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    Backstories behind some of those involved with the Camp

    Do you have a story to share?

    Did one of your relatives train at Featherston Camp? Do you have ancestors who lived and worked in Featherston at the time of the Military Camp? We’re looking for stories, tales, old journals, diaries, clothing, memorabilia, and other artefacts that give insight into the Camp’s colourful history. Many of these we hope to incorporate into the rear panel detail of the artwork itself. If you have any items or have any information, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

    Old postcard from recruit to home. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    The Story of the Gunner & Driver from Masterton

    Spencer Harold Cotter was born in Masterton 13 March 1895. He was educated at Masterton Central School, then Te Wharau where his family owned a general store, boarding house, Billiard Room and the stables. After school Spencer worked for his father supplying goods to the surrounding stations.

    He then had a variety of farming positions, was a Territorial and when he enlisted on the 30th of November 1916 he was a Station Manager at Oliver Smith’s property at Landsdowne. Spencer commenced duty on January 8th, 1917 at the Featherston, Military Camp, and embarked on the Pakeha 26th April 1917 from Wellington for Plymouth, England. He arrived in Etaples, France on the 19th of October 1917 and was posted to the 3rd Battery of the 1st Brigade NZFA on the 12th of November. The Division spent a busy winter in the Polygon Wood of Becalaere sector at Ypres.

    Spring saw the Division rushing in to help against the German offensive on the Somme and heavy fightng continued as the Germans fell back on the Hindenburg Line, and it was there Spencer was wounded on the 5th of October 1918 near La Vacquerie. He rejoined his unit and on the 11th of October the 1st Brigade crossed the River Selle, the Division then advanced 11 miles in five days. On the 2nd of November Spencer was posted on leave to Scotland. While the Division went on to take the mediaeval fortress of Le Quenoy on the 4th of November – the War ended seven days later.

    While in Glasgow he caught influenza and was hospitalized in Brockenhurst, Codford and Stubhill. During his convalescence he made many friends who corresponded with him following his return to New Zealand on the Raranga arriving on the 20th of March 1919. He was discharged from War Service on the 27th of May 1919. He married Ethel Louisa Hawke of Clareville in 1921 and they had four children, sadly all died in childhood. Spencer married Alice Wright nee Revell in 1973, he died on the 1st of May 1985 and is buried in Clareville Cemetery.

    Spencer Harold Cotter, Gunner & Driver NZFA 3rd Battery, 24th Reinforcements.

    Albert McPeak. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    The Story of the Butcher from Masterton

    Albert McPeak was born in Mauriceville and was a butcher in Masterton when he enlisted in the 13th Reinforcement in February 1916. After training at Trentham and Featherston this group left New Zealand in May 1916. He was posted to 2nd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade and joined it on the Western Front in August.

    The unit was part of the N.Z. Division at the Battle of the Somme in September and October 1916. Albert was killed near Messines on 20 May 1917 when another N.Z. soldier accidently fired a revolver.

    The Story of the Barrister from Auckland

    Benson Henry Wyman was born in 1881 in Auckland to William Henry and Alice Mary Wyman. He graduated from university with a Masters of Law in 1916.

    He was listed as a squadron quartermaster serjeant (sic) at the Featherston Camp at the time he perished during the flu outbreak at the end of the war. His death is recorded as 15 November 1918. Three months later on 28 February 1919, his wife, Jennie Moore Wyman, gave birth to their son, Victor Benson Wyman.

    Benson Wyman. Courtesy of the Wyman Family Archive.

    Jethro Smith. Courtesy of the Smith Family Archive.

    The Story of the Fellmonger from Woodville

    Jethro Smith was the 6th child born to James Smith and Sarah Eliza (nee Pinfold). He was born 18 July 1894 in Woodville and attended the Woodlands Road School in 1903 and then Woodville School in 1906.

    In World War I, he served in the “First Reserves”. His profession was recorded as a fellmonger from Mangamuku, Pahiatua. By 1918, he was a soldier in the military camp in Featherston when the flu epidemic hit. His parents visited him when they learned of his illness. He died of the flu on 16 November and was buried in the Featherston cemetery. Succumbing to the same virus as her son, his mother passed away ten days later.

    The Story of the Camp Commandant

    Born in 1882 in Nelson, Noel went to Cambridge University, married an Englishwoman, and returned to NZ in 1910, becoming a solicitor at Adams & Harley of Nelson. Adams became a territorial artillery officer. Soon after war started he was posted as adjutant at the new Trentham Camp. Majors Adams and Macdonald looked at possible camp sites in the Wairarapa in June 1915, recommending the future site of Featherston Camp.

