Memorial Certificates were produce to accompany the New Zealand Memorial Cross (right) which next-of-kin received as an acknowledgement of the death of a sailor, soldier or airmen who perished in war service.
Whilst sorting through boxes of old church records and accumulated paraphernalia associated with St Marks, an historic decommissioned Church of England in Blenheim, CEO Paul Hanton of St Marks Residential Addiction Treatment Centre, found a small glass fronted display box containing a group of four medals. The medals were a British War Medal 1914/18 and Victory Medal for service in WW1, and the second pair, a [British] War Medal, 1939/45 and NZ War Service Medal, 1939/45. Under the glass was the name W.C.H. Bateman plus his First World War service number, 55398.
A former soldier in the British Army, Paul Hanton is very aware of the importance and value of military medals to the families of deceased veterans. Keen to see the medals returned to the rightful owner, Paul could find no record from his predecessors to indicate when or from whom the medals had come. The name under the glass was all he had to go on. Paul contacted the Blenheim Returned & Services Association for assistance and in finding the owner. The RSA records showed the medals had belonged to a local soldier who had service during both World Wars:
World War 1
World War 2
However, the problem was that William Bateman, who was known as “Will or Willie,” had been dead for 33 years! Will Bateman had died in 1987 at the age of 83 and according to NZRSA records had no known family. Further, any RSA members or veterans of Will’s era who might have known anything of him were also long ago dead.
The job of looking into the situation on Paul’s behalf fell to the then Blenheim RSA Treasurer and committee member, Rod Schumack. Rod was aware of Medals Reunited NZ’s work in having returned a Memorial Plaque and the 1914/18 British War Medal that had belonged to Okaromio Military Medal winner, Sgt Alexander Cruickshank. MRNZ had recovered both of these and handed them over to the Blenheim RSA to join the remainder of Sgt Cruickshank’s medals on display in the RSA’s Panama Room.
Rod phoned me and related the story of the medals found at St Marks Residential Addiction Treatment Centre, a former Church of England (Anglican) facility at 61 Main Street in Blenheim. With no-one at the RSA able to shed any light on how the medals might have ended up at St Marks, Rod asked if we could possibly find a descendant to return them to? Always happy to take on a challenging case, this one ended up with us having to go to the UK for answers.
I visited Blenheim to have an in depth chat with Paul Hanton to see if I could find out what had led to Will Bateman’s medals ending up at St Marks. Paul had recently been appointed the CEO and program manager of St Mark’s Residential Addiction Treatment Centre and so was unaware of any background of the medals,, particularly as St Marks had long ceased to be a congregational church.
James Edmund Hodson was a Nelson run holder who re-located to Blenheim in the 1880s and built a home, “Thurston”, at St Andrews. James was prominent in provincial politics (Deputy Superintendent) and also very involved with the church affairs of the province. Superintendent of the Church of England Sunday School (for boys), his wife Catherine “Kate” Hodson managed the Sunday School for girls which she ran from their home at St Andrews. Increased numbers and cramped conditions at Thurston led to the Nativity Vestry (church management) agreeing to rent Mrs Hodson a two room cob cottage in Manse Road (the former name of Main Street). Around 1902, the Vestry bought the building and surrounding land and in 1905, with the old cottage past its best, demolished it and erected a church room in its place at a cost of £225. Commissioned as St Marks Church of England, two extensions were subsequently added in 1918 and 1919 in the form of a chancel and platform, and a kitchen.
St Marks remained under the management of a church Superintendent from that time until the mid-1980s. A dwindling congregation plus the construction of larger facilities elsewhere in the town were the death knell of St Marks as a church per se, and so it was decommissioned as a functioning church around 1985, the buildings being made available for community use. Whilst remaining in the Nelson Anglican Diocese’s ownership, St Marks was sanctioned for use as a Men’s Shelter. Around 1987, St Marks was leased for one term to Blenheim Addiction Services as a ‘drop in centre’ and temporary accommodation shelter for the growing numbers of homeless and at-risk youth in Marlborough (with drug, alcohol and abuse issues).
St Marks evolved from a temporary shelter staffed with volunteers and part-time counselors to a full-time, residential treatment centre with targeted programs for its residents, a staff of qualified teachers, a medical professional, and managed by a clinically qualified director. In 2003, the Anglican Diocese sold St Marks to the community management board of Blenheim Addiction Services thus guaranteeing a permanent home and future for young people whose lives were in crisis. The original St Marks church room is now the Reception Office of the re-named St Marks Residential Addiction Treatment Centre.
I was intrigued to follow up the when and how Will Bateman’s medals had arrived at St Mark’s. Noting that St Marks had been decommissioned around the time of Will Bateman’s death in 1987, conceivably his medals could have been there from that time, but why were they there? With no-one I asked able to offer an explanation, I considered that there were several possibilities.
The Bateman’s were known to be of the Church of England (Anglican) faith, and regular church goers. Given the proximity of Charles Bateman’s motor engineering garage in the adjoining High Street, there was every possibly the Batemans had also been parishioners of St Marks, perhaps the only Anglican church in Blenheim at that time? (I have not researched this possibility further). It stands to reason that if Will Bateman had been a parishioner at St Marks, any funeral service he had would most probably have been conducted at St Marks (whether still a commissioned church or not) because of his historical ties. Whether the then incumbent Vicar of St Marks had either conducted his funeral service in the church for Will and/or a graveside committal before his burial, suggested several possible reasons why Will’s medals ended up at St Marks.
As a former Funeral Director, I can attest to the fact that medals and personal items used at a funeral or graveside service are frequently left behind in churches, funeral homes, at the graveside, and in hearses and often remain unclaimed for weeks, months even – some not at all! Usually it is left to the Funeral Director or clergyman/woman conducting the service/committal, to secure and return these items to whomever made arrangements on the deceased’s behalf. In Will Bateman’s case, as he was the last member of his family in New Zealand, any funeral or committal could well have been organised between his Vicar and other interested parties such as veterans of the Blenheim RSA.
A returned or service person’s coffin is normally covered with the national flag of the country of their birth (the Union Jack in Will’s case) with their medals placed on top along with family flowers and poppy tributes from attending returned or former service persons. These items are removed from the coffin prior to the committal at a cemetery or crematorium. The responsibility for removing these from the coffin rests with the Funeral Director in the first instance who will either, return them to the person who supplied the item, to the attending clergyman where appropriate, or retain them until claimed where there is no clear provider identified.
