Tuesday, August 5, 2014

EVERETT, George Gordon (1884-1917)

Captain George Gordon Everett
67th Punjabis, British Indian Army.

George Gordon Everett was born in Dunedin on November 18, 1884. (1) He was the oldest son of Albert (Bert) and Ada (nee Gordon) Everett, and came from a prominent Nelson family who had originally emigrated to New Zealand from England on the "Sir Edward Paget" in 1853.

George Everett
as a young boy
His grandfather, Edward Everett, was a Londoner by birth and a highly successful hotelier and businessman who founded a long-running import and retail drapery business known as Everett Bros., operating from a store on Nelson’s Bridge Street. Edward Everett was also a City Councillor and served twice as Mayor of Nelson in the 1870s and 1880s. George’s father, Albert, was for many years manager of Everett Bros., and established branch stores in Motueka and Takaka around 1899.

In the late 1870s Edward Everett decided to take the Everett Bros brand further south. After leaving school Albert had been working at the family store in Nelson, but in 1878 was dispatched with his  brother William to Christchurch to take charge of a new Everett Bros store at "Commerce House" in Cashel Street. While there Albert married his Australian sister-in-law, Ada Gordon, at St John's Church, Christchurch, on 26 November, 1883. (2) Ada was the fourth daughter of George and Christina (nee Allison) of Richmond, Melbourne, and the younger sister of Alice Christina (nee Gordon) who had married Albert's older brother William in 1881.Things had been going well at the Christchurch store, but the Long Depression was starting to bite home and attempts to set up branches at Oamaru and Dunedin proved a step too far. Everett Bros closed down their southern operations mid-1884 and retrenched, focusing their attention on the successful Nelson business. It was while Albert was winding up the firm's affairs in Dunedin that his first child was born and christened George Gordon Everett..

Nelson College First Fifteen 1904
George Everett, captain, holding trophy cup,
seated 3rd from right, middle row.

Albert returned with his wfe and baby son to Nelson in 1885, and became a partner in the family business there. Albert and Ada Everett had a villa built near the city centre on Collingwood Street , where George and his 11 siblings grew up. This home is still in existence today. After some years in decline, it has been refurbished in recent years and now serves as boutique B&B establishment, Collingwood Manor
George Everett
School Captain (Head Boy)
Nelson College 1904

Around 1904 Albert Everett bought land at Pokororo in the Motueka Valley, where he experimented with growing apples. His wife, Ada, died in 1906 and in 1913 he married for a second time to divorcee, Annie Watson (nee Arscott), formerly of Timaru, whose son Ralph Watson became George's step-brother. Albert sold the family business in Nelson, and after the wedding the couple moved permanently to the Pokororo farm, with Albert becoming a commercial fruitgrower.

George Everett attended Nelson College where he excelled both academically and in the sporting field. He was Head Boy (School Captain) of the College, captained the First XV, was Dux and Captain of the No. 2 Senior Cadet Company in his final year at Nelson College (1904).

George had ambitions to become a career soldier.

Nelson College Cadet Officers
George Everett standing centre back row.
In 1904 he received a commission from the Nelson College Cadets as second lieutenant with the British Imperial Army (3) and was posted to the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's) in India. He was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of another British Indian Army regiment, the 67th Punjabis, who were stationed on the North West Frontier (now Pakistan), He was gazetted a lieutenant, this new rank dating from 21st March,1907. (4) 

George would serve with the 67th Punjabis for 9 years. During these years he saw action in various parts of the North West Frontier Province. He was active in a campaign against Mohmand tribesmen, for which he received a medal. For some time he also acted as Adjutant to his battalion. In December 1913 he was promoted to captain within the 67th Punjabis. (5)

In 1914, in the first year of World War 1, George applied for and was granted a transfer to the Burma Military Police during the time of the Katchin Hills Uprising, whilst at the same time retaining his rank within his own regiment, the 67th Punjabis, in India.
India General Service Medal,
 with North West Frontier Clasp
awarded to George Everett
 for his part in British Army operations in
 Mohmand Country, North West Frontier, 1908.

For the first two years, of his posting in Burma, George was stationed at Schwebo, some distance from Mandalay. He then took charge of an outlying post in the North of Burma, close to the  Chinese border.  George wrote home, to his father in Nelson, of his experiences in this outlying post:

“The Chinese frontier is only six miles from here. My supplies of chickens and eggs are brought over by Chinese traders. The Chinese seem to be a far more enterprising race than the people of these parts. All the good things come from China and the Chinese are nice fellows to deal with.”

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, large numbers of the pre-war regular regiments serving on the North West Frontier were sent overseas to the various theatres of war, particularly the Western front and Sinai/Palestine. This left British Army Frontier operations in disarray, in many cases under-officered and poorly equipped, and with replacements lacking training and experience in mountain terrain warfare. This situation was soon exploited by dissident tribesmen (6) and things heated up on the Frontier. The escalating campaign in Waziristan was dubbed "the little war within the Great War" and what was known as the Western Frontier Force (W.F.F.) was set up to deal with the deteriorating state of affairs. 

