FREDERICK EVERARD NEEDHAM ~ Taihape boy’s war medal gift of 80 years ago finds a home with recipient’s nephew.

81281 / 53890 / 413354 ~ FREDERICK  EVERARD  NEEDHAM ~ NZ Army & RNZAF    

Rflm. Frederick E.  Needham’s British War Medal, 1914-18 – reverse

When Mary of Upper Hutt read her grandfather’s military record of service in the NZ Expeditionary Force (NZEF) during WW1, she noted that it appeared his war medals had never been issued.   There was a medal action stamp on the file that read “MEDAL ACTION INCOMPLETE” and a space for the date of completion to be entered was blank.  In addition there was no signature in the space provided which would indicate Mary’s grandfather had received the two medals he was entitled to.   Nor was there any indication on the stamp that there had been any administrative/date action by the clerk that the medals had been sent to the recipient.  Upon looking more closely at the page, a small annotation in red was written beside the soldier’s address,   PO TAUMARUNUI   which had been ruled through, and in red was written in small print “W Medal returned 25/1/23”  This meant the medal had been sent to the only known address (Post Office, Taumarunui) and had been subsequently returned as no-one of that name was known or had collected the medal.  Without an inquiry from the soldier or his family in regard to medal entitlement, the medal was sent back.  The NZ Military Forces of the day did not search for veterans as returned veteran movements post war were often fluid and unpredictable.

Mary made some inquiries om behalf of her dad Ray and together made application to the NZ Defence Force for the medals.  The deficiency was acknowledged and the medals, the  British War Medal, 1914-18 and Victory Medal were sent to Ray.  What Mary didn’t know at the time was that her father Ray was already in possession of a British War Medal his mother had given him.  Ray’s father, Charles “Charley” Jarves Poulson, had been given the medal in the 1920s by a young neighbour in Taihape.  When Charley died prematurely in 1941 at the age of 52, he was buried in Taihape and wife Mary took care of her husband’s keepsakes which had included the medal.  Before she died in Tauranga in November 1969, Mary Poulson passed Charley’s keepsakes along with the medal, on to her son Ray.  Ray’s daughter Mary discovered the medal with those her father had recently received from Defence.  The medal was impressed with, 81281 PTE. F. E. NEEDHAM. N.Z.E.F.

Mary queried the medal’s origin – Ray had been just a lad of five or six years old when his father died in Taihape in 1941.  While he cannot recall the details of their neighbours specifically, he recalled his mother had told him the medal had been given to Charley by a neighbour, a boy named Frank  (Francis) Needham.  After some discussion Ray expressed to his daughter Mary his wish to return the medal to the Needham family if at all possible; he was very keen to hand the medal over personally since it had been in the care of his family for so long.  As a consequence, Mary contacted MRNZ for assistance and sent the us medal.

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Migration to NZ

My research of this case started with their migration from England to NZ around 1900.  George Henry NEEDHAM (1865-1947) was a carpenter and joiner from Coalville, Leicestershire.  In 1891 he married Clara AUSTIN (1872-1947) in her home town of Burton-on-Trent,  Staffordshire  where their first two children were born.  After arriving in NZ George and Clara opted for a farm property and leased a piece of land at Okoia about 5 km east of Wanganui.  This they named “Longacre”, now long gone but remembered in a road of the same name.   

The first two children, Margaret Elizabeth Needham (1895-1956) and Frederick Everard Needham (b: 4 Mar 1898) were followed soon after the family’s arrival in Okoia by Vera [Needham] TASKER (1902-1980) and Nellie [Needham] TRAVIS (1904-1996).   

By 1902 George Needham had left given up the idea of farming at “Longacre” and got himself established in which he new best – he opened a small carpentry business at 64-66 Alexander Street in Wanganui while the family remained at Okoia.  By 1905 Clara, Margaret and the toddlers Vera and Nellie had moved into Wanganui, home being 33 Keith Street in the centre of the town.  In 1911 George Needham became involved with building houses in a large new housing project at the “Arles Estate” in Aramoho.  This continued until 1914 and resumed again after the war.        

