CHARLES HENRY GARTNER ~ Bushman, Axeman, Feller, Sawyer, Trimmer, Mill Hand, Saw Doctor – sawdust was in his blood.


This is another story whose success was directly attributable to posts we place on the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph website of digitized WW1 veteran’s files.  This case involved a medal which belonged to a man whose ancestors were a well known pioneer family in the Dannevirke and Marlborough and Tasman areas by men in the bush and timber milling circles.  The medal was donated to MRNZ by a Nelson militaria enthusiast and collector who had acquired the medal many years ago.  Wishing to rationalise his collection, the collector contacted me recently and donated several medals he would like to see reunited with descendants, including this one that had belonged to a Richmond man. 

From Prussia with love

The Gäertner name (pronounced Gert-na) was first known in the Manawatu and Ruapehu regions nearly a century and a half ago.  In the Nelson, Marlborough  and Tasman regions the name also was well known and synonymous with hard, physical bush work, and timber milling in the Wairau and Rai Valleys and in the Tasman areas – now there are none.  But what may not have been so well known was the origins of the family – they were Prussian.  

Christian Heinrich GÄERTNER (1843-1923) was born in Westfalen, Prussia (now called Halle, or Halle-Westphalia) and his wife, Anna Christina Margaretha BÖHLING (1842-1920) in Bremen, a city in the former Prussian Kingdom of Hanover – both cities  situated in northern Germany, each approximately 120km from the city of Hanover.  Hanover had a very close personal association with Great Britain up until 1837 due to its Monarch being a London resident after George III had his Hanovarian territories restored to him after the Napoleonic War.  The Kingdom’s administration was handled by a Viceroy (a younger member of the Royal family) which allowed the King to live where he pleased.

It was also a time when many Lutheran Europeans of largely German and Scandinavian origin were leaving a destabilised Europe that had been plagued by civil war and religious persecution for almost two centuries.  Both Christian and Anna’s families had  emigrate from Prussia to England (London, Middlesex) in the early 1860s and it was there that their son Heinrich married Anna on 1st July 1866 at a Lutheran Church in Battersea, Surrey.   A year later their first child Johann Gäertner (1867-1946) was born followed by a daughter, Meta Wilhelmina LITTLE / FLUTEY (1867-1948).  The Heinrich Gäertners like many other young couples were eager to find a place of peace and stability, a place to raise a family and pursue the kinds of opportunities a relatively new country such as New Zealand might hopefully offer.  The need for men to clear bush, fell and mill timber for building and transport infrastructure in New Zealand had the NZ Government recruiting men from around the Empire.  The discovery of gold in Otago, Southland, the West Coast, Golden Bay and Marlborough, on the Coromandal Peninsula, and a few other localised places had caused a stampede of immigrants from both the Australian and Californian gold fields to this hitherto unknown country at the bottom of the globe but many more were need in the bush.  The Gäertners could see the opportunities and decided to join the surge south, arriving in New Zealand in 1870.

Left to right: Johann (Jack) Frederick (brother of Wilhelm), Anna and Heinrich (Bill), Christina (Kate) Margarethe Sophie, and Wilhelm (William) Diedrich Gäertner – c1920 

Charles Henry Gartner (known as Charlie) was the second eldest of the nine children born to parents Wilhelm Diedrich Gartner and Hannah PECK** of Stoney Creek, Wellington.  Born in March 1895 in rural Palmerston North, Charlie’s other siblings were –Catherine Martha Ann HUMPHREY (1893), Charles Henry, Anna Wilheimena CARLSON (1898), Alick (Bill) William John (1899), Eliza Jane ERICSON (1900), Elsie Beatrice WILLIAMS (1902), Christian (Jnr) Norman (1905), William Herbert (1907) and Minnie Ada PECK** in 1910.  Apart from Harry and Catherine, the remainder of the Gartner children had been born at Dannevirke or nearby Eketahuna. 