Military veterans who die alone (no living family as in Will’s case) and who do not have a funeral service, or who are not represented at their graveside or crematorium, can be the reason personal effects that are supplied (like medals) are not re-claimed. I recall the very first case Medals Reunited NZ ever dealt with (see Post#1, Henry George Dickin) involved a set of WW1 medals and a Memorial Plaque that had been left at a now demolished funeral parlour in Remuera, only to be discovered behind the office safe 50 or so years later when the building was being cleared for demolition.
As Will Bateman’s medals had been found at St Mark’s, I erred towards the involvement of either a clergyman and/or a Funeral Director being responsible for depositing the medals at St Marks. One other check I thought might offer a clue was Will Bateman’s Last Will & Testament which I found on-line. Whilst his medals were not specifically mentioned in his Estate, a statement to the effect that his Trustees (a named accountant & solicitor in Blenheim), were directed to, “after all settlements and memorial costs had been paid from the Estate, hold the residue in trust for use in the Anglican Parish of Blenheim, as determined from time to time by the Parish Vestry.”
From the sum total of this information, I could make a calculated (unproven) guess as to how Will Bateman’s medals finished up at St Marks. An RSA representative and any clergyman involved in Will’s burial would almost certainly have discussed what form the committal before burial would take (incl laying of Poppies, Last Post etc), whether the burial was preceded by any sort of funeral church service or not. Will being a returned serviceman, that conversation would have included questions of supplying a flag for the coffin, and the whereabouts of Will’s medals. Whether Will Bateman farewell was at a church funeral service, or at a graveside committal, in both cases the Funeral Director would have been responsible for removing the flag, medals etc from the coffin at an appropriate moment before it was lowered into the grave.
Since Will Bateman had no remaining family, it is also very possible any one of four persons could have pre-arranged the availability of Will’s medals – an RSA Rep/friend, Funeral Director, Trustee or a Clergyman. Given that the residue of Will’s estate was to be entrusted to the Parish Vestry’s after death, even if Will’s medals had been given to a Trustee, RSA rep or whomever else, ultimately they would have had to be returned to the Vestry, ergo, the attending clergyman/Vicar would likely have that responsibility after Will’s burial (that is of course unless Will had verbally bequeathed his medals to someone at St Marks before his death? – very unlikely I think). Paul Hanton had found nothing in writing to indicate any of the above was so.
Clearly there is plenty of room for conjecture. My belief is that after Will’s medals were removed from his coffin, the clergyman/vicar having or being given custody of these, returned to St Marks with these and whatever other paraphernalia was used for the funeral/burial, either in his capacity as a former vicar of that church, or because the medals were to be collected at a later date from St marks by an un-named person. Since Will’s death had occurred around the time that St Marks was in the process of being decommissioned as a functioning church per se, the return/collection of Will’s medals was perhaps inadvertently overlooked as the new lessee and occupation of the buildings overtook circumstances. Whatever the case, the medals appear to have remained at St Marks for an indeterminate period, through the days of Blenheim Addiction Services, until Paul unearthed them during his cleanup as the newly appointed CEO of St Marks Residential Addition Treatment Centre.
On the few occasions I have followed up similar situations, the most common response has been “Sorry, forgot all about them.” Under the circumstances described above, it is conceivable that the disposal of Will’s medals, a man who had no other living family in New Zealand, was probably the last thing anyone who was involved with St Marks, Will’s burial or the decommissioning of St Marks thought about, if at all? And so the medals seem to have remained with successive managers of Addition Services without question, until Paul Hanton raised the subject.
I spent several weeks gathering basic information about William Charles Henry Bateman and his family’s history in New Zealand. The family had not been hard to trace from their arrival as there had been only four of them, and all had lived and died in Blenheim in the space of 73 years. After confirming there were no living descendants to be found in New Zealand, my only other avenue was to start researching the Bateman’s English roots for living descendants.
Researching British families from NZ is not easy. Fortunately MRNZ has had the very able assistance of a Norfolk lady, Andrea Ruddick (aka “Blue Leader”) who is a former market researcher from the beautiful seaside town of Hunstanton. Andrea enjoys the challenge that genealogy presents by sourcing the records and locating people from obscure backgrounds.
Andrea has very kindly volunteered her time to gather information and contacts for MRNZ, of the families of United Kingdom veterans who we have medals to return to. Having someone we can turn to who is across the British records system and can access information not on-line, is a distinct plus for MRNZ – local knowledge makes so much more difference to obtaining a quick result. Andrea has been instrumental in finding some of the more difficult family links we have been confronted with. Brilliant at sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’ of British and Scottish genealogical records, Andrea knows her way around these, which to antipodean foreigners like me can be minefields.
Having wrapped up the research of the Bateman family in New Zealand and what little I had put together of their roots in England, I sent my findings to Andrea to see what she could uncover in the way of links to surviving descendants in England. Andrea was soon able to produce a spreadsheet of her best guess of the Bateman’s ancestral connections we were looking for in and around Henley-on-Thames area of Oxfordshire.
William Bateman’s family roots were in Oxfordshire and fortunately there was no shortage of Bateman records, however therein can lay problems for the genealogist. One of the issues with families who have remained in the same area/county for generations is the perpetuation of duplicate names from one generation to the next, e. g. often a father’s first name will appear as his first born son’s name (with or without the addition of a second name) and generally without any other differentiation such as is used today like, John Smith (Snr) Senior or (Jnr) Junior; or perhaps John Smith II, III etc. There are so many commonly used first and last name combinations in use, selection of the correct family connection where precise birth or death dates are not available, can make lead us to rely on the information others provide, which is hopefully correct? As we all know many family trees are constructed without proven ancestry, some names being added as the result of a ‘stab in the dark’ with familiar names. The further back we look for ancestors, selection of a potential relative based upon name alone can be very hit or miss due as public records become less detailed and generalised, as I was to discover in this case.