    He was briefly in command of the 8th Reinforcement at Awapuni (Palmerston North) before appointment as camp commandant at Tauherenikau Camp. From there he became Featherston Military Training Camp’s commandant with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, a position he held until influenza in November 1918 forced him to relinquish command. He was appointed CMG (Companion to the Order of St Michael and St George) in 1917. In 1919 he and wife Eileen Adams moved to Auckland and in the 1920s bought Wharekawa Station near Clevedon, Auckland. The couple had several extended visits to England and Noel was prominent in farming and political circles. He died in 1954.

    Lt. Col. Adams (left) pictured with Major Sweetzer. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    The Story of the Summers Brothers

    Five sons of the Summers family served in World War 1. Although most of the children were born in the Wairarapa, the family was living in Lower Hutt when war broke out. Tom and William (Bill) trained at Tauherenikau Camp in late 1915, while Albert, Charlie and Harry all trained at Featherston Camp.

    Tom was in the Otago Mounted Rifles and served in France. He was wounded in May 1918 and returned to New Zealand in August 1918. He was a rehabilitation farmer at Ngahape, east of Masterton, and died in 1953. William went overseas with the NZ Rifle Brigade but was posted to 2nd Battalion Wellington Infantry Regiment in December 1916. He served on the Western Front until returning in 1919. A bootmaker, he died in 1959. Albert was also a bootmaker when he enlisted in the 19th Reinforcement in July 1916, training at Trentham and Featherston. He joined the 1st Wellington Battalion in June 1917 and served on the Western Front until war’s end. In quiet periods he mended the battalion’s footwear.

    After the war Albert continued working as a bootmaker in Masterton, dying in 1966. Charlie was a storeman in Wellington when he joined the 33rd Reinforcement in 1917. It was 1918 when he joined the 1st Wellington Battalion – he served through the Second battle of the Somme and was killed on 31 August 1918 when the N.Z. Division captured Bapaume. Harry, a grocer, enlisted with his brother Charlie (they have consecutive service numbers) in the 33rd Reinforcement. In England he was posted to the NZ Rifle Brigade, went to France and in August joined the 1st Wellington Battalion. Soon after he was hospitalised with influenza and sent back to England. He was classified as medically unfit and returned to New Zealand in November 1918. Like brother Tom he was a rehabilitation farmer at Ngahape. He died in Masterton in 1985.

    Summers boys of WW1 From left, Albert, Harry, Bill, Charlie (superimposed) and Tom. Taken 1919. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    The Story of the Cobbler

    F Rutherford, the ‘Little Cobbler’ leading the recruits up over the Rimutaka Hill and down into Trentham. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    Few people today know the story of the Featherston bootmaker who became a favourite of the troops who marched over the Rimutakas to Trentham. But it is evident that Frederick Rutherford, though only a cobbler, was a remarkable man who made a contribution to the war in the only way he knew.

    He was known by trainees for the excellence of his workmanship but also because he always welcomed them so cheerily to his shop. He was short of stature and he was grey-haired, but he expressed his deep regard for the soldiers as vehemently as he could. He stood outside his shop and lustily cheered the Tenth Reinforcement, and each one that followed, when they marched away, sometimes going as far as the foot of the hill with them. But the Fifteenth were special to him and finally he announced that with them he would go all the way to Trentham. It was, said his soldier friends, impossible. The hill was too much for an old man and in any event the officer commanding would not allow it. But on the morning of departure when he heard the band leading the long column of troops, Rutherford stood in his little shop, ready in his dark blue uniform with silver facings, carrying his flag.

    The residents of Featherston cheered him as they watched the troops approach but like the soldiers they fully expected the little man to drop out at the foot of the hill. But he carried on, and when the band fell out he marched just a few yards ahead of the officers leading the column. They reached the summit where the tea urns were simmering and the men were able to set down their kit for a spell. When they were refreshed he led them down the hill to Mangaroa where they stopped for the night. The next morning he led them through the gates of Trentham Camp.

    The Story of the Trooper from Timaru

    Wilfred Jackson was born at Makikihi, South Canterbury, on 27  July 1891, and was educated at Hunter  School. After leaving school he completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter in Waimate, and went on to work as a builder in the local area. Aged 25, Wilfred Jackson enlisted for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Timaru on 8 November 1916, and began his training at the Featherston Military Training Camp some 10 days later. Little is recorded about his time at the Camp. However, one thing that was noted was a charge of overstaying local leave, for which he forfeited two days’ pay, and was confined to barracks for two days.

    On completion of his training at Featherston, he embarked on His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport (HMNZT) Moeraki, which departed New Zealand for Sydney on 19 April 1917. On 9 May 1917 Wilfred Jackson departed Sydney on His Majesty’s Australian Transport (HMAT) Port Sydney (A15) and arrived in Egypt (Suez) on 20 June 1917. On arrival in Egypt Wilfred marched into the Training Regiment at Moascar, after which he was posted as a Sapper to the NZ Engineer Field Troop of the NZ Mounted Rifle Brigade. Between July 1917 and June 1919 he was recorded as being in Egypt (Moascar, Kantara, Heliopolis, Ismailia, Port Said), Palestine (Esdud, Richon), or otherwise ‘in the field’.