Dannevirke – Nya Zeeland

Loggers pose with a cross-cut saw

Wilhelm Gäertner’s family settled briefly around rural Palmerston North where Charlie and Catherine were born before moving to a more permanent situation and employment in the Southern Hawkes Bay – the new town of Dannevirke (literally, ‘Danes Work’).  The town was founded by Scandinavian immigrants brought to New Zealand by the government in 1872 to fell the forest that covered much of southern Hawke’s Bay and to farm the cleared land.  Bush milling and later hinterland farming became the dominant industries.  The Gäertner family men established themselves firstly in bush clearance,  tree-felling and timber milling which became the mainstay of employment for their successive generations of Gäertners.  

Over time, countries throughout Europe had made mutual defence agreements that would pull them into battle.  These treaties meant that if one country was attacked, allied countries were bound to defend them.  When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, the Russians mobilized to protect Serbia.  As a result Germany declared war on Russia and so the rise of Imperialism in Europe took hold plunging Europe’s stability into rapid decline.  The assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand in the Serbian capital Sarajevo was the last straw and ultimately led to Britain, France and Belgium (bound by treaty) declaring war on Germany thus entering the First World War.   

Norsewood in 1882, is 20km north of Dannevirke –  Lutheran Church at centre

In New Zealand the situation in Europe greatly affected public opinion.  Up to date  news was limited by distance and communication, and so propaganda surrounding  a possible forthcoming war fanned the flames of anger, fear and suspicion among the population here.  One of the direct results was that those immigrants to NZ who had Germanic names, or name that sounded remotely Germanic, changed them to deflect any unwarranted attention.  Fortunately Dannevirke and the Manawatu was awash with European accents at that time and so it was hard to tell one from another – Dane, Fin, Swed, German, Prussian, Dutch and smatterings of others.  This multi national make-up of the community provided a degree of relative safety  from such prejudices.  Outside of Dannevirke was a different story, and many families altered their names in order to lower their profile.  As patriarch of the Gäertner family Heinrich Gäertner declared that their surname would be altered from Gäertner to GARTNER (frequently misinterpreted or misspelled as Gardner or Gardiner – a Gardiner later married into the family further confusing the issue), a subtle change of surname but one that worked in their favour as the Gartners were often mistaken Scandinavians.  Heinrich also made sure that all family first names were suitably Anglicised, i.e. Heinrich became Henry or Harry, Wilhelm became William and Bill, Christina – Catherine, Katherine or Kate, Margaretha – Margaret or Maggie and so on.

A typical bush camp of the type the Bill and Hannah Gartner would have lived in at Tuturumuri

Henry (Heinrich) and Anna Gartner’s second eldest son, William (Bill) Gartner (1869-1947) – formerly Wilhelm Diedrich – he dropped ‘Diedrich’ from his name altogether) married Hannah PECK** (1868-2002) of Stoney Creek, Tuturumuri in 1892.   Bill Gartner was contracted to fell trees in Tuturumuri in the Southern Hawkes Bay which was about as remote a place as one could be in the 1890s.   Although considered to be in the Wellington area, in fact it is due East of Wellington on the eastern side of the Aorangi Range.  Stoney Creek is about 20km up-stream and close to the headwaters of the Opouawe River which exits on the Wairarapa Coast at Te Kaukau Point, 20 km east of Cape Palliser.  Remote and rugged country, it was a haven for massive native trees of considerable age and prime targets for building material and sleepers.  The area was also a major effort to access in those years and so bush camp living for axe-men  and sawyers families was the norm.

Note:  ** The Gartner and Peck families became closely associated as a result of their ancestors working together in the bush and in the milling industry.  After Charlie and Hannah Gartner married, a number of their siblings also married spouses from each others family, producing lasting inter-generational bonds between the two families that endure to the present day. 

Over the next 18 years Bill and Hannah Gartner raised a family of nine children, some of whom were born in Dannevirke and others elsewhere in the Manawatu and Wairarapa areas.  All the men of the family were engaged in the bush tree felling and timber milling industry for the best part of their lives.