In 1917 George was recalled from Burma to rejoin his old regiment, the 67th Punjabis, in Baluchistan. The 67th Punjabis were suffering a shortage of officers at that time, which required George to return to his former position as Captain with the regiment. George wrote home to his father in Nelson when he was about to leave Burma to return to India 

A British convoy on the move
during the Mahsud campaign.
“I look back on more than two and half years in the Malay Peninsula. It has been a great experience and I have enjoyed the knock-about life very much. I have travelled up and down the full length of the country and I have seen a good deal of the life. I have made a number of real good friends. The people out here do seem much more friendly than in India. Perhaps it is because the white population is so small.”

As well as sadness at leaving Burma and its people behind him in having to return to his regiment in India,  George wrote home to his father also at the sadness of leaving behind, in Burma, his two dogs, Rufus and Sally, whom he referred to as: “My companions in the wild”.

Only days after re-joining his regiment, George was killed in action. An 80-camel Brirish convoy was attempting to resupply besieged Fort Nili Kach in South Waziristan when it was ambushed in a steep defile at Gomal Pass by Mahsud (Afghani) tribesmen, and overrun. George had been been in command of the convoy's escort and was in the vanguard when the attack came. (7)

During the ambush another British Officer, Second Lieutenant Francis Vaudry Savage from the Indian Army Reserve of Officers was also killed. At 115 dead and wounded, the total butcher's bill was a high one, partly the result of inexperienced troops panicking when they came under attack. The casualties were: Captain G.G. Everett of the 67th Punjabis, Second Lieutenant F.V. Savage, Indian Reserve of Officers, killed, two Indian Officers and 56 Sepoys killed, and Lieutenant Frost of the 67th Punjabis, two Indian officers and 52 Sepoys wounded. 

The ransacked remains of the British convoy led by Capt George Everett following the ambush 
by Mahsud tribesmen in South Waziristan, near Ford Nili Kach (visible on the skyline). 
Ammunition was usually the booty of choice.

Captain Donald Robertson of the 11th Lancers, Indian Army, (later General Donald Elphinston Robertson, CB, DSO), took command after George's death and wrote to his wife Evie about the aftermath of the skirmish:

"We got in about 4.30 and on hearing the Mahsuds had withdrawn from a militia patrol, out we went again at 5.30pm, the men most reluctant and jumpy. Slowly we piqueted the heights and marched up the valley, recovered our dead and wounded and got here at 12.40 at night by moonlight. 2 BOs killed and 1 wounded. 52 Indian rank killed and 53 wounded which are serious casualties for a show like this.

Today we are halting to bury our dead. I buried the two officers, not having a prayer book. I collected the 5 white men who had poured in from all sides to our assistance. We took off our helmets and said, “To the earth we commit the bodies and to God we commit the souls of two gallant English Gentlemen, who died for their country at the head of their men.” Maybe it was not long enough, but it was the best one could do on the spur of the moment and I daresay they will let them pass 'up topsides' for their wounds were all in front." (8)

In a letter of condolence dated 5 May 1917, a fellow officer writing to George’s father, Albert Everett , 4 days after George was killed, explained:

“The country on the Frontier is extremely difficult, and lends itself to ambuscades by a vigilant and clever enemy – such as the Pathans of the Border. They know every inch of the ground, and are wonderful men over the hills”.

Mahsud tribesmen of the North West Frontier c. 1917
Following the ambush on the British Army convoy in which George Everett was killed, the British Army made tactical changes to the way British Army convoys operated on the North West Frontier to minimise the possibility and impact of ambush by tribesmen. A British Army publication - “Mountain Warfare on the Sand Model” (1920) written by Major D.B. McKenzie (5th Battalion, The Frontier Force Rifles, Indian Army (Retired)) - was issued to all British Army units posted on the North West Frontier.
During his army career overseas George Everett had been an enthusiastic explorer and big-game hunter. He had sent back home to his father many of the splendid big-game trophies that he had shot. In one letter sent to Nelson he wrote:

“I am sending home my two pairs of elephant tusks and a carved stand in Burmese character. They are a beautiful and valuable trophy. I hope to some day see them standing in the house at home”.

A keen sportsman, George also participated in and captained regimental games of rugby, hockey and polo. 

George Everett in action during a game of polo in India

At the time of his death George was 33 years of age and unmarried.
George's brothers, Gerald and Frank, and step-brother, Ralph Watson, all served as Gunners with the NZ Field Artillery during WWI. Ralph was killed at Flers during the Battle of the Somme in October, 1916. and his step-brother Frank was seriously wounded during the same action.Three of George’s sisters served as nurses during the war. Viola, who qualified as a nurse in Australia, joined the Australian Army Nursing Service and served in Egypt from 