufacturing water pumps under the MAS-on and PORT-er brand name we know today as ” MASPORT “, a household name in lawnmowers and various other appliances now, and still operating today 119 years after opening its doors. A further move to a larger premises in Cleveland Road, Parnell was made in June 1917 just as Laurence Blomfield was drafted for war service.
Since the national manpower registration of all eligible males was taken in 1914, Laurie had been attending training with the territorial unit of NZ Field Engineers however his expectation of remaining with the Engineers were dashed once he got to Trentham. The war was well advanced in 1917 and the casualty rate was high. The most pressing need at the time was for riflemen to fill the infantry battalions whose numbers had been severely depleted by casualties and sickness cases. This situation would be exacerbated in November 1917 when the Spanish Influenza pandemic struck England and France.
For God, King and Empire
65936 Corporal Laurence Frederick BLOMFIELD – A Company, 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, NZEF – 38th Reinforcements had been placed on the First Division Reserve Roll in 1916. He was called up for enlistment in Sep 1917 and reported to Trentham for pre-embarkation training on 20 Oct 1917, aged 21 years. Laurie showed some supervisory ability during his training and as a result was made a Temporary Sergeant (T/Sgt.) of ‘B’ Company of the 38th Reinforcements in March. The rank was primarily to assist with the supervision of the men whilst at sea on-board the transport ship, and during any stops en-route to England, a voyage of around five weeks (weather and enemy shipping dependant).
HMNZT 105 Remuera left Wellington on 5 June 1918 on her eight week voyage to Liverpool, England. Arriving at Liverpool on 31 July, the Reinforcements travelled by train to the NZ Depot at the Sling Camp at Bulford on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, also the site of the “Bulford Kiwi” created in 1919 by soldiers of the NZEF who were awaiting repatriation following the end of WW1.
On arrival at Sling Camp, Laurie reverted to Temporary Corporal pending his completion of an NCO training course. Ten weeks of infantry training and battlefield rehearsals was followed by the NCO course. Laurie successfully passed this and had his rank as a Corporal confirmed on 01 August. He didn’t have to wait long before he got even more practice at removing and sewing on rank badges.
Having completed the training required Laurie was promoted to substantive Corporal. On 10 October 1918 Cpl. Blomfield and the Auckland Infantry Regiment reinforcements left Sling Camp and embarked for the Etaples Base Depot in France. They arrived two days later, disembarked and marched the four kilometres to the Base Depot just north of the Etaples township. With an eight kilometre perimeter, it was a massive camp sited on the channel coast of France almost directly opposite Plymouth. Pre-war it had been used as a training facility by Great Britain. The camp could accommodate up to 10,000 tented troops plus it contained the major medical facilities (general hospitals) for the British, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders. The NZ Infantry & General Base (NZI & GB) Depot was largest within the perimeter and to which all arriving NZ troops were initially sent on arrival in France.
Advance to Victory
At the time Cpl. Blomfield’s arrival in France the NZ Division had just been relieved from front line duty having essentially forced a break in the Hindenberg Line. Their enemy was on the back foot and demoralised. The arrival in July of one million American GIs had exacerbated that situation after America committed to join its Allies.
The NZ Division needed to rest and recover with a week off staying in billets concentrated round the towns of Beauvois and Fontaine. For the first time in six months men were living in real houses that had been made into comfortable billets by the Huns. While in the billets, the Prince of Wales passed through the area, and the Division was paraded along the road with orders to cheer him spontaneously and heartily. The New Zealanders were in no mood to “perform on demand” and an attempt to have them cheer “by numbers” failed dismally.
Following preliminary briefings, equipping and preparation for the field at the NZI & GB Depot, Cpl. Blomfield and his fellow reinforcements were moved by train and on foot to the Auckland Regiment’s rest area near Beauvais, about 180 kms south of Etaples, 80 kms north of Paris. Cpl. Blomfield took his place with ‘A’ Company of the 1st Battalion on 17 October.
The Division returned to battle to take part in the closing stages of the Battle of the Selle (17–25 October). Four days later on 25 Oct, the Auckland battalions had stormed their last ridge and here, the NZ Division rested for the next seven days approximately 1 kilometre from the town of Le Quesnoy.
Battle of the Sambre (Le Quesnoy)
Against faltering opposition, the British First, Third and Fourth armies launched a major offensive which proved to be the final attack of the war. The task of the New Zealand Division was to envelop the town of Le Quesnoy and carry the line forward a total distance of five and a half miles on a frontage of 3,000 yards. The capture and mopping-up of the town was allotted to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, the advance beyond being entrusted to the 1st Brigade.
