7/500 & 5/1/916 ~ WALTER JAMES DOMNEY JACKSON
For those readers who are familiar with the Waiouru Army Camp and in particular, have had the pleasure of enjoying the camaraderie of the Warrant Officers’ & Sergeants’ Mess on camp, this story will perhaps be of particular interest.
I recently received a request for assistance from the RNZRSA National Headquarters who had received an email from Gavin Nichols, a gentleman from the Eastern Bay of Plenty who requested help to have the medals and memorabilia of Walter James Domney Jackson that resided in the WO’s & Sgts’ Mess, returned to his family, ergo to Gavin. An NZRSA representative had subsequently been in touch with the Mess’s management (also in receipt of the gentleman’s request) who were understandably somewhat sceptical of the request. The Mess’s hesitance to respond was magnified by the fact that Gavin’s claim had been unsupported with any proof of ownership or his alleged ancestral connection (his claim to be the eldest living grandson) to the man who the memorabilia was in the name of. Neither was there any detailed description or pictures of the items that he was claiming. Further, Gavin’s surname was not connected to any information provided.
Indeed a most unusual situation, one I have never struck before but a problem I was most interested to unravel and solve, and so readily agreed to help. From my own experience in Mess management, memorabilia that resides in any military Mess has usually been accumulated over many years and in general, the result of either a personal donation to Mess’s existing historical inventory, e.g. silverware, photographs, paintings), or the result of a presentation made to the Mess. Whatever the case, these items are taken to be permanent gifts to the Mess unless otherwise agreed, e. g. on long term loan for a specified period.
Before I spoke with Gavin, I contacted the Mess’s representative in Waiouru to understand their involvement with the gentlemen to date. It was clear their concerns hinged around the fact Gavin was unknown to them, he alleged he was a relative acting on the family’s behalf, and that he appeared to have no authority or indeed right, to claim something back which was Mess property. They were not about to release any item that belonged to the Mess to a person unknown to them, much less than on the strength of an unsupported email. I discussed with them what I could do to help.
To gather some background and to get his take on what exactly it was he was attempting to achieve and why, I phoned Gavin, introduced myself, and I outlined the reason I was acting on behalf of the request he had made to the NZRSA and Waiouru Mess’s management.
I asked Gavin to email me the answers to a number of queries I posed to him that would help me to clarify my understanding of the situation, and to validate his identity, his claim to the memorabilia, and to determine what authority he had to be allegedly acting on the Jackson family’s behalf – which he duly did. Gavin advised he wanted the items returned for his ageing aunt in Auckland who, whilst remaining hale and hearty at 93 years of age, wanted to pass them on to her grandson before she departed this mortal life.
Who was Walter Jackson?
7/500 WO2 Walter James Domney JACKSON who prior to the First World War, had served as a territorial soldier with the Auckland Regiment in excess of a decade, and for which he was awarded the NZ Territorial Service Medal signifying the completion of 12 years of efficient service. Then a Trooper with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, he enlisted for overseas service in WW1 and shortly after his arrival in Egypt was transferred to the NZ Field Artillery as a Gunner. Gnr. Jackson saw service in Egypt, Gallipoli and on the Western Front in France and Belgium. At the time he was demobilized in 1919, Jackson had attained the rank of Warrant Officer Class II in the NZEF for which he received a promotion parchment. Following his return to New Zealand, WO2 Jackson was awarded the First World War 1914-1918 medal trio. In 1939, then 45 years of age, Sergeant** Walter Jackson NZ Artillery re-enlisted for war service. His age meant he would have to wait until called to join the for reinforcements, younger men having the priority to be sent ahead of the older volunteers. In the interim, Sgt. Jackson continued to work with the mobilised territorial units as a member of the National Military Reserve which for him, was to as an instructor with the NZ Artillery Coastal Defence units.
In July 1942, Sgt. Jackson was hospitalised at the Military Annex attached to Auckland Hospital for what his family believed was to be a relatively innocuous surgical procedure. Following his operation, an uncontrolled haemorrhage is alleged to have been the cause of his untimely death on 16 July 1942. Walter Jackson’s widow, Elizabeth Butler Jackson, subsequently received his two medals for home defence service, the War Medal 1939/45 and the NZ War Service Medal.
Note: ** Soldiers and officers who were promoted in the field rarely retained their rank on return to NZ since most had not completed the requisite training or passed the necessary promotion exams for promotion to the next highest rank. War service whilst very practical and immediate and realistic ‘training’ does not surpass the need to comply with an established system that favours those who have not been through it. Promotion in the field during WW1 was often for a particular job or to fill the unit’s establishment of positions. This accounts for the many records that show a soldier to seemingly be promoted and reverted to his prior rank a number of occasions for short periods of time. Some of course who could not cope with leading men reverted to their prior rank at their own request.