Charles Bateman [Snr] (1852-1924) had originally hailed from Hoxton in Middlesex. By the late 1870s, the Bateman family had relocated to Oxfordshire, specifically to Henley-on-Thames. The 1881 Census for Henley-on-Thames (generally known by its short name of Henley) in the county of Oxfordshire (Oxon), Charles Bateman’s occupation is shown to be that of a Carpenter. On 24 May 1904, Charles married Mary HOBBS (1849-1917), a Needlewoman from Henley-on-Thames where the couple resided after their marriage. Famous for the annual Henley Royal Rowing Regatta established in March 1839, the town of Henley lies on the left bank of the Thames River at the foot of the Chilton Hills and considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in Britain. The town and parish is 27 kilometres southeast of Oxford and 45 kilometres west of London, near the tri-point of three counties – Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. It is here the Bateman’s settled and Mary bore seven children, only three of whom survived into adulthood.
First born was Charles John Bateman [Jnr] (1876-1960) followed by a sister, Harriet Hannah Bateman (1876-1937), Samuel Henry Bateman (1878-1891) – died aged 12, Mary Bateman (1881-1891) – died aged 9, Annie Bateman (1883-1891) – died aged 7, Elizabeth Bateman (1887-1887) – stillborn, and finally Beatrice Emily Bateman (1890-1975).
Charles J. Bateman [Jnr] began his working life in Henley as an apprentice carpenter with his father however his real interest lay in all things mechanical. With the advent of early bicycles such as the ‘penny farthing’ and ‘bone-shaker’ Charles developed a serious interest in these machines as they evolved into something akin to the cycles we recognise of 1950s and 60s vintage. In 1895 Charles Bateman (19) was working as a Hairdressers (barber) apprentice in Henley when he met and married Gertrude Rhoda BAILEY (1876-1964), also 19, from Highmoor Oxon, about 9 kilometres NW of Henley-on-Thames. Charles and Gertrude had just the two children – William Charles Henry Bateman born at Henley in 1897, and his sister Dorothy Evelyn Bateman in 1906, born at Great Marlow (known simply as Marlow) in Buckinghamshire (Bucks).
The move to Great Marlow circa 1902 had been precipitated by the relocation of the hairdressing business (also a tobacconist) where Charles became both shopkeeper and hairdresser. The departure of the business owner and Charles’s mentor resulted in the business being sold, but all was not lost. It presented Charles with an opportunity to start his own business in something he was really interested in. Bicycles at the turn of the century were gaining popularity, and mechanics being an abiding interest of Charles, he set himself up as a cycle repairer from his home in Marlow.
Exposure to the odd motorcycle repair furthered his interest in motor mechanics and increased his self-taught skills in engineering. Following the beginning of mass production of bicycles with Coventry, Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester being the centers of the English bicycle industry, their increasing use as an everyday mode of transport led Charles to open a commercial retail and repair shop in the town centre of Marlow. “C. J. Bateman” became an agent for a variety of English and American bicycles whilst also offering a repair service. The 1911 Census shows Charles J. Bateman (35) listed as a ‘Cycle Trader’ of a premises in West Street, Marlow. Charles, or “C. J.” as his friends and business colleagues knew him, also employed his then fourteen year old son William for novice cycle repair work (punctures mainly) in additional to a specialist cycle mechanic by name of Hugh Thomas Clack.
1911 was a watershed year for the Batemans, and the last full year Charles was in business in Marlow. With cycle traders and repair shops being a popular and relatively inexpensive business to establish from one’s backyard, the proliferation of competitors, some much better resourced than Charles, soon squeezed the ‘little men’ out of business. Rather than have that happen, Charles and Gertrude re-assessed their situation and being young enough to move and start again, decided to take advantage of the New Zealand Company’s offer to married and single tradesmen and farmers, for cheap sea passage to New Zealand in exchange for migration to a country that promised an abundance of employment opportunities, a country that was unencumbered by poverty, pollution and crime which afflicted so much of industrialised Britain. An opportunity for a new start was not to be missed!
Leaving behind his two ageing parents Charles (Snr) and Mary Bateman, together with his surviving sisters, spinster Beatrice, and his married sister Harriet WHITING, Charles and Gertrude Batemen (both 36) together with their youngest son Will (15) and daughter Dorothy (8), left London for New Zealand aboard the SS Athenic on 16 November 1912. After a six week voyage almost to the day, Athenic arrived in Auckland on New Year’s Day 1913. Remaining aboard, the Bateman’s disembarked two days later when Athenic docked in Wellington. The Batemans made their way to temporary accommodation in Wellington overnight to await the arrival of a steamer that would take them across the Cook Strait to Picton in the Marlborough Sounds.
Within a few months of settling in Blenheim (26km south of Picton), Charles and Gertrude had established a home at 88 Maxwell Road, a north-south arterial track that ran from the town centre, due south to the new three ward Wairau Hospital. Established in 1850 as Beavertown, Blenheim at this time was still a rural community akin to the ‘wild west’ (minus side-arms). Blenheim had a pre-WW1 population of approximately 7,500 (2021 = 29,000), the town being a hub that serviced a widespread inland farming community. The town was partially serviced by a limited railway line that ran from Picton to the small farming hamlet of Seddon (24km south of Blenheim), but the mainly supply route was via coastal river boats and small sailing ships. These moved passengers and freight in and out of the town via a network of tributaries that emptied into the Opawa River that ran from the ocean of Cloudy Bay up river to the four quays situated adjacent to Main Street and the town centre.
Shortly after settling into Maxwell Road, C. J. Bateman opened his Wairau Motor Cycle & Cycle Works at No.3 High Street (site of the current Rebel Sports), a matter of metres from the four quays. C. J. began his cycle repair and engineering business here which soon included the importation of bicycles and motorcycles, mainly from England and America. Repairs were carried out on site and as his engineering workshop became fully equipped, C. J. turned his attention to engine reconditioning as well as repairs. Will Bateman worked full-time with his father, having started as a cycle mechanic apprentice back in Marlow, a trade he continued with in Blenheim. While bicycles were still fairly expensive in 1912, as they were all imported (about NZ$16.00 in 1912 = NZ$912.00 in today’s money), repairs of new and second-hand cycles became the mainstay of the Bateman business. Punctures featured highly in Will’s works as the pneumatic tyre did not handle the rough, unsealed roads that were the norm for this time.
