FERGUSSON, Athol Alexander Cormack
(Service number 68351)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||31 August 1897||Place of Birth||Gapes Valley, Geraldine, New Zealand|
|Date||19 November 1917||Age||20|
|Address at Enlistment||Pleasant Point, New Zealand|
|Occupation||Farm labourer for J G Shepherd|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Barbara Fergusson (mother), Pleasant Point, Canterbury, New Zealand|
|Medical Information||5 foot 5 inches tall, weight 117 pounds (53 kgs), fair complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||37th Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||2 Canterbury Infantry Regiment, C Company|
|Date||9 May 1918|
|Transport||HMNZT 103 Maunganui|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Liverpool, Merseyside England|
|Other Units Served With||3 Reserve Battalion Canterbury Regiment Sling Camp|
|Last Unit Served With||2 Canterbury Infantry Regiment|
|Service Medals||British War Medal & Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||8 July 1919||Reason||No longer physically fit for war service|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
30 Sep 1918 - admitted sick to 2 NZ Field Ambulance & transferred to 49 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS); 14 Oct admitted to 16 General Hospital, Le Treport, with neuritis, sciatica, and nerves; 25 Oct transferred to England; 27 Oct admitted to Royal Victorial Hospital, Netley; 15 Nov transferred to NZ Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch; after the war further treatment was received at Hanmer, Rotorua and Rannerdale Home Christchurch
|Date||26 July 1936||Age||38|
|Place of Death||Timaru, New Zealand|
|Notices||Press 27 July 1936|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Waimari Cemetery, Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Memorial Reference||Block ME1, Plot 14|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Athol Alexander, second son of Athol (1861-1939) and Barbara McCreath (1870-1946 nee Patrick) Fergusson, was born at Gapes Valley near Geraldine, on August 31, 1897. Although his parents were living at Woodbury when he was born, NZ Birth, Death & Marriage records and his military file, all state he was born at Gapes Valley. It is possible that his mother Barbara went to her parent’s home for the birth. Athol snr was born at Kaiapoi in 1861, his parents Daniel and Catherine having earlier arrived on September 12, 1859, at Lyttelton from Scotland on the ship “Cresswell.” Daniel later in 1862 moved to George Town near Temuka, where he opened the first school in the Arowhenua district, and later in 1864, became clerk to the first Geraldine District Roads Board. Athol’s father also became prominent in the local community at Woodbury, being a keen miniature rifle shot, school board member, and MC for many events. His mother Barbara was also born in New Zealand, her parents, the Patrick’s, having come out from Scotland about 1860, settling in 1869 at Gapes Valley near Geraldine.
Athol received his education at the Geraldine District School, and later at Pleasant Point High School. On leaving school he was working for Mr JG Shepherd, a local farmer at Pleasant Point, when on turning 20, was balloted for war service. Not a big lad, he was described as being Presbyterian, 5 foot 5 inches tall, weighing 117 pounds (53 kgs), having a fair complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes, and being single, nominated his mother Barbara as his next of kin. He left with other South Canterbury men by train from Timaru for Trentham Camp on November 19, 1917. Here he would have received three weeks basic recruit’s drill, before moving to Featherston Camp for more intensive infantry training.
On May 9, 1918, he left from Wellington with the 37th Reinforcements, C Company 2 Canterbury Infantry Regiment, aboard HMNZT103 “Maunganui” disembarking at Liverpool, England, on June 24. Also travelling on the “Maunganui” was the 29th Reinforcements Maori Contingent, a total of 970 troops in all. On his arrival in England, he was posted to the 3rd Reserve Battalion Canterbury Regiment at Sling Camp, later moving to Larkhill on September 3. Here NZ soldiers were prepared before moving to the front lines in France and Belgium. On September 18 he proceeded overseas, and marched in to Etaples.