The plan of attack was for the 1st NZ Infantry Brigade to be on the left, and the NZ Rifle Brigade on the right. The 1st AIB and battalions of the NZ Rifle Brigade were to surround the town, and if necessary, the Riflemen were to storm the town, while the remainder of the New Zealanders were to sweep forward in an easterly direction and penetrate as deeply as possible into the enemy position.
4 – 5 November 1918
After a miserable wet winter night, the morning of 4 November broke fair and fine. Lining up on the Le Quesnoy-Orsinval road, with the 6th and 15th Companies leading, at 0545 hours the 1st Auckland Battalion moved off by platoons, with twenty-five yards interval between each, the 6th Company, under Major Dittmer, leading, followed by the 15th Company (Cpl. Blomfield’s company) under Captain McCarthy, then the Battalion HQ under Captain Lang, and the 16th Company under Captain Forbes.
Although the German’s were essentially withdrawing, the lead Companies soon encountered determined opposition from German rifle and mortar fire. During this exchange Cpl. Blomfield was shot in the right shoulder and quickly attended to by No.3 NZ Field Ambulance (3/NZFA).
The Auckland battalions were stronger and even more determined, taking the hamlet of Ramponeau and capturing many prisoners, machine guns and field pieces. At Ramponeau, 1/AIB wheeled to the right, and shortly after 1000 hours in the morning linked up with the 2nd NZ Rifle Brigade, thus completing the encirclement of Le Quesnoy. Here they remained in position, guarding the approaches and preventing all egress while the Rifle Brigade stormed the outer defences. The inner wall was then breached by artillery fire, and an officer carried in a flag of truce and invited the enemy to surrender. They refused. About seven in the evening the NZRB advanced with scaling ladders, climbed the walls and rushed into the town, seizing it without the loss of a single civilian life. With Le Quesnoy taken, this was the last significant action of the war for the New Zealanders.
The Auckland battalions bivouacked in Villerau, with the exception of the 16th Company, under Captain McFarland, which pushed forward and established posts in the Mormal Forest.
Next morning (5 Nov) 1/AIB were relieved and went back to billets near Le Quesnoy where they remained for some days, sight-seeing and cleaning up after the departed Hun. 3/NZFA evacuated Cpl. Blomfield to the 18th Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Doullens, about 90 kms S-W of Le Quesnoy. From here he was taken for surgery to No.22 General Hospital at Camiers, 5 kms north of Etaples, and within a couple of weeks was released back to the NZI & GB Depot at the Etaples Base Depot – however not for long.
Armistice – 11 November
The New Zealand gunners remained in action in support of British units for a few days before heading back into Reserve on the 9th. Two days later, the fighting ended. The last New Zealanders in action had been the mounted riflemen and cyclists serving in XXII Corps which had reached Mons when the guns fell silent at 1100 hours on 11 November, 1918. That night the whole Division was relieved and commenced to move back for “the King’s rest.”
Cpl. Blomfield’s luck on the health front deserted him again on 17 December when he went down with symptoms of Spanish Influenza. In November 1918, the country was swept by an influenza pandemic that killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. Some 9000 New Zealanders at home had lost their lives, more than half the number who had been killed during the war. Admitted to the No.1 South African General Hospital at Abbyville, fortunately Laurie Blomfield avoided the full onset of the influenza with the immediate care he received. He was well enough to be discharged seven days later to the 6th Convalescent Depot in the Etaples Base Depot it was Christmas Eve
On 30 Dec 1918 Cpl. Blomfield was moved to No.5 Convalescent Depot at Cayeux, a picturesque seaside location on the French coast N-W of Abbeyville before being returned to the NZ camp at Codford on 30 December.
At last Cpl. Laurence Blomfield’s war was finally over. Having completed most of his demobilisation administration, he was dispatched to the NZEF Discharge Depot (NZDD) in Torquay. It was here that our soldiers were sent to be prepared for demobilisation, and discharge on return to NZ. Soldiers who had been medical boarded as “permanently unfit for further active service”, instructed to pack their kit and proceed to Torquay, generally experienced the happy feelings of a voyager who had secured a passage to his native home.