Competition and a reduction of import costs slowly increased the accessibility of bicycles for the general public and with that came the increased need for repairs and replacement. Cycling was also a growing sport, highlighted by the annual Blenheim to Timaru cycle race which opened up a market for specialist cycles (roadsters), their repairs and parts. By the 1920s motorcycles were also becoming increasingly popular for those who could afford one, as was the use of small horse-powered combustion engines to drive any number of applications. C. J. Bateman expanded his Wairau Motorcycle and Cycle Works by increasing the range of general engineering jobs he could handle, hiring additional cycle mechanics to assist son Will whom he would eventually devolve the importation and retail of bicycles to.
The advent of the First World War interrupted the Bateman’s business once Will Bateman was required to serve overseas. While ambivalent about the prospect of going to war, being more focused on the modifications and advances being made to the internal combustion engine powering motorcycles than what was happening on the Western Front. Not old enough in 1915 to serve overseas, Will being a fair euphonium player had to be content with playing in the Blenheim Garrison Band at least until 30 January 1916 when he would turn 20 years of age, the minimum age permissible by law for men to serve overseas.
The 10th (Blenheim) Squadron, Canterbury Mounted Rifles was one half of the 10th (Nelson) Mounted Regiment, the other being the Nelson Squadron. Will being a volunteer for service overseas, transferred from the Garrison Band to the Regimental and Reserve Band of the 10th Mounted Regiment while patiently awaiting his 20th birthday.
In addition to band work, Trooper Bateman was required to undertake regular training sessions during the week and at weekends in drill, basic weapons training, range firing and field exercises. Both the Nelson and Blenheim Squadrons when exercised together as a Regiment generally did so at Tapawera, a rural training area west of Nelson that provided an ideal situation and space to prepare men and horses for their training at Featherston, when called.
55398 PTE William Charles Henry Bateman was enlisted into the 28th Reinforcements on 21 May 1917, one of 22 men from Marlborough who proudly marched through the streets of Blenheim on 27 May 1917 escorted by the 10th Mounted Regimental and Reserve Band that Will had played in on so many occasions. They boarded the river steamer at the Opawa River quay amid the throng of mainly parents, friends, children and well wishers as they began the first part of their long journey to England and then France. The steamer edged down the river to the fading strains of “Now is the Hour” – twenty year old Will Bateman was on his way to war and no doubt wondered if he would ever be back?
No longer a Mounted Rifles Trooper, Private Bateman was deploy as an Infantryman. Unlike Egypt and Palestine where mounted troops had fought, the type of warfare experienced in France was largely confined to trench warfare as the ground was not suited to mounted operations. After completing the requisite 10 weeks basic infantry training at the Featherston Training Camp in the Wairarapa, followed by a short period of home leave, Pte. Bateman embarked on HMNZT 90 Ulimaroa on 26 July 1917 with his fellow 28th Reinforcements of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.
Ulimaroa arrived at Plymouth without incident, on 24 Sep 1917. The disembarked troops were entrained for the NZEF Training Depot at Sling Camp which was situated south of Bulford on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Pte. Bateman was posted to ‘C’ Company, 4th Reserve Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment with whom he would undertake battlefield preparation training before being dispatched to the front line.
The Canterbury Infantry Regiment consisted of a Reserve Battalion and three fighting battalions – the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions (1/CIB, 2/CIB, 3/CIB). The new reinforcements embarked for France on 11 November 1917 arriving at the NZ Infantry & General Reserve Depot (NZI & GRD) at Etaples Depot Camp two days later. Little did Will realise that on that date in exactly 365 days time, the war would be over – Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, commemorated world-wide on this date annually.
Pte. Bateman was posted to B Company of the 2nd (South Canterbury) Battalion. During the previous six month period, June – November 1917, the Canterbury Regiment had been engaged in some of the fiercest fighting of the war. The Regiment had battled their way through three of their most costly actions of the war – Messines in June, the costliest of all actions for the NZ Division as a whole – Passchendaele in October, and the last, Polygon Wood / Polderhoek Chateau in October and November. These battles alone accounted for combined losses to the Canterbury Regiment of approximately 240 killed and 1,400 wounded and missing.
Pte. Bateman and the fresh reinforcements went into the field to join their battalions on 8 December 1917 at a time when all but 2/CIB were recovering from an attack on the enemy stronghold of Polderhoek Chateau. The NZ Brigade, of which 2/CIB was part, had been tasked with the attack however 2/CIB had taken no part. It had been detailed for important work digging the assembly trenches (in continuous rain) and reconnoitering No-Man’s Land for an up-coming operation. The advance to attack was launched at midday on 3 December and in which stiff opposition was encountered from a series of strong points which threatened to disrupt the attack.**
Note ** One of the strong-points holding up the advance, was single-handedly attacked by a fearless South Canterbury carpenter, 24213 Private (later Sgt) Henry James Nicholas of the 12th Company, 1/CIB who summarily dispatched 12 of the occupants and captured four others. He later also collected ammunition under machine-gun fire. For his for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the attack, Pte Nicholas was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Citation in part reads…. “11 January 1918. Private Nicholas rushed forward alone, shot the officer in command of the strong-point, and overcame the remainder of the garrison of sixteen by means of bombs and bayonet, capturing four wounded prisoners and a machine-gun.” This was the Canterbury Regiment’s first Victoria Cross. Pte Nicholas subsequently distinguished himself between 28 Sep-1 Oct 1918. By then a Sergeant, his bravery was again recognised with an award of the Military Medal. Unfortunately Sgt Nicholas was Killed in Action four weeks later on 28 October 1918.
The net result of this operation was failure! Nine days after the attack, the enemy re-captured the ground which the Canterbury and Otago Battalions had taken on December 3rd.
During the night of December 15th/16th, the 2nd Battalion moved from its bivouacs at Polygonveld to Cameron Covert. There was very little accommodation near the front line, so while one company held the posts and another was kept close in support, the two remaining companies were held in reserve close to the bivouacs they had occupied at Polygonveld when the battalion had been in support of the 2nd Brigade.
The trench warfare in the Ypres salient differed from the Division’s earlier experiences at Armentières only by the greater discomforts with which the troops contended with at Ypres. The trenches were awash with mud and water, and where as a rule without duck-boards which meant that the feet of the men were almost continuously wet. Trench-foot afflicted nearly every soldier as there were very few opportunities to dry them out. There was very little weather-proof sleeping accommodation, and though hot food was sent up from cook-houses behind the line, it usually arrived cold due to the long distances it had to be carried.