On September 23 1918 he was attached to the 1st Company of the 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment in the field. By this stage of the war the NZ Division was involved in the 100 Day Offensive pushing the Germans back towards Belgium–German border. On September 30 he was admitted sick to 2 NZ Field Amb, transferred to 49 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), and on October 14 admitted to 16 General Hospital at Le Treport suffering from neuritis, sciatica and nerves. On October 25 he was transferred to England, and admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, near Southampton, on October 27. The Timaru Herald on November 11 reported:
“Mrs A. Fergusson, Pleasant Point, has received word that her son, Athol Fergusson, was admitted to hospital in England on October 27, suffering from neuritis, sciatic, and nerve trouble. Private Fergusson left with the 37th Reinforcements. He is 21 years of age, and was educated at the Pleasant Point High School.”
On November 15 Athol was sent to the NZ Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch, before embarking on Draft 204 aboard SS “Tahiti” at Liverpool on December 3, 1918, for his return to New Zealand, arriving at Port Chalmers on January 11, 1919. On his return Athol spent some time in the hospital at Hanmer, before being finally discharged from the army on July 8, 1919, as no longer physically fit for war service. Having served a total of 1 year and 232 days, he was later awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
On his return to New Zealand Athol took up farming but was seriously incapacitated by his illness. On January 29, 1924, he married Rachael Gliddon Reddecliffe (1894-1992), daughter of Richard and Mary (nee Agnew) Reddecliffe, and a son Maurice Athol was born in the same year but died aged 9 years on July 26, 1934. In 1928 they were living at 15 Bennett Street, Christchurch, Athol being listed as a pensioner and by 1935 were back in Pleasant Point. On July 26, 1936, at the age of 38 years. Athol died at Timaru and was later buried in the Waimairi Cemetery, Christchurch, next to his son Maurice. His wife Rachael remarried in 1938 to Percy Miller Patrick, and died at Te-Awamuti on February 2, 1992, aged 97 years.
When Athol died in 1936 the Timaru Herald reported on 5 August: "The death occurred recently of Mr Athol Ferguson (sic), better known to his many friends as Fergie, at the age of 39. Mr Ferguson, who was the son of Mr and Mrs A. Ferguson, of Pleasant Point, but formerly of Woodbury, was born at Gapes Valley, and was educated at Geraldine. As a young man he left New Zealand with the 37th reinforcements, and was injured in France. On returning to New Zealand he took up farming, but his war injuries seriously incapacitated him. He married in 1924 and had one son, who died at the age of nine on July 26, 1934. By strange coincidence, Mr Ferguson himself died on July 26, just two years after the death of his only child. War injuries necessitated treatment at Rotorua and Rannerdale Home, Christchurch, where Mr Ferguson was extremely popular. He bore his injuries for 18 years, with great courage, and it was his cheerfulness which made him so popular with all who knew him. The service at his home at Pleasant Point was conducted by the Rev. W. McNeur, returned soldiers acting as pall bearers from the house to the hearse. Returned men headed by Dr P.B. Benham, president of the Pleasant Point branch of the RSA, marched to the boundary of the township and formed a guard of honour as the cortege left for the Waimairi cemetery, where the burial took place. The deceased's three brothers and his brother-in-law acted as pallbearers, the service been conducted by the Rev. Simmonds."
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [January 2018]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at http://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=80221; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [January 2018]; "!. Men From South Canterbury" in the Timaru Herald 20 November 1917 p6, "Roll of Honour" in the Timaru Herald 7 November 1918 p5, "Personal items" in the Timaru Herald 4 January 1919 p7, and "Funeral notices"in the Press 27 July 1936 p15, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/; Christchurch City Council Cemeteries database record for Arthur Narbey at http://heritage.christchurchcitylibraries.com/Cemeteries/interment.asp?surname=fergusson&firstname=athol&year1=&year2=; "New Zealand Settler Ships - Cresswell 1859" on Geni at https://www.geni.com/projects/New-Zealand-Settler-Ships-Cresswell-1859/42423; "Family's history in print" on Stuff at http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/28528/Familys-history-in-print (April 2018)
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Researched and Written by
Tony Rippin (South Canterbury Museum), Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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