Felling a giant Kauri

Bullock track hauling kauiri on a sled

A genealogy inquiry

On May 30th I received a most surprising email from Maria T. who had been research her family’s genealogy.  Maria said she was creating a genealogy folder for her family and as a result had seen a message I had posted on the Cenotaph file of Charlie Gartner.  Maria most gracious said she could put me in touch with a direct descendant who just so happened to have been born in Nelson and was living in the Waikato.  Maria provided me the contact details for Wayne (Colin Wayne) and Becky Gartner of Otane, Waipawa.  Wayne is the grandson of Charlie Gartner.  Fantastic Maria! .. a case resolved without me having to start from scratch except for background material. 

Note:  Within a few days of Maria’s first email I received another which started, “I cannot believe my eyes!  Just out of curiosity of more hidden gems I’ve been on your website (MRNZ) and found the article about Samuel Chase.  It seems my mother’s family are all coming out to play.”  

Maria’s assistance to me had unwittingly rewarded her with the discovery of a family connection who had been the subject of a recent reunited medal.  Samuel Chase’s grandfather, America born James Shaw Calvin Chase.

James Chase, whom I refer to as ‘Grandfather James’, is my mum’s, mother’s side of the family.  I tried to track his movements as a whaler prior to NZ and could only get as far knowing that he was from New Bedford (USA).”

One good turn deserves another….even if you don’t know your giving it !

Note:  Pte. Samuel Chase’s story can be  seen here:  Samuel Chase

Bush felling camp near Fielding

A typical saw-mill of the day






Bushman to Rifleman

Pit-sawing a log

At the time of his registration and enlistment Charles (known as Charlie) Henry Gartner was working with his father, William (Bill) Gartner in a bush saw-mill at Hihitahi near Taihape.  Charlie wrote down his occupation as “Sawmill Hand” and his trade as “Cross-Cutter” – hard work if any readers have ever been on one end of a two-man cross-cut saw!

When the government had required all single men from 20-40 to be placed on a National Register in 1914 for potential war service, Charlie was registered for his territorial service with the 7th Anti Aircraft Regiment.  He had presented himself to the recruiting centre in Taihape after which he was issued instructions to attend a medical check-up by the Army’s contracted town doctor.  Charlie flew through his physical – fit as a trout, and so was primed and ready to be called-up when he was needed.

NZ Rifle Brigade Reinforcements

Charlie did not have to wait long.  At 22 years of age he was ‘Called to the Colours’ and left the bush.  56764 RFLM Charles Henry Gartner – NZ Rifle Brigade was attested for overseas service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Marton on 16 May 1917.  With barely time to clean and oil his cross-cut saw Charlie caught the Auckland-Wellington express at Taihape on the 30th and made his way to Trentham Camp.  After being medically checked on arrival, equipped with the basics for training – rifle & bayonet, uniform, boots, webbing, water bottle, KFS (knife, fork & spoon), mess tins/dixies (for cooking, and to eat out of), a ‘Housewife’ (a small material rolled-up holdall containing needle and thread, wool, safety pins and buttons, for the soldier to do running repairs to his uniform), and the all important steel helmet for shaving, cooking, washing jocks and sox, water carrier, spade, sand scraper, candle holder, food/shellfish gathering receptacle, umbrella – uses limited only to ones imagination – Charlie was ready to train.  He would receive his permanent equipment issues on arrival in England. 

Charlie and the remainder of ‘H’ Company were transported from Trentham over the Rimutaka Hill, through Greytown and beyond to the training camp at Featherston.   The camp had been created for purposes of training all Rifle Brigade Reinforcements so essentially was an Infantry camp.  At the conclusion of their seven weeks of intensive running, jumping, climbing shooting, bayoneting and bombing (grenade throwing), each draft of soldiers was given the ‘privilege‘ of demonstrating their readiness for battle to their trainers and leaders alike by returning to Trentham – on foot!   Each Reinforcement draft had to march with their rifle and equipment from Featherston Camp back to Greytown, up and over the Rimutaka Hill to Upper Hutt, and along the back road to the Trentham rifle ranges road to the Camp, a distance of some 32 kilometres.  Inoculations and last minute instructions, personal  needs purchases and ‘H’ Company was ready to go – a few days leave only was permitted to say their farewells to families and loved ones at home before embarkation at the Wellington wharves.  Regrettably for some, this opportunity would be their last – ever! …. se la guerre.