The memorabilia of Walter Jackson consisted of three framed items. In Gavin’s own words ” ….I am the oldest grandson of Walter James Jackson…. Some years ago my youngest uncle gave Waiouru Sergeants Mess my grandfather’s warrant as a Warrant Officer 1916 and my grandfather’s Death Certificate 1943 plus his medals.”
The medals comprised (from left):
- 1914/15 Star (named)
- British War Medal 1914/18 (named)
- Victory Medal (named)
- War Medal 1939/45 (un-named, as issued)
- 1939/45 NZ War Service Medal (un-named, as issued)
- NZ Territorial Service Medal (named)
The second item was an oak framed N.Z.E.F. Warrant parchment appointing Walter James Jackson to the rank of Warrant Officer Class II, dated 1916. Attached to the base of the oak frame is an undated plaque with: “Presented to the WOs & Sgts Mess Waiouru by B. W. Jackson AOM ~ M.W.D”
Of the three items Gavin said his uncle had given to the Mess, only two could be accounted for – the medals and the Warrant Officer parchment. The “Death Certificate 1943” he had quoted however was nowhere to be found and for a while had me racking my brain as to why a Death Certificate would have been given to the Mess? For WW1 soldiers that were killed or died overseas, the next of kin received a “Certificate of Services with the Ne Zealand Expeditionary Force” but Walter Jackson had not died overseas. He hadn’t been wounded and discharged with any capacity whatsoever, or he would have received an Honourable Discharge Certificate that persons invalided out of the service received. So, other than a medical document, the “Death Certificate” posed a question I could not adequately answer, and equally a complete mystery to the Mess management.
“Death Certificate 1943” ?
When I thought about it for a while and again spoke with Gavin, it dawned on me that given Walter Jackson’s place and circumstances of his death, what Gavin had referred to as a “Death Certificate 1943” was more likely to have been a “Memorial Scroll.” Every serving man or woman who was killed or died during WW1, had their sacrifice acknowledged with a Memorial Plaque (‘Death Penny’ or ‘Widow’s Penny’ as it was commonly called), a Memorial Scroll and condolence form letter from the King, sent to their next of kin. The Scroll carried a statement reflecting the person had sacrificed their life serving their country. The name of the deceased person and their unit /service was added in handwritten Red calligraphy.
The issue of a Memorial Scroll to the next of kin of Second World War casualties became synonymous with the award of the NZ Memorial Cross that accompanied the Memorial Scroll. The issue of the dull sterling silver New Zealand Memorial Cross designed to be worn about the neck on a purple ribbon, recognised that operational service was never borne by the service-member alone, and was given to the wife and/or mother of the deceased service person, applying a a strict line of succession in the event one or both of these two ladies were deceased. The NZ Memorial Cross in effect replaced the bronze Memorial Plaque of the First World War. But! – the NZ Memorial Cross had not been instituted until 1947, and then was only given to the next of kin of uniformed personnel and nurses who were serving outside New Zealand. Sergeant Jackson had died whilst serving in New Zealand, in 1942?
Therefore it stands to reason, the next of kin of a soldier who died while serving in the National Military Reserve, in New Zealand, would have been eligible to receive a commemorative Memorial Scroll only. Whilst no entitlement existed for Walter Jackson’s widow, Mrs Elizabeth Butler Jackson, to receive a Memorial Cross for her husband’s death (once it had been instituted), the Team Leader Research & Entitlements (Mr Geoff Fox) at NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals confirmed that although there was no mention on Walter Jackson’s files of a Scroll being issued, one would have undoubtedly been sent to Mrs Jackson. This I believe was what the Mess management at Waiouru should be looking for. I sent them a facsimile Scroll to aid identification and another search for this mystery item. Within an hour I had my answer – the missing Scroll had been found!
Who was Bryan Jackson AOM ?
Gavin had said in his email to the NZRSA that Bryan Jackson was his “youngest uncle” and that it was he who had presented the medals and memorabilia to the Mess. The name of “B. W. Jackson AOM, M.O.W.” as engraved onto a plaque that was attached to the frame of the Warrant Officer parchment identified the presenter, but who exactly he was and where did he fit into the Jackson family was not yet clear. My research revealed that Bryan Walter Jackson (1933-2009), the youngest son of eight children born to Walter James Domney Jackson and his wife Jane Selwood Fordham WYATT (1895-1987). Bryan had joined the Ministry of Works (MOW) in Auckland as a Carpenter during the mid-1950s, following a carpentry apprenticeship he had started with the NZ Railways. Bryan eventually was elevated into the ranks of management in Auckland and about 1967, was posted to Waiouru for a 2-3 year period as the MOW’s resident Area Operations Manager (AOM) to oversee the restructure and transition of the MOW to the Ministry of Works & Development (MWD).
