Monday, May 5, 2014

WATSON, Ralph Thomas (1898-1916)

Gunner Ralph Thomas Watson, 
Serial no 2/2291, NZ Field Artillery,
7th Reinforcements, NZ Expeditionary Fo
Albert Edward (Bert) Everett was born in Nelson in 1857 and was the fifth of 10 children. He came from a prominent Nelson family with civic connections. His parents Edward and Hannah Maria (Annie), née Pope, had married in Quebec, Canada, and spent several years in Montcalm before emigrating with three children to New Zealand on the Sir Edward Paget . Travelling as part of a family group which included Edward's father, widower Charles Snr, and brother Charles, with his wife Rebekah néHunt, they made landfall in Auckland on May 25, 1853 .(1)  While his father, brother and sister-in-law moved on from there to New Plymouth, Edward stayed in Auckland, where he ran the Montcalm Boarding House for gentlefolk on Chapel Street in town, bought land at Matakana on the East Coast and acquired another son. A Londoner by birth, Edward Everett made another move around 1856, probably lured by the possibilties presented by the Collingwood goldrush. He settled with his wife and first four sons in Nelson and soon prospered in his new home town.

Edward Everett (1821-1904)
Publican, merchant, J.P., City Councillor
and twice Mayor of Nelson.
Edward set up as a publican and wine & spirit merchant, getting an early boost by obtaining a lucrative "bush licence" in 1857 for the sale of liquor at the Aorere goldfields. Starting wih the Masonic and Bank Hotels, he built up a substantial property portfolio in Nelson over the years, including the historic Haven homestead, Stafford House. He also served as a City Councillor, Justice of the Peace and twice as Mayor of Nelson during the mid-1870s and early 1880s. (2) 

1864 saw a goldrush at Wakamarina and another opportunity for Edward Everett, who bought up John Wilson's Accommodation House at Canvastown and rebranded it the Pelorus Hotel. With his two oldest sons, Edward Jnr and Charles, in mind, he also set up a import and retail drapery business on Bridge Street. Trading as Everett Brothers & Company, with Edward Jnr in charge of the store and Charles in London, sourcing merchandise and sending it back home, this highly successful business would run for nearly 50 years, becoming a Nelson institution (3)

"Victoria House" ca 1910
Everett Bros. flagship at what is now 68 Bridge Street.
Later this would become the site for another long-running business.
H & J' Smith's department store.

Albert (Bert) Everett
Younger brother Albert attended Nelson College between 1871-74,. After finishing school he spent a few years learning the ropes at the family firm, then moved south, where between 1878-1884 he and his brother William helped set up and manage Everett Bros shops in Christchurch, Oamaru and Dunedin. Everett Bros (Chistchurch & Dunedin) folded in 1884 and Albert returned to Nelson with his wife and first child, taking a managerial role at the Nelson branch of the family firm. 

Around 1900 he set up a branch of Everett Bros. in Motueka. The first store was a modest affair. It did well, so a brand new, purpose-built store on High Street was opened with great fanfare on the 15th of November, 1902. (4) However, in 1904 Everett Bros.’ Motueka establishment was sold to its Motueka manager, William Uren, who continued to run it as a drapery under the name Uren & Co. Albert Everett kept his connections with the Motueka community, though. He had a new interest and may have made a trade - store for land. In 1904 he bought a farm (Sections 72 & 73) at Pokororo in the Motueka Valley, where he could experiment with apple production. (5) By 1907 he was winning prizes for his apples at the Motueka Horticultural Society Show.

Country cousin: Everett Bros' new Motueka store
on opening day, 15 November 1902.
This store was established at 151 High Street,
where Paper Plus stands today. 
Everett Bros expanded their operations in 1874 by building a second, larger shop on Bridge Street. Following the death of shopkeeper William Snow earlier that year, Everett Bros acquired the drapery which he had established on Trafalgar Street in the 1840s. Its stock and well-known trading name "Victoria House" were transferred to their own new premises, sited nearer the centre of town and opened in October 1874. However in March 1875 a spectacular fire destroyed the original Everett Bros store and its contents, luckily well insured.(6) Everett Bros were back to one store, wIth all business now devolving on "Victoria House".

On 26 November,1883, while living in Christchurch, Albert had married at St John's Church to his sister-in-law Ada née Gordon, fourth daughter of George and Christina (nee Allison) Gordon, and born 1862 in Melbourne, Australia - his brother William had married her older sister Alice in 1881. They had 12 children who were raised in Nelson at the family's John Scott-built Collingwood Street villa, several attending Nelson College and Nelson College for Girls. They were: George, Ethel, Gladys (who became a well-known headmistress at various girls’ schools in Sydney, Australia), Viola, Claire and Dorothy (twins), Gerald, Frank, Charles, Stella, John and Colin.