Snow fell before Christmas but as it froze the frozen ground increased the danger zone of shells which could ricochet of the surface. Those that penetrated the ground did not go as deep as they had done when the ground was a sea of mud. The depth had the effect of supressing to some extent the devastation high explosive shells and mortars wrecked but the frozen ground also posed a new danger. When frosty nights were followed by sunny days, numerous men became casualties in the mornings from the contents of gas-shells fired during the night. Their contents of these remained in liquid (or frozen) form until the heat of the sun caused the contents to evaporate, generating largely invisible clouds of deadly gas.
In this manner the whole of the headquarters of the 2nd Brigade and of 2/CIB were gassed in the Butte on the morning of 18 February 1918. The casualties included the Commanding Officer (Major Wilson), the adjutant, three other officers and thirty-seven other ranks, including Pte. Bateman, who was classified as “seriously ill.” Evacuated to No.4 General Hospital at Banners in Camires, the casualties were subsequently embarked onto HM Hospital Ship New Haven and taken to England. Unable to see, Pte. Bateman was admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital in March 1918 with severe Conjunctivitis.
In April 1918, Pte. Bateman was transferred to No.3 NZ Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch, Walton-on-Thames where he stayed until July and fit enough to take leave. By 11 August, Pte. Bateman had been re-admitted to hospital suffering with Bronchitis which quickly spiralled down to Pleurisy. For eight days he remained on the seriously ill list. Gradual improvement in his condition eventually warranted a transfer to No.3 NZ General Hospital at Codford Camp, a New Zealand accommodation and convalescent camp. On Armistice Day, 1918 (11 Nov), Pte. Bateman was returned to No.3 NZ Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch where he remained until 30 November. A Medical Board assessed his recovery and fitness for future service – unsurprisingly the Board decided: “For Discharge – no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on Active Service.” Pte. Bateman was released from hospital and returned to his unit at Codford Camp in preparation for repatriation to NZ. Ironically Will Bateman returned to NZ on the SS Oxfordshire (a link to his English origins), departing Liverpool on 19 Dec 1918 and arrived in Auckland on 4 Feb 1919. Will underwent a further medical assessment prior to his being cleared for discharge from the NZEF with effect from 4 March 1919.
Medals: British War Medal, 1914-1918 and Victory Medal
Overseas service: 1 year 194 days
Total NZEF service: 1 year 281 days
On returning to his Maxwell Road home in Blenheim, Will took a well earned break before settling back into work at the High Street garage with his father. In Will’s absence, C. J. Bateman had made the acquaintance of one William “Bill” Aston, a carpenter by trade but also a skilled motor mechanic, and whose wife coincidently was also named Gertrude. When Will returned, Bill Aston and C. J. had grown the motor engineering side of the business to the extent a larger facility was required. A decision was made to split the motorcycle and bicycle elements of the business. C. J. and Bill Aston moved the motor engineering and motorcycle repair function to a garage in Queen Street opposite the Sample Rooms, in September 1920.
The business was re-named “BATEMAN & ASTON (New Motor) GARAGE Ltd.” Somewhere along the way the garage acquired the additional moniker of “Wairau Motors.” C. J. and Bill Aston focused on motorcycles, small engines and engineering work whilst Will retained the bicycle sales and repair side of the business in the High Street shop, with the assistance of an additional cycle mechanic.
The garage under the Bateman & Aston banner was successful to the extent that when Bill Aston became an agent for specialist machinery off the back of C. J.’s importation of bicycles and motor cycles, he wanted to establish a stand alone business of his own.
Bill Aston became the agent for a range of machinery, including those produced by the now well known brands as Massey, Ferguson, John Deere, and locally produced farm machinery. In 1923 C. J. Bateman wound down his commitment at the garage to assist wife Gertrude with their bed-ridden daughter Dorothy. He moved his engineering equipment to the Bateman’s home garage where he could continued to recondition motorcycle engines as well as any engineering work Will required for his bicycles. With C. J. installed at home, Will closed down the shop in High Street and relocated to the Queen Street garage with Bill Aston where he continued with his cycle sales and repairs. Will also took over the importation of cycles, motorcycles and parts for both from his father. By the end of the year, the Bateman’s had arranged for Bill Aston to buy out their share of the garage so that he could establish his specialist machinery business. Will Bateman bought an existing bicycle shop – Cook Brothers Cycles – situated in Market Street in the town centre.
Trading as “W.C.H. Bateman – Cycle Dealers Ltd.”, Will was both a repair and parts agency for new and second-hand bicycles and motorcycles, sidecars, and their associated parts. Reconditioned engines were supplied by his father. He also did a steady trade in second-hand bicycles for which he employed two cycle mechanics. Well known makes such as Aerial, Excelsior, Phillips, Premier and Robin Hood brands from England were available from Bateman’s, including BSA, Triumph, Aerial, Humber, Campion and Rudge-Winstone motor cycle makes.
In 1926 the family was plunged into sadness when Will’s 22 year old sister Dorothy who had been ill for some three years succumbed on 21 September to an untimely death. Both Gertrude and C. J. Bateman were utterly distraught. Will, a man of quiet and private disposition took this in his stride whilst being the anchor for his parents, adding his father’s engineering work to his own in the cycle shop.
The onset of World War 2 in 1939 caused yet another upheaval for the country and for Will Bateman who by then was 40 years of age. Whilst his WW1 service and illness had disqualified him for further Active Service overseas, he was still required to register and remained eligible for home service in New Zealand.
H61004 Private William Charles Henry Bateman was re-enlisted for full-time service at Blenheim on 12 September 1939 for the duration of the war. He had hoped to enlist with the National Military Reserve (NMR), a special force the government had decided to raise for service within or beyond New Zealand. Enlistment was to be entirely voluntary and confined to men and non-commissioned officers between the ages of 21 and 40. The medical standard required fitness for Active Service in any part of the world and enlistment would be for the duration of the war plus twelve months thereafter, or until lawfully discharged. Will, being closer to his 42nd birthday had crossed the upper age limit threshold and therefore ruled out. A perusal of his previous WW1 service medical documents had also highlighted the conditions for which he had been exempted for future Active Service. As a result he was assigned to duty with the Home Guard. One minor concession was that at least he would have the opportunity to take his place with the Regimental & Reserve Band when available.