…the long and winding Rimutaka road …

Reinforcements nearing the end of the Rimutaka Hill route march – 1917







HMNZT 89 Waitemata sailed from Wellington on 24 July and headed for the port of Plymouth on the south-east Cornish coast.  Whilst on-board Waitemata, Rflm. Charlie Gartner had his first taste of military justice.  Allegedly refusing to obey an order given by a superior, the case was proved and Charlie was fined seven days pay.  The daily rate of pay for a Private soldier was around 50 cents in today’s currency which does not seem much even then for being put in harm’s way.  Most offences prior to embarkation attracted Confinement to Barracks (CB), loss of pay or periods in Detention (military prison).  Once embarked, soldiers tended to be fined for breaches of military law and discipline since it was largely impractical to administer the traditional punishments if at sea and options were man-power intensive for their supervisions (NCOs).  The lesser punishment option was to ‘hurt’ a man in the pocket.  Soldiers who seriously transgressed however were not given any quarter.  Prison, Field Punishment No.1, or No.2 plus fines were all the options that remained open to commanders, to take affect once disembarked. 

Commanders however were also only too aware of what the soldiers were likely to face once confronted by a real enemy and that they would be relying on their fighting spirit, loyalty and protection if they were to survive.  Officers did not wish to penalise their soldiers unduly lest it provoked disloyalty, disobedience or lack of commitment on the battlefield.  A fine balance needed to be found quickly once in command.  Indeed a policy of ‘punishment remission’ was applied once soldiers had been deployed into the field in Egypt, Gallipoli or France.  No degree of bad behaviour or criminal offending however would cause a soldier to be removed from the front and sent back to NZ so it could never be used as a means of avoiding going to the Front.  Soldiers were required to remain for the duration! 

The Waitemata arrived at Plymouth on 03 October and the ‘H’ Company Reinforcements were ‘Marched In’ at Brockton Camp.  Once at Brockton, Charlie and the rest of ‘H’ Company were re-assigned to a numerically specific reinforcement draft that provided for a staggered sequence of deployment into (and withdrawal from) the battle zone.  Rflm. Gartner was allocated to the 28th Reinforcements.

Brocton Camp – 1918

Brockton Camp was located on Cannock Chase, just a few kilometres from the Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain.  Brockton was the home of the NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB) and their training joining the battle front line in France or Belgium; the New Zealand Machine-gun Corps (NZMC) had the same setup at Grantham; the NZ  Field Artillery (NZFA) and Medical Corps (NZMC) at Ewshot; the Signallers  (NZE) were based at Stevenage; and the NZ Engineers, Tunnellers and Pioneer (Māori) Contingent reinforcements at Christchurch in Dorset.  Sling was home to the NZ Infantry & General Reinforcement & Reserve Depot NZI & GRRD).  Once trained for their respective specialist battle roles, the reinforcement group scheduled to deploy to France and Belgium were concentrated at Sling Camp before departing  for France.  Once at Sling last minute preparations for the deployment to the front was the order of the days prior to embarkation.  Letters were written and posted, last minute instructions and heartfelt wishes to loved ones and children, precious possessions placed in the care of the most trusted, promises made between mates should one or other not survive, and their up-coming baptism by fire plus nervous and fitful attempts to rest.  These were just some of the things that consumed the waking hours of every waiting soldier. 