Captain George Everett
George (born 1884) was the eldest, and distinguished himself at Nelson College, which he attended 1900-1904, being captain of the First XV and Head Boy (School Captain) in his final year. A career soldier, he went to India after leaving school, having gained a commission with the British Imperial Army from the Nelson College Cadets. He was first posted as a second lieutenant to the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's), a British regiment stationed in India. In March 1907 he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of another British Indian Army regiment, the 67th Punjabis, who were stationed on the North West Frontier (now Pakistan). Gazetted a lieutenant the same year, he was attached to this unit for the remainder of his military career, being made up to captain in 1913.  He had just returned to Baluchistan after a three-year tour of duty with the Military Police in Northern Burma when he was killed on the 1st of May, 1917, near Fort Nili Kach on the Northwest Frontier, during an attack on a British convoy by Mahsud tribesmen. (7)

By the time of George’s death his father Albert was living at Pokororo. His wife Ada had died in 1906 and on the 10th of September, 1913, he remarried at the Nelson Registry Office to 40-year-old divorcée and former employee, Annie Watson, née Arscott, daughter of Thomas and Harriett Arscott of Timaru. (8) Annie and her parents had come out from England on the White Rose in 1875. Around the same period, Albert liquidated several Nelson properties, including the flagship Everett Bros. store on Bridge Street - he needed to free up capital for a new venture. He had decided to make a complete break and, with his new wife Annie, set up permanently on his Pokororo farm as a commercial fruitgrower.
Gunner Gerald Gordon Everett
Serial no 2/215, NZ Field Artillery
Main Body, NZEF.

Annie had a son, Ralph Thomas Watson, born in Wellington on Christmas Day, 1897, who became Albert Everett’s stepson. (9) Ralph got off to a rough start. His birth father was William John Turner Watson, an Australian carter who was working as a hotel-keeper at Makikihi when he married Annie in January 1897.  The Watsons struggled to make a living and he deserted her not much more than a year after Ralph's birth. She returned to her family in Timaru where she supported herself and her son by working as a dressmaker, eventually suing for divorce and gaining a decree nisi in 1910. (10)

Ralph's grandparents lived on Timaru's Dee Street. His grandfather, Tom, was a stoker with the Timaru Gas Company, his grandmother a supporter of women's emancipation. There were plenty of male role models amongst his extended family. His mother had three brothers  - Ernest, Frederick and Alfred Arscott  - who served in WWI and returned. Their names are inscribed on the Roll of Honour at the Timaru War Memorial.

A regular attendee at the Timaru Congregational Church Sunday School from an early age, Ralph was educated at Timaru Main School before moving to Tasman Street and Central Nelson Schools. He attended Nelson College from 1911 to 1914, at the same time as Albert Everett’s sons, Gerald and Frank. Ralph appears to have been a natural athlete and his mother may have taken him to Nelson to further his sporting prospects. In December, 1910, at the age of 12, he was coxswain for the losing crew in the final of the Nelson Rowing Clubs fours. At College he was a keen rugby player and cricketer, being a member of both the First XV and the First XI.

Nelson College First IV (year unknown, possibly 1914)
Frank Everett standing seond from right back row
His step-brother Ralph Watson is believed to be seated
on the chair at far right.
Annie Watson continued to support herself and her son by working as a dressmaker after shifting to Nelson, and was employed at a Bridge Street establishment, almost certainly Everett Bros, the biggest employer of tailors an dressmakers in Nelson. 

After leaving College, Ralph worked on mixed farms and orchards around the Motueka Valley, no doubt including his stepfather’s property, where his stepbrother Frank was employed. At the age of 17 he enlisted at Pokororo, becoming a Gunner with the NZ Field Artillery. As can be seen from a letter written at the Western Front to his grandfather, his fervour for the fray was still burning brightly a year later. (11) He was 19 when he was killed in action at the Somme. (12)