    Wilfred Jackson was field promoted to the rank of Corporal on 9 Feb 1919, and eventually departed Egypt aboard HMNZT Ulimaroa bound for New Zealand on 30 June 1919. He was finally discharged from service on 9 September 1919, having completed two years and 116 days on active service abroad.

    On his return to New Zealand Wilfred Jackson married, and he and his wife built a home on a 6 acre section in Fairview  District, South Canterbury, where they raised their family of three. He continued to work in the building trade until his retirement, and passed away in 1962 at the age of 71.

    Trooper Wilfred Jackson. Courtesy of the Jackson Family Photo Collection.

    The Story of the Medical Student

    Leslie Averill. Courtesy of the Wairarapa Archive.

    Leslie Averill was a medical student in Auckland when he joined the 29th Reinforcement as an NCO in February 1917. He was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and in August was posted to the 34th Reinforcement, training at Featherston and arriving in Britain in February 1918. It was May before he was in France, first in an entrenching battalion and later to 4th Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade. He was slightly wounded in August but remained on duty.

    He was awarded a Military Cross in September 1918 but is best remembered as the first NZ soldier over the walls of Le Quesnoy on 4 November 1918. After the war he remained in the United Kingdom before returning to New Zealand.

    As a doctor he was in the NZ Medical Corps reserve until retiring in 1950. He died in Christchurch in 1981.

    The Story of the Miner who help found the West Coast Anti-Conscription League

    Tom was born in Ashburton and was a miner in Runanga in 1912 when he travelled to New Plymouth and won the 1912 Round the Mountain 100 mile cycle race.

    In 1915 he and others including members of the first Labour Government cabinet founded the West Coast Anti-conscription league. But as casualties mounted Tom wound-up his volunteering to make sure he wasn’t himself conscripted.

    Tom arrived at Featherston Camp in 1917 and embarked for Europe in April 1918. He was a machine gunner.

    Tom Gollins. Courtesy of  Chris Gollins.

    The Story of the Artist

    Marcus King  Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library.

    Marcus King, The Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi 1938 oil on canvas.  Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library.

    Draughtsman Marcus King received a call-up letter from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force recruiting director dated 24 August 1917, and went on to train at the Featherston Military Training Camp before embarking for Sling Camp in England.

    Few of his comrades could have imagined that upon being repatriated after the war he would go on to paint New Zealand’s best-known Treaty painting.

    Created in 1938, the painting – now held in the Alexander Turnbull Library – has come to represent popular perceptions of how the Treaty signing took place. It’s a painting many New Zealanders recognise, yet few have seen in the flesh. Far fewer, even among art lovers, could name the artist: Marcus King.

    Across his impressive career, King achieved far more than his paintings of Māori culture. Other large-scale murals promoted New Zealand as an alluring tourism utopia and productive agricultural paradise. He also excelled in Impressionism and became New Zealand’s best travel poster designer for which he is now best known.

    King, was also a founding vice-president of the National Association of Art in 1924, which sought to stimulate New Zealanders’ interest in art in its widest sense; a progressive perspective at the time.

    King’s span of exposure – across decades, artistic styles and continents – likely mark him as New Zealand’s most viewed artist, promoting the country to the world with art that also found its way into New Zealand homes and continues to do so today.

    Audio Archives: Radio New Zealand

    The following audio player links below stream MP3s directly from the Radio New Zealand website. They feature programmes that contain interviews and other material about Featherston and the Military Camp. To go directly to Radio New Zealand’s website for a particular programme, click on the article’s title.

    More memories of the Featherston military camp

    Originally aired on Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, Thursday 19 April 2012
    Keith Stewart was a wee lad but still remembers the Featherston Military Training Camp. He’s about to turn 96, and his own life is worthy of a book. Inventions are in his genes and Keith has invented something anyone over the age of 40 will have used. (17′ 00″)


    War Report – 7 December 2014

    Originally aired on War Reports, Sunday 7 December 2014
    Extract from an editorial in late 1914 ‘It will be a short war’. Jim Warner describes being in camp in Featherston in late 1914 and another veteran talks about training at Awapuni in Palmerston North and Sir Harry Lauder giving the troops an impromptu concert at Highden. (6′ 13″)


    Featherston Camp – Claire Craig

    Originally aired on Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, Thursday 12 March 2015
    It’s already been declared an archeological site, now the rural site of the Featherston Military Training Camp has further cemented its importance by being declared a Category 1 historical place. The Wairarapa farm has a strong military connection to both world wars. Heritage New Zealand’s Claire Craig discusses the history and current status of the site. (9′ 46″)


    Sounds Historical for 19 August 2012 (Part 2)

    Originally aired on Sounds Historical, Sunday 19 August 2012
    Neil Frances talks about the Camp at about the 30 minute  mark in the programme.