FITZGERALD, Richard Henderson
(Service number 39040)
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||2 January 1894||Place of Birth||Winton|
|Date||7 October 1916||Age||22 years 9 months|
|Address at Enlistment||40 Grey Road, Timaru|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Ellen FITZGERALD (mother), 36 Dean Street, Christchurch (later at Frankton Junction)|
|Medical Information||Height 5 ft 7in. Weight 113 pounds. chest 31-34½ inches. Eyes brown. Hair black. Complexion dark. Sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Teeth sound. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Fit.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Reinforcements G Company|
|Date||13 February 1917|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Plymouth, Devon, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 3rd Battalion|
|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|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
27 June 1917, France - gunshot wound to right hand; 13 October 1917, at Ypres, France - shrapnel wound to right thigh; transferred to England and admitted to Walton-on-Thames Hospital on 7 November; 24 November transferred to the Military Hospital at Epsom.
|Date||2 April 1918||Age||24 years|
|Place of Death||Brocton Reserve Depot Camp, United Kingdom|
|Cause||Died of misadventure - accidentally suffocated whilst lying face downwards on a mattress whilst intoxicated.|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Cannock Chase War Cemetery, Staffordshire, England|
|Memorial Reference||4. A. 3.|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Richard Henderson Fitzgerald was born on 2 January 1894 at Winton, the youngest of ten children born to James and Ellen (née Henderson) Fitzgerald, of Winton. James and Ellen emigrated from their native Ireland in 1875 and married soon after at Queenstown. They settled at Winton where they raised their family. Richard was educated at Winton School, having possibly also attended the Invercargill Marist School. Mr James Henderson died in November 1899, when Richard was just five years old. While James is buried at Winton, his wife Ellen is buried at Hamilton (1936). Sometime in the early 1900s Mrs Fitzgerald moved to Christchurch.
On leaving school Richard served his apprenticeship with Mr J. Baxter, chemist, Christchurch. R. H. Fitzgerald was one of a group of young men who were each fined 10 shillings with costs in April 1913 at Christchurch for failing to render personal service under the Defence Act. Come September 1916 and Richard Fitzgerald, 36 Dean Street, Christchurch, was one of only fourteen men who registered at the Christchurch area group office on 29 September. He enlisted on 7 October 1916 at Timaru, where he was a dispenser for J. C. Oddie, chemist, Timaru. Aged 22 years 9 months, single and Roman Catholic, he gave his address as 40 Grey Road, Timaru, and nominated his as next-of-kin his mother, Mrs Ellen Fitzgerald, 36 Dean Street, Christchurch. Fitzgerald was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 113 pounds and had a chest measurement of 31-34½ inches. His complexion was dark, eyes brown and hair black. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, his limbs, heart and lungs good, and his teeth sound. Free of diseases, vaccinated, and in good bodily and mental health, he was passed Fit.
The Christchurch quota of the Twenty-second Reinforcements left for Wellington on 18 October 1916, 106 men short. The men were addressed at the King Edward Barracks. The commanding officer said that “he had never addressed a better set-up and better behaved body of recruits in the rough”, for they were soldiers and that in itself had had its effect on them. Accompanied by the Regimental Band, the Twenty-seconds marched from the barracks to the Christchurch railway station, where they boarded a special train for Lyttelton, to leave for Wellington. Amongst the men who answered the roll-call was R. H. Fitzgerald. Rifleman Richard Henderson Fitzgerald embarked from Wellington, with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, on 13 February 1917 on the “Mokoia”. Disembarking on 17 May 1917 at Plymouth, England, he marched into Sling. On 6 June he proceeded overseas to France and joined the 3rd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in the field.
On 27 June 1917 in France R. H. Fitzgerald suffered a gunshot wound to the right hand. The casualty lists of wounded around this time were very heavy. Rifleman Fitzgerald was admitted to No. 3 Field Ambulance, transferred to the No. 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, before being admitted to the General Hospital at Wimereux. On 25 July 1917 he was discharged to the Base Depot at Etaples, then he rejoined his battalion in the field a month later. On 13 October 1917, at Ypres, France, he was wounded for a second time - a shrapnel wound to the right thigh - as reported in Casualty List No. 704. On this occasion he was admitted to No. 1 Field Ambulance, transferred to No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station, the next day moved to the Canadian Hospital at Boulogne, before being transferred to England on 17 October and admitted to Walton-on-Thames Hospital on 7 November. He was later transferred to the Military Hospital at Epsom, and on 22 December went to the New Zealand Convalescent Depot at Codford. It was the 25 February 1918 when he was attached to the Brocton Military Camp in England, to undertake Staff Duties and prepare for a return to France.
A return to France was not to be. Richard Fitzgerald died suddenly on 2 April 1918 at the Brocton Reserve Depot Camp, aged 24 years. He “died of misadventure” - accidentally suffocated whilst lying face downwards on a mattress whilst intoxicated. After he was found dead on 3 April 1918, an inquest was held and returned the verdict of accidental death while intoxicated and being suffocated. Details of his state when found lying on the road outside the camp the night before his death are given in the Personnel Record. He was buried in the Cannock Chase War Cemetery, Staffordshire, England.
Richard’s brother Edward Alexander Fitzgerald, who served in World War I, embarking in April 1917, was also wounded in October 1917; both Edward and another brother William John Fitzgerald, who embarked in August 1917, were in hospital in England, wounded, at the time of Richard’s death. Ellen Fitzgerald inserted an In Memoriam notice in the New Zealand Tablet of 10 April 1919 – “Of your charity pray for the repose of the soul of Richard Henderson, beloved son of Ellen Fitzgerald (Late of Southland), who died at Brocton, England, on April 2, 1918.” And again on 13 April 1922. Rifleman Richard Fitzgerald’s medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal – were sent to his mother in 1921, by which time she had moved to Frankton Junction, Hamilton, probably to be closer to family. A photo of Rifleman R. H. Fitzgerald, died of sickness, was printed in the Sun on 9 April 1918. His portrait appears in “Onward: Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Volume 4”compiled by P J Beattie and M J Pomeroy.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [12 December 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0040373) [04 April 2014]; CWGC [12 December 2013]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of internal Affairs) ; School Admission Indexes (Southland Branch NZSG) ; Star, 11 April 1913, 8 & 9 April 1918, Sun, 30 September 1916, 14 July 1917, 2 November 1917, 9 April 1918 [x 2], Press, 19 October 1916, 9 April 1918, Evening Post, 13 July 1917, 30 October 1917, 9 April 1918, Otago Daily Times, 14 July 1917, 31 October 1917, North Otago Times, 16 July 1917, NZ Times, 31 October 1917, Timaru Herald, 16 July 1917, 1 & 5 November 1917, 9 April 1918, New Zealand Tablet, 9 May 1918, 10 April 1919, 13 April 1922 (Papers Past) [23 October 2013, 13 December 2013; 13 October 2014; 14 & 20 August 2016; 11 December 2017; 09 May 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [09 May 2019]; NZ Cemetery records [09 May 2019]; “Onward: Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Volume 4”compiled by P J Beattie and M J Pomeroy (South Canterbury Branch NZSG)
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Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
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