JOSEPH DALZELL RENKIN ~ Levin jeweller’s war medals and memorabilia reunited with Taupo family.


The internet is a such a vast resource, rarely can you be across all sites relevant to your interests and to that extent, I am grateful for the referrals sent to me by web viewers who spot military medals or memorabilia on a site, looking to be reunited with family or a descendant.  A friend Iain Davidson, the webmaster of Unknown Warriors of the NZEF and Soldiers & Nurses of Southland, has been a regular in this regard.   Recently Iain spotted a request to reunite some medals and memorabilia on a site I had not previously heard of – Finding NZ Genealogy and Memorabiliaand so alerted me to it that I might help the poster.

David Bang** is a very talented artist who lives in the rural Manawatu at Ohau.  Dave had posted a request for help to return the First World War medals and personal memorabilia of the late 12828 GNR Joseph Dalzell Renkin – NZ Field Artillery, N.Z.E.F.  Joe Renkin had been a resident of Wellington (Oriental Bay and Kilbirnie) for 40 years, and a manufacturing jeweller in Levin for more than 20 years.  Joe had moved to Levin after WW2 and with his wife Victoria (Torrie) and in due course had became friendly with Dave Bang’s parents, Maurice and Norma.  


Joe and Torrie Renkin had first made the acquaintance of Maurice Bang in 1950 when Joe had regularly called  upon Maurice’s services as one of Levin’s taxi drivers.  Over the next ten years, the Renkins were to develop a  great rapport with Maurice and Norma, both professionally and socially. 

Victoria “Torrie” Renkin at David Bang’s 21st birthday, 1974.

Neither Joe nor Torrie could drive and had never owned a car.  As a result of their relationship with Maurice Bang, Joe discussed with him the possibility of being contracted to take he and Torrie for a holiday in his taxi, around New Zealand.  They agreed with the first two week holiday planned for 1961 which would be around the North Island.  In preparation for the expedition Maurice bought a brand new, shiny Black 1960 Vauxhall Velox Taxi  for the trip.  In 1961 the holiday took in places such as Lake Taupo, the Huka Falls, Rotorua and its lakes, Waipoua Forest and Northland right up to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, whilst over-nighting at hotels, visiting small towns and sightseeing along the way.    

Bottle House at Queenstown

The trip was highly successful and began the start of a more than purely professional friendship between the Joe and Maurice.  During the 1962 and 1963 holidays around the South Island which included the West Coast, the coal mines, Queenstown, Bluff and the Benmore Dam and Otago, Norma Bang, who also had her Taxi Driver’s License, joined the road trips as a relief driver.  Maurice being a former bus driver was well used to driving for long periods however having Norma along had proven of great advantage in that if was female company for Torrie which she  greatly appreciated.  The trips away forged a close and lasting friendship between the Renkins and Bangs.    

Joe and Torrie at Waipoua Forest, Northland – 1960

Where are we ? – 1962

Joe Renkin had retired  in Dec 1960 and lived only four more years.  He died on 10 May 1964, aged 73, leaving Torrie living alone at their 17 Rutland Street home for some 21 years until her own death in May 1985.  With no family to pass her husband Joe’s medals and military ephemera to, Torrie gave them to Maurice Bang as a token of the years of firm friendship between he and Joe.  The medals etc remained with the Bang family until Maurice’s son David inherited the medals from his mum Norma some twenty years later after Maurice’s death in 1983.

Since that time Dave Bang has safeguarded Joe’s medals and keepsakes for over twenty five years.  Recently Dave came across the carefully stored medals of Joe Renkin and made the determination to try and have them returned to someone within the descendant Renkin family with whom he believed they rightfully belonged, preferable someone who was close to Joe and Torrie. 


A recently initiated Facebook page called Finding NZ Genealogy and Memorabilia became Dave’s vehicle to start the process of finding Renkin family descendants.  Dave had posted a picture of Joe Renkin’s medals with some of the memorabilia he had saved, on the FB page requesting help to locate Renkin descendants with the aim of returning these to them.

After Iain had alerted me to this page, I immediately applied to join the Group who ran it and when admitted, sent Dave Bang a message offering MRNZ’s (my) service to trace the Renkin descendants.  Dave responded in the affirmative and thereafter we emailed each more known detail.  Within a matter of hours I had isolated potential Renkin descendants in both the UK and Australia, posted messages on to them and awaited a response.  Meanwhile Dave had received a number of  suggestions on the FB page like “send them to a museum” and the like. 