NZEF Conscription 

NZ Rifle Brigade

Out in rural Okoia young Fred Needham had started working as a farmhand/labourer and stayed with his mother and sisters while his father George got established in Wanganui.  This came to an end when Fred was called up for NZEF service overseas on 2 May 1918.  Fred was just 20 years old when he was enlisted for the NZEF at Wanganui. 

81281 Rifleman Fred Needham was duly attested as part of the 41st Reinforcements of the NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB) Reserve.  Interestingly just four days later on 6 May 1918, Fred (having driven a vehicle) was charged by the Police in the Wanganui Magistrates Court, together with three other motorists and three motorcyclists, for being in breach of the new motor regulations requiring vehicle registration numbers (number plates) to be displayed both front and back of all motor vehicles.  All pled guilty, and were convicted and discharged without a fine.

Rflm. Needham arrived at Featherston Camp on 22 May 1918 in the Wairarapa for his orientation infantry training.  On 27 July, he  embarked HMNZT 108 Ulimaroa at Wellington and sailed for England with the 41st Reinforcements who were destined to join the 3rd Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade in France.  The Ulimaroa with its cargo of NZRB Reinforcements arrived at Liverpool on 4 Oct 1918.  After disembarkation the troops were transported to the NZEF camp at Brockton near Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.  The camp was some 20 km from another well known NZ camp, the Sling Camp famous for its giant chalk Kiwi carved into the hillside above the camp.  All NZers passed through Sling Camp at some point before being sent to their specialist training camp to prepare them for the battlefield.  The new infantry arrivals were initially added to the NZRB Battalion Reserve. 

Brocton Camp near Cannock Chase, Staffordshire – 1918

11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month ..

Fred E. Needham – c 1962

By the time the reinforcements had concluded their training and were ready to go to France, the Armistice had been signed on 11 November 1918 thereby formally bringing to a close the hostilities of World War 1.  Of course the order to cease-firing took time to circulate all units of the Allied Divisions (NZ, British, Australia, Canadian South African, Indian etc) and so skirmishes and business as usual continued for a number of days with many lives being lost during this time (killed or died of injuries & sickness), and even more were wounded before the last shot was heard on the Western Front. 

From that time there was much to be done to recover both personnel and equipment from all over France and the UK.  Recovery, centralisation and accounting was at the heart of this operation to extract new Zealand’s five year commitment to providing military support to the Empire.  To achieve this required a large amount of manpower at a time when all most soldiers could think of was going home.  The donkey work of this massive task largely fell on the shoulders of the most recently arrived reinforcement personnel.  Demobilization of troops was a priority as was the return of the wounded and sick.

For personnel being repatriated there was also a priority order.  After the injured and sick came those soldiers who had served ‘in the line’ (in the field or at the battle front).  These were the most numerous and took months to ship home.  For the remainder, the pecking order for repatriation was determined by their length of time overseas, longest to shortest unless their appointment was integral to the repatriation and demobilization process.  Rank on occasions sidestepped this requirement in the clamour to get home.  As a man from the 41st Reinforcement who had not landed in France, Rflm. Needham could expect a long wait and plenty of hard work before he was able to leave England. 

SS Mamari, 1917 – the ship was taken over by the Admiralty for use as a fleet tender during WW2.  On June 2nd, 1941, she ran on to a submerged wreck of steam tanker Ahamo, off the Norfolk coast, while being attacked by German planes.  While trying to free herself, she was torpedoed and sunk by two German motor torpedo boats.

Rflm. Fred Needham finally left Southampton for NZ via the Panama Canal, aboard the SS Mamari on 3 July 1919.  One soldier was lost overboard and drowned during the voyage before Mamari arrived in Auckland on 20 Aug 1919.  Fred Needham was discharged from the NZEF on 17 September 1919 and returned home to suburban Wanganui, the family having moved from “Longacre” to the city by this time.  

Medals:  British War Medal, 1914-18 (complete entitlement for WW1).

