BLACKHAM, George Thomas
(Service number 12729)
|First Rank||Gunner||Last Rank||Brigade Quarter Master Sergeant (BQMS)|
|Date||11 October 1888||Place of Birth||Invercargill, New Zealand|
|Date||9 February 1916||Age||27|
|Address at Enlistment||26 Preston Street, Timaru, New Zealand|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs E. Blackham (mother), 26 Preston Street, Timaru, New Zealand|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||5 foot 7 inches tall, weight 191 lbs, chest 40-43 inches, brown hair, brown eyes, fair complexion, upper teeth false, lower teeth fair|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||13th Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||NZ Field Artillery|
|Date||31 May 1916|
|Transport||HMNZT 54 Willochra|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Devonport, England - changed to Plymouth, England on route|
|Other Units Served With||3 Brigade, 13 Battery NZ Field Artillery|
|Last Unit Served With||3 Brigade, 13 Battery NZ Field Artillery|
|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|
|Date||25 March 1919||Reason||Not fit for further war service on account of illness contracted on active service|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
28 October 1918 - Endell Hospital - influenza - transferred to Hornchurch 8 November 1918
|Date||5 November 1963||Age||75|
|Place of Death||Timaru, New Zealand|
|Notices||Internal Affairs 18 November 1963|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Timaru Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||Services Section, Row 121, Plot 16|
|New Zealand Memorials|
George, born in Invercargill on 11 October 1888, was the youngest of seven sons and four daughters of Richard (1837-1912) and Elizabeth (1837-1924, nee Webb) Blackham. George received his education at the Invercargill Middle School where most of his siblings had attended. His father originally farmed at Wrey’s Bush, Invercargill. The family later moved into Dee Street in Invercargill, where his father became a hotel keeper. After his father died in 1912, the family moved to 26 Preston Street Timaru, where George was living when he enlisted on 9 February 1916.
At the time of his enlistment George was employed as a clerk by the Timaru Gas Company. On his enlistment papers he stated he was aged 26 and born on 12 October 1889, thus putting back his age by one year. He was also registered at birth as Thomas George but enlisted under George Thomas, and was to use that name from then on. He was quite a big lad weighing 191 pounds at 5 foot 7 inches tall, with a chest measuring 40 to 43 inches, with brown hair and eyes, fair complexion and false upper teeth - his lower being fair. Posted to the NZ Field Artillery, he left from Wellington on 31 May with the 13th Reinforcements aboard HMNZT 54, SS Willochra. He arrived in Plymouth England on 26 July 1916. Originally the ship was destined to berth at Devonport but it was diverted to Plymouth when a few days out from Albany, Australia.
A further three months intensive training followed at Sling Camp before his unit left for France on 18 October 1916. After the Field Artillery was reorganised in France, Gunner Blackham was posted to 3 Brigade, 13 Battery on 20 December. Three brigades were formed, each of three 6-gun 18-pounder batteries and one 6-gun howitzer battery. Two were left under the immediate command of the Divisional Commander and one under the control of the Army Commander and called an "Army" Brigade. George’s unit was heavily involved in all the major battles at this time and promotion followed fairly quickly in the field. Gunner Blackham was appointed temporary Bombardier on 12 August 1917, followed by further promotion to temporary Battery Quarter Master Sergeant (BQMS) on 1 November. This latter promotion was confirmed on 1 February 1918. In October 1918, whilst he was on leave in England, he took ill with influenza and was admitted to hospital at Endell on 28 October, and transferred to the military hospital at Hornchurch on 8 November. Here he was medically boarded and found not fit for further war service on account of illness contracted on active service.
BQMS Blackham embarked at Liverpool on 3 December 1918 aboard SS Tahiti, and arrived back home in New Zealand on 13 January 1919. Discharge from the army followed on 25 March 1919. George had completed three years and 45 days service to his country and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for that service.
George returned to Timaru, where he was living at home, and was again employed as a clerk. In 1920 he married Miss Mary Gabriel Reordan, and in 1928, they were living at 26 Rathmore Street Timaru. George obviously enjoyed a game of bowls and was an accomplished player for the West End Bowling Club, featuring several times in the Timaru Herald over the years and also kept and raced pigeons. From 1935 to 1938 the couple resided at the Dominion Hotel Timaru (occupation: clerk), and from 1946 to 1949 both were at Winchester, occupied as a ‘Hotel Manager’. From 1954 they were back in the family home at 26 Rathmore Street.
George had retired, and died in the family home aged 75, on 5 November 1963. He is buried in the Timaru Cemetery, Services Section. Mary his wife died aged 80, and is buried in the Park Lawn Cemetery at Rangiora.
Three other Blackham boys served overseas during this war. 34808 Private William Blackham served with the Otago Infantry Regiment as a farrier in England. 25/948 Rifleman John Blackham served with the NZ Rifle Brigade and died on 26 September 1916 of wounds received during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette at Brockenhurst Hospital England. Finally 32298 Private Harry Blackham also served in France with 2 NZ (Area) Employment Company.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [06 September 2016]; New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at http://nzef.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=21282; "Returning Soldiers" in the Sun 6 January 1919, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [November 2016]; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [November 2016]; Timaru District Council cemetery records at https://www.timaru.govt.nz/services/community-and-culture/cemeteries/cemetery-search
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG; Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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