20663 ~ THOMAS WALTER TAYLOR
A call to MRNZ from the New Zealand Police in late October 2017 was another of their requests for help to reunite a personal item of military memorabilia. A bespoke Second World War identity bracelet had been handed in to the New Brighton Police Station, and I would attempt to locate an owner family or descendant.
The handmade silver metal bracelet was personalised to “20633 T. W. Taylor NZA”. TW Taylor’s service number told me the bracelet had belonged to: 20633 Gunner Thomas Walter Taylor – 27 Battery, NZ Artillery, 2nd Echelon of the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force. Tom Taylor’s home town during WW2 was Havelock, a small coastal town which sits at the head of Pelorus Sound in the Marlborough region.
The first mail deliveries to the Marlborough Sounds was by Government Steamer in 1869 and initially delivered to only one location – Picton, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. As the population grew the steamer would put mail ashore at a number of small Post Offices throughout the area which residents had to row to in order to collect their mail.
For people living in the more remote locations of Pelorus and Keneperu Sounds, there was reliance on private launches as the primary and quickest means of getting mail, goods and families to and from the port at Picton. This was sporadic as there was no scheduled service and any travel overland (where possible) was restricted largely to horse-back.
From an early age Francis Taylor (1890-1959), Frank as he was known, had grown up around boats as they were a necessity of life for those living remotely in the Sounds. Necessary in the early years for transporting farming supplies and a few tourists, and for longer journeys to and from the port at Picton for families needing to access services, goods or travel beyond the region. By 1911, 21 year old Frank Taylor had become and experienced and qualified in-shore launch operator, or Launch-man, one of a number living at Allport’s Panama (boarding) House in High Street, Picton. Frank skippered and worked on launches moving goods from ship to shore, and around the various farms located in the coves and inlets of Queen Charlotte Sound. In 1918 the Government decided to put the mail service out to private operators and the Pelorus Sound “Mail Run” as it is known today, was born running a return service from Picton to Havelock and all stops by request, in between.
In the run up to the start of the First World War times were lean however Frank Taylor anticipating his call-up for service, decided to press ahead with his marriage to Invercargill born Levinia Annie LAWRENCE (1893-1963), daughter William Peter LAWRENCE and Annie Eliza BOXALL. The Lawrence family of seven children born in Invercargill moved to Seddon in Marlborough around 1905. Levinia’s youngest sister, Annie Eliza, was the last born Lawrence, at Seddon. Levinia’s older brother, 10/1880 Thomas Gabriel Lawrence – Wellington Inf. Bn., 4th Reinforcements would be Killed In Action at Gallipoli in Aug 1915, age 25 years.
Frank Taylor (snr) had continued to work as a Launch-man up to the start of WW1 however the availability of fuel and demand for paying launch services became severely restricted. Launch work for Frank dropped off and so he returned to Seddon where Levinia had remained and laboured for the Lawrences. Several Taylor relatives were farming at Portage at this time and Levinia had their first two children, Elsie Annie Elizabeth Taylor (1914-1962) and Evelyn Gertrude May (Taylor) THYNE (1915-2014) whilst at Portage.
In 1917 Frank was able to return permanently to his family at Portage becoming a Letter-carrier (postie) for the Portage area up to and including the head and western side of Keneperu Sound, quite a distance by launch but much more arduous on horse-back! It was during this year Frank was balloted for service in the NZEF and added to the Reserve Roll.
Frank and Levina’s first born son arrived in Sep 1917 and named Francis Leonard Taylor (jnr), after his father. Married with a young family (and a looming Armistice?), Frank was fortunate enough not to be called up to serve and returned to work as a Launch-man as the services in the Sounds began to pick up pace towards the end of the war. Baby Francis was followed 14 months later by his brother, Thomas Walter Taylor, on November 29, just a few weeks after the Armistice was signed on 11 Nov 1918, thus ending the First World War. A third daughter, Joyce Taylor, was born in 1921 however died after just 10 weeks.
By 1925 Frank, Levina and their four children had left Portage for the Rai Valley where Frank had leased a dairy farm. Rai Valley is a small town 27 km NW of Havelock at the head of Pelorus Sound on the Nelson Highway 46. From the 1880s the village at Rai Valley had been a service hub for a number of bush timber mills operating in the area that were churning out building materials and fencing posts. As the timber dwindled, farming became the primary industry the village supported. As the road through to Nelson improved the town reaped the benefits from ever increasing road traffic carrying goods and tourists to Nelson and beyond. The Taylor children all grew up in this environment and schooled locally until their early teens. With the onset of WW2 Frank Taylor decided to relinquish the dairy farm and moved his family to Renwicktown (known now as Renwick). There he got work as an Engine Driver – the four-wheeled, steam driven traction engines used extensively at that time for harvesting, forestry and heavy farm work. In the early 1950s the Taylors moved into Blenheim, Frank continuing to drive engines until he retired, and there they lived out their lives.
