Profile

ROBINSON, Thomas Augustus
(Service number 23/584)

Aliases
First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Rifleman

Birth

Date 6 March 1880 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 29 May 1915 Age 35 years
Address at Enlistment Rakaia, South Canterbury
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Married. No children
Next of Kin Mrs H. NEAL (sister), care of T. A. ROBINSON, Rakaia, South Canterbury
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 4 inches. Weight 125 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No serious illness, accident or fit. Willing to be innoculated for typhoid. Tattoo markings on left forearm.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 1st Battalion, B Company
Date 9 October 1915
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti or Aparima or Navua or Warrimoo
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 1st Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Messines)
Service Medals 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

13 July 1915 - admitted to Palmerston North Hospital, with measles. 22 September 1916 - wounded

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 7 June 1917 Age 37 years
Place of Death Messines, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials Ashburton War Memorial; Rakaia War Memorial

Biographical Notes

Thomas Augustus Robinson was born on 6 March 1880 at Timaru (verified by birth certificate details) to James Robinson and Annie Robinson (née Cockron). He was baptised in the Catholic Church there on 23 March 1880, the son of James Robinson and Annie Corkeran (sighting of baptism record). The said birth certificate states that James and Annie were married in 1876 at Napier. A marriage is registered between James Robinson and Annie Corcoran in 1886 in New Zealand. Thomas attended a Christchurch school, Dunedin Normal School, a Dunedin Catholic school, Tokomairiro School at Milton (briefly), and others. His sister Annie (born 1879-1881), also attend Tokomairiro School at the same time. Thomas Augustus Robinson married Isabella White on 21 March 1902 at the private residence of John White, Orepuki (Presbyterian), Thomas being 22 years old and Isabella 20. There appeared to be no children born of the marriage. As of 1911, Thomas was a labourer residing in Nelson; Isabella perhaps at Riverton. In 1905 Thomas and Isabella had been at Winton, Thomas employed as a fishmonger. It is presumed that James Robinson who was also at Winton in 1905, was his father.

When Thomas enlisted on 29 May 1915, he was working as a labourer for Breading Brothers, at Rakaia. He was one of those who had responded well to South Canterbury’s recruiting endeavours. “The recruits are from all over the district and the men are of the right stamp.” The infantry for the Special Force left Ashburton for Trentham by a special train very soon after acceptance, but not before they were treated to an enthusiastic farewell on the railway platform. The Citizens’ Defence Corps’ Band and the Ashburton County Pipe Band headed the recruits as they marched through the main street to the station, and they played patriotic selections before the arrival and departure of the long special train which had brought up a huge number of Southern men. The Ashburton Mayor spoke to them some words of encouragement, praise and advice. “Now lads, . . . . I wish you God-speed in the great undertaking on which you are about to start. . .. . . I would strongly urge upon you to keep yourselves physically fit . . . . . Remember Kitchener’s advice and ‘be temperate’. . . . . On behalf of the residents of this district, I now wish you good-bye and good luck.” Amidst cheers and the playing of “Auld Lang Syne” the special train moved out of the station carrying “its brave burden”, including T. A. Robinson. When the train passed through Christchurch, the men were again cheered enthusiastically. At Lyttelton they were drawn up in sections in the railway yard and marched to the wharf, some being allocated to the Wahine and others to the Monowai – on their way to join the Trentham Regiment.

Thomas Robinson nominated as his next-of-kin, Mrs H. Neal (sister), care of T. A. Robinson, Rakaia, South Canterbury. Annie Elizabeth Robinson married Harry Neal in 1905 at Auckland, where they lived their entire married life. It is unlikely that Annie resided at Rakaia, rather that the Reading family of Rakaia provided an address for Thomas. Thomas was 35 years old, Roman Catholic, had a fair complexion, blue eyes and red-brown hair, and he bore tattoo markings on his right forearm. Of relatively slight build he was, none the less, in good health and had suffered no serious illness. He was willing to be inoculated for typhoid.

