KEARTON, Ralph Dawson
(Service number 6/4076)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 15 January 1890 Place of Birth Cleator Moor, Cumberland, England

Enlistment Information

Date 30 December 1915 Age 25 years
Address at Enlistment Ikawai, Glenavy
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status
Next of Kin C. T. KEARTON (father), Ikawai, via Glenavy
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 7½ inches. Weight 7 stone 5 lbs. Chest measurement 32-34½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair light brown. Sight normal - both eyes 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth satisfactory. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No fits. Will improve considerably with training. Has had a double varicocele operation performed in order to be eligible.

Military Service

Served with New Zealand Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 10th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company
Date 4 March 1916
Transport Willochra or Tofua
Embarked From Wellington, N.Z. Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western Europe
Service Medals 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


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

18 June 1916 admitted to No 1 Casualty Clearing Station, with shell wounds to his lega, arm and buttock.

Post-war Occupations


Date 18 June 1916 Age 26 years
Place of Death France
Cause Died of wounds
Memorial or Cemetery Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France
Memorial Reference II. E. 243.
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Waimate War Memorial; Willowbridge and Studholme District First World War Roll of Honour; Nukuroa Methodist Church Roll of Honour; Redcliff District Memorial (Killed in Action)

Biographical Notes

Ralph Dawson Kearton was the eldest son of Christopher Thomas (Tom) and Sarah (née Dawson) Kearton, of Ikawai, Glenavy, South Canterbury. He was born on 15 January 1890 at Cleator Moor, Cumberland, England, and baptised there on 21 May 1890. Ralph was at home at Cleator Moor in 1891 and 1901 before coming to New Zealand from the UK with his parents on the 'Ruahine' in 1909/1910.

The family settled initially at Hannaton, where Mr Kearton was a member of various local bodies (school, library, hall committee) and contributed musically to the community; and family members, including Ralph, were energetic workers for the school, the local Band of Hope and the Church. In August 1910 Ralph was one of a group which presented “Bobs, Dobbs, and Nobs” at a very successful Nukuroa Band of Hope meeting; in October the same year he contributed a song at a function to farewell a Willowbridge family; and a song again at the October 1911 Nukuroa Band of Hope meeting. And at the Hannaton School bazaar to raise funds for a hall in the Studholme and Willowbridge district, there was Ralph among the “Gentlemen helpers”.

Late in 1911 Ralph acquired some land at Nukuroa. In July 1914 he transferred 40 acres of land to his cousin, Ralph Thompson Kearton. Prior to enlisting he was engaged in farming.

At the Hannaton School prize-giving in December 1912, R. D. Dawson was one of several adults who gave songs. The following August, as a member of the Coronation Hall Christy Minstrel Troupe, he sang “Silver Threads Among the Gold” at their second concert at Studholme. And a few weeks later he sang at the Nukuroa Band of Hope meeting.

On leaving for Redcliff in July 1914 the family was presented with gifts, Ralph receiving a shaving outfit. At a very successful social gathering in the Redcliff School, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, in May 1915, Ralph sang “The King’s Own”. On this occasion a vote of thanks to the performers was carried by acclamation.

Ralph Dawson Kearton enlisted on 30 December 1915 after signing up for the Tenth Reinforcements and leaving for camp at Trentham with the Infantry the previous month. Although he was in generally good condition, it was noted at his medical examination that he would “improve considerably with training”. He had had a double varicocele operation performed in order to be eligible.

In the evening of 15 November Ralph was accorded an enthusiastic send-off in the Redcliff School at a social arranged by the young men of the district. He was one of 19 recruits who left from the Waimate Railway Station on 16 November. They paraded, accompanied by bands, and were addressed by the deputy mayor – “They have heard the call of duty, and have responded to it nobly. They are going to fight for truth and justice.. . . Over 2000 of our lads have laid down their lives on Gallipoli. Are we going to allow their sacrifices to be in vain? . . . . trust you will return covered with honour and glory.” The Rev. Stockwell said “we were sending men of the right stamp. . . . They were going to fight in a noble cause – the cause of liberty, freedom, righteousness, honour and truth.”

He proceeded to Egypt in early March 1916. Just three months later Private R. D. Kearton was dead. Ralph died on 18 June 1916 of the wounds he received in action in France. These were shell wounds to his legs, arm and buttock. He was admitted to the No1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station on 18 June 1916 and died that same day.

Ralph was a popular and efficient soldier. Lieut. H. Y. J. Manson, who was with him when he was wounded, paid tribute to him—"l came into close contact with him and have no hesitation in saying he was one of my best men. He was a good soldier and always willing, and what was of greater value, he could be relied upon absolutely to do anything asked of him.” He is buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France, which Lieut. Manson described as a “military cemetery in a very beautiful town in France”.

A Waimate officer writing from Sling Camp, Salisbury Plain, on 28th August, described the circumstances connected with the death of Private R. D. Kearton, of Redcliff. “It seems that he was in a dug-out along with five others, . . . . A bomb came in amongst them, and killed five of them out-right. . . . . The explosion was so severe that the other men in the trench did not even go to look to see if there were any left alive.”

He left no evidence of a Will, but it was authorized that Military Pay go to his father. Advice of his medals was sent to his father at Ikawai; later the plaque and scroll were sent. R D. Kearton is commemorated on the Timaru War Memorial Wall and on the Waimate War Memorial. The name of R. Kearton is inscribed on the Willowbridge and Studholme District First World War Roll of Honour, an asterisk indicating that R. Kearton was killed in action. His name is also inscribed on the Nukuroa Methodist Church Great War Roll of Honour, where an asterisk indicates that R. Kearton made the Supreme Sacrifice. The name of R. D. Kearton s recorded on the Redcliff District Roll of Honour (Killed in Action).

His cousin James Arnold Kearton also served and was seriously wounded and cousin Thomas Kearton served in World War I and died while a prisoner of war in World War II.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Centotaph Database [07 February 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0062820) [04 May 2014]; CWGC [07 February 2014]; Timaru Herald, 29 January 1910, 15 December 1911, 4, 11 & 20 July 1914, 13 November 1915, 5 July 1916, Oamaru Mail, 24 August 1910, 22 October 1910, 16 October 1911, 23 December 1912, 26 August 1913, 15 September 1913, 11 July 1914, 31 May 1915, 13 & 17 November 1915, 4 September 1916, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 9 & 16 November 1915, 22 April 1916, 4 July 1916, 27 October 1916, Otago Daily Times, 5 July 1916, Sun, 5 July 1916 (Papers Past) [07 February 2014; 04 October 2015; 23 March 2016; 01 July 2016]; [07 February 2014]; Kearton Genealogy (Kearton grandson of John Isaac Kearton) [07 February 2014]; UK Outward Passenger List ( [08 February 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [2014]; England Baptism record ( per FamilySearch) [25 March 2016]; 1891 & 1901 census ( [25 March 2016]; family notes by N. Halstead

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Logo. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.

Tell us more

Do you have information that could be added to this story? Or related images that you are happy to share? Submit them here!

Your Details
Veteran Details
- you may attach an image or document up to 10MB