Service overseas:  1 year  25 days

Total NZEF service:  1 year  119 days

Interwar

After the First World War the “Arles Estate” project re-started after the war ensuring continued employment for George Needham.  The family moved from their temporary home in Keith Street to 17 Moana Street in Wanganui East by 1919.   George  later started to build the family’s bungalow home at 38 Liffiton Street in Gonville, in the south-west of Wanganui city, which would become the Needham family home for the next 35 plus years.  George Needham continued to work as a builder until he retired, spending his time thereafter maintaining the Liffiton Street house in immaculate condition.  The house, in excellent repair to this day, still exhibits George’s carpentry handiwork in the form of simple but effective decorative woodwork on the veranda.

When Fred arrived home he had re-started his post-war life working with his father on the house and, as did many others, with a series of labouring jobs.  Anything from farm or bush work, to working for the various town council and amenity maintenance organisations, the railways, wharves etc, anything that was going at the time.  The 1928 census showed Fred to be still living at home in Liffiton Street with his parents George and Clara, and sisters Margaret and Nellie – sister Vera was working and living at another address in the centre of town.  

Anecdotal information from Fred Needham’s descendants indicated Fred may have gone to the Pacific Islands for a period of time although there are no records to verify his travel.  However, I did locate one 1936 record that placed Fred, a labourer, at 214 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst in Eastern Sydney.  By 1938 Fred (40) was back in New Zealand, living and working as a builder’s labourer in Mt Albert. 

WW2 – Home Service 

When conscription started for the Second Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), Fred was living at 37 St. Michaels Avenue in Point Chevalier, Auckland and working as a builder’s labourer for a contractor James CAIN. 

413354 LAC Fred Needham – 1942

5/4/98 PTE F. E. Needham was re-enlisted on 26 June 1940 for Home Service and placed in the NZ Temp Employment Section (NZTES).  Pte. Needham went into camp on 28 June at Ngaruwahia and was assigned to the HQ Company.  On the 1st of August he was appointed to be a junior officer’s Batman (man servant) which apparently Fred was most unhappy about.  This motivated him to press for a discharge from the Army so he could join the RNZAF.  The airforce had been calling for experienced men of various trades skills and previous military experience as they were desperately short of manpower.  The option to transfer services was made available on an ‘as available’ basis.  Pte. Needham continued to press but had to stick it out as a Batman for ten months.  In June 1941 his transfer from the Army to the RNZAF was finally authorised. 

RNZAF Station Ohakea

On 26 June 1941 Private Needham became 413354 Leading Aircraftman (LAC) F. E. Needham when he was enlisted into the RNZAF as a Storeman/Driver at RNZAF Station Ohakea.  Here he remained for the duration of the war until being discharge after the end of the war, on 21 Sep 1945. 

Medals:  War Medal, 1939-45 and NZ War Service Medal

Total NZTES Service:  4 years  90 days

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Following his discharge from the RNZAF Fred returned to Wanganui.  His parents were ageing and had not weathered the wartime restrictions  and stresses particularly well.  In addition his father George was not well.  Within 18 months of Fred’s return both of his parents had died.  George Henry Needham (84) died at his Liffiton Street home in March 1947, and Clara (75) his wife, just 40 days later.  Fred’s sister Margaret Elizabeth Needham had lived with her parents all their lives and inherited the house on her parents death.  Margaret remained at Liffiton Street until she too passed away in August 1956, aged 59.  Margaret and her parents were buried together in the local Aramoho Cemetery.

Islington Bay, Rangitoto Island – former Naval Stores Depot

Fred felt his work prospects were better served in Auckland and so went back to his pick up where he left off as a builders labourer.  With his wartime experiences and maturity, Fred (49) found little trouble in getting work.  He applied and was accepted as a civilian store-man at the RNZN’s Naval Stores Depot located in Islington Bay on Rangitoto Island.  Fred would spend the best part of 15 years at the Depot before eventually retiring at the age of 61 in 1960 to Beachlands, Pakuranga.  It was during his time at the Depot Fred Needham met a Miss Eva Albert FALCON, a community nurse.  

Swedish migrant

My research showed Eva Falcon’s father to have had a interesting past.  Claes Otto FALK (1846-1901) was a Swedish seaman born in Katarina, Stockholm and christened in Helsinki, Finland.  Claes had started his sea going career in Helsinki in 1862 as a 16 year old deck boy and had remained in Helsinki until 1869.  