Both of the Taylor boys worked on their father’s dairy farm after school, the work becoming full-time once they had reached their teens. Francis took a job labouring at Seddon (possibly on the Lawrence property?) while TW obtained his driver licence and worked as a truck driver in the local area, both men living in their chosen work locations while the rest of the family moved to Renwicktown. Their sister Evelyn married Robert William Gibb THYNE, a driver, in 1935 and left to live in Timaru whilst the eldest sister Elsie, a life-long spinster, remained at home with her parents.
As it became apparent New Zealand would be once called upon to support our Allies in a protracted World War, conscription for NZ males aged 19-46 years was re-introduced in June 1940 after difficulty was experienced during 1939 and 1940 with filling positions in the 2nd and 3rd Echelons for overseas service for with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). To their enduring credit, Francis and TW had voluntarily enlisted for service at Blenheim in 1939, well before conscription became necessary.
20663 Gunner Thomas Walter Taylor was known as “Tom” (herein after referred to as “TW” for ease of identification). TW enlisted in 1939 at 21 years of age as a Gunner in the NZ Artillery. Gnr. Taylor was mobilized and placed with 27 Field Battery to deploy to North Africa with the 2nd Echelon on 1st April 1940. More fortunate than his elder brother who would follow him to the same place in the Western Desert six months later, TW managed to survive the war unscathed and was able to return to NZ at the end of the war in Dec 1945.
In 1946 TW married Ursula Mary GOLDING at Havelock and opened a butcher shop in Mahakipawa Road. The couple remained in Havelock with the butchery business during which their four children were born – Ursula Mary (jnr), Arthur Leonard (known as Len), and Lois. The fourth child was named Thomas Walter Taylor which followed the family tradition Thomas Walter’s father and grandfather before him had followed, by naming a son identically (and confusingly) after the father. Once he grew Thomas jnr. became known universally as “Tom” – as was his father TW.
By 1954 the Taylors had moved their butchery business from Havelock to 26 Park Terrace in Blenheim (now Matthew’s Mechanical Services). After twenty more years in the butchery business in Blenheim, TW and Ursula converted their butchery in to a catering business which they ran together until TW unexpectedly passed away.
20633 Gunner Thomas Walter Taylor NZA died in January 1983, aged 63 and was buried in Fairhall Cemetery (RSA Section) Blenheim; Ursula died in July 2010, aged 89 – they are buried together.
Awards: 1939-45 Star, Africa Star (8th Army clasp), Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45, NZ War Service Medal
Service Overseas: 3 years 155 days
Total 2NZEF Service: 4 years 34 days
Note: TW Taylor’s brother, 12941 Trooper Francis Leonard Taylor was drafted shortly after his younger brother and embarked for the Western Desert in July 1940, joining the 2nd Divisional Cavalry (armour-tanks) in North Africa. Francis, a Lance Corporal, was Killed in Action at the age of 25, on 16 December 1942 and buried in the Tripoli War Cemetery, Libya.
Awards: 1939-45 Star, Africa Star (8th Army clasp), War Medal 1939-45, NZ War Service Medal; WW2 Memorial Cross
2NZEF Service: 17 May 1940 – 16 Dec 1942
My search for the family descendants of Thomas Walter Taylor (snr) and wife Ursula started in Rai Valley with TW and his older brother Francis Leonard Taylor. Their two older sisters and the youngest female sibling I had no knowledge of at all as there was not a single connective reference (birth record, electoral roll listing, etc). It was only once I had located Vivienne Taylor (see below) that she was able to fill these knowledge gaps once we had a chance to discuss the makeup of the family.
As Francis Taylor had been killed in Libya in 1942, that left me with only his younger brother TW and wife Ursula Taylor from which to find a direct descendant. Tracing TW from his butchery in Havelock, through the Taylor’s move to Renwick, to Blenheim and their subsequent catering business, was relatively straight forward as the family had never left the Marlborough region. Since children do not appear on Electoral Rolls until they are of voting age, those who do come of age and move from the family home before a census is conducted, remain completely anonymous to a lay-researcher as there is no link to indicate they have ever existed. Sometimes a child may appear once or twice in a census or electoral record before leaving home, or the geographic region in which they were born which can be useful in providing proof of their existence and possibly the name of a spouse, if married. This was the case with Tom Taylor – two references to Tom in the 1978 and 1981 rolls, and the fact his spouse Vivienne was mentioned. There was nothing however to indicate Tom might have had any other siblings. This would require a link to another of his family members – wife, or …. there was no-one else in this case. These circumstances can stifle research until such time as an actual family member can be found to verify the existence, or not, of any other relevant descendants.