While at Waiouru, bachelor Bryan Jackson had been a camp resident. I believe that on the strength of his father being a returned Gallipoli veteran, and a Warrant Officer Class II of the First World War and during the Inter-war period, Bryan Jackson formed a social association with the Waiouru WOs’ & Sgts’ Mess. This association could well have been the reason for Bryan’s decision to place his father’s medals and associated memorabilia with the Mess prior to returning to Auckland around 1970.
One of the aspects of this case which initially raised a concern for me was Gavin’s revelation in his email that he had attempted to obtain the same memorabilia from the Mess on a previous occasion several years ago (year unspecified), supported by a signed letter from his aunt. His motivation at that time had been the result of a (erroneous) rumour which had been circulating suggesting Waiouru Camp was to be closed. On that occasion Gavin had written a letter to the President of the Waiouru WOs’ and SGTs’ Mess Committee (PMC) requesting Walter Jackson’s medals and memorabilia be returned to the family. The PMC’s response had been that there was no known plan to close the Camp (or the Mess) and that Walter Jackson’s medals and memorabilia having been presented to the Mess, would remain part of its property.
Resigned to this decision, Gavin has since that time satisfied himself with the occasional visit to Waiouru, during which he says he made a point of going to the Mess to see his alleged grandfather’s medals, warrant parchment etc. These at the time were displayed on a wall on the first floor of the current Mess location.
During an official visit to Waiouru Camp in 2018, Gavin had been the member of a group hosted by the then Commander of the Army Training Group. He again took the opportunity to see Walter Jackson’s medals etc in the Mess but was unable to locate them. Subsequent inquiries as to their whereabouts were also to no avail. The Mess representative I was consulting with, when asked was able to confirm that to the best of his knowledge the interior of the Mess where the memorabilia had previously been sighted, had been undergoing refurbishment in 2018 and that all wall mounted items had been removed to safe storage.
As it transpired, my questions to Gavin were answered with the clear indication his latest request had again been motivated by an erroneous rumour circulating on the ‘veterans net’ foreshadowing the closure of Waiouru Camp. While open to misinterpretation, again the fundamental suggestion of closure was not correct. As far as I am aware the military camp will remain NZDF property with facilities required only for the purposes of conducting on-site military training or temporary deployments, by a variety of units. In effect Waiouru will be a transit camp, one that provides accommodation and messing facilities for the units using the training area. The intention I believe is for it to be staffed predominantly by civilians, a proportion of who will be former long serving and experienced NZDF personnel. The net result – there is no known plan to close the camp, or the WOs’ & Sgts’ Mess at Waiouru, in the foreseeable future.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff
Having gathered sufficient background information and spoken with key players involved with Gavin’s request, what was required now was confirmation of Gavin’s identity and proof of his membership of the Jackson family. From this it would be possible to establish the veracity of his request in order to determine what, if any, legal right of entitlement he might have to the late Walter Jackson’s medals and memorabilia.
It was not difficulty to establish Gavin Nicol’s bona fides – confirmation of his full name, that fact he was a 75 year old New Zealand born citizen, a former NZ Army soldier and Vietnam Veteran who is now a retired. He is a (city) resident and employed as a voluntary Veteran’s Welfare Support Adviser who has also been recognised for his work in that field.
The Jackson Family
Walter Jackson’s family was both large and had a convoluted relationship history. While Gavin’s request had been light on detail, he did state that he was the “oldest grandson of Walter James Jackson.” He also advise me that he had been adopted as a child and had been raised by a variety of relatives including, his grandmother Jane Jackson, otherwise known as Janey Jackson (Auckland Electoral Rolls) by his aunt Shirley Martha (Jackson) Manning to whom he said he was/is closest, including one other unspecified sister to Mrs Manning.
To provide the basis for proof of Gavin’s heritage, I assembled from scratch Walter Jackson’s family tree (the NZ portion only) from public records and Ancestry.com.
The Jackson family began in Christchurch with immigrant ancestors who arrived circa 1854. A distillation of the family connections to Walter Jackson I found to be relevant and proven, were as follows:
- Walter James Domney Jackson’s father was Arthur Albert JACKSON (1866-1930), the youngest of ten children born in Christchurch.
- Arthur Jackson married Elizabeth BUTLER (1869-1949) who together had a family of eight children, all of whom survived.
- Walter James Domney JACKSON (1892-1942) was the second born child of Arthur & Elizabeth Jackson.
- Walter Jackson married Jane Fordham Selwood WYATT (1895-1986) in 1920 and together they also had had a family of eight children, seven of whom survived beyond infancy.