In March 1881, Claes who by then was a shipping official, was living in China as one of number of Foreign Staff (a maritime custom officer) of the Shen Kai-Kuan Preventative Department (KPD).  He spent his last two months of 1881 at sea posted to the junk (boat) Peug Chouhai as the Quarter-master.  In July 1881 the KPD were formally dispensed with and the  employment of foreigners as Customs Officers ceased. 

Guangzhou – Chinese junks, 1880 

Claes Falk made his way to Queensland, Australia and while working on ships between mainland Australia and the outer islands of northern Australia, he encountered his future wife Agness Octavia GILL (1863-1904) whom had arrived with her family at Cooktown in Feb 1884 on the ship Roma.  Claes (37) and Agness (21) were married on 28 April 1884 on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, 39 km north of Cape York.  It was Claes’s marriage to an Englishwoman and his intention to live in Australia that precipitated his decision to anglicise his name – Claes Otto Falk  became Charles Otto FALCON, the name by which he was known thereafter.  

Within months the Falcon’s had sailed to the mainland and installed themselves in suburban Brisbane.  Their first two children – John Otto FALCON (1885-1957) and Octavia [Falcon]  KILGOUR (1887-1980), later DYNES, were both born at Spring Hill in the northern part of the central city.  John died in Sydney and Octavia later emigrated to NZ.   

In 1890 Charles (45), a labourer, and Agness Falcon went back to Barrier Reef islands to Newton Island, one of the southern most of the Cumberland Islands within the Barrier Reef group (now referred to as the Whitsundays).  The following year the Falcons moved to the SW Sydney suburb of Newton, Chippendale where Olga Ingeborn [Falcon] BULLEN (1889-1947), Charles Edwin FALCON (1891–1892), Agnes [Falcon] KERR (1893-1977) were born.  A period of stability followed, Charles in general labouring work until he made the decision to take his family to New Zealand, arriving at Auckland from Sydney on the SS Mararoa on 21 May 1894.  

SS Mararoa (1885-1931) – the FALK (Falcon) family migrates to NZ, 1894

Baby Eva Albert FALCON was born on 31 March 1900 in the Falcon’s cottage in Grey Street, now an arterial road through central Onehunga, Auckland.  Shortly after this happy event Charles Falcon (53) died of heart failure in Auckland Hospital on 28 June 1901; he was buried the following day at government expense for the princely equivalent sum of 75 cents. 

Eva Alberta NEEDHAM, nee Falcon

Eva Falcon’s mother Agness died not long afterwards, in 1904 when Eva was just four years old.  Who took care of the children for the next few years is unclear but without relatives in NZ they would most likely have initially been placed in an orphanage until the older girls were married or in a position to take care of the younger.  Descendant family have indicated that once Eva was of working age she sought work as a home nursing aide.  Although it does not appeared she ever formally trained or qualified as a Registered Nurse, Eva’s nursing was personal or community based assistance, wherever the need arose (and from which she could derive an income).  Her younger sister Agnes KERR had married a dairy farmer from Northland.  The family spent their  lives in rural Dargaville at Maropio. 

In 1928 Eva Falcon took a position at Pukerimu, south of Hamilton, working for a farmer (Mr Fisher) as his housekeeper/nurse.  Her older Octavia Kilgour was living in Hamilton and sister Olga Bullen and her school teacher husband were stationed at Waihou school.  When they moved to the Waitara school, Eva sought a nursing assistants job in New Plymouth where she lived until the start of WW2 when the Bullen’s moved back to Onehunga in central Auckland; Eva followed. at took up residence at 11 Surrey Crescent in Arch Hill, New Lynn.  Eva stayed here for the about eight years until about 1946.  By 1954 Eva had returned to work in New Plymouth for another five years.   

Retirement

Fred Needham had moved into 9 Bell Road at Beachlands in preparation for his retirement around 1958.  Descendants advise that unbeknown to Fred at this point, Eva Falcon was living in the same street, or one nearby.  Eva, a spinster, had come to Beachlands as her Olga and her family, together with the wider Bullen family were all living at Beachlands.  Fred apparently had bought a TV set not long after they were Auckland started broadcasting on AKTV2 on 1st June 1960.  Fred had met Eva in passing and had invited her to watch the TV (all three hours of it) at his house, something for most people in NZ was initially a fascinating novelty – very few owned one at this stage; the visits by Eva to watch TV became a regular event. 