Pte. Bateman was initially employed at Delta Military Camp (DMC), one of a number of temporary camps established in the Wairau Valley to provide accommodation and training facilities for soldiers and later airmen. During World War II, the Wairau Valley was home to many uniformed servicemen, and women with some 12,000 involved at one stage, about 9,000 of who were army troops based around Blenheim and in the Wairau Valley. The 3,000 soldiers attached to the air force were housed at Woodbourne and the nearby DMC. Seven satellite camps had been built initially for soldiers of the NZ Army’s 11th Brigade Group, and were spread from Renwick, west to the Waihopai River. Marlborough having a good climate and plenty of open spaces was ideal for training men for overseas duty. By the end of 1942 however, most Army personnel had been deployed overseas or relocated to other camps around New Zealand. The RNZAF Station Delta as it became, was then occupied by aircrew hopefuls who had their suitability for flying training and other aircrew functions (Air Gunner, Wireless Operator etc) assessed, prior to selection for advanced bomber and fighter training overseas at schools established for the purpose in Canada and England.
RNZAF Station Delta, or “The Delta” as it was known, was opened in June 1943 over an area between three rivers, the delta point being where the Wairau and Waihopai Rivers meet on one side, and the Omaka River passes on the other. The Delta included a runway and several camps where new airmen would undergo initial testing and assessment for aircrew positions. A number of flying training schools were moved into the Wairau Valley from other RNZAF stations around the country and occupied one of the seven camps that had been built. It was an unpopular station to be posted to, mainly due to the poor standard of food dished up to airmen there, and the primitive living conditions. It was damp and cold in winter, and seemingly remote. Each of the seven camps at the Delta had a specific, purpose:
From 1943 onwards, the DMC became RNZAF Station Delta. The induction and basic flying training of airmen as a precursor to their attendance at one of the advanced aircrew schools in Canada or England, was the Delta’s prime function. While RNAZF Station Woodbourne (No 2 Service Flying Training School) continued to train ab initio pilots, it also hosted No 16 & 17 (Fighter) Squadrons on the airfield at RNZAF Station Fairhall which occupied the Woodbourne Farm buildings at the back of the Station airfield. A separate E-W grass airstrip was also established along the rear boundary of the Woodbourne Station’s existing airfield.
The seven camps of RNZAF Station Delta were re-named as “Wings” e. g., Ashford Wing, Bedford Wing etc, each with its own Commanding Officer and compliment of two or three aircrew officer instructors. Aside from Woodbourne and Fairhall, additional grass airfields were established at Wairau, Omaka and Grassmere. A remote facility, No.2 Convalescent Depot (RNZAF), was established at Curious Cove in the Marlborough Sounds where returning sick or injured airmen were able to recover in a tranquil environment. Most of the Delta Station was closed in October 1944 when RNZAF aircrew intakes had slowed to a much reduced level than earlier in the war. Once the war was over, personnel remaining at the Delta were dispersed and the camps demolished, leaving only the RNZAF Station at Woodbourne and which continued to expanded.
Being aware that he could be sent to any one of the locations the Home Guard were employed (including Nelson) presented a problem for Pte. Bateman in that he would have to leave his Market Street cycle business in the hands of a temporary manager (one of his cycle mechanics perhaps) or his father. C. J. Bateman however was busy enough with motorcycle jobs and would only be able to oversee the shop’s operation intermittently. Being the only other family member, Will’s parents both in their 70s, had also become increasingly depended on him in numerous ways, and so he reconsidered his position with the Home Guard.
The RNZAF Station at Woodbourne was within cycling distance to the west of Blenheim and comprised both training and operational airfields within its perimeter – Woodbourne (for pilot evaluation and basic training) and Fairhall, No 16 (Fighter) Squadron from 1942 onwards. As training and the demand for manpower resources ramped up in 1940, the drain of experienced tradesmen, particularly in the mechanical and engineering fields, who had successfully volunteered for pilot or aircrew training, became quite critical. This situation presented Pte. Bateman with an opportunity to resolve some of his concerns with his own situation. His skills and experience as both a motor mechanic and general engineer would no doubt be welcomed at Woodbourne. Having spent his first nine months of service with the Home Guard in the Wairau Valley, switching to the air force would allow him greater flexibility to have oversight of his business interest in Blenheim, and to assist his parents when needed. Will’s application to transfer from the Home Guard to the RNZAF was approved, effective from 17 July 1940.
NZ402393 Aircraftman Class 1 (AC-1) W.C.H. Bateman changed his service number (again!), his rank title and uniform colour to start his new employment at RNZAF Station Woodbourne’s Motor Transport Section. Enlisted as a Motor Mechanic Will joined a pool of tradesmen responsible for the maintenance of the air forces fleet of vehicles spread throughout Marlborough. Will served in this capacity for four years at Woodbourne (which also took in stints at Omaka, the Delta and Nelson) and attained the rank of Leading Aircraftman (LAC). Whilst at Woodbourne Will also had the opportunity to join the Stations brass band. On returning to ‘civvy street’ after the war, LAC Bateman was committed to a 4 year Reserve service obligation before his contract was complete. Part-time service and annual camps (mostly as a bandsman) were part of his routine which he thoroughly enjoyed until he was formally discharge from any further military service obligation on 1st September, 1948 at 51 years 9 months of age.
Medals: War Medal 1939/45, New Zealand War Service Medal
Service: NZ Army (PTE) – 12 Sep 1939 – 16 Jul 1940 = 10 mths
RNZAF (LAC) – 17 Jul 1940 – 26 Jul 1944 = 4 yrs + 4 yrs Reserve = 01 Sep 1948
When Will returned to civilian life in July 1944, his cycle business was no longer viable due to the huge demands the war effort had made upon materials, the destruction of manufacturing facilities and the limited availability of shipping space for ‘luxury’ goods, as bicycles were considered. With the population essentially living from hand to mouth post war, the ability of former customers to pay for repairs let alone purchasing a cycle was of a very low priority in most family budgets. Will sold off his assets and returned to helping his father with what few engineering jobs he had coming in at home.