- The first born child of Walter and Jane Jackson to survive infancy was Russell James JACKSON (1922-1999). An Auckland based electrician, Russell Jackson married Mary Joy ASHBY (1928-1978) in 1947 and had two children.
- Their first born child was a son, Gavin JACKSON, and a daughter JACKSON.
- Gavin’s parents divorced in 1953, his mother retaining custody of both children and subsequently marrying Mr NICOL.
- Gavin’s step-father had allegedly legally adopted Gavin and his sister, thereby changing their surname from Jackson to NICOL.
At this point, only two of Walter Jackson’s children were relevant to my assessment. In birth order they were:
#3 – Shirley Martha (Jackson) MANNING (1924- ), aka “Auntie Shirley”
#8 – Bryan Walter JACKSON (1933-2009) – Bryan Jackson I have discussed above and does not require any further explanation.
Shirley Martha (Jackson) MANNING (#3)
Mrs Manning proved to be a wonderful source of assistance. As the Jackson family’s self-appointed (and only) genealogist, I found a delight to speak with, and an extremely lucid and apparently well informed lady. Whilst Mrs Manning’s information was hearsay, much of which she was able to tell me tallied with my own research results. She was able to provide me with infinite detail of any Jackson family member I requested information for, past and present. She was also able to verbally verify non-public records I was unable to access, e. g. adoption records.
Shirley Manning, nee Jackson, was the third child of Walter and Jane Jackson’s eight children, and at 93 years of age, is the sole surviving sibling. Widowed from her husband Vernon Thomas MANNING** in 1989, ‘Auntie Shirley’ continues to reside independently in her own home. Critically, Mrs Manning confirmed that Gavin was her blood related nephew, the eldest and only living son of her brother, the late Russell James Jackson and Mary Joy Nicol. Mrs Manning also stated that Gavin was the eldest surviving grandchild of the late Walter James Domeny and Jane Jackson.
Further, Mrs Manning was aware of Gavin’s endeavours to retrieve her late father’s medals and memorabilia from Waiouru on her behalf, and fully endorsed his actions. Shirley’s stated intent was to ensure her surviving grandson (named) became the recipient of the medals etc before her death, should Gavin’s request for their return be granted.
Finally, Mrs Manning commented to me that her youngest brother, Bryan had at no time consulted with, nor had the authority or permission of, any other member of the Jackson family to give their father’s medals and memorabilia to the Waiouru Mess. This decision had apparently been one entirely of her brother’s making, one which had not become general knowledge among family members for some years. Needless to say when this fact was discovered, the rest of the family were not happy.
Note ** As an aside, my research of the Manning family revealed that Shirley and her late husband Vernon Manning were in fact the Grand Aunt and Uncle of Private Leonard William Manning, 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment who was Killed In Action in East Timor in 2000. Pte Manning was related by way of Vernon Manning’s younger brother, Leonard George Manning, who was Pte. Manning’s grandfather. R.I.P
To return or not to return ?
Having regard to the proven Jackson genealogical structure of my research and the fact I had not been able to sight any of Gavin’s personal identity information and legal status, after speaking with Mrs Manning I came to the conclusion that on the balance, Gavin Nicol was who he claimed to be, i. e. the eldest living grandson (a direct blood relation) of Walter James Domney Jackson.
In his capacity as Walter Jackson’s eldest grandson, I was able to concluded that Gavin had the inherent legal right by reason of his descendant seniority, to claim any item of his grandfather’s estate which may have from time to time be offered to him, or found, unless it was otherwise specified in Walter Jackson’s Last Will and Testament or an associated caveat.
Based upon the available evidence, my recommendation to the Mess was that whilst Gavin was proven to be eldest living grandson of Walter Jackson, the Mess management was under no obligation to return the medals and memorabilia of WO1 Jackson to his descendant family. In presenting the medals and certificates of his grandfather to the WO’s and Sgt’s Mess in 1968, Mr Bryan Jackson (dec) had clearly intended for them to be retained and displayed together with the Mother items of the Mess’s memorabilia collection. However, should the management decide at any time that it be a prudent move to exceed to the Jackson family’s request, Walter Jackson’s grandson and eldest male heir Gavin was legally entitled to have the first right of refusal.
I have since been advised that the Mess management has carefully considered the precedent of such a request. Given the unique circumstances under which they were presented to the Mess, the management has decided to relinquish ownership of Walter Jackson’s medals and return them to the family. Representatives from the Waiouru and the WOs’ and Sgt’s Mess propose to reunite WO2 Jackson’s sister, Mrs Shirley Manning with her late brother’s medals in the near future.
My thanks to CE, HQ RNZRSA, to the TS1 Waiouru, and to Gavin and his Auntie Shirley for their combined assistance which allowed me to present these facts to the Mess management resulting in a positive outcome for the Jackson family.
The reunited medal tally is now 406.