DON, Frank Ernest
(Service number 23/1133)
|Aliases||Enlisted as Walter Ernest Nicol|
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||28 June 1889||Place of Birth||Dunedin|
|Date||29 May 1915||Age||26|
|Address at Enlistment||Excelsior Hotel, Timaru|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs A Don (mother), 80 Oban St, Roslyn, Dunedin|
|Medical Information||5ft 6in, 144lbs, fair complexion, green eyes, brown hair|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||D Company, 1st Battalion|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Date||10 September 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|
|Campaigns||Egyptian and Gallipoli|
|Service Medals||British War Medal, Victory Medal, 1914-1915 Star|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||30 June 1916||Reason||Discharged physically unfit (deformed foot)|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||4 May 1966||Age||77|
|Place of Death||Clyde|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Anderson's Bay, Dunedin|
|Memorial Reference||Block 45S, Plot 263|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Frank Ernest Don enlisted under the psuedoym WAalter Ernest Nicol, with service number 23/1133. The fact that did not appear to come to the attention of the authorities until Mr Don tried to get a pension in 1961. As Walter Ernest Nicol, he gave his date of birth as 28 June 1889, his age at 26. He was described as 5ft 6in, 144lbs, with fair complexion, green eyes, and brown hair. He was living in the Excelsior Hotel, Timaru and reported his last job was as a motor mechanic with Cook, Howlison Co, Dunedin. His next of kin, however, was his mother, Mrs A Don of 8 Oban St, Dunedin.
"Walter" enlisted on 29 May 1915 and was attached to 1st Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade as a rifleman, embarking from Wellington for Suez and Egypt 9 October 1915. He served as cook in Egypt from November 1915 until January 1916 – perhaps as his foot was giving him trouble. The New Zealand General Hospital in Cairo diagnosed a deformed foot in March 1916 and he was returned to New Zealand on the Ulimaroa within a few weeks, and discharged as physically unfit on 30 June 1916 having completed one year 33 days in the service. After his discharge Walter Ernest Nicol one again reverted to using his real name - Frank Ernest Don.
Frank was a motor mechanic in Otira in 1919, a carpenter in Lake Pukaki in 1928, and a carpenter in Otorohanga in 1935. He married Georgina Radford in 1935 and by 1938 the couple were living in Tomahawk, Dunedin. They were in Alexandra by 1946 but in 1961 Frank Don was in need of a pension and then things got difficult. He couldn’t prove his army service. In a letter to military base records in Wellington dated 27 March 1961 Frank, then living at the Bendigo Hotel in Alexandra wrote:
“When I joined the forces in 1915 I thought I was born in 1896, making me under age. There were four of us so we changed our names, a very foolish thing to do but we were young and foolish. I joined with the NZRB as Walter Ernest Nicol 23/1133 1st Batt, D Coy, 15th Platoon under Tom Wilfred, lieutenant. My next of kin in my paybook was my mother Mrs Milly Don, No. 8 Oban St, Roslyn, Dunedin. I was born in Dunedin on June 28th 1889 as Frank Ernest Don, so that makes me 72 on June 28th 1961. I was head carpenter for the MOW here for over 20 years. I knocked off in 1957 at 68 years of age and did not know I could have been drawing 100 pounds a year after I had reached 65 so I lost 300 pounds... I am receiving 70 pounds a year … I haven’t got any clothes, my shoes are worn out and I have to wait for a cold day so I can wear an overcoat to cover my dingy clothes… Is there any chance you could help me?”
The army made extensive inquiries and was able to confirm Frank Don’s claim. A pension was awarded. They noted: “Don states that when he enlisted he gave his name as Warne Ernest Nichol, but it was taken down as Walter Ernest Nichol and he left it at that and continued to use this name up to about the time of his marriage. He states he chose the surname of Nicol after his paternal grandmother and the christian name of Warne after his maternal grandmother. One of his sons is named Alexander Frank Nicol Don and the other Ernest Warne Radford Don.”
Frank Don died at Clyde on 4 May 1966. He was cremated and his ashes are interred at Anderson’s Bay Cemetery, Dunedin.
Auckland War memorial Museum Cenotaph database [August 2021]; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [August 2021]
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Sahiban Kanwal; Carol Bell, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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