After C. J. Bateman retired from motor engineering in 1955, the electoral roll of 1957 shows he was living alone in a small cottage at No.2 North Street, behind the Wairau Hospital which was only couple of streets away from 88 Maxwell Road. The reason is unknown. Will remained with his mother Gertrude at home, occupying his time with wood turning which he had taken up for additional income. He is said to have produced many fine bowls and lathe turned items which became popular gifts. Will maintained his association with the Blenheim Garrison Band, and also as a returned member of the NZRSA.
Charles John “C. J.” Bateman (84) died in June 1960. Will remained with his mother Gertrude until she too died four years later in September 1964, aged 88. Both parents were buried with Will’s sister Dorothy at the Omaka No.3 Cemetery in Redwood, Blenheim.
Will Bateman had remained a bachelor all his life, living an industrious but quiet, unobtrusive life in Blenheim. After his mother died, Will sold their house in Maxwell Road and moved into his father’s cottage at No.2 North Street. Here he remained alone until the 2nd of July 1987, the day 89 year old William Charles Henry Bateman passed away. Clearly not a family for fuss, Will’s passing like those of his parents and sister Dorothy, did not even rate a mention in the local newspaper (death notice or obituary). They Batemans had simply lived quietly … and then vanished, their grave markers being the only testament to their presence in New Zealand. Perhaps that was their intention.
Anecdotally, Will would have been quite happily buried, without a service, or representation at his grave however, that is generally not the NZRSA’s way. Whether his wishes were articulated to anyone is another unknown but it is highly likely the few WW1 veterans’ still alive when Will died, would not have let him slip away without acknowledgement. If not by way of a private gathering at his family’s former place of worship (St Marks), RSA veteran representation at the very least would have been present at his graveside – to place a poppy, acknowledge his war service, sound the bugle and pay their last respects to a fellow veteran, bandsman, business owner and citizen of Blenheim. Fellow veterans and the Blenheim RSA membership would expect nothing less for one, who at the end of his life, was otherwise alone in this country and far removed from his homeland. William Charles Henry Bateman was buried in the Fairhall Cemetery Serviceman’s Section, almost within sight of the airfield at Woodbourne.
~ Lest We Forget ~
The death of Will Bateman underlined the extinction of this Bateman family in New Zealand. When I began the search for clues to other possible descendants who might have come to NZ, I very was hopeful as I had two aces up my sleeve I felt sure would net a positive result.
The first Ace: Having lived in Blenheim during a previous life and still an infrequent visitor, my local knowledge recalled to mind a motor vehicle dealer in Queen Street in almost the same place Bateman and Aston’s Wairau Garage had been in 1920. More irony .. the garage was named “Richard Bateman Motors Ltd.” It seemed fairly logical to me at the time that given both the nature of Will and his father’s occupations (motor engineers, mechanics), that a Bateman descendant operating a motor vehicle dealership in 2021 was not that far removed from the sort of business Will and his father were running 100 years earlier, so could they be connected? I rang the company and Richard Bateman actually answered the phone. Explaining why I was calling, I asked Richard if the two families were linked in any way ? – unfortunately not, no relation whatsoever. Richard’s family had come from the North Island to Blenheim around 1998, about the same time as he had opened “Richard Bateman Motors Ltd.”
My hopes were now riding on the second Ace which hopefully would be more productive. Forty years previously (circa 1980), I had been a ground training instructor at Woodbourne and during the three years spent there, I had come into contact with a technical tradesman serving at Woodbourne who I hoped would be the ‘missing link’ to Will Bateman’s family. Not only did Sergeant Alan Bateman have the same surname but he was also English, although I had no idea from which county he had come. Alan Bateman was an aircraft maintenance engineer (an aero mechanic/fitter). Alan had sprung to mind during my initial research not only because of his surname but also because of his memorable English accent. These bits of information when put could possibly support the notion that additional Bateman descendants from the Buckinghamshire had come to Blenheim? Another stroke of good fortune came my way in that having not seen or heard anything of Alan in the 45+ years since we last met, I found him still listed in the Blenheim phone directory! Buoyed with anticipation, I phoned him. After renewing our acquaintances I asked Alan the critical question. Disaster! – the stars had failed to align again – Alan and his family it transpired were relative newcomers to New Zealand, having arrived some 50 years previous, from Yorkshire and so, not remotely connected to any Batemans, past or present from Blenheim, New Zealand or Oxfordshire! Henley-on-Thames may as well have been a foreign country – here ended that line of possibilities.
Given the lack of any obvious Bateman family connections in NZ, I decided to start at again at the family’s roots in Henley, starting from the time of their departure for NZ in 1912 and working backwards through the family members who had remained in the UK – C. J. Bateman’s two sisters, Harriet and Beatrice Bateman.
Eldest sister, Harriet Hannah BATEMAN (1876-1937) was the first I researched. Harriett had married Arthur John WHITING (1875-1960) in 1904 at St Marys, Henley-on-Thames OXON, some nine years before the Batemans emigrated to New Zealand. Harriet and Arthur had three children – Charles Arthur Henry WHITING (1905-1905) who died short after his birth, Elsie Rose WHITING (1914-1999), a lifelong spinster, and Frederick John WHITING who had married Dorothy Ella Alice HATT (1911-1957) in 1934. Harriet Whiting died at Henley in 1937 aged 60 years.
C. J. Bateman’s only other surviving sister was Beatrice Emily Bateman (1890-1975). Emily had remained a spinster all her life whilst living in Henley, that is until 1947, when much to my surprise Andrea had located a record that showed Emily at 57 years of age had married Harriett’s widowed husband, Arthur John WHITING (then 75), ten years after her sister’s death. Clearly a marriage of convenience, Arthur and Emily being both single, ageing with a mutual family connection, apparently found utility in living together and combining their limited resources after the privations of the war years. Marriage of course would have removed any potential for idle or scandalous gossip. Given Arthur was twenty years older than Emily, the likelihood that she would survive him was also much greater and therefore marriage would assure her of on-going support that Arthur’s estate might provide her as his widow. As to be expected, no children resulted from their union.