The NZDD comprised nine large houses or villas which were secured for the New Zealand authorities by the War Office. The men were divided into companies and allotted to houses accordingly. The system of grouping the men was according to ports of disembarkation in New Zealand. The Auckland men comprised No.1 Company, and they were billeted at a villa called Hampton. The number of men at the Depot naturally varied considerably, but usually remained at approximately 1,500 or 1,800. Also attached to the Depot were two large farms, Heathfield and Lustleigh, at which men were employed until their transport was available. Delays in returning troops to NZ were experienced due to competing demands and a lack of ships. After a wait of about two months, Cpl. Blomfield was entrained to Scotland and at last was embarked on the SS Bhamo on 25 April 1919. The Bhamo sailed for NZ on 10 March. Cpl. Laurence Blomfield was discharged from the NZEF on 23 May 1919.
Awards: British War Medal, 1914-18 and Victory Medal
Service Overseas: 325 days
Total NZEF Service: 1 year 246 days
‘after the ball is over’
Laurie Blomfield returned to 62 Ponsonby Road where he found his father now working as an Engraver (later a Picture Framer) from the same place. After a suitable amount of rest and recovery, Laurie returned to his former job with the now re-named Mason and Porter. The company had grown during his absence but there was always a place for the ‘first day boy.’
A year after returning from the war, Laurie had met and married a Scottish lass, Miss Mary Edith ALEXANDER (1895–1993) known as “Mollie.” Mary had been living alone with her sister Ellen ALEXANDER at 50 Norfolk Street, a street that runs into Ponsonby Road at right angles, about 200 meters from the Blomfield’s home and business at No.62 Ponsonby Road.
The newly wedded Blomfield’s made their first home at No.18 Lawrence Street (I wonder if that was planned?) in Ponsonby (now Herne Bay) which was also the birth place of their two children – Gerald Laurence Blomfield (1921–2003), an accountant, and a daughter, Barbara Edith (Blomfield) SIMS (1923–living).
Union Steam Ship Company
Around 1925 Laurie Blomfield sought a change of employment but still within the engineering field. His engineering expertise stood him in good stead and landed him the position of Third Engineer on the coal steamer SS Wairuna (among others), one of the Union Steam Ship Company’s trans-Tasman and trans-Pacific & Atlantic cargo vessels. The Wairuna was a regular New South Wales visitor to Newcastle’s Broken Hill Products (BHP) steel works that was situated near the mouth of the Hunter River opposite the city of Newcastle. Commissioned in 1915, the BHP steel works finally closed its doors in 1999 after 84 years of steel production. At its peak, the steel works had a work force of 11,500.
The SS Wairuna (formerly the D/S Schneefels, then SS Gibraltar, and SS Polescar) had originally been launched in Germany in Nov 1913 a week after the outbreak of the First World War. In August 1914 while crossing the Mediterranean, the D/S Schneefels was captured by the Royal Navy and taken to Gibraltar. The ship considered to be a prize ship was re name SS Gibraltar, and deployed to Moudros the following year in 1915 as a supply ship for the Gallipoli campaign. In Sep 1917 while still under UK ownership, the now SS Polescar was caught during a German air raid while unloading at Dunkirk. A bomb hit the ship killing two crewmen however the ship survived. In Aug 1918 she was transiting the English Channel en-route from Montreal to Le Harve when she was torpedoed by a German submarine. A quick thinking crew saved the ship by managing to run it aground on a beach, thereby preventing it from sinking. In January 1919 the Union Steam Ship Co bought the ship and renamed it Wairuna, a strange name considering this had been the name of a cargo ship sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser SMS Wolf in 1917!
Laurie relinquished his sea-going job as ship’s engineer prior to the beginning of WW2 when he and his family moved to 48 Waiohua Street in Onehunga. A move to No.8 Bailey Road in the adjacent suburb of Otahuhu (now Mt Wellington) was followed by a final move just up the street to No.12 after Laurie retired at 60, in December 1955.
65936 Cpl. Laurence Frederick Blomfield, late 1st Battalion of the Auckland Infantry Regiment died on 26 May 1965, aged 69 and is interred in the Serviceman’s Section of the Waikumete Cemetery. Laurie’s wife Mary Edith Blomfield was still living at 12 Bailey Road in 1981 (the limit of Ancestry records) and eventually passed away in 1993.
Lest We Forget
Note: NZ 4212630 Sgt. (WAG) Gerald Laurence Blomfield – RNZAF. Gerald was called up for aircrew service in the RNZAF in 1944. He was trained as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) as a Wireless Operator – Air Gunner (WOpAG or WAG) at No.2 Wireless School (Course 1: Class 74 A) at the Royal Canadian Air Force Station Calgary in Alberta. After his graduation on 10 April 1944, Sgt. Blomfield attended a course in aerial gunnery at No.Bombing and Aerial Gunnery School at the RCAF Station Mossbank in Saskatchewan. He was then posted to Bomber Command in England for allocation to a night bomber squadron. Gerald met his wife to be, Mary KOSTYNUK, while in Canada, they married in Auckland and Gerald became a successful accountant.