TW’s son Tom Taylor (jnr) was born in 1950 and educated at both St Josephs and Marlborough Boys’ College in Blenheim. Following his education Tom worked to gain qualifications as a Refrigeration Engineer and was initially employed in Blenheim with local appliance firms. Tom married Vivienne Maree PASK of Blenheim in 1972 after which they transferred firstly to Hawera where Tom was engaged repairing refrigeration equipment, and then on to Kawerau by 1981. Tom had been appointed the Assistant Manager of Meikles Limited Kawerau, one of four large department stores in the North Island that specialised in furniture, floor coverings, white ware, appliances, cycles and mowers. All stores were bought by Smiths City in 2006. From Kawerau Tom Taylor’s family became untraceable, 1981 being the limit of the available public records.
Where is Tom Taylor ?
TW Taylor’s family is one of the few I have encountered for which there has not been a Family Tree lodged somewhere on the internet by a descendant. Without one of these to start a family search, the options available to find current family information becomes severely constrained – luck then is essential to move a case forward. I searched the internet again and again trying various combinations of names until eventually finding a page in myheritage which referenced “Thomas Taylor” – dozens of them, spread world-wide. Among these I found “Thomas Walter Taylor, husband of Vivienne Maree PASK, daughter of Lindsay Belvin PASK and Joyce Emmeline May WARBURTON of Blenheim”. Fortunately the reference also listed all nine of Lindsay and Joyce Pask’s children including their second youngest, Vivienne Maree. A photograph of Tom was also included. (see below)
This information was helpful to a point but would actually get me no closer to a living descendant of Tom’s direct line from his grandfather. For this I had to find Vivienne in order to know whether she and Tom had had a family? – if they did, the eldest male (if there was one, only because males carry the family name) would potentially be the most direct descendant from TW Taylor and therefore in a position to receive his grandfather’s ID bracelet whilst retaining it in the Taylor family name.
Now that I had Vivienne’s maiden name, PASK, I was able to focus my attention on finding her siblings, one of whom would hopefully be able to tell me, a) if she was still alive?, b) if yes, by what name was she known? (Taylor, Pask, other), and c) how I might contact her? Without this information my quest to find a direct descendant would come to a grinding halt.
You would have thought PASK was not a particularly common surname anywhere in New Zealand and one that would be relatively easy to trace in a town the size of Blenheim, well it was – until I discovered there were actually two Pask families who had settled in early Marlborough, and neither were related. It follows of course that the Pask family I needed most was the one with the least number of contact references in the local Electoral Rolls, censuses and phone books!
To find answers to my questions I first looked for possibilities of direct contact with Vivienne Maree Taylor / Pask in the event she had reverted to her maiden name. There are many Taylors in and around the Blenheim area so I first tried the obvious and located two “VM TAYLOR” families in the White Pages. I phoned, Vicki Margaret, and Violet Marjory – wrong families, no connection whatsoever.
I then looked for a possible “VM PASK” family connection. I called each of the half dozen or so listed and all bar none were related to the ‘other’ early settler Pask family. My next course was to work through the list of Lindsay and Joyce Pask’s children until I found one who could hopefully tell me about their sister. Of course if Vivienne (Pask) TAYLOR had remarried (and changed her surname) or left the country after 1981, I would be equally stuck for information regarding her whereabouts or any family she had, if her surviving siblings had no knowledge. It is very often hard to tell if a family is close or are completely disconnected.
I first worked through the list of the Pask siblings to determine who were alive, and from those results, who was potentially contactable. Locating the Pasks in 2018 was very much a case of trying to fill the information gap between 40 year old Ancestry records (limited to 1981) and the present! Not an easy task and one that requires considerable analysis and thinking ‘outside the square’ to make any headway by this method.
I started with Vivienne’s parents Lindsay and Joyce PASK of Blenheim whom I confirmed were deceased. Using the BDM and Electoral Roll records I then identified those Pask siblings who were deceased – Keith Walter (died 1984), Rev. David James (died 2015). Of the remainder I had locations and numbers for all who appeared as unmarried entries in the rolls: Fay Joyce (Nurse-Blenheim, 1981), Pastor/Ian Lindsay (Porirua Wgtn, 1981), Rex Alan (Churton Park Wgtn, 1981), Vivienne Maree TAYLOR (Kawerau, 1981), Glen Ellesmore (Christchurch, 1981), and finally Lois Adrienne PASK (Island Bay Wgtn, 1981). There was one other for which there was no reference to the Pask family: Jeanette Mabel PASK. For the ladies, without a reference to family by either maiden name or married name, determining whether they are single or married, or even still in the country is nigh on impossible without the assistance of a family member.