I had asked Dave to hold off making any decision to hand over the medals with any of the FB page respondents who might have lay claim to an ancestral connection to Joe Renkin until I had been able to check out Joe’s ancestry or received any other credible responses to my inquiries.  Experience in this field has shown me over the years that a so-called descendant and/or claimant to family medals or memorabilia advertised on the internet, are not always legitimate or made by ‘family members’ they have purported themselves to be.  Careful questioning can usually clear up any such attempt quite quickly.  Dealing with unknown individuals by phone, email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram is fraught with traps and a potential minefield for the inexperienced.  Scamming owners out of their treasured possessions for which they can be paid a pittance of their real value by the unscrupulous, is an art form which unfortunately has resulted in the all too frequent press and television stories of loss over the years.  Dave agreed to my request.

The photograph of Joseph Renkin’s medals and some of his memorabilia that accompanied Dave Bang’s post on FB.

One of the first persons to to respond to my Ancestry inquiries was Wendy McL. in Australia who told me she was the wife of a third cousin, twice removed from Joe Renkin, whose maiden name was also Renkin.  Wendy  was most helpful in explaining her family’s connection and keen to become the guardian of Joe Renkin’s medals.  Whilst her relationship was somewhat distant, her brother still bore the Renkin name and was keen to be considered to receive Joe’s medals. 

Meanwhile, I was doing my own research and within a few weeks had a reasonably good understanding of Joe Renkin’s family structure and of his military service. 

True to his word Dave’s chocolate box with Joe Renkin’s medals and memorabilia duly arrived, much more than I had anticipated judging from the Facebook photo .. here is a selection of what arrived arrived …











Memories from of a war 103 years ago – quite a collection!

Aside from the medals, buttons and badges, a wonderful collection of  French embroidered postcards was included.  With thousands of Allied (and enemy) troops in France, there was no shortage of takers for these popular and personalised cards which also went home in their thousands.  It is clear from the text on some that Torrie was very keen on the French cards and the floral hand painted (printed) flower selection.  Every card is from Joe to fiance Torrie, one (the painted leaf made of silk) posted on the Willochre was probably one of his first to “Miss V. Potter” of 7 Rixon Grove, Mt Cook in Wellington.  The buttons (all NZ Artillery – Joe was transferred from the Mounted Rifles when he got to France) had all been converted into badges; his sergeant stripes indicating the his highest rank reached.  The brass tri-fern is a NZEF reinforcement collar badge, though not Joe or brother Roberts.  The lieutenant ‘pip’ is probably Robert’s as he was commissioned in the territorials and when he went overseas.  The “RSA – Joe Renkin” name badge Joe made in sterling silver for the inaugural opening of the Levin RSA Bowling Club.  There is a small football shaped badge in green and white enamel with the name “Hui Mai Rugby Football Club” on it.  This was the second oldest rugby club in Horowhenua, started at Manukau which is between Levin and Otaki – ironically the next settlement south from Ohau, Dave Bang’s home area.  The Navy League badge is a mystery as is the “BHL” blue enamelled shield lapel badge.  The silk handkerchief the items are sitting on, embroidered with flags in one corner, is unique in that it includes the ‘Rising Sun’ flag of Japan (then an ally of Great Britain). 

There is also included a poignant reminder of Joe and Torrie’s dead son, Lenard.  The postcard addressed to Lenard, who would have been about ten years old then, was posted by Torrie to him from the NZ 1940 Centennial Exhibition (1840-1940) which was staged at Rongotai near the Wellington airport from Nov 1939 to May 1940.  This was the centrepiece of NZ’s centennial celebrations and was attended by thousands of visitors from around the globe.  The card itself is interesting i that it is made of wood (with an interesting caption at the bottom which might upset some today?).  The card probably took longer to be collected, stamped and delivered by the postman to Lenard than it would have for Torrie to have walked it to their home in Childers Crescent, Kilbirnie.  Their house was barely 400 meters from the Exhibition! 

The Second Class train ticket was issued to Joe after disembarking the Pakeha at Wellington.  Dated 11 Jun – 18 Jul 1919, it was to be used to get to and from Trentham Camp for post war medical inspection and administration after he had had a few weeks leave at home in Oriental Bay.  The soldier was required to present his Certificate of Discharge with the ticket before it was accepted as valid.