Five of Albert Everett’s children also served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during WWI. Gerald, who left New Zealand 16 October, 1914, with the Main Body, and his younger brother Frank, were both Gunners with the NZ Field Artillery. Frank and Gerald (known as “Flick”) were also Nelson College Old Boys, with Gerald a noted sportsman at school. (13) In an attempt to emulate his brothers, Albert's younger son, Charles (Charlie), tried to quietly slip away and enlist at the age of 17, but was found out by his father and forbidden to do so - not surprisingly given the toll war had already taken on his family.
Matron Fanny Wilson and nursing staff, ca 1918
No 2 New Zealand General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames.
Claire & Dorothy Everett seated together at right-hand end of front row.
Viola, who qualified as a nurse in Sydney, Australia in October, 1915, joined up with the Australian Army Nursing Service in December 1916 and served as a nurse in Egypt, returning to Australia July, 1919. (14) Twins Claire and Dorothy, who qualified together at Christchurch in June 1916, both went off to England with the 42nd Reinforcements, NZ Army Nursing Service, on 1st August 1918. They served together as staff nurses at No 2 New Zealand General Hospital, a military hospital for seriously wounded NZ servicemen situated at Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. The life-saving care their brother, Frank, received at No 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst in 1916 possibly inspired them to join up. The twins returned to New Zealand in August, 1919. (15)
Gunner Roy Edward Everett, MM
Serial no 2/1973, NZ Field Artillery
6th Reinforcements, NZEF

One of Albert's nephews went off to war as well; his brother Frank Evelyn Everett's son, Roy Edward Everett.  Roy was another Nelson College Old Boy. He also served as a Gunner with the NZ Field Artillery and was awarded the Military Medal for his actions during the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge in October 1917.

In October 1916, around the same time as Thomas Arscott was receiving the bad news about his grandson in Timaru, Albert was notified that his stepson Ralph had been killed and his son Frank seriously injured by shrapnel. (16) The two stepbrothers were close in age and clearly close friends as well, probably from their school-days. They joined up together on the same day, 24 August, 1915, left with the same draft on 9 October, 1915 and trained together in Egypt, where Ralph turned 18. They were together, too, in the same artillery gun pit at Flers when it was struck by an enemy shell on October 15, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. Ralph took the full impact and was killed instantly, while Frank received head injuries which left him unconscious for 14 days. Ralph was found lying over Frank, who later credited his stepbrother with saving his life. (17)

Gunner Frank Everett (1898-1982)
Serial no 2/2117, NZ Field Artillery,
7th Reinforcements, NZEF.
After three months in hospital in England, Frank was sent back to New Zealand for 12 months to recuperate, but was discharged in 1917 as a result of his injuries and later moved to Australia to live. Gerald was demobilised in 1919 and went to Auckland, where he resumed his former profession as a clerk with the Union Bank of Australia, He later retired to Nelson. Viola who never married, continued her nursing career in Australia, and in 1945 became Matron of the Kenmore Repatriation Hospital in Queensland. In 1957 she was awarded an MBE for her work there. Her sister Gladys (who preferred to called "Gordon") was awarded an MBE in 1960 for her work in the field of education. 

Dorothy and Claire returned to Nelson, but soon found it too quiet for them. They travelled together to San Francisco, where they both took work as nurses. Claire met and married Frederick (Fred) Strathde, a Scotsman. He had been recruited as a teenager by a Canadian bank, and remained in banking all his working life.. Fred and Claire made their home in San Francisco, and raised their three children there. Dorothy didn't ever marry, but continued working as a nurse. She was a fond aunt and spent many weekends with the Strathdee family. When the Strathdees eventually retired to Victoria on Vancouver Island, Dorothy returned to Nelson, where she died in 1966. Claire died in Vancouver in 1977.

Albert Everett at his Pokororo farm with his children
Claire (later Strathdee) and Charles (Charlie).
The Everett family suffered an earlier loss at home on the 1st January, 1915, when Albert’s daughter Stella drowned while swimming in the Motueka River. She was 24. Stella had epilepsy, which was thought to have been a contributing factor in her death. (18)

Albert Everett lived with his second wife Annie at his Pokororo farm, r
emaining closely involved with the local fruitgrowing industry until April 1935, when he leased out his farm and retired to Nelson, where he died 17 August, 1943, aged 85. Annie died 29 September, 1857. They both lie at the Wakapuaka Cemetery, with Albert's first wife, Ada, his parents and other family members close by.

A Gun-Pit in the Somme


Ralph Watson is commemorated at the Caterpillar (New Zealand) Memorial at Somme, France, which records the names of those NZ servicemen killed during fighting at the Somme in September and October, 1916, "whose graves are known only to God."

In New Zealand he is honoured at the Ngatimoti War Memorial, Tasman.

Acknowlegements: Jenifer Lemaire and Barbara Strathdee (Everett and Strathdee families); Nelson College Old Boys' Association per Gina Fletcher; Coralie Smith, Motueka & District Historical Association; Edward Stevens, Ngatimoti historian; Tony Ripon (curator), South Canterbury Museum, Timaru; and Teresa Scott (librarian, South Canterbury Branch NZSG.



