FERGUSON, Donald James Alexander
7763 (South Africa);
|First Rank||Trooper||Last Rank||Trooper|
|Date||8 April 1878||Place of Birth||Geraldine, New Zealand|
|Date||17 Feb 1902 (South Africa); 25 Aug 1915 (WWI)||Age||23 (South Africa); 37 (WWI)|
|Address at Enlistment||C/o Mrs W Rooney, North St, Timaru - SA War C/o R. Wilson And Company, Timaru, WW1|
|Occupation||Meat Preserver (South Africa); Carter (WWI)|
|Previous Military Experience||South African War, 1899-1902 (serial No 7763)|
|Marital Status||Single (South Africa); Married, 1 child (WWI)|
|Next of Kin||Maggie Ferguson (sister) c/o Mrs Richmond 42 Barbadoes St Christchurch(South Africa); Mrs Maude Frances Ferguson, (wife) 25 Maltby Street, Timaru New Zealand (WWI)|
|Religion||Church Of England|
|Medical Information||5 foot 6 inches tall, chest 34-36 1/2 inches, weight 9 st 10 pds (62kgs), dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair, teeth fair, slight speech impediment.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||9th Contingent (South Africa); 7th Reinforcements, Canterbury Mounted Rifles (WWI)|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||NZ Mounted Rifles (South Africa); C Sqn 8th SC Mounted Rifles (WWI)|
|Date||12 March 1902 (South Africa); 9 October 1915 (WWI)|
|Transport||SS Kent (South Africa); HMNZT32 Aparima (WWI)|
|Embarked From||Port Chalmers (South Africa); Wellington (WWI)||Destination||Durban South Africa (South Africa); Suez, Egypt (WWI)|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||NZ Mounted Rifles (South Africa); Canterbury Mounted Rifles (WWI)|
|Campaigns||Transvaal, South Africa 1902 (South Africa); 1915-1916; Egypt & Sinai/Palestine 1916-1917 (WWI)|
|Service Medals||Queens South Africa Medal, (Transvaal 1902 Clasp); 1914-1915 Star, 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||March 1902 (South Africa)||Reason||End of hostilities (South Africa)|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
4 August 1916 - gun shot wound to leg. Admitted to 31 General Hospital, Port Said; 22 August - transferred to 27 General Hospital, Abbassia; 27 August - transferred to Convalescent Depot, Heliopolis.
Carter (after South African War)
|Date||19 July 1917||Age||39|
|Place of Death||Tel-el-Fara Palestine|
|Cause||Killed In action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Beersheba War Cemetary, Israel|
|Memorial Reference||Q. 55.|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru; Geraldine War Memorial & St Mary's Church Timaru Memorial Plaque|
Donald was born at Geraldine on 8 April 1878, son of Donald and Mary Ann Ferguson (nee Wickham) Ferguson. Donald lost both parents while still young. His father Donald was born about 1839 at Perthshire, Scotland, and died in Christchurch on 26 July 1886. He is buried in the Addington Cemetery. It is not known when he arrived in New Zealand, but in 1869 he married Mary Ann Wickham who was born in September 1841 at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England. She died on 30 August 1894, and is buried in the Balcairn Cemetery, North Canterbury.
On 17 February 1902, at Dunedin, Donald enlisted with the 9th Contingent New Zealand Mounted Rifles for war service in South African (Boer) War. At this time he was working as a meat preserver at Dunedin and gave his address as care Mrs W Rooney, North Street, Timaru. His next of kin was given as his sister Miss Maggie Ferguson, care of Mrs Richmond 42 Barbadoes Street, Christchurch. Trooper 7763 D.J.A. Ferguson travelled to South Africa aboard the SS “Kent”, sailing from Port Chalmers on 12 March 1902 to Durban, South Africa, where he served in the Transvaal. When the 9th Contingent’s service was over it sailed for home in July 1902. For this service he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with Transvaal clasp.
In 1909 Donald married Maude Frances Orchard, born Christchurch on 23 December 1882, and daughter of Frederick William and Elizabeth Victoria deMalmanche Orchard. A daughter, Betty Frances Valerie, was born in Timaru on 21 March 1913, who later married Edward Joseph Barnard. Betty died at Christchurch on 21 December 1986 and is buried with her husband Edward in the Ruru Lawn Cemetery. After passing his medical inspection at Timaru on 16 July 1915, Donald enlisted for service with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. At this time he was employed as a Carter for R Wilson & Co, Timaru, “Whole Merchants”. His papers described him as being aged 35 (he was in fact 37) as he had put his birth date down as 1880, Presbyterian, 5 foot 6 inches tall, weighing 9 stone 10 pounds (62kgs), with a chest measuring 34-36 ½ inches, a dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair, teeth fair and a slight speech impediment. He was married with one child. His wife, Maude of 25 Maltby Avenue, Timaru (later changed to 94 Hills Road, St Albans, Christchurch) was his nominated next of kin. On 25 August, after a farewell at the local Drill Hall, led by the 8th Regimental Band, he marched to the railway station with the other local volunteers to catch the overnight ferry to Trentham. Here on 26 August he was posted to C Squadron of the 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles, part of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles (CMR), and issued with his basic uniform, rifle and bayonet. He then underwent seven weeks of intensive infantry training before he left from Wellington on 9 October as part of the 7th Reinforcements Canterbury Mounted Rifles, aboard HMNZT32 “Aparima”.