Daniel Holliday RENKIN (1865-1912) was 22 years of age when he emigrated from Cumbria in the NW of England to Dunedin in 1887.  Within the year he had married Mary “Minnie” DALZELL (1852-1930) and started their family of four children, all born in Dunedin, with the birth of twins in Nov 1887 – Mary Ann (Renkin) RANDELL (1887-1956) known as “Doll” and her brother Robert RENKIN (1887-1960).  Next was Joseph Dalzell Renkin (1891-1960), named after his mother’s family, and finally Edith (Renkin) ANDREWS (1889-1960). 

The Renkins moved to Wellington around 1893 and took up residence in Wallace Street.  By 1905 Daniel had again moved his family to 91 Tasman Street was employed as a Marine Fireman (ship’s boiler stoker).  By 1911, the family had moved again to 39 Hawker Street in Oriental Bay.

All four of the Renkin siblings were married however a thread of tragedy ran through a number of their small families which had the effect of leaving very few direct descendants, thereby making my job difficult to find one. 

Mary Ann RANDELL – Twin 1

Twin, Mary Ann Renkin married Bertram Guy Randell (ka Guy) a Storeman at the beginning of WW1 however they were divorced after the birth of their only child, a son Robert Renkin Randell** – eleven days before the Gallipoli Landings in April 1915.  Randell was later jailed for failing to pay Maintenance to Mary.

Mary Ann’s son Robert eventually became a Chemist, married Florence TROTTER and lived most of their married life, childless, in Invercargill.  Robert died at the age of 59 in 1975. 

Mary Ann re-married at the age of 49 to Masterton farmer and later Wellington builder, Stanley GOLDSMITH (26601 Cpl. S. Goldsmith – 4/NZRB – 8th Reinforcements).  Stan had been severely wounded in the left thigh and walked with a permanent limp however was fully capable of conducting his building business.  After Stan Died, Mary Ann went back to Masterton and 23 College Street where she saw out her days.

Notes:   **  376210 Private Robert Renkin RANDELL, NZ Medical Corps, 2NZEF served as a Medical Orderly and Stretcher Bearer during WW2.


Robert RENKIN – Twin 2

Mary Anne Randell’s twin brother Robert RENKIN grew up in Wellington, became a Draper and lived all of his working life in Wellington.  Ten years after WW1, Robert married Dorothy Reta VIVIAN (1895-1936) in Wellington in 1929.  Robert and Dorothy also had only one child, a son, Robert Vivian RENKIN (1932-1979).  Robert was a single carpenter and worked throughout the North Island, eventually settling in Whangarei.  A work accident there claimed Robert Vivian Renkin’s life at the age of 39. 


The youngest Renkin, sister Edith (1894-1960) remains a bit of an enigma as there is little apparent information available to define her or her husband’s lives.  Edith married a Wellington Clerk, Maurice Francis ANDREWS (1890-1965) in 1922 and again, little is known of their only child, a son.  Both Edith and her husband were living in Karori, Wellington when they died within five years of each other, Edith at 66 in 1960, and Maurice 74, in 1965.

Joseph Dalzell RENKIN – Jeweller and Soldier

Joe  Renkin was born in the North East Valley of Dunedin on 26 October 1891.  Joseph Renkin, known as Joe from a very early age, had started work with C.M. Bay and L.R. Partridge, manufacturing jewellers whose premises was in Cuba Street, Wellington. “Partidge Jewellers” was started in 1864 in Christchurch and expanded over all the main cities of the country.  Partidge’s remains a well known industry name in New Zealand as the agent for Rolex and over 155 years continuous trading in NZ to produce high end, bespoke jewellery and is the import agent for Rolex watches.  

In time Joe became an indentured apprentice jeweller to Bay & Partridge, qualifying as a manufacturing jeweller.  His name was added to the National Census of eligible men for war service in 1914, as the war in Europe marched on to become an inevitability for a generation of male New Zealanders.

N.Z.E.F. enlistment

At 24 years of age, Joe was called up for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on 7 February 1916.  The disastrous Gallipoli campaign had just concluded in December with the newspapers crammed with the details of every battle, the conditions the soldiers had endured, their success and heroism, along with scathing criticism of the British high command’s incompetence.  This, together with the seemingly endless columns with the names of the dead, wounded, missing or prisoners of war being published with regular monotony, bore testament to the vastly disproportionate losses of New Zealand’s young fighting men compared to the losses suffered by our Allies. 