     Nelson Evening Mail, 7 September, 1901
4  District News: Motueka – Opening of Messrs Evrett Bros.' New Store.
    Nelson Evening Mail, 21 November, 1902

5  Land records, Ngatimoti. A. Everett, 1904, Pokororo.

 6  Fire at Messrs Everett Bros.
    Nelson Evening Mail, 22 March, 1875.

   Evening Post 7 May, 1917. Personal Matters.

8  Marriage Certificate, Everett-Watson, ref: 1913/5143
    Dept of Internal Affairs, NZ.

9 Birth Certificate, Ralph Watson, ref: 1898/15255
    Note: Ralph Watson's birth at the end of 1897 was not registered until early 1898.
    BDM NZ Historical Records

    NZ Truth, 20 February, 1910

11At Home in the  Trenches: Ralph Watson's Experiences
     Reprinted from a letter sent by Ralph Watson to Thomas Arscott
      Timaru Herald, 1 August, 1916.

12  Military personnel record: Ralph Watson
      Archway Archives NZ

13  Military personnel records: Gerald Gordon Everett and Frank Gordon Everett
      Archway Archives NZ

14 Viola Everett AANS (Australian Imperial Force).
     Service record at Honouring Anzacs website

 15   Claire and Dorothy Everett NZANS
      NZ Military Nursing website

16  Notifications: Messrs T. Arscott, Timaru, and A. Everett, Pokororo, Tasman.
      Death and Injury, Ralph Watson and Frank Everett
     1) Timaru Herald, 1 November, 1916. Roll of Honour: Casualty List
     2) Colonist, 2 November, 1916. Personal.
     Note: The date of Ralph Watson's death was initially recorded incorrectly as
      21 October, 1916.

17  Frank Everett, Personal account of events at the Somme on 15 October, 1916
      Nelson College Scriptorium Records, pp 65 & 66.

      Colonist, 20 January, 1915

Secondary Sources

857/167 Mar 30 Application for a Bush License for Aorere, Edward Everett.
Archives NZ Register Room: Nelson Province.

Everett Bros. shop, Bridge Street, Nelson – photo taken ca. 1910 by Frederick Nelson Jones
Stafford House- painting by George Channing ca. 1860s
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Cyclopedia NZ (1906) Nelson-Marlborough (NZ Electronic Text Centre).

Motueka Horticultural Society Show, 1907: Prize List Class 3, Fruit.

The Apple Industry: Hard Graft for Early Growers.
The Prow website: Stories of People and Places from Nelson/Tasman.

Everett, Gladys Gordon (1889-1971), by Ruth Teale
Australian Dictionary of Biography

Nelson College Old Boys' Register 1856-1924 
See Index, School list of Nelson College 1856-1924, Shadows of Time website

An account of the action resulting in George Everett’s death can be read in Chapter IV, pgs 36-37

Notification: Change of hands, Messrs Everett Bros. Bridge Street store sold to W. McKay & Son.
Nelson Evening Mail, 3 September, 1913.

Google Maps NZ

South Canterbury GenWeb Project

Photo credits

Gunner Ralph Watson
Nelson Provincial Musem

Edward Everett
Nelson Provincial Museum
Davis Collection, ref: 774

"Victoria House", Everett Bros' flagship store on Bridge Street, Nelosn
Nelson Provincial Museum
Ref: 176679 (Photographer F.N. Jones)

Albert Everett
Nelson Provincial Museum
Isaac & Clark, ref: 6994

Everett Bros store on High Street, Motueka, est. 1902.
Motueka & District Historical Association
Fergus Holyoake Collection, ref: 355/1

Captain George Gordon Everett
Courtesy Barbara Strathee, 
My Heritage website: Everett/Strathdee families.

Gunner Gerald Gordon Everett
Courtesy Barbara Strathdee,
My Heritage website: Everett/Strathdee families

Nelson College First IV, with Frank Everett & Ralph Watson
Courtesy Barbara Strathdee

Matron Fanny Wilson and nuring staff
No 2 New Zealand General Hosptal at Walton-on-Thames, ca 1918
Royal NZ RSA Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ
Ref: 1/2-014124-G

Gunner Roy Edward Everett
Courtesy Jenifer Lemaire

Gunner Frank Everett
Nelson Provincial Museum
Tyree Studio Collection, ref: 89444

Albert Everett at his Pokororo farm
Courtesy Barbara Strathdee
My Heritage website: Everett /Strathdee families

A Gun-Pit in the Somme Valley
From: The New Zealand Division 1916-1919: A Popular History.

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