Sling Camp at Bulford – the “Bulford Kiwi” overlooks the camp – 1919

After only two weeks of training at Brocton, Rflm. Gartner and the 28th Reinforcements embarked at Dover for France in the pouring rain on 18 October.  So heavy was the rain the troops were kept aboard the transport which went no-where.  The journey to the French port of Boulogne usually only a few hours, was finally under way on 26 May, eight days later.  

The Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchedaele) had started on 31 July and at the time Rflm. Gartner arrived in his Battalion area, the four month campaign was drawing to a bloody close, not that the casual observer would have concluded this.  The fighting was as fierce and as concentrated as it had been for months.  Stiff resistance and counter attacks by a reinforced German infantry and artillery, made the going for the NZ Division particularly tough with only small increments of gain made.  The casualty count on the other hand was exceptionally large.  The English General Haig, stubborn to the bitter end, ordered three final attacks in late October in an effort to take the town of Passchendaele and the surrounding ridge.  

On the 1st and 2nd of November Rflm. Gartner and the 3rd NZ Rifle Brigade’s Reinforcements travelled by vehicle to a safe area several kilometres from the front line in the French Sector.  Thereafter they would have to march on foot to join their battalion in the Battalion Reserve area.  On arrival Charlie Gartner was assigned to his fighting sub-unit within the battalion and as coincidence  (or fate?) would have it, he was placed in ‘Charlie’ Company. 

The eventual capture of the Passchedaele village on November 6th by the Canadian and British troops was claimed as an allied victory despite the 320,000 British casualties compared with 260,000 German.  The net result? – the village was eventually taken however no significant gains were made, no change in war’s momentum nor any significant break-through achieved during one of the most costly battles that epitomised the futility of trench warfare and the horrific cost in soldiers lives.   

The NZ Division meanwhile was preparing to engage in its last significant exchange of the war – an assault on the heavily defended French town of Le Quesnoy.  On 9 November in a daring plan that included scaling the towns ancient stone walls by ladder to initiate the attack, the Kiwis were once more victorious but again, the cost had been disproportionately high.

No. 8 Stationary Hospital

No.8 General Hospital Wimereaux, near Boulogne – 1916

After 10 weeks in the field and having survived the Le Quesnoy attack unscathed, Rflm. Gartner’s war was about to come to a shuddering halt – not death … but, a back pain that would finish his soldiering.  He had first presented to No.2 NZ Field Ambulance with a chronic back pain on the 14 January 1918 and following observation and an assessment was passed onto the next level of care at the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station three days later.  After more tests  Rflm. Gartner was transferred to the British No.8 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux, near Boulogne on 17 Jan.  Charlie was both horizontal and immobilised with the pain. 

Positioned in front of No.2 Australian General Hospital, No.8 SH Wimereux comprised about 25 barrack huts positioned on an elevated site overlooking the English Channel.  Both hospitals were only about 8 kms from the front, not far beyond artillery range, but given the idyllic outlook across to Blighty and the smell of sea air, as far as the patients were concerned the war could have been a million miles away.  The pain Charlie was experiencing however snapped him back to reality if ever his mind was given to wander momentarily.

Wimereux may have looked a budget holiday camp to the casual observer however the skills of its assigned medical professionals were of the highest order.  Rflm. Gartner was diagnosed with severe Nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys), his condition deteriorating  to the point he was now listed as “Seriously Ill” (the next level of patient sickness classification was “Death”!)  Nephritis can be due to a variety of causes, including kidney disease, auto-immune disease or infection, and can be fatal.  Charlie’s condition was serious and warranted intensive specialist care and treatments; he was bed ridden for almost three months.

By the beginning of February 1918 Charlie was showing encouraging signs of improvement.  A few more weeks at Wimereux and he was cleared to be transported back to England and admitted to No.2 NZ General Hospital at Walton-On-Thames.  No.2 NZ General Hospital had been the first New Zealand hospital to be established in England when war broke out.  Originally named Mount Felix Hospital, when the war broke out it had offered to New Zealand and was re-named the New Zealand War Contingent Hospital.  It had was initially staffed with NZ doctors, nurses and volunteers who were living in London.  The hospital had received its first casualties from Gallipoli within two days of opening.  The name was changed to No.2 New Zealand General Hospital later in 1915 when the NZEF’s medical organisation had arrived from New Zealand and co-located its headquarters at the hospital.  