Fred Needham (60) had retired by the end of 1960.  Eva Falcon (58) and Fred took the mutually bold step of marriage for the first time in their lives and remained at Bells Road for the duration of their marriage.  Understandably Fred and Eva did not have any children given their age, however there were plenty of Falcon or Needham visitors to entertain and young ones who loved to stay with their Uncle Fred and Aunty Eva near the beach. 

Frederick Everard Needham, 74, died in Auckland on 5 September 1972 and was buried in Waikumete Cemetery.  Eva (96) did not re-marry and died  in Auckland twenty four years later, in July 1996.

Eva A. Needham (back, 2nd fm left), nephew Grant Travis (front, centre) beside his Uncle Fred E. Needham – c 1963

Like finding a “Needham” in a hay stack ?

Tracking Fred Needham’s post war movements and employment proved to be tricky since unbeknown to me there were three predominant Needham families in the Rangitikei-Wanganui-Manawatu area and none were related!  There was Fred’s family in Wanganui, the Leonard Needhams in Taihape-Managweka, and a Needham family in Palmerston North.  The Palmerston North Needham’s were also involved in the carpentry and building trade, AND to confuse matters further one of the principles was also named “Frederick Needham.” After disappearing down this research ‘rabbit hole’ following the wrong Frederick Needham, once discovered, I was able to get back on track and verify at least a two of Frederick  Everard Needham’s movements.  The problem with many censuses of this era was that a person’s second (or middle) name was often not recorded.  Today we thoroughly rely upon these to differentiate between individuals.

Once I had identified the parameters of Needham families I was dealing with, I then needed to focus on those in areas Fred either went to or had worked in the Rangatikei-Manawatu area.  There were no records of him other than being at Liffiton Street.  Taking into account the anecdotal suggestion Fred may have gone to the islands (perhaps the reason there were no records), apart from the 1936 record placing Fred in Sydney I found one other mention in a 1928 supplementary census listing (a trap for even experienced players!) for an F. Needham living in Taihape as a painter.  This particular Needham family I discovered had been former residents of Taumarunui and had moved to Taihape in the early 1910s.  The father, Leonard Arthur Needham and his wife Isabel Violet COWPER ran a shop in the main street of Taihape, opposite the Town Hall, that specialised in the sale of paint and wallpaper.  In addition Arthur, as he was known to differentiate him from his older brother Leonard (Len) Strathmore John (1906-1969), sold and cut glass and mirrors.  Being a hobby artist, Arthur also provided a picture framing service.  Over and above this he undertook contracts for house painting and decorating while Isabel ran the shop in his absence.  By 1928, their son, Francis Needham (known as Frank) of 20 Huia Street, had joined his father as a painter and decorator.   During the 1930s Arthur’s older brother, Len Needham had also become part of the Needham painting and decorating team in Taihape. 

Tracking  Fred’s medal 

BWM – Obverse

The Taihape Needham family, specifically Frank Needham, was crucial to tracking the movement history of Fred’s medal and the reason it wound up in the hands of young Frank Needham.   To understand how this came about I have had to apply some extrapolated logic that may seem a little out of left field however I can find nothing to date to refute my conclusions.

Fred Needham had been called up for war service while he was at “Longacre”, Okoia.  He had gone overseas during the last year of the war (1918) and as a result of arriving in England just prior to the Armistice, was not required to deploy to the battle front.  Since Fred had not left the shores of England, he was only entitled to receive the British War Medal, 1914-18 for his war service. 

On checking Fred’s military file for entries related to the award of medals, the relevant page was rubber stamped with “MEDAL ACTION INCOMPLETE” in the margin (not the usual place) and dated 11 March 1924.  The letters “IN” had been added by hand.  The second anomaly I noticed was that there were duplicate service and medal record sheets which required the signature of the soldier when their medal was received.   The first action sheet dated 25 Jun 1925 was not signed at all but had been date stamped as completed on as complete.  The second action sheet dated 18 Jun 1925 (7 days prior to the first) contained the same details AND it had been signed … BUT, not by Fred Needham.  Normally a number or people would update these entries over time as a soldiers posting, embarkation, return to NZ, length of service and award of medals occurred during his service.  In this case it was apparent to me this second action sheet had been completed by someone in a single sitting, highlighted by the use of a unique style of writing in italics.  This sheet had also been signed … but NOT by Fred.  Again it was apparent whomever had completed the action sheet had also signed it off as having received the medal, using initials only – “MJ or MF” (hard to decipher). 

