WILLIAMS, Reginald Eric
(Service number 16989)

Aliases Reg.
First Rank Trooper Last Rank Trooper


Date 7 May 1885 Place of Birth Alexandra, Otago

Enlistment Information

Date 21 June 1915 Age 30 years 3 months
Address at Enlistment Waimate
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Fred WILLIAMS (mother), Jackson Street, Timaru. Later Mrs Emma WILLIAMS (wife), 138 Fitzgerald Street, St Albans, Christchurch
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 10½ inches. Weight 13 stone 7 lbs. Chest measurement 35-39 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair fair (light brown). Sight - both eyes normal, 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth satisfactory. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Fit for active service (11/12/16). Fit for active service (3/5/17).

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 29th Reinforcements Mounted Rifles Brigade
Date 13 November 1917
Transport Tofua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Mounted Rifles

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian Expeditionary Force (Palestine)
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 2 March 1919 Reason No longer physically fit for War Service on account of malaria.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

7 October 1918 - to hospital, sick 15 October 1918 - admitted to 78th General Hospital at Alexandria, sick with malaria. 20 October 1918 - dangerously ill at 78th General Hospital, malaria. 28 October 1918 - pronounced out of danger 78th General Hospital at Alexandria 2 December 1918 - transferred from Hospital to Base Depot Egypt

Post-war Occupations

Railway emploee - porter


Date 4 May 1924 Age 38 years
Place of Death Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch
Notices Timaru Herald, 5 May 1924; Press, 5 May 1924
Memorial or Cemetery Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 38, Plot 88
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Reginald Eric Williams, who was the third surviving son of Frederick (Fred) and Bridget (or Mabel) Cecilia (née Cleary) Williams of Jackson Street, Timaru, was born on 7 May 1885 at Alexandra. Frederick Williams was born Frederick William Shelmerdine in Manchester, Lancashire, England, and was at home with his family in 1861. F. W. Shelmerdine arrived at Lyttelton on 27 May 1871. As of 1873 he was playing cricket for the Kaiapoi Club and subsequently for Leithfield. In 1878 at Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand, Fredrick Williams married Bridget C. Cleary. Thereafter, Frederick was known as Frederick (or Fred) Williams and his wife as Cecilia. In the deciding fixture between Clyde and Blacks, played in early March 1886, ‘Mr Fred Williams fairly excelled all previous efforts in the field, he being quite at home in the slips, a place that he has filled with honor for some years past, and I think he is justly entitled to be designated as the “king of slips”.’ He was, at the time, a wool-washer at Springvale. In 1887 Fred applied for a slaughterhouse licence. He also took a leading part in entertainment for local causes – operetta, solos. While operating a wool-scouring establishment at Springvale near Alexandra, Mr Fred Williams secured the New Zealand agency for Wolesly’s Patent Sheep Shearing Machine, “a gentleman whose well known energy and tact so eminently fit him to fill the position”. He exhibited four very fine specimens – locks, pieces, belly pieces, and combing fleece – at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin 1889-90. He was also secretary of the Vincent County Horticultural Society, and he was worked hard to bring about successful shows. He also served a term as president of the Alexandra Debating Society.

From 1901 Mr Fred Williams was engaged with gold dredging. “Mr Fred Williams has been appointed master of the Blue Duck Company’s dredge, Matakanui, and being a competent and experienced man, the company are to be congratulated on securing his services.” He was appointed a country delegate to the Otago Cricket Association. His eldest son, Frederick Harold Williams, known as Harold, was selected in the country team to play town at Carisbrook, Dunedin, in March 1905. Fred Williams was still a dredge master in mid-1910. It was in August that the news broke that Mr Fred Williams had secured the appointment of manager of O’Meegan’s Hotel at Timaru and was to take up his new position on 1st September. He was presented with a travelling rug on behalf of the members of St Aidan’s Church and a purse of sovereigns from the Councillors and residents of the borough. Mrs Williams and her daughter, Florence, were also fittingly farewelled. “The departing lady had by her generous disposition, kindness of heart, and undoubted hospitality endeared herself to the whole community of the district; and young and old alike were recipients of that good lady’s benevolence. . . . . To charity she gave freely, to the sick she attended cheerfully, and in fact she was a comfort to all, for her cheerfulness betokened happiness even to those who happened to be in a despondent mood. And it must not be forgotten that all the womanly qualities possessed by Mrs Williams were equally shared by her daughter, who also had rendered appreciative services to church, people, and the town generally. . . . . Mrs Williams feelingly responded, thanking her friends for their kind words and handsome present. . . . . Miss Williams was also the recipient of a handsome brooch from the lady members of the congregation of St. Aidan’s Church.”

