Profile

WEDERELL, James Percy
(Service number 369)

Aliases Known as Percy. Enlisted as James RHODES.
First Rank Private Last Rank Lance Corporal

Birth

Date 26 November 1886 Place of Birth St Andrews, Timaru, South Canterbury

Enlistment Information

Date 26 August 1914 Age 26 years 9 months
Address at Enlistment Sydney, New South Wales
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Attestation Paper says Single, but in fact Married. Married Margaret Mary MAHONEY on 12 January 1910 at Timaru, NZ. Two children - Moira Gabrielle WEDERELL born on 9 August 1912 at Christchurch; Roger Dillon WEDERELL born on 11 August 1914 at Timaru. .
Next of Kin Attestaion Paper - Robert RHODES (father), Papanui Road, Christchurch. Later endorsed as Mrs Margaret WEDERELL (wife), of Timaru, Canterbury, NZ, and later of 441 Barbadoes Street, St Albans, Christchurch, NZ
Religion Church of England.
Medical Information Height 5 feet 11 inches. Weight 12 stone. Chest measurement 37 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair black.

Military Service

Served with Australian Imperial Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation C Company
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 3rd Battalion (Infantry)
Date 20 October 1914
Transport HMAT Euripides
Embarked From Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 1st Australian Division, Infantry, Light Horse

Military Awards

Campaigns Blakans (Gallipoli - August Offensive, 6-11 August 1915)
Service Medals 1914-1915 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

Gunshot wound to left thigh at Gallipoli; admitted to No 1 General Hospital at Cairo on 1 May 1915. On 26 June 1915 admitted to Base Details at Cairo.

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 29 March 1915 Age 29 years
Place of Death Gallipoli Peninsula
Cause Killed in action
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials Memorial wall, Timaru (as WEDERELL P J); Basilica of the Sacred Heart; Australian War Memorial; Mackenzie War Memorial, Fairlie, 2016 additions

Biographical Notes

James Percy Wederell, known as Percy, was the son of Charles and Maria (née Nelson) Wederell. Charles was an early settler in Temuka and married Maria in 1864. Percy was born on 26 November 1886 at St Andrews, South Canterbury, 11th of 13 children. He was educated at St Andrews School near Waimate, where he had a part in “Playmates” at the annual concert in December 1891, and at Silverstream School in the Mackenzie Country. When Percy and another school lad were clowns at the Silverstream concert in March 1898 they kept the audience in a constant state of laughter with their comic songs and antics.

Percy’s talent was to the fore again at very successful entertainment to raise funds for the St Andrews Cricket Club in August 1898, when he had a role in a most amusing farce, “The Asylum or the Mad-house”. He was also a keen and competent member of the Timaru and St Andrews Gun Clubs. In competition in August 1903, while still just a lad, he tied for first place and comfortably won the shoot off, amidst hearty applause. In a sweepstake on the same day he kept up his top form to score another win. The following month at the Temuka Gun club’s match, in a challenging handicap match, the winner “turned up in that brilliant young shot, Percy Wederell, who from scratch killed seven birds [inanimate]”. A week later in a live bird match, he again tied but missed in the shoot off. He finished in a six-person tie in a match in October 1909, then won the second match outright.

Percy married Margaret Mary Mahoney on 12 January 1910 at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Timaru. He worked as a clerk at the Frozen Meat Company at Pareora before moving into the hotel industry at Akaroa with his brother John. He took up a Publican’s Licence for the Metropole Hotel in July 1913. At Akaroa he became involved in community activities, being elected to the committees of the Akaroa Sailing Club, the Wainui Defence Rifle Club and the Akaroa Gun Club (less than two weeks before leaving the country).

Financial issues had surfaced in October 1913. After becoming bankrupt he left in April 1914 for Sydney where he was employed by the Licensee of the Court House Hotel at Dubbo, NSW. He had sought to transfer the licence pertaining to the Metropole Hotel. His wife Margaret, their daughter and still to be born son remained in New Zealand and returned to her native Timaru.

In early August 1914 Margaret was granted a separation order from J. P. Wederell, on the grounds of desertion, with custody of the two children of the marriage, and an order for £1 per week for maintenance. The order adjudicating James Percy Wederell, of Akaroa, hotel proprietor, a bankrupt, was granted on 26 October, by which date Percy was already at sea on his way to the Front. At the meeting of creditors on 1 November 1914, it was stated that Percy conducted most of the business transactions, but in April last he disappeared. The books were of a rather unconventional manner, very rough and difficult to follow. It was decided that no good purpose could be served by bringing back J. P. Wederell. It was suggested that Percy may have had an interest under the will of his father and also that he may have been possessed of certain land.

Percy enlisted on 26 August 1914 at Sydney, New South Wales, with the Australian Forces, under the name of James Rhodes. False information is given on enlistment as regards name, marital status and next-of-kin. On 27 March 1915 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. He suffered a gunshot wound to the left thigh and was admitted to the No 1 General Hospital at Cairo. He rejoined his unit Anzac in early July 1915. Less than a month later he was killed in action at Gallipoli, sometime between 7 and 12 August 1915. Lance Corporal J. Rhodes, a New Zealander connected with the Australian forces, was reported wounded, in the Timaru Herald of 28 May 1915. In the 9 September 1915 issue he appeared in the 75th casualty list as killed in action; and again on 21 September, this time recorded, correctly, as of the 3rd Battalion.

It was on 3 November 1916 that Margaret Wederell (née Mahoney) received word from the Commonwealth Defence Authorities that her husband, Percy James Wederell, who enlisted with the Australian Forces, was killed in action on August 6th, 1915.