This indicated to me there was only two reasons for this being done,  first there had obviously been some difficulty locating Fred or his next of kin’s home address.  This had possibly resulted from the Needham family’s move from Okoia to Wanganui before Fred returned home, and his file not updated until much later when the anomaly was discovered.   The Needham’s addresses at Moana Street, Nikau St., Castlecliffe (Fred must have stayed here briefly) and finally 38 Liffiton Street all featured on the page – all but  Liffiton Street had been progressively ruled through and overwritten. 

The second reason – it would be my guess the administrative staff responsible for personal files were keen to get the many thousands  medals sent and signed off as soon as possible, given they had started issuing the Memorial Plaques for deceased soldiers first as early as 1920.  The medals themselves arrived from Britain in bulk and so each man/woman’s record needed to be scrutinized for accuracy of their service dates to ensure they were only issued the medals he/she had qualified for.  This was an inordinately long process quite apart from the medals themselves arriving at different dates as batches were made.  Naming each medal was also completed in the UK which also added to the drip feed of medals as each was impressed with number, rank, name and national deployed organisation.  These were all done by hand which accounts for the high degree of miss-aligned letters and numbers in the initial shipments. m Priority of issue was yet another factor that slowed issues.  British soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses were prioritised for the receipt of medals ahead of the other Empire nations. 

This gradual process of issue in itself took the best part of seven years for the bulk to be issued, let alone find each surviving recipient or their next of kin to sign for as having received the medals.  It must have been an horrendously arduous and frustrating task for admin staffs, particularly as so many returned soldiers did not go to their stated “address on discharge.”  As a consequence errors were made at all stages of medal distribution.

My next problem was to discover what the link was between the Needham’s of Okoia-Wanganui and the Needham’s of Taihape where young Frank lived.  I thought there must have been one based upon the anecdotal information I received, otherwise how would Frank have got the medal in the first place?  The short version is there was no link.  After looking at all Needham families in the Rangitihei-Wanganui-Manawatu district, I could find not a scrap of evidence to link the Okoia and Taihape-Mangaweka Needham families.  That of course does not rule out transitory contact through work or recreational circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

It is my belief Fred’s medal, which is correctly impressed to “F. E. Needham”, was very likely misdirected during the chaos of a post war postal service.  The medal envelope has somehow ended up in the Taihape post (still part of the Rangitikei-Wanganui-Manawatu region) or another postal distribution agency in the region.  The Needham family of Taihape having been settled in the town since the 1910s and well known by name, it would not be too much of a stretch to see how a package addressed to “F. E. Needham” or with a single initial, “F. Needham” as was common practice, could have inadvertently been sent to Frank Needham of Taihape (or Palmerston North for that matter). 

Enter the Poulson family – Charley Poulson and the Needhams had come across one another through their Taumarunui and Mangaweka connections.  The Poulsons lived in and around the Taumarunui – Mangaweka areas while Charley and  his brothers worked at various remote locations in the region which took him away from the family for long periods of time, no doubt to Taihape in later years.  Charley** and his brothers Albert** and  Maurice** Poulson were all returned veterans and each had been badly wounded, Maurice the most severely as a result of a shrapnel wound to his head.   