So, until 1910 they lived at or near Alexandra, where eight sons and two daughters were born, the younger daughter and a son dying in infancy. Mr Fred Williams had been engaged in the dredging industry, moving to Timaru on the termination of the “boom”. Reginald, along with siblings, was educated at Alexandra Public School, having some time away between April 1891 and May 1892. Their youngest brother, Vincent, finished his schooling at Timaru Main School. Reginald left school a month before his fourteenth birthday to go out to work. Given the cricketing prowess of his father and oldest brother, he is surely the Reg. Williams chosen to represent the Alexandra A and B teams for the 1905-06 season. Reg. Williams, on a 13-yards handicap, won 10 shillings for finishing a good 3rdy in the 300 yards handicap at the Alexandra Caledonian Sports held in November 1906. He finished first in the 220-yards handicap footrace at the sports gathering held on 8 March 1907 by the newly-formed Matakanui Athletic Sports Club. He played well for Alexandra against Matakanui in a football match in May 1908, his run with the ball in hand leading to a try. He featured again in football, in a drawn match against Clyde in May 1911, and in September 1911 he was the pick of the forwards when he represented Vincent County against Maniototo. In November 1910, Reg. Williams was a member of the Foresters’ Lodge team which debated the subject “Do colonials devote too much time to sport?” against a St Alban’s team, the Lodge team winning for the affirmative. He maintained his athletic fitness in South Canterbury, winning £1 for third place at the half-mile Wai Rongoa handicap at the Caledonian Sports at New Year 1914.

Reginald Eric Williams was a dredgeman at Alexandra before moving to Waimate where he was employed as a traffic labourer by the railways. A labourer for the New Zealand Government, he was residing at Waimate when he enlisted on 21 June 1915 at Timaru and was medically examined on the same day. He stood at 5 feet 10½ inches, weighed 13 stone 7 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 35-39 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue, and his hair fair (light brown). His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs. His limbs and chest were well formed, his teeth satisfactory, and he was free of diseases. Though not vaccinated, he was in good bodily and mental health. He was deemed fit for active service on 11 December 1916 and again on 3 May 1917. Single and of Church of England affiliation, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs Fred Williams, Jackson Street, Timaru.

So it was that R. E. Williams was one of the South Canterbury men who received an enthusiastic farewell when they left Timaru for Trentham on 25 August 1915. Headed by the 8th Regimental Band, they marched from the Drill Hall to the railway station, where the mayor complimented them and assured them of a hearty welcome on their return. The crowds who thronged the station and its precincts, cheered the departing soldiers again and again.

Reginald spent some considerable time in camp. Posted as Trooper to C Squadron, 8th Reinforcements, in August 1915, he was transferred as private to Quarter Master Stores in early November. Promotion to Corporal followed in mid-November and promotion to sergeant on 31st December. He was again promoted on 28 February 1916, to Quarter Master Sergeant. In June 1917 he was transferred to the Mounted Rifles 32nd Reinforcements and a week later he reverted to the rank of trooper at his own request and was transferred to the 29th Reinforcements.

Trooper R. E. Jackson embarked with the Mounted Rifles Brigade of the 29th Reinforcements, leaving Wellington for Suez, Egypt on 13 November 1917 by the ”Tofua”. Having disembarked on 21 December, he marched into Moascar and was posted to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Training Regiment and on 13 January 1918 to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Squadron. A couple of transfers occurred in April. On 7 October 1918, R. E. Williams was admitted to hospital, sick; on 15 October he was admitted to the 78th General Hospital at Alexandria, suffering from malaria. In October 1918, Mr F. Williams received advice to the effect that his son, Trooper Reg. Williams, was on 20 August reported to be dangerously ill with malarial fever in hospital at Alexandria. He was transferred from hospital to the base depot at Kantara, Egypt, on 2 December. A Medical Report which was prepared on 27 December 1918 at Ismailia proposed invaliding home because of malaria contracted in the Jordan Valley and resulting in seven weeks hospitalisation. Marked anaemia, heart dilation, tender and palpable spleen, and soft-sounding heart were noted. The infection was not considered permanent and re-examination was recommended in six months.

R. E. Williams returned home in Draft 210, which brought seventy invalided soldiers for Canterbury and the West Coast. They had embarked on the “Wiltshire” at Suez on 26 December 1918 and arrived at Wellington on 31 January 1919. Having come via Perth, Australia, they did not berth until 1 February, when they had been inspected by the Health Department officers and held up for 24 hours on account of the epidemic there. The South Island portion of the soldiers arrived at Lyttelton on 2 February and were conveyed to Christchurch. Those not belonging to Christchurch were taken for a motor ride and given afternoon tea at the Returned Soldiers’ Association rooms.

Reginald was discharged on 2 March 1919, being no longer physically fit for War Service on account of the malaria. A Provisional Medical Board assembled on the Troopship “Wiltshire” recorded that he was suffering from malaria and recommended discharge. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. From May 1916 his name appeared on the Waimate Daily Advertiser’s Roll of Honour – Answered the Call, a regular publication. On his return he worked as a porter for NZ Railways. He did, however, suffer a lengthy illness. Reg married Emma Williams in 1919. He and Emma probably knew each other from his Waimate days. Emma was one of eleven children, all born at Waimate. Two of her brothers – Alfred Williams and Ernest Williams – served in World War One. In 1919 Reg and Emma moved from Waimate to Christchurch where their two children were born - June Cecilia in 1921 and Frederic Eric in 1923.