Joe Renkin was not deterred in the slightest.  In fact he enjoyed military life – he was made for it.  Joe and his older brother Robert had both enlisted in November 1908 as a part-time soldiers with the Zealandia Rifle Volunteers until 1911 when the Territorial Force was formed.  Both brothers  continued to serve in the new unit, the 1st Wellington Rifle Battalion from 1911 until their enlistment for war service, Joe as a Sergeant and Robert, a Second Lieutenant. 

When the ‘King’s call to Arms’ came Sgt. Joe Renkin did not shrink from his responsibility, in fact he embraced it and could not wait to get overseas.  From August to November 1914 he was employed by the Wellington Rifle Battalion on guard duty at Somes Island in Wellington Harbour.  The human quarantine barracks were used to hold enemy aliens who were considered a risk to New Zealand’s security.  Around 300 prisoners were held on the island during WW1, most of whom were German nationals.  Some of those held were born in New Zealand and had families, businesses and established lives here.   In November Sgt. Renkin ceased duty at Somes and returned to prepare training activities for the Wellington Bn soldiers, most of who would see war service; a large proportion these would not return.

Sailing away

12828 Trooper Joseph Dalzell Renkin – Canterbury Mounted Rifles, NZEF – 13th Reinforcements was farewelled by his family at the city railway station on 9 Feb 1916 as he  and hundreds of others caught the train to Upper Hutt.   Tpr. Joe Renkin (24) was on his way to Trentham Camp to be formally enlisted and to start his training and preparations for war service in France.  The Reinforcements once medically checked and issued the kit were trucked over the winding dirt track/road that zig-zaged its way up and over the Rimutaka Hill feature that separates the Wellington Region from the Wairarapa.  Featherston Training Camp was a relatively short distance from Greytown through with the convoy passed at the bottom of the Rimutaka Hill on the Wairarapa side.  The shiny new civilian recruits (unlike Joe and Robert) would be domiciled at Featherson Camp for the next 10 weeks learning the art of infantry warfare and personal survival.  

Tpr. Renkin’s territorial service served him well in that he started his training from a sound background of Army service upon which he built to assist others.  His knowledge and understanding of the “Army way” meant that he flew through his training without missing a beat. 

HMNZT 54 Willochra at the Wellington wharf, embarking the 13th Reinforcements – 27 May 1916.

The day of embarkation finally arrived with the 13th  Reinforcements boarding HMNZT 54 Willochra at Wellington on 27 May 1916.  The Willochra sailed for Plymouth via Suez, arriving in England six weeks later.  The Reinforcements disembarking to a waiting train which took them to the outskirts of the Sling Camp.  The last two kilometres the 13th were made to cover on foot to reach Sling Camp where they settled in to await their fate.  Training for operations at the front would start in earnest within the week and last for approximately six weeks before they re-embarked for the short voyage across the English Channel to the Base Depot Camp at Etaples. 

NZ Field Artillery (Divisional Ammunition Column – DAC) hat badge.

On 17 October  Tpr. Renkin embarked for France arriving at Etaples the next day.  On arrival at the NZ Infantry & General Reserve Battalion he was informed his employment was to be changed.  He was being posted from the Canterbury Mounted Rifles to the NZ Field Artillery (NZFA).  Tpr. Renkin was to be assigned to the “DAC” – the Divisional Ammunition Column as a driver, thus Joe Renkin’s rank title changed from Trooper to Gunner (Driver), NZFA. 

The DAC was responsible for loading and driving (horse/donkey drawn) ammunition wagons to replenish the NZ Field Artillery batteries located with the NZ Brigades.  The 1st (NZ) Brigade consisted of the four North Island Infantry battalions and the 2nd (NZ) Brigade, the four South Island battalions.  In 1916 the NZ Brigades were increased to four.  There were four Artillery Batteries per Brigade and in general, each Battery staffed by 185 men and four guns – 3 light, 1 heavy (howitzer) and a Trench Mortar section.  These assets could be grouped or scattered according to the plan.  Men in the DAC not only had plenty of heavy lifting but had to cover long distances, often under fire, through incredible depths of mud during winter, and if they were hit … you can imagine the result!

Mud on the Somme c.1916 – man and beast both struggled in the winter mud to move heavy loads of artillery shells and trench mortar bombs.