Notes:

Pte. Albert Poulson –  wounded Oct 1915. Fm:  Piriaka

** 12/1486 Private Albert POULSON – 1st Auckland Infantry Regiment, 2nd & 21st Reinforcements.  A Farmer  from Auckland, he embarked in Dec 1914 at 19 years of age (underage) and was a ‘First Day lander’ at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.  In Oct 1915 he he sustained a gun-shot wound (GSW) in the right side of his neck, the bullet embedding itself in his neck.  The operation to extract it severely affected his esophagus making it difficult for him to swallow.  As a result of this wound, Albert was classified medically unfit in April 1916 and returned to NZ and discharged from active service.  Following his successful recovery Albert re-enlisted and was placed on the active list of the NZEF in October 1916 and proceeded back to England with the 21st Reinforcements.  With little delay Pte. Poulson went back into the field with his unit in France until the end of the war. Awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, Albert returned home at the end of the war and finally discharged in Jan 1920 no longer fit for war service due to wounds, having served 4 years 267 days overseas.  Albert went on to re-enlist for Home Service during WW2 for which he received the War Medal 1939-45 and the NZ War Service Medal.  Albert Poulson died at Gisborne in Nov 1986, aged 80.

Sgt. Maurice W. Poulson – wounded, Sep 1916.  Fm Taumarunui.

** 10/1620 – Sgt. Maurice William POULSON – 1st Wgtn Infantry Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements.  A Labourer from Taumarunui, he embarked in Feb 1915 and was also a ‘first day lander’ at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.  He subsequently served in Egypt and France where he sustained a severe shrapnel wound on 15 Sep 1916 (10 days before  his brother).  Hit in the right side of his head with a chunk of shrapnel, it cost him his right eye and gave him enduring headaches.  Awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal he was discharged June 1917 no longer fit for war service due to wounds, having served 2 yrs 87 days overseas.  Maurice Poulson died in Mackay, Queensland from a brain haemorrhage and heart failure in 1927, aged 42.

Rflm. Charley J.  Poulson – wounded, Sep 1916.  Fm Piriaka.

** 24/2270 Rifleman Charles Jarves POULSON – 2nd Battalion /3rd NZ Rifle Brigade, 5th Reinforcements.  A Sawmill Labourer from Piriaka, he embarked in April 1916,  Served in Egypt and France where he was seriously wounded in the abdomen with a gun-shot wound (GSW) on 25 Sep 1916.  It was a year before he was fit enough to return to France where he stayed until the end of the war.  Awarded the  British War Medal and Victory Medal, he was discharged in April 1919 no longer fit for war service on account of wounds, having served 2 yrs 350 days overseas.  Charley Poulson died in Taihape in 1941, aged 52.

Postscript:  The Poulson family had six sons, five of whom enlisted for war service.  Apart from the three above, two more sons enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force and served overseas.

My hypothesis …

If Fred Needham’s medal was dispatched in June 1925 as his file indicates, it would have had to be in Frank Needham’s hands no later than 1927.  Why?  Because as Ray Poulson attested, his father Charley had received the medal from Frank before Charley and his wife Mary Augusta CATO were married in 1927.  Frank Needham was a lot younger than Charley – born in 1914, so Frank would have been about 10-12 years of age when he gave Charley (40-41 yrs) the medal. 

Why would he give Charley the medal?  Apart from Frank and Charley being neighbours and “friends”, Charley was a returned veteran with his own medals.  Frank would have seen other uniformed Poulson family members like Maurice with Charley and young Frank being the unknowing recipient of Fred Needham’s medal, may have believed Charley should best have the medal to wear with his other one, the Victory Medal?  Frank may have even loaned the medal to Charley for his upcoming wedding, possibly because his own had not yet arrived (as discussed above)?  Could it also be that Frank knowing the medal was not his, gave it to Charley who would know who to return it to as it obviously had no connection to Frank’s Needham family.  Who knows what might have gone on in the mind of a child in such circumstances. 

Whatever the case may have been, the medal remained with Charley Poulson until he died.  Whether Fred Needham ever saw his medal, or had a replacement issued, we are unlikely to ever know.  Whilst circumstances similar to the fate of Charley Poulson’s British War Medal being returned as the result of there being no forwarding address could have occurred, there was no evidence on Fred’s file to suggest similar circumstances, e.g. a returned “address unknown” such as was entered on Charley’s file, or of a replacement being re-issued at a later date.     

Finding a home for Fred’s medal

After evaluating the material above, the key to finding a Needham direct descendant to return the medal to was one of Fred’s three sisters. 