The talented Blomfields
While Laurence Blomfield’s personal forte was engineering, his wider family had among their number some very talented members in a range of fields such as art, politics, commerce and finance.
Lawrence’s father: Frederick William Blomfield (1857–1943), Cabinetmaker, Lithographer and Picture Framer. As a long time resident and business owner in the Ponsonby Road. From his cabinet making business he joined with nephew William ‘Blo’ Blomfield to become first an Engraver** and later a Lithographer,** precision skills that were a vital part of printing pictures. Both of Fred’s brothers Charles and ‘Blo’ would become prominent in the own fields of endeavour, one an artist and the other a cartoonist, both of who required access to these process in order to reproduce their works. A high degree of artistic skill, concentration and attention to detail was required to do this. Initially Fred was Engraving wooden blocks. These eventually were replaced by a process of using stone and metal plates for printing artworks. When Fred’s eyesight eventually declined to the point he could no longer guarantee accuracy with the printing, he turned to the next best opportunity for one who is associated with artists – Picture Framing, again he ran this from his Ponsonby Road premises until he retired.
Note: Engraving and Lithography. Both were methods of printing pictures. The earliest known dated Engraving is circa 1446 which makes this technique at least 563 years old. Types of print engraving include wood, copperplate and steel. An artist and/or engraver would carve a pattern on the wood or metal plate using an engraving tool called a burin. This instrument is a chisel with a sharp V-shaped end. Ink is applied and wiped off so only the ink remained in the engraved lines and the image is then pressed onto paper to produce the image.
Lithograph prints were invented later, in the late 18th century by a German writer, Alois Senefelder, in 1796. The lithographic printing process is described in the very word lithography, which comes from two Greek words: ‘lithos’ meaning stones, and ‘graphien’ means to write. Using the basic principle that oil repels water, he created a method for printing using a stone (limestone) or a metal plate. Artwork was drawn on the limestone slab with a greased or waxy pencil. Water was added and was absorbed by the stone but repelled by the grease. Printers ink was spread over the stone slab, clung to the grease lines and was repelled by the water. The illustration was then pressed onto the paper.
Lawrence’s Uncle: Charles Blomfield (1848–1926), Landscape Artist. Charles Blomfield, the son of Elizabeth Emily Hickman and William Blomfield, a Cutler, was born on 5 January 1848 at Holborn, London England, the seventh of nine children. Charles’s father died in 1857 leaving Elizabeth a young widow with eight children (the eldest son, William, died in 1856). She managed for five years, but in 1862 decided to emigrate to New Zealand with the Albertland settlement association which hoped to start a nonconformist community there. Her second son, Samuel (a Carpenter), married by this time with two small children, agreed to bring his own family as well, but the two eldest daughters preferred to remain in London. Charles Blomfield arrived in Auckland in 1863, becoming known as a major colonial artist despite being largely self-taught (he was a house decorator by trade). His most famous paintings are of the world-renowned Pink and White Terraces, destroyed in the eruption of Mt Tarawera in June 1866.
He married Ellen Sarah WILD (1852-1945) from Portsmouth, Hampshire and together they had a family of six children.
Blomfield’s original series of twelve oil paintings, done shortly before the eruption, he would not sell, but he painted many copies of them over the years. He went on several lengthy walking expeditions through remote country, and exhibited and sold the subsequent paintings to the growing tourist market from a studio in his home in Auckland. His work was shown in international exhibitions, and he is represented in all major galleries in New Zealand. Text: Wikipedia
Charles Blomfield died in Auckland on 15 March 1926, and his wife Ellen in 1945.
Laurence’s Cousin: Elizabeth “Bessie” Blomfield (1880–1984), Artist. Bessie just adored her father and had accompanied him to Wellington in 1892 where he had hired a large room on Customhouse Quay in which to conduct art classes to make some extra money as his paintings were not selling as expected. Bessie was only twelve and homesick so her father promised to teach her to paint after school so that they would be doing things together which cheered her up immeasurably. After a few months they returned to Auckland where Charles set up his studio in Karangahape Road. Bessie continued to take lessons from her father and was also tutored by C.F. Goldie. Before her marriage she had specialised in flower paintings and painted some portraits; after her marriage she painted landscapes. Exhibiting her own works until 1908 under the name of Bessie Blomfield, following her marriage to William Archibald KENDON in 1908, Bessie exhibited as Bessie Kendon.** She also used to work with her father in his studio, and was listed as an Auckland artist working in Karangahape Road in the 1911–12 Wise’s Directory. In 1979 Bessie was living in Howick and still painting. She died in Auckland in 1984, aged 104.