Typical conditions on the Somme and in Ypres, Belgium.  A DAC driver here is hauling artillery shells by horse team through the all consuming mud.






Gnr. Renkin went into the field with his unit in Oct 1916 and had harrowing year on the Somme, before he was finally able to take leave break to the UK after 11 months in France.  He returned to France for the second year returning to mostly the same job with the DAC, sometimes working in the Brigade HQ on ammunition related administration.  After taking his second leave to England at the end of a further 10 months in the field, Gnr. Renkin returned from leave to be greeted with the news that as the Armistice had being declared on 11 November 1918, he would not be going back to France.  He was retained at Sling Camp with the NZ Reserve Battalion.  Gnr. Renkin’s unit was extracted from the field and returned to Sling Camp in Feb 1919.  It was while he was at Sling Camp that Joe appeared to ‘blot his copy book’ on the one and only occasion since his enlistment.

NZ Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC) personnel loading ammunition to deliver to NZ Field Artillery (NZFA) batteries on the Somme – France 1916.

Divisional Ammunition Column (DAC) cloth patch worn on the BACK of the uniform jacket.

The ‘Etaples Riot’

Once the Armistice had been declared, the immediate reaction from the troops was a desire to get home as soon as possible.  As the troops were extracted from their field positions, a combination of the relief at the war being over and the chance to “ease springs” soon had them champing at the bit to take advantage of the delights of the Etaples township while waiting for their ship transport home. However problems started to arise when the decision was made to deny the returning troops leave and to have them remain in camp.  The NZ government had also directed alterations to transportation schedule which resulted unannounced schedule changes and cancellations.  The men were getting angry as no-one in authority appeared to be keeping them informed as to what was happening.  These changes and the denial of leave  conspired to make the situation among the NZers at the Etaples base Depot volatile.

The men’s rage peaked when they discovered the repeated delays in scheduled sailings of the troopships had occurred because of a British shipwrights’ strike.  In addition, the Canterbury soldiers had complained of an apparent bias against South Islanders in the decisions regarding their return home, effectively giving preference to North Island destinations.  Other grievances included compulsory education, pointless guard duty and of course the lack of leave.  Even more contentious was an NZ political decision to repatriate many of the late reinforcements ahead of men who had served longer overseas and in more arduous circumstances.

Things came to a head on 15 March 1919 after a number of soldiers decided to take matters into their own hands; a large number simply went AWOL and headed toward the Etaples township and beyond, while another group vented their anger within the camp and started to break into the canteens for alcohol and wreck the facilities.  Within hours a full scale riot had developed between the military police, Base Depot security personnel and the NZ soldiers.  As the riot ran out of control, more soldiers joined the melee. 

The riot continued over two days and resulted in some serious damage being done.  Stores – especially alcohol and cigarettes – were looted, canteens were wrecked, and Officers’ Messes were trashed after attempts to defend them failed.  Canterbury men were initially prominent among the rioters, while Australian soldiers allegedly stirred up a second day of looting.  The ringleaders were arrested some days later and punished accordingly. Three Sergeants were reduced to the rank of Private and sentenced to up to six months’ hard labour in a military prison, while guilty Corporals and Privates received terms of imprisonment of up to 100 days.

Some of the aftermath of the March 1917 riot at Etaples Base Depot – this was subsequently followed by a mutiny of British soldiers in September (not happy campers!).

Damage totalled about £15,000.00 which adjusted to the current value of our dollar is roughly equivalent to NZ$500,000.  Gnr. Joe Renkin does not seem to have been directly involved in the riot however he had joined those opting to go AWOL.  He was later charged with being absent from 3 – 27 March 1919.  His lapse in  judgement earned him a Reprimand and the loss of 17 days pay – a small price to pay I think for one who survived two and a half years on the field of battle!  

Home again …

Gnr. Renkin eventually received his ‘marching orders’ and embarked HMNZT 251 Pakeha at Tilbury on 12 April 1919 for the four week voyage to NZ.  Pakeha arrived in Wellington on 30 May and four weeks later on 28 June 1919, Gunner Joseph Dalzell Renkin, late Divisional Ammunition Column, NZ Field Artillery was once again a civilian.  Honourably discharged from the NZEF, Joe returned to his family home at 39 Hawker Street in Oriental Bay and some well earned rest. 