While at W-O-T Rflm. Gartner underwent a full Medical Board to determine his fate – whether or not he would ever be fit enough to continue serving, be that a return to duty in the field (the Front), or to remain in England and perform garrison duties for the remainder of the war, or to be repatriated to NZ.  The Board decided upon the latter and so he was dispatched to the Torquay Depot, specifically the NZ Discharge Depot at Torquay, a popular seaside holiday town in Devon that was handy to the transportation departure port at Plymouth.  Rflm. Gartner was released from W-O-T in early May and on the 15th transported to Torquay to await transportation back to NZ.  While at the Depot he would undergo ‘Demobilization’ required of all NZ troops before returning to New Zealand.  This involved accounting and cleaning of all issued equipment, the reconciliation and payment of  pay and allowances due, inoculations/dental/medical treatments as required, and of course some time for relaxation, a beer or three and plenty of sunshine – a far cry from stumbling around in the dark over pulverised ground, the sight and smells of death all around, and the scream of shot and shell that was Le Quesnoy – Charlie’s last abiding memory of his war in France.

SS Mokai in Wellington Harbour

Rflm. Charlie Gartner left Plymouth on the SS Mokoia on July 16th and arrived in Wellington on 13 Sep 1918.  Another comprehensive Medical Board was held (standard for repatriated and recovering casualties) with the consequent verdict: Soldier to be “Discharged, no longer fit for war service on account of infection contracted on active service.”  This meant Charlie would not be re-called to duty should the NZEF be required to re-deploy for any subsequent outbreak of hostilities.  The finding of the Board also carried a recommendation: “no work should be undertaken for at least 6 months.”

Rflm. Charlie Gartner’s discharged from the NZEF took effect the moment he stepped ashore on 13 September 1918, 10 days short of exactly one year overseas. 

Awards:  British War Medal, 1914-18 and Victory Medal

Overseas Service:  0 years 355 days

Total NZEF Service:  1 year 107 days

Note:  59107 Private James Henry Gartner – 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment was the son of Johann (John) Gartner and Eliza PECK**.  James had been working in the bush at Kakahi, near Taumaranui when he was enlisted in May 1917 and embarked with the 31st Reinforcements for France in Nov 1917.  From the time he arrived at Codford in England, 22 year old James was in strife in England, in France, in the Field, and again when he returned to England.  AWOL, Being in possession of an irregular pass with intent to defraud, making use of an irregular (forged) rail warrant to the value of …, Failing to comply with Routine Orders, Wearing Riding Breeches etc etc.  20 days in Detention (prison), Field Punishment No.2, and many days loss of pay followed, none of which seemed to impact on James’s survival or his performance of duty as a soldier.  James completed 1 year 225 days overseas, a total of 2 years 37 days NZEF service.  Pte. James Gartner was awarded the British War Medal 1914-18 and the Victory Medal for his service.