Lawrence’s Cousin: William ‘Blo’ Blomfield (1866–1938), Cartoonist and Politician. William
Blomfield , the son of Carpenter Samuel Blomfield (the brother of Lawrence’s father Fred) and Emma Watts COLLIS, was an eminent New Zealand cartoonist and local body politician in early Auckland. William was born in Auckland on 1st of April 1866, his family moving to Thames the following year in pursuit of riches after gold was discovered at Waihi. In 1880 the Samuel and Emma Blomfield family returned to Auckland having failed to make their fortune. Samuel returned to carpentry and son William’s uncle, the prominent artist Charles Blomfield, found him a job in a paint and picture shop. Shortly thereafter William began to train as an architect.
William had been interested in drawing and caricature from a very early age, despite little encouragement from his immediate family. He sold his first cartoon to the Observer, an Auckland-based weekly, receiving five shillings for his caricature of a legislative councillor. In 1884 he welcomed the opportunity to exchange the formal strait-jacket of architecture for comparative freedom as an articled pupil on the artistic staff of the New Zealand Herald.
Blomfield worked at the Herald in the days before newspaper photography, when artists sketched their impressions of great and calamitous events. The highlight of his three years at the Herald was a daring trip made in June 1886 to inspect the desolation caused by the eruption of Mt Tarawera. He was sent at very short notice, in the clothes he was wearing and with £12 for expenses, to find out if the Pink and White Terraces really were destroyed. Travelling by train, trap and borrowed horse, he encountered deeper and deeper volcanic ash and experienced repeated earth tremors before reaching Lake Rotomahana. There he and his guide narrowly escaped injury when a bank collapsed behind them. The news that the Terraces were destroyed was telegraphed back to Auckland and featured prominently in the Herald.
In 1887 Blomfield accepted an invitation to become an all-purpose wood engraver, litho artist and cartoonist for the Observer’s successor, the New Zealand Observer and Free Lance. Usually known by its original name, the paper was the first of a lively new breed of illustrated weeklies that reflected the country’s blossoming social, sporting and cultural interests. Blomfield’s cartoons with their bold ‘Blo’ signature soon became a distinctive feature.
The Blomfields lived at Takapuna for many years where William was a prominent citizen, serving (1914–21) as the borough’s second Mayor and as a director of several mining and commercial enterprises. He produced cartoons for various publications including the Observer, the New Zealand Herald, and the Free Lance. He was working at his cartoons until his death on 2nd March 1938, in Auckland.
William Blomfield was survived by five children; his wife pre-deceased him in 1935.
In 1935, William Blomfield was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.
Source: Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand / Dictionary of Biographies.
Note: ** Muriel (Kendon) WILLIAMS is the daughter of Bessie and William Kendon, grand-daughter of Charles Blomfield. Muriel has written a most engaging book on the life and times of her talented, artistic grandfather Charles. The book also makes mention of her mother Bessie’s interest in painting and the development of her career as a landscape artist. Muriel Williams’ book “Charles Blomfield – His Life and Times” was published in 1979 and reprinted in 1980.
Barbara Edith (Blomfield) SIMS
I was fortunate enough to locate a direct descendant of Laurence Blomfield’s family with little trouble. Ian Gordon SIMS is the grandson of Laurence Blomfield, Ian’s mother being Laurence’s daughter, Barbara Edith (Blomfield) SIMS. Barbara I discovered in talking with Ian’s wife Theresa, is a hail and hearty 96 years young and currently a resident of a Lower Hutt rest home. Like her father Laurence, Barbara also has a military background.