On 13 July 1915, while he was with the 1st Battalion, Trentham Regiment, at the Palmerston North Show Grounds, T. A. Robinson was admitted to hospital, with measles. It was 9 October 1915 when Rifleman Robinson embarked from Wellington bound for Suez, Egypt, with the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade. From Alexandria he embarked in December for Matruh which he reached two months later, February 1916. Seven weeks later he was off to France. Once overseas, he incurred penalties for misconduct on several occasions – on 6 June 1916 he forfeited 14 days pay for absence without leave, and the following day 1 days pay for drunkenness; in February 1917deprivation for absence from tattoo and roll call; and he incurred 28 days Field Punishment and forfeited 2 days pay for absence from 6.30pm parade on 25 May 1917, when named for duty in the trenches, until reporting at 9.30pm on 26 May 1917. Thomas Augustus Robinson, 23/584, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, was reported wounded on 22 September 1916 – no particulars. Shortly after rejoining his unit on 29 September he was detached to the 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company for four months. In March 1917, following his infringement, he was again detached to the Tunnelling Company. For four weeks in April-May 1917 he was with the New Zealand Working Battalion.

Little more than a week after his last instance of misconduct and at the age of 37, Thomas Augustus Robinson was killed in action, on 7 June 1917, at Messines, Belgium. Casualty list 606 reported 141 deaths in action. Although the Battle of Messines was a striking success, the New Zealanders paid a heavy price for success. The name of Rifleman T. A. Robinson is inscribed on the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial in the Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium. His name is listed among 53 men from the district, who had given their lives, on the Rakaia War Memorial, which was unveiled by Minister of Defence Sir Heaton Rhodes on Anzac Day 1922. He is honoured also on the Ashburton War Memorial.

Thomas signed a brief will in the presence of an officer on 6 June 1917, the day before he was killed in action. In it he leaves everything due to him to Miss Matilda Breading. Matilda was a sister of the Breading brothers for whom Thomas was working; she herself died in 1918 at the age of 29. Matilda responded that she was the beneficiary named in the Will but that she did not intend to apply for probate. Thomas Augustus Robinson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. A form listing his service medals was prepared for Matilda Breading. There is no record of their being sent.

On 30 May 1915 Isabella Robinson, the wife of Thomas, had applied for the shilling per day separation allowance granted to the wives of members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, enclosing her marriage certificate and giving her address as Orepuki. At this time Thomas was in camp. As of 2 August 1920, his sister and next-of-kin, Mrs H. Neal, previously of Rakaia, could not be found. A note was added to his Personnel File to the effect that “No notices re Medals were to go to Mrs I. Robinson (wife?)”. His scroll and plaque, however, were sent to Mrs I. Robinson, 7 Corunna Avenue, Newtown, Wellington on 1 August 1921 and 2 February 1922 respectively. The CWGC record notes “Husband of Mrs I. Robinson, of Wellington”. Thomas’ nephew, Dene Lawrence Neal, was a casualty of World War II, lost at sea while a prisoner of war.

John Frederick Robinson (1888-1967), who served with the New Zealand Forces in World War I, is thought to be a brother of Thomas Augustus Robinson. He was residing at Waikaia, and named as his next-of-kin Thomas Robinson, Winton – brother? John had embarked with the Main Body in October 1914. His next-of-kin – Thomas Robinson, Winton - was not found at that address as of 26 October 1918, after John had been admitted to hospital in London. John returned to New Zealand late in 1919, after over five years abroad. His wife and two little children left in December 1919. When he had married in London in July 1916, he named his father as James Robinson and stated that he was deceased. It appears that Annie, the mother of this family, may have died when some or all were relatively young.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [03 February 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0099102 [24 April 2014]; CWGC [03 February 2014]; Ashburton Guardian, 25 & 31 May 1915, Timaru Herald, 27 May 1915, 28 June 1917, Press, 31 May 1915, Sun, 31 May 1915, New Zealand Times, 17 October 1916, Otago Witness, 8 November 1916, Auckland Star, 28 June 1917, North Otago Times, 28 June 1917 (Papers Past) [17 February 2014; 10 January 2016; 23 November 2017; 28 March 2018]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [10 January 2016]; Christchurch Roman Catholic Diocese Baptisms Index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 January 2016], Baptism record sighted (Timaru) [21 March 2018]; Presbyterian Marriages, Otago-Southland Index; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au); School Admission records (Dunedin Branch NZSG) [23 November 2017]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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