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

Overseas service:   3 years  4 days

Total NZEF service:  3 years  141 days

HMNZT 65 Pakeha departs Plymouth for Wellington – April 1919

Note:  ** Joe Renkin’s brother Robert also served however was enlisted much later in the war as he had married in April 1915.

49963 Lieutenant Robert Renkin – 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Battalion – 30th Reinforcements ~ 29, Draper with the DIC, Wellington, 29 years – served in the Zealandia Rifles from 1909 – 1911 as OC 31 Company, 1st Wellington Rifle Bn.   Lt. Renkin was enlisted in Feb 1917 as a infantry Platoon Commander and embarked for France in October.  He was discharged from the NZEF on 19 October 1919 after 1 year and 237 days overseas, returned to the Wellington Regiment as a Territorial Officer, was promoted to Captain in 1920 and resigned his commission in May 1925.  Capt. Renkin’s NZEF service totalled 1 year 342 days.  His combined volunteer, territorial and NZEF service totalled 17 years 131 days thus qualifying him for the 12 year service medal.  Awards: British War Medal 1914-18, Victory Medal, 12 year NZ Territorial Service Medal.


Between the Wars

When Joe returned, although the war had taken its toll on his nerves and physical well being, he was a mature and resilient man and soon recovered to take up where he left off, with his Wellington employers Bay and Partridge, the manufacturing jewellers.   

Items Joe made – sterling silver & gold –  “Butch” was a pet dog.  Wgtn Inf. Reinforcement badge in silver & gold.

Detail of the stickpins made by Joe between the wars – gold entwined letters N Z and Torrie’s initials V E A R in sterling silver.

Sterling silver tie stickpin or lapel pin made of Torrie’s initials entwined – V A E R.

Some of Joe’s handiwork – he has converted all of these NZ Artillery buttons and officer pip into a pin on badges.















In March 1920, Joe Renkin married the diminutive Victoria Annie Elizabeth POTTER (1893-1985) who was born in Waipara, North Canterbury.   After taking up residence in Kilbirnie, Joe and “Torrie” (as Joe called her), like his sister Mary and brother Robert before them, had one son whom they named Lenard John RENKIN (b1929). 

WW2 – Return to service

When the country was mobilised to respond to the threats of WW2, Joe Renkin, still serving in the Wellington Regiment as a Territorial, re-enlisted for full time war service on 21 June 1940.  At 48 years of age he was too old to serve abroad with 2NZEF and so with the rank of Corporal, was engaged on Home Service with the 3rd Wellington Battalion to provide vital point security on installations in and around the Wellington and Hutt Valley areas.  Joe finished his war service as a Sergeant and was discharged from the NZ Military Forces on 5 May 1943.  His discharge address was given as 68 Salisbury Street in Levin.

Awards:   British War Medal 1939/45, NZ War Service Medal.  NZ Territorial Service Medal **

Total Home service:   3 years (May 1940 – June 1943)

Note:  ** Sgt. Renkin received this 12 year service medal for his accumulated volunteer, territorial and WW1 service, after the war. 


J.D. Renkin Jewellers

The Renkins moved to Levin in early 1943 in preparation for Joe to establish his own jewellery manufacturing business once his wartime military Home Service was completed in 1946.  Joe opened his business – J.D. Renkin Jewellers – in Levin’s Regent Theatre building on Oxford Street which is the town’s main thoroughfare.

Oxford Street, Levin in 1948 – “J.D. Renkin Jewellers” is the upstairs windows in the Regent Theatre building at left.


What a coincidence!  Saw this on Trade-Me a few days after sending Joe Renkin’s medals by courier to the Vivian family … can’t be too many about, just had to get it and send it to Barry to join Joe’s medals (box 60 mm x 40 mm).    


Tragedy strikes

Death of Lenard Renkin – 1948.

Joe and Torrie were fully occupied once settled into their Levin community, Joe with establishing his business plus his commitment to the RSA and with which Torrie was also involved.  With many other WW1 and WW2 veterans in the Levin population, while being a staunch supporter of the Levin RSA, Joe had been one of the vocal stalwarts who was keen on having a separate RSA lawn bowling club established for returned veterans.  With a gift of land from the widow, Mrs Maud Clarke to build a bowling green in 1948, lots of hard work and fundraising, Joe and his brother Robert together with numerous returned soldiers would have the greens and buildings completed within two years, and so became the founding members of the Levin RSA Bowling Club. 