Eldest sister Margaret Elizabeth Needham as we know was a spinster all her life and died in 1959.  Fred’s next eldest sister Vera Needham married a Pastry Cook, Allan McPherson TASKER (1904-1984) and  Fred’s youngest sister Nellie Needham, married John William Arthur TRAVIS who coincidentally was a Master Baker. 

Allan Tasker, originally from St. Andrews in Scotland, had emigrated to NZ in his mid 20s.  He met and married Vera Needham in Wanganui in 1929.  Allan and Vera spent their lives in Wanganui and having just one daughter, Jean Cochran Tasker, who became a School Teacher.  Jean also remained a spinster living with her parents at 2 Tarata Street, St Johns Hill until her parents died.  Vera  (Needham) Tasker (79) died in 1981 and Allan (90) in 1994.  The fate of Jean I have not followed.

The younger of the two Needham sisters was Nellie Needham who had married Englishman John William Arthur TRAVIS.  John Travis was born in Salford, now part of Greater Manchester, England.  By 1911 John Edward Travis (58), a Cotton Mill manager, had been widowed leaving him and sons Henry (36) a fire sprinkler pipe fitter, Edward (25) a chemist shop assistant, James (23) the cotton mill assistant manager and John WA Travis (20) to be cared for by their only sister, Elizabeth (30) Travis.  John jnr at this time was an Apprentice Printer’s Machineman in Salford, prior to his being ‘called to the colours’ for service during the First World War.

75133 Private John W. A. Travis (1890-1973) served with the King’s Liverpool Regiment as a Baker with the Labour Corps.  For his service John earned both the British War Medal, 1914-18 and the Victory Medal.  In March 1917 he married Salome Beatrice TINKLER (1887-1944) of Broughton, Salford before migrating to New Zealand.  After arrival in Wellington the couple moved north an settled the Manawatu country town of Fielding where John found worked initially as a Pastry Cook.  A move to 2 Limbrick Street,  Palmerston North followed where the settled for the remainder of their married life.  Regrettably Salome (57) died suddenly on Christmas Day, 1944.   

Fred Needham’s youngest sister Nellie NEEDHAM (46) was working at 119 Broadway Avenue in Palmerston North, also  coincidentally as a Pastry Cook.  Nellie had moved from Wanganui into Palmerston for work purposes in the early 1930s.  It is highly likely since both were ‘in the trade’ Nellie had met John WA Travis during the course of their work.  Widower John had retired by 1946 and living in Kelvin Grove when he and Nellie married around 1950.  They made their home at 59 Manawatu Street in the suburb of Hokowhitu.  Their only son, Grant Bown Travis was born in 1952.  John (62) was retired by 1953 when he, Nellie and Grant travelled back to Salford, Manchester on the RMS Rangitikei and stayed with the Travis family for a year before returning to Wellington on the RMS Strathnaver in January 1954.  John and Nellie both lived out their days in Palmerston North; John (82) died in Jan 1973 and Nellie (92) in August 1980.

Reunited at last

Having  connected the dots as far as Vera and Nellie Needham were concerned, it was apparent that a connection through John and Nellie Travis’s family was the most likely to locate a direct descendant of Nellie’s.  It was then a relatively simple case of following the electoral roll entries, census records and a family tree authored by Andrew Travis, that produced the produced results.  In making contact with Andrew, I discovered he was the grand-nephew of  Nellie Travis’s brother Fred Needham.  Andrew advised me that his father Grant was also living in the Manawatu which made Grant Travis the nearest direct descendant I had located Fred Needham’s nephew.  

Ray Poulson presents Grant Travis with Fred Needham’s medal – Feb 2019

Grant was overseas when I advised him about the medal, and told him Mary’s father Ray Poulson, now 83, was very keen to meet with him and return the medal personally person.  After a number of false starts to co-ordinate a break in Grant and Mary’s work schedules, Mary was finally able to arrange a mutual occasion for Ray and Grant to meet in Palmerston North.  Ray’s wish to personally hand over Fred Needham’s British War Medal to one of his descendants was happily concluded a few weeks ago – Mary’s photograph captures this happy occasion.  

Thank you Mary for sending the medal to MRNZ, our pleasure to be of service.

The reunited medal tally is now 247.