Reginald Eric Williams died on 4 May 1924 at the Christchurch Hospital, aged 38 years – “dearly loved husband of Emma Williams, 138 Fitzgerald Street, St Albans, and fourth son of Fred and Cecilia Williams, of Timaru, South Canterbury”. His funeral left his residence for the Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, where a services stone marks his grave. His death from cirrhosis of the liver was attributed to the illness he contracted while serving in the war. He was survived by his widow and two little children. Emma died in 1969 and was buried at Bromley alongside Reg. “Deceased was from ten to fifteen years ago a prominent member of the Zingari Football Club, Timaru and a South Canterbury representative footballer.” [Temuka Leader. 6 May 1924] “We regret to record the death of Mr Reginald Williams, who passed away . . . . Older residents will join us in expressing deep sympathy with his wife and family and his parents, to all of whom his death will be a great shock.” [Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette. 7 May 1924] An In Memoriam was inserted by his wife and children and parents in the Timaru Herald in 1925 – In sad but loving memory . . . “Dearly loved and sadly missed.”

He had declared on 9 July 1918 that he had executed a Will which was in the custody of Fred Williams, Jackson Street, Timaru. He did sign a Will on 19 June 1920, appointing Fred Williams of Timaru and Emma Williams of Christchurch as executors. He bequeathed all - his household furniture, life insurance, and all money in the bank or due to him - to his wife Emma Williams. On 7 June 1924, he was deemed eligible for the plaque and scroll, both of which were issued a few years later.

Reginald’s father, Frederick Williams, died in 1933 and was buried with their older daughter, Florrie, who died at Timaru in 1915. When Mrs Cecilia Williams of Timaru signed her very precise Will in December 1937, a year before she was to die, she left her Timaru property to her eldest son, Frederick Harold Williams (Harold) absolutely. Harold had been away from New Zealand for many years and had served with the British forces in the war. The residue was to be bequeathed to her surviving children (except Harold) in equal shares, the share of any who had died go to lawful issue. Reginald was the only adult son to predecease Cecilia.

His brother, Walter Wilfred Williams, also served with the New Zealand forces in World War One; while his eldest brother, Frederick Harold Williams known as Harold, who had been out of the country for many years, served with the Royal Engineers; and another brother, Edgar Harry Lewis Williams, initially joined the Navy before enlisting with the Connaught Rangers (Ireland). A list of ex-pupils of Alexandra District High School who enlisted in the Great War was published in November 1920. Among those listed were six Williams brothers – Reginald E. and Walter who served with the New Zealand forces, Harold who served with the British forces and Edgar with the Irish, and also Roland and Vincent for whom no service records have been found, but who may have served with other forces. Roland appears not to be in New Zealand in 1914 and 1919, while Vincent appears not to be here in 1919, being too young for the 1914 electoral roll. Cecil Bertie Williams, his second oldest brother, a foreman of works and a married man with a family, was listed in the Second Reserves.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [14 August 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0122961) [21 October 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [06 May 2016]; School Admission record (Alexandra Branch NZSG); Press, 29 May 1871, 21 August 1915, 4 November 1918, 22 January 1919, 3 February 1919, 5 May 1924 [x 2], 18 June 1924, Dunstan Times, 5 March 1886, 6 May 1887, 30 December 1887, 6 January 1888, 24 January 1890, 29 August 1890, 12 November 1906, 4 May 1908, 5 September 1910, 15 May 1911, 25 September 1911, Otago Daily Times, 1 March 1901, 23 August 1901, Evening Star, 4 March 1905, 21 December 1909, Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette, 11 October 1905, 13 March 1907, 13 January 1909, 24 August 1910, 19 October 1910, 16 November 1910, 17 November 1920, 7 May 1924, Timaru Herald, 2 January 1914, 26 August 1915, 24 October 1918, 25 January 1919 [x 2], 29 January 1919, 5 May 1924, 4 May 1925, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 24 June 1915, 6 July 1915, 6 May 1916, Dominion, 19 November 1915, 24 October 1918, Evening Post, 1 November 1918, 31 January 1919, 1 February 1919, Otago Daily Times, 22 January 1919, Feilding Star, 23 January 1919, Star, 5 May 1924, Temuka Leader, 6 May 1924 (Papers Past) [17 November 2014; 05 April 2015; 23 & 24 November 2015; 03, 05 & 06 May 2016; 08 September 2020; 04 March 2021; 01 & 03 April 2021; 27 December 2021]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [27 December 2015]; 1861 England census return ( [27 April 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls (

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