Among the effects returned following his death were photos, a gift box, a watch (damaged), cards, poems, a mirror and a handkerchief, and in a second package a note book and gospel.

On 2 December 1916 at Timaru before a solicitor Margaret Wederell made a statutory declaration that she was the widow of James Percy Wederell deceased, and that she had married Percy on 12 January 1910 at Timaru. She stated that at the time of marriage Percy was employed as a clerk by the Canterbury Frozen Meat and Produce Export Company Limited at Pareora and further that Mr Robert Rhodes of Bluecliffs St Andrews was a Director of that company. About April 1913 Percy left the Frozen Meat Company and about July following he went into business as a hotelkeeper at Akaroa. James Percy Wederell got into financial difficulties in the hotel business and left New Zealand for Sydney on 8 April 1914 by the “Maunganui”. Margaret said that she had not seen nor heard from Percy since he left New Zealand.

About July 1915 Mrs Burns of Chester Street, Timaru, showed her a postcard which she had received from her son Cyril Burns (Cyril James Burns, 8/1712) written in Egypt in which he stated that Percy Wederell was there in the Hospital going under the name of Rhodes. That same July she was shown by Commissioner Cullen the head of the Police Department of New Zealand a photograph of three soldiers one of whom she recognized immediately as being James Percy Wederell. She was later informed that the said photo was taken in Egypt and that the man whom she recognized as Percy was the man who was a member of the Australian Military Forces under the name of Lance Corporal Rhodes.

Margaret was also shown at the General Post Office in Christchurch the effects sent to New Zealand to be delivered to Robert Rhodes as the effects of Lance Corporal Rhodes. Amongst them was a watch with an inscription stating that it was presented to James Percy Wederell by his fellow employees at the Frozen Meat Company. Margaret herself had been present at the presentation of the watch and had seen it frequently during her marriage. She was, therefore, in no doubt that Lance Corporal J. Rhodes was in fact James Percy Wederell.

In 1915 Margaret’s sister had made enquiries as to the identity of James Rhodes and stated that the physical description of James Rhodes fitted very well that of James Percy Wederell.

Margaret and their two young children were left destitute and dependant on her father, Daniel Mahoney, for support.

Margaret received two packages of Percy’s personal effects after they were unclaimed at the Christchurch address of Robert Rhodes (there being no such person). And, in due course, she received the Memorial Plaque, King’s Message, 1914-1915 Star, British War, Victory Medal, and identity disc.

In 1920 Percy's widow Margaret, who was then residing at "Shanballa", Rose Street, Timaru, applied for the War Service Gratuity Allowance but was referred to the Defence Department in Melbourne. Shortly after this she and her children moved to Christchurch. Margaret and the children were granted a pension effective from 12 October 1916.

The children of the marriage were Moira Gabrielle Wederell born on 9 August 1912 and Roger Dillon Wederelll born on 11 August 1914. Roger served in World War Two as a Captain. From the 1920s the family seemed to ‘get on their feet’. In March 1927 Margaret announced that she had taken over the management of the Hotel Metropole at Akaroa. The hotel was depicted as being top class, and “Our draft Whisky is the famous Highland Nectar.” Her children did well at St Mary’s Collegiate School, especially in reading and writing, and featured in concert items. At the Akaroa Convent School, Moira performed a piano duet and Roger gained Proficiency. All three variously participated in tennis, golf, dance, music, and bridge. Margaret lived on to the age of 88, dying in 1975. Moira died in 1999 and Roger in 1998.

Percy is remembered on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, on the Timaru War Memorial, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Memorial, and the Australian War Memorial. His brother William Nelson Wederell also served in World War One.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [16 November 2016]; Attestation Paper for Australian Imperial Force (National Archives of Australia) [16 November 2013]; CWGC [August 2013]; Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour [25 July 2013]; New Zealand Wargraves Project [28 July 2013]; Australian First World War Embarkation Roll (as James RHODES) [28 July 2013]; Australian Imperial Force Nominal Roll (as James RHODES) [28 July 2013]; New Zealand Defence Force Base Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 22525 W5715 BR37/3919) (James RHODES a.k.a. James Percy WEDERELL) [25 July 2013]; Australia, Imperial Force Burials at Gallipoli, 1915 (ancestry.com.au) [15 April 2015]; Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080) {16 April 2015]; School Admission Records [Waimate Branch NZSG, South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013]; Ruru Cemetery Christchurch headstone transcript (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Christchurch Cemeteries CD, produced by Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2015]; Oxford Cemetery burial records (Waimakariri District Council Cemetery Records) [16 April 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [15 April 2015]; Dubbo WWI Soldiers Who Died at Gallipoli (Compiled at Macquarie Regional Library, August 2014) [16 April 2015]; Timaru Herald, 29 December 1891, 11 March 1898, 20 December 1897, 15 August 1898, 21 August 1903, 11 & 18 September 1903, 28 October 1909, 16 October 1913, 7 August 1914, 28 May 1915, 9 & 21 September 1915, 4 November 1916, Press, 24 July 1913, 9 May 1914, 29 October 1914, 3 November 1914, 6 November 1916, 15 December 1920, 17 December 1927, 7 August 1935, Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 26 September 1913, 7 October 1913, 27 March 1914, 18 March 1927, 27 March 1928, 24 April 1928; Star, 25 October 1914, 2 November 1914, Sun, 28 October 1914, 2 November 1914, Poverty Bay Herald, 10 November 1916 (Papers Past) [28 July 2013; 06 & 10 November 2013, 27 June 2014; 14 & 15 April 2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [15 April 2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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