Just as Joe, Robert and the boys started the graft that would get their bowling club built, tragedy struck.  Like his older sister Mary’s son Robert, Joe and Torrie Renkin’s son Lenard had also become a carpenter when he left school.  On the 13th of June, 1948 some five years after their arrival in Levin, Joe and Torrie’s lives were shattered by the untimely death of their 19 year old son.  Lenard had been returning to Levin from a party at a farm in rural Ohau, about 3 a.m. in the morning.  He and several friends were riding on the back of a heavy truck driven by another friend, some standing, some sitting.  Lenard was believed to be sitting on the tailboard when the truck went over a bank.

Tragically, Lenard was thrown from the tailboard and sustained non-survivable brain and heart injuries.  I am  led to believe Joe and Torrie never really recovered from the loss of their only son, and no further children were to eventuate from their life-long marriage.

Levin RSA Bowling Club – Opening Day

Benefator, Mrs Maud Clark BEM

The guest of honour on Opening Day 1950 was the RSA’s ever popular former Commander of the 2 NZEF’s soldiers and current Governor General of NZ, Lt. General Sir Bernard Freyberg VC.  Sir Bernard did the honours of unveiling the club’s Memorial Gates and opening the Memorial Avenue.  He was then given the honour of launching the first ‘jack’ down the immaculately manicured “Clark Memorial Green” which was named in honour of the club’s land benefactor, Mrs Maud Clark.  Mrs Clark (formerly Mrs Walter Lett) was made Patroness of the club not only for her generous gift of land, but also for her tireless work in supporting the veterans of both wars.  Maud Clark was later awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her services to returned soldiers.  She died in 1960 aged 91.   

Joe and Robert Renkin and the other founding veterans have all gone now and regrettably the fortunes of the RSA and the Bowling Club have reversed from those halcyon days …. the Bowling Cub now has just 20 members, six of whom are active, and the RSA predicted twelve months ago to have closed has not done so.  It continues to work with the members of both organisations to find a solution to the difficulties they face in the 2019 environment.  To their credit, a staff of volunteers has continued to kept their beleaguered RSA running successfully since 2015. 

Source: Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.

Source: Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.



Renkin descendants … who was left ? 

To this point, all four Renkin siblings had had only one child, sons, two of whom had died early as a result of accidents.  Third sibling Mary Ann “Doll” RANDELL who divorced after their son was born, had no further children.  Her son Robert Renkin Randell, a chemist, had eventually married but he too did not have any children.  Joe’s youngest sister Edith ANDREWS had only the one child, a son it is believed, whose name and location I was unable to confirm.

The absence of surviving Renkin family members from their now sparse heritage, considerably reduced the options available for the difficult task of trying to locate a suitable direct  descendent to entrust Joe Renkin’s war medals and memorabilia to. 

In reviewing the immediate families of each of the Renkin siblings, one family stood out as having a sound line of succession who were directly connected through their mother.  This was the family of Joe’s brother, Robert Renkin and more specifically, his wife Dorothy Reta VIVIAN.  

Dorothy (known as Reta) was the second of only two Vivian children born to Cornishman, Joseph VIVIAN (1843-1910) and his Wellington wife, Georgiemma WATERS (1854-1923). 

Reta’s brother was Wellington born Harold Nicholas VIVIAN (1878-1943), the man who became the face of the nationally renowned exclusive men’s fashion retailer that  Wellingtonian’s in particular will recall, “VANCE VIVIAN”.  Harold Vivian had started the business as Vivian’s Menswear in the early part of the century and built it up to be a very successful gentleman’s outfitters of imported and bespoke tailored clothing.  In 1924 Harold decided to engage a partner as the business was flourishing and continued to grow.  The partnership between Harold and George VANCE heralded the appearance of the “Vance Vivian” name in the Wellington fashion scene.  The partnership started well but regrettably over time became acrimonious.  Gentlemanly and reserved Harold Vivian, disinclined to be confrontational, was squeezed out of the business he had nurtured to success, much to his dismay.  Vance’s intention was to replace Harold with a female relative and although now the sole proprietor, Vance retained the “Vance Vivian” name as Wellingtonians had identified the name as being synonymous with high-end, quality menswear and tailoring.

The “Vance Vivian” menswear store opened in 1924 on the corner of Cuba and Manners Street, Wellington.