Gold mining town of Lyell in the Buller Gorge, c1888

Once Charlie had recovered fully from his illness he eased back into work at the mill in Hihitahi, near Taihape.  In 1921 Charlie Gartner married Dorothy Grace PECK** and their marriage produced three children – Ronald (Ron), Jordan, Valmai Judith (Val) OLDERSHAW and Stanley Clarence (Stan) Gartner.  Sadly, son Jordan did not survive.  By 1928 the family had moved to Nireaha, about 5km west of Eketahuna where Charlie had a series of labouring jobs – remember, permanent work was very scarce at this time due to the Wall Street Crash in 1929 which bought about the Great Depression these next five or so.  As the Depression eased, mill work started to come Charlie’s way again.  By 1938 the Gartners were living in Masterton since anticipation of a Second World War had bought many businesses to a standstill, but not so the milling industry.  At the conclusion of the war the demands on timber mills from 1946 was at an all-time high for a burgeoning building industry and immigrant refugees and those from England seeking a peaceful existence in the South Pacific.  By the end of the war Charlie was living in a room at Masterton’s Windsor Hotel while Dorothy was next door at Windsor House, a boarding facility that accompanied the hotel.  Charlie was at this time working mill contracts between Masterton and the Hawkes Bay which continued until the late 1940s.  Further remote jobs he was contracted as a mill hand for were at Amberley in 1949, deep in the Buller Gorge at the former gold mining town of Lyell in 1954 (now gone, replaced with squadrons or ravenous mosquitoes as big as B52 bombers!). 

A move prior in 1957 to Hope in the Upper Tasman Bay area must have inspired Charlie and Dorothy to consider the locale as a potential retirement spot.  By 1963 the Gartners were installed at Richmond where Charlie bought the sun down on his milling career in the mid 1960s.  At 65 years of age Charlie was looking for something just a bit less brutal on his 65 year old bones and so he turned to what he knew best – Charlie hung his shingle up as a Saw Doctor.  Charlie Gartner had spent almost his entire working life as a sawyer and mill man, there wasn’t anything he didn’t know about every conceivable type of saw  – what steel they were made of, what steel made the best saw blades, the techniques of hand sharpening blades and setting the teeth, all the tricks of caring for and prolonging the life of saw blades, from a handsaw to the gigantic circular milling saw blades – Charlie Gartner knew it all and was the ‘go-to guy’ when it came to problems or advice – saws and saw-milling were in his blood!   

Five years or so of Saw Doctoring regrettably was all that Charlie Gartner was able to fit into his remaining days.  With Charlie’s death in Nelson on 11 September 1971 at 76 years of age, went a lifetime of hard graft and saw-milling experience, knowledge and accumulated skill.  Not lost however was the incalculable benefits that numerous apprentice sawyers and skilled mill-men alike derived from Charlie’s willingness to give freely of his knowledge and skills – to show, to teach, to mentor and encourage, anyone who was willing to listen and learn from an old school professional bushie and tradesman.

Dorothy Gartner died less than four years later in February 1975.  United in death, Charlie and Dorothy Gartner are buried together in the Marsden Valley Cemetery, Nelson.  Charlie and Dorothy’s parents are also in the same Cemetery, as is their son and his wife Stan Clarence and Daphne Gartner.  Buried with Charlie and Dorothy is also their son Jordan who had not survived beyond a few days.

Note: ** Dorothy (Peck) Gartner’s brother, Ernest James PECK** married Charlie’s youngest sister Minnie Ada Gartner.

Charlie’s medal goes home

Wayne with his grandfather Charlie Gartner’s Victory Medal and Certificate of Services in the NZEF

I phoned Wayne after receiving his contact details from Maria T.  and was surprised to learn Wayne had been away from Nelson for over 40 years.  He was even more surprised to hear from someone living there seeking information about his family and ancestors.  When I told Wayne about his grandfather’s Victory Medal he was thrilled at the prospect of receiving something of his grandfather’s past.  Wayne had never seen his grandfather’s medals and had no idea where or when they would have gone from the family.  The only memento Wayne has of his grandfather Charlie’s was a “Certificate of Services” from the NZ government, Secretary of Defence, acknowledging his service for King and country.   

If it were possible to reunite Charlie Gartner’s Victory Medal with his British War Medal, 1914-18 that would indeed be the icing on the cake.   Can you help ? – if so please contact MRNZ.


My thanks to Maria T. for contacting MRNZ and putting us in touch with Wayne and Becky – just goes to show the advertisements we place on Cenotaph pages for medals we wish to reunite can sometimes do most of the work for us resulting in a quick resolution.  This is the third successful return of medals from a passive posting on Cenotaph.

The reunited medal tally is now 231.





Certificate of Services in the NZEF