Barbara Blomfield was just 19 when she enlisted in Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in Wellington at the outbreak of World War 2. She worked as a typist at the NZ Defence Headquarters in Stout Street while being quartered at the Shelley Bay Air Force Station on the Miramar Peninsula (a base I also served at during my RNZAF days, 1977–1979). By her own admission Barbara had a great time in the WAAF and particularly remembers the generosity of the American servicemen here who were comparatively well paid and with access to many wartime luxuries that NZer’s generally had great difficulty in getting, like silk stockings. Barbara also recalls vividly the 1943 ‘Battle of the Manners Street’, a riot that occurred outside the Allied Services Club involving American and NZ servicemen and civilians. The Club was a social centre, open to all military personnel.**
Barbara married in 1950 to Ian’s father, Trevor Herbert SIMS (1911–2007) who originated from Hawera. His family moved to Wellington at the end of WW1 and Trevor remained there working for Hume’s steel and pipe manufacturers for the majority of his working life. 4371 Driver Trevor H. Sims, NZ Army Service Corps was also a veteran of the Second World War and went overseas in the 1st Echelon of 2NZEF to serve in North Africa and Italy.
Note: ** In 1942–44 there were anywhere between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen stationed in New Zealand, most camped around major urban centres of the country. Many of the American servicemen were coming from major American urban centres to New Zealand, which in 1943 was an isolated country with only 1.6 million inhabitants.
Some of the American servicemen from the American South in the Services Club objected to Maori soldiers also using the Club, and on 3 April 1943 began stopping Maori soldiers from entering. Aside from race, there were other fractious issues between the two groups of servicemen such as pay (GIs were well paid compared to Kiwi soldiers), arguments regularly arose over who were the better soldiers, and the Americans were also accused of ‘stealing our women’ (the Americans generous gifts for the ladies and their access to commodities that only they could get. Needless to say many Kiwi women responded very positively to the gentlemanly manners and affluence of the Americans, fanning still further the flames of Kiwi male discontent.
Many New Zealand soldiers in the area, both Pakeha and Maori, combined in opposition. The stand-off escalated when Americans took off their belts to attack those who wanted to let the Maori in. Fights broke out and at one point at least a thousand men were involved in the subsequent fracas, which was broken up by civil and Military Police. The major brawl lasted from 6 pm to 8 pm, with some brawls lasting for perhaps another two hours. Dozens of people were injured. The fighting spread to the ANA (Army, Navy and Air Force) Club in Willis Street and to Cuba Street. At the time, hotel bars closed at 6 pm, and inebriated patrons were then ejected into the streets.
News of the riot was censored at the time, hence much of the mythology about the event, including the claim that two Americans were killed. In fact, there were around 500 injuries, and only one New Zealand serviceman was arrested. It was twenty years before the finding of the Court of Inquiry was released.
Around the same time as the ‘Battle of Manners Street’ occurred, a similar riot between the same groups of protagonists was taking place in Auckland, and one month later at the Mayfair Cabaret, in Cuba Street, Wellington, another riot took place on 12 May 1945. Later in October a group of American servicemen and Maori civilians came to blows at Otaki in October 1943.
A similar riot had also occurred across the ditch, the ‘Battle of Brisbane’ in Queensland on 26 and 27 November 1942. By the time the violence had been quelled, one Australian soldier was dead and hundreds of Australians and U.S. servicemen had been injured. News reports of these incidents were suppressed overseas, with the causes of the riot not made evident in the few newspaper reports that were published within Australia.
There were even riots in Los Angeles, California although these were directed by US servicemen against immigrant youth. The Zoot Suit Riots were a series of conflicts on June 3–8, 1943 which pitted American servicemen stationed in Southern California against Mexican-American youths who were residents of the city. It was one of the dozen wartime industrial cities that suffered immigration-related riots in the summer of 1943.
Barbara Sims’ daughter-in-law Theresa Sims (nee CHUDY) is also the family genealogist and has constructed a very useful Blomfield family tree on-line, one of the first that I located. Consequently I did not need to go beyond Theresa and Ian to confirm many of the details contained in this post.
Barbara Sims is the most senior living direct descendant of her father Laurence Blomfield and rightfully entitled to the medal. The medal was couriered to Ian and Theresa who passed the medal on to Barbara. Delighted to accept the medal, Barbara has since returned her father’s medal to Ian in his capacity as the family’s representative of the next generation who is now responsible for safeguarding the medal. With a family of six children to select from, Ian should have little trouble when the time comes, to plan for the medal’s succession and future security.
My thanks to James for trusting MRNZ to find the medal’s rightful home – glad we were able to be of service. Thanks also to Theresa Sims for providing information and photographs for this post.
Missing: Victory Medal – should anyone know the whereabouts of Laurence Frederick Blomfield’s missing Victory Medal which is named in exactly the same manner as his British War Medal, Ian Sims would very much like to hear from you. Please contact MRNZ to arrange contact.
The reunited medal tally is now 304.