UK researcher Andrea had done some excellent groundwork on this case and had constructed the Bateman lineage that was on the very little I found of Will Bateman’s family in Blenheim. This resulted in our drawing the conclusion that eligibility for the custody of Will Bateman’s medals rested between the descendant families of Frederick and Dorothy Whiting, one of which had the only apparent living male descendant of Frederick John Whiting and his first wife, C. J. Bateman’s eldest sister Harriet Bateman. Specifically, we had linked the names of Fred and Harriet Whiting to daughters Pamela Jean (Whiting) HOLDEN and her sister Veronica Diane (Whiting) RODNEY. By virtue of the fact that Veronica had the only living male descendant of the next generation, her son Kevin Rodney, Veronica was deemed to be the preferred recipient of the medals.
Never a truer word spoken! After deciding that Veronica Rodney was to be the entitled recipient, I wrote to her via her son Kevin who would be handling the receipt of the medals when they arrived in England. I explained to Kevin the conclusion of our research and why his mother had been the selected descendant to receive Will Bateman’s medals. Three weeks I breathed a sigh of relief after receiving confirmation the medals had arrived safely and were in Kevin Rodney’s possession. About six weeks later I received an unexpected email from Veronica. She had taken some time to review the information we had provided Kevin that showed her position as the grand-daughter of Charles John WHITING. Much to my consternation Veronica pointed out that she was NOT the daughter of Frederick JOHN WHITING, but of Frederick JAMES WHITING. Her grandfather was NOT Charles John WHITING but Charles John Thomas WHITING, “Thomas” being a name we had not encountered in the area records!
Where had we gone wrong? I defaulted quickly back to Andrea for a re-check of her information. As Andrea and I swapped emails to unravel the error, re-checking various iterations of Whiting family trees on Ancestry, the error was soon pin-pointed. A detailed re-check revealed not one but two men shown in the censuses of adjoining counties of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire listed as “Frederick J. Whiting.” Remember that BUCKS, BERKS and OXON all converged at Henley – I think we may be forgiven for chasing the same or similar family names albeit in Oxfordshire and not Berkshire. Interestingly, this error had also been perpetuated in some of the “Whiting” family trees in Ancestry.com which points to the fact that even some of the present day descendants of the Bateman and Whiting families have misinterpreted this information.
By tracing the genealogy of Veronica’s stated grandfather whose middle name was JAMES, it became obvious Will Bateman and Veronica Whiting’s families were not connected. Throughout the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire records consulted, there had been no clear confirmation of the middle name of either man. The closest exception to this was with Frederick J. Whiting whose middle name also featured on occasions as either Frdk. J. Whiting or Frederick John Whiting, whilst Veronica’s grandfather only ever appeared as Frederick Whiting, or Frederick J. Whiting!
As so often occurs in early 19th and 20th century British census records (pre-1911), more than one forename was not normally recorded. On occasions an additional initial was recorded, that being the only indication the person had a second name but this was a very inconsistent practice and could not be relied upon. Add to this the practice of subsequent generations being named with same or similar forenames of parents, unconnected families with similar names living in the same geographical area (and moving therein), plus the presence of on-line family trees not verifiably error free, then it is not difficult to see how easily the research can be derailed when following a singular ancestral line.
With that knot untangled, Andrea was able to locate a descendant family of Frederick John Whiting in Berkshire (BERKS) which led her to Ian Whiting who she found via Facebook. Ian is the only son of the senior surviving member of the Bateman-Whiting descendants of William Bateman, Graham John WHITING of Caversham, Berkshire. Graham (retired) is a grand-nephew of William Bateman (via Will’s Aunt Harriet Hannah [Bateman] Whiting). I confirmed with Ian via his father Graham, the family’s ancestral connections back to his grandfather. Andrea liaised with Ian Whiting (Graham does not use the internet) to return the medals while I followed up with a letter of explanation. Graciously, Veronica Whiting invited Andrea to collect the misdirected medals which were then posted to Graham. Regrettably the COVID 19 lockdowns in Britain prevented Andrea from delivering the medals personally as planned as Graham was just 20 minutes drive from Andrea.
An unfortunate error but thanks to Veronica (Whiting) Rodney, I was able to close the case after receiving confirmation from Graham he had received the medals.
Footnote: When medals are returned to families, once handed to the person whom we believe to be a proven descendant of the original recipient, custody of those medals becomes solely a family matter when determining who the most appropriate custodian should be. Whomever is selected by the family should also have some idea of the succession plan for the medals .. in other words, who they will be passed onto when the custodian either entrusts them to another, or dies. Our aim is purely to reintroduce medals that have been separated from family ownership, back to the family via any proven near descendant. “Near” in this day and age now generally means third, forth and fifth generation descendants for WW1 medals or earlier. From a protocol standpoint, in the absence of any disposal instructions being recorded (in a Will) by the deceased, the senior male direct descendant of a family is legally entitled to receive the medals of an ancestor. Where there is no male, seniority of female direct descendants will then determine the recipient.
My wish for the medals we reunite with families is that they remain with a the descendants of the original medal recipient and never split up (as they used to be in years gone by – one to each grandchild for example), only to be found at a later date in a second-hand or pawn shops, at markets, or for sale on the internet. Whilst these options to profit from a medal’s value exist, the chances of a family or descendant recovering any medal that has left family ownership (for whatever reason), is a rare occasion. Treasure your ancestor’s decorations and medals, and guard them closely if you value their significance!
Thanks firstly to Paul Hanton, CEO of St Mark’s Residential Addiction Treatment Centre, Blenheim. Being a former soldier, Paul knew exactly where to go for help when he discovered the medals and in so doing, took that crucial first step which began the journey that resulted in Will Bateman’s medals being returned to his UK descendants.
Grateful thanks to Veronica Whiting Rodney (Camberley, Surrey) and son Kevin (Thames Valley Police) for identifying the connection error, and caring for the medals whilst we got back on track.
Last, my personal thanks to ‘Blue Leader’ Andrea for the valuable assistance she provides MRNZ. Whilst we have never met in person, during an Ancestry search some years ago Andrea volunteered her assistance to research UK cases when I was stuck. Since then we have called on her a number of times for help; Andrea has never failed to deliver despite the myriad of her own commitments that include her devoted and ‘needy’ sounding board, Herbie. You are a gem Andrea and we thank you sincerely for your diligence in helping to get us started or to resolve some difficult cases, by tracking down the descendant families of British veteran’s whose medals have ended up in New Zealand.
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