The Aparima was part of a convoy made up of five ships: HMNZT30 “Maunganui”, HMNZT31 “Tahiti”, HMNZT33 “Navua”, and HMNZT34 “Warrimoo”. The Aparima had been especially designed for the Union Company’s India service, making over 30 voyages to Calcutta, and was known as a slow boat with a top speed of only 13.5 knots. The Aparima carried out a total of six convoys from New Zealand to Egypt and England until, on 19 November 1917, she was torpedoed by UB40 in the English Channel with the loss of 54 crew, including 17 cadets. But Donald’s trip aboard was relatively uneventful. Brief stops were made at Albany, Australia, on 21 October where they linked up with the Australian contingent. They then sailed on to Colombo, arriving on 4 November, where the troops had a short shore leave before passing through the Red Sea. They finally arrived at Port Suez on 18 November 1915. During the voyage they were kept busy cleaning their gear, exercise and rifle drills. Boxing was also a popular sport aboard where all could take part, being matched with others of the same size and ability.
On arrival in Egypt the whole of the Canterbury draft of the 7th Reinforcements were delayed in Cairo due to being assigned guard duty over Turkish prisoners. Later at their base at Zeitoun they joined the badly depleted Canterbury Mounted Rifles when they had returned from Gallipoli late December. Training continued until 23 January 1916, when they left for the Canal Zone, taking up new defensive positions on the Canal, before moving to the railhead at Ferrypost on 7 March. When most of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force sailed for France in April 1916, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) remained in Egypt. They formed part of an Anzac Mounted Division which was helping defend Egypt against the Ottoman Turks. Initially their task was to destroy or neutralise the Turkish bases in the Sinai Peninsula. An attempt by the Turks to attack the Suez Canal in August 1916 resulted in it being intercepted and defeated by the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division in the Battle of Romani. On 4 August 1916 the battle began with the NZMR moving out in pursuit of the Turkish forces. The Turks defended a strong position and the attack was abandoned with the loss of two men killed and 14 wounded. It was during this battle that Trooper Ferguson was one of the few wounded, receiving a gunshot wound to his leg. He was admitted to 31 General Hospital at Port Said on 5 August then transferred to 27 General Hospital Abbassia on 22 of the same month. On 27 August he was then transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Heliopolis, presumably on the improve. In October he was transferred to the ANZAC Training Regiment at Port Said before being posted back to the 8th Squadron Mounted Rifle Brigade at Brichmale on 9 October 1916.
Donald was therefore back with the NZMR as it followed up on its victory, pursuing the Turks to the Palestine frontier. They captured major Turkish positions at Magdhaba in December 1916 and Rafah in January 1917. In March 1917 the division captured Gaza in the First Battle of Gaza but was ordered to withdraw. It played a minor role in the unsuccessful Second Battle of Gaza in April before participating in the Third, successful, Battle of Gaza in October 1917. While the Anzac Mounted Division had been in the front line from 4 July to 18 August, the division had carried out 62 minor operations including reconnaissance patrols, ambushes, and raids on the railway line. During this time the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade lost two men killed and 10 wounded from shelling and bombing. One again Donald must have been at the forefront of the action as it was during these operations that Trooper Ferguson was killed in action on 19 July 1917. He was buried at Gaz-el-Basel (Tel-el-Fara) Military Cemetery on 20 July by Chaplain Charles Herbert Isaacson, Chaplain to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. Tel el Fara is about 18 miles West of Beersheba, and was important as a station on the railway line from Rafa. Thirty men of various units, who had fallen in the period June to October 1917 were, after the Armistice at the end of the war, re-buried in the Beersheba Military Cemetery along with others brought in from a number of scattered sites and burial grounds. Beersheba is a town on the edge of the Negev Desert, 75 kilometres south-west of Jerusalem, with the cemetery situated on the south-west of the town.
After the war Donald’s wife Maude was sent a plaque and scroll along with his war medals, which included the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. His name is commemorated on the Timaru Memorial Wall, St Mary’s Church Timaru Memorial Plaque and the Geraldine War Memorial. Donald’s wife Maude died on 17 January 1945 and is buried in the Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch.
NZ Defence Force Personnel Records, Archives NZ [April 2021]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at https://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=79949 [April 2021]; New Zealand War Graves Project at https://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/donald-james-alexander-ferguson ; "Off to the front : Eighth Reinforcements" in the Timaru Herald 26 August 1915, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/
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Researched and Written by
Patrina Buchanan; Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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