In cases like this, spending time tracing the male family members is usually the better option since they rarely change their surname, and of course this is helpful in determining to whom I am going to return any item – a person who continues to carry the family name.
First was Vivienne to see if there was any possibility of tracing her name married/maiden variations as she was the person I most needed to find but found nothing that gave me any clue as to her whereabouts after Kawerau – no Ancestry, no internet, no Facebook, no national telephone record, no death record, no births, no emigration record etc – nothing!
Next was Ian Lindsay Pask. An internet search for a recent reference to Ian revealed a dated Anglican Church newsletter that indicated Ian, an Anglican Diocese staff member, was living in Nelson. (Although the Pasks had been a Blenheim based family, I had not had any reason to consult my own phone book for Pask family members let alone any other South Island regional Directory!). I called the number listed for Ian in the current Nelson White Pages – disconnected. Another search of Diocesan literature revealed Ian had been the Anglican Diocesan Secretary in Nelson and after 15 years in the job, the article concluded by re-counting his farewell function when he relinquished the position in 2015. I would contact the Diocese if no other family member was located.
Rex Alan Pask was next – no trace of him after 1981 at all; his brother Glen later told me he also was currently living in Nelson! (no landline number was listed). Unfortunately short of having a traceable Facebook account, a landline, or appearing in a club or some other publication (or making the news) there are few ways of knowing of a person’s movements or their current location in NZ even when right under your nose.
Answers at last ..
The next name, Glen Ellesmore Pask, had placed him in Wellington until 1981. An internet search referenced greyhound racing (inconclusive?) while a separate reference in a government publication which quoted Glen’s full name also gave a 2013 address. Fortunately I was able to locate Glen in Invercargill at that same address as was listed in the telephone directory. Glen seems to have been the most consistently stable regarding movements of his siblings around NZ. Had he moved frequently and not been consistent with either Electoral Roll or census entries, I may have had a great deal more difficulty in locating him. Glen was able to fill me in with most of the current detail concerning his siblings. The eldest, Fay Mabel Pask (in her 80s) is still alive and living in Blenheim (no reference or contact details available); Jeanette Mabel Pask in her 70s, also apparently in Blenheim (again, no indication of name or residency); Ian Lindsay Pask now in Hamilton, and last Lois Adrienne Pask, the youngest sibling … Glen was unsure of her married name or most recent location.
Most importantly however, Glen knew where Vivienne was and gave me a contact number. He was also able to advise me that Tom and Vivienne had been dealt a cruel blow when they discovered later in Tom’s life, that he had been born with a congenital heart defect that no-one had been aware of, until he suffered an attack. The family relocated to Canterbury to access appropriate treatment for Tom but sadly, this was to be in vain. Tom Taylor passed away in 1995 aged 45 whilst undergoing specialist surgery in Dunedin.
A descendant is found
In making contact, a suspicious Vivienne was very cautious (and rightly so) with the information she gave me over the phone, thinking perhaps I was a scammer of some sort. This is not unusual when cold calling someone and is to be expected. I will normally follow up very quickly with an email to the person giving all my relevant contact details as proof my call was genuine.
Vivienne was very gracious and able to answer my numerous questions regarding her family. The good news in relation to TW Taylor’s identity bracelet is that Tom and Vivienne do have a family – both sons (now adult), Aaron and Matthew. Vivienne mentioned one son had always been particularly interested in researching military history and had maintained an enduring interest in any of the Taylor and Pask family ancestors who had served overseas – I suspect he may be in line as the recipient of his grandfather TW Taylor’s identity bracelet?
After speaking with Vivienne I sent her a photograph of the bracelet. When next I called she told me that as soon as she saw the photo she recognised the bracelet as one of numerous items she had kept in her jewellery box. Unfortunately the jewellery box and other irreplaceable family heirlooms had been stolen during the burglary of Vivienne and Jim’s home last year. At least one of those heirlooms will now be reunited with the Taylor family.
The identity bracelet is currently in the custody of New Brighton Police whom I have advised the results of our research. The bracelet will be handed over to Vivienne in the coming days.
My thanks to the NZ Police for yet again requesting our assistance. A big thank you to Glen Taylor who became the key to facilitating my contact with Vivienne and the final resolution of this case.
MRNZ achieved a new milestone on 16 March 2018…
~ 200 ~
medals have been reunited with families and descendants