Harold Vivian had been married in 1908 to Julia Maud EYRE (1880-1958) and together they raised a family of five.  Four girls – Audrey, Margaret, Lorna and Kathleen, and a son Harold Franklin VIVIAN (Jnr) born at  Palmerston North in 1919.  A company manager, Harold (Jnr) married Irene Joan ANDREWS, their family (also boys) consisting of Barry Andrew and Antony Maxwell (Max) VIVIAN, the grand nephews of Joseph Dalzell Renkin.  

And the winner is …?

Barry Vivian is a retired former golfing professional who has lived in Taupo for many years while his brother Max, a businessman, lives in Wellington.  Having reconstructed the Vivian family tree (minus Max’s name) as part of this research, it was an easy step to locate Barry in the White Pages because of his longevity living in the place his parents had also retired to.  It was Barry with whom I first made telephone contact and whom had confirmed his and his brother Max’s connection to Joe Renkin through their aunt and uncle, Reta and Robert Renkin.  Barry and Max’s father Harold passed away in 2012 at 94 years of age however their mother Irene who lives not far from Barry and Phillipa, is a hale and hearty 96 years young. 

Your call Mr B. ?

I contacted Dave Bang with the results of my findings about three weeks later leaving him to mull over the material to decide upon whom the recipient of Joe Renkin’s medals would be.   Dave was keen for the medals to remain in New Zealand (understandable) and so on the strength of this, and the link between Joe’s sister in law, Robert Renkin’s wife Reta and her Vivian line, it was an easy decision for Dave to make. 

Since then Dave and Barry have conversed over the connection with the Renkins.  As Dave said to me, he felt a real sense of loss having looked after Joe Renkin’s medals carefully for so long, but he was more than happy to know that he was finally letting them go to a descendant he feels will treasure and safeguard the Renkin taonga until it is time to pass on to the next generation.  Dave sent the medals to me and which my MRNZ colleague Brian has re-ribboned and court mounted for wearing.  After cleaning the remaining  memorabilia, Barry Vivian’s most unexpected windfall was couriered to him in Taupo.








The custodian of Joseph Renkin’s war medals and memorabilia since his mother’s death, Dave Bang is an artist of considerable note.  His ‘Pen and Ink’ drawings cover a wide span of subjects from New Zealand’s pioneering past to the present day, and include personal portraits and commissions of any subject you care to name.  Dave’s artwork has world-wide appeal with many of his pictures now gracing the walls of national and international clients from a diverse range of cultures and countries including NZ, Australia, Taiwan, USA, Canada, Spain, UK, France and  Denmark.

Pen and Ink Drawing and beyond

An accomplished artist in a diverse range of mediums, Dave Bang rates creating his Pen & Ink drawings his personal passion.  He first gathered inspiration for his New Zealand themed artworks from rustic farm buildings and rural activities, which evolved into capturing the ambience of country churches, old tractors, farm machinery, transport including old cars and steam trains.  He has since expanded these themes to our fascinating gold mining history, and a wide range of marine subjects – lighthouses, ships and boating, marine life, and to contemporary still life subjects such as coffee, wine and beer.

Apart from his continual pursuit of inspiring new subject matter, Dave is also available for Client commissions of anything that may take your fancy.  It could be a special house once owned or lived in, a cherished vehicle, nostalgic or memorable place or event – or of yourself, perhaps a special moment in your own professional life (Dave has even completed commissions for the New Zealand Defence Force on a variety of personal and military related topics).  His ability to capture in detail the essence of any subject you care to name, is the hallmark of Dave’s versatility; there are no limits to the medium you might wish him to use in a commission – oils, watercolours, pastels and so forth. 

Dave Bang’s dedication to his craft and attention to detail can be summed up in his own words, “It is always exciting to sell an original painting, and I am surprised I feel a sense of loss when one goes to a new home, I guess after putting so much of one’s self into their creation it is understandable”.












Studio and Gallery open Thursday to Saturday at 480 Arapaepae Road South, Ohau, LEVIN

Dave Bang’s home based gallery and studio has a continually changing exhibition of works including Pastel paintings and various other artworks.  Most of Dave’s original drawings are available as prints, framed in his own handmade recycled timber frames and are available for sale on his website.

Take a tour through some of Dave’s previous artworks shown on his website


Many thanks to Dave Bang for taking a punt on MRNZ and allowing us to assist with finding a descendant to  whom Joe Renkin’s medals and memorabilia could be entrusted.

The reunited medal tally is now 287.


‘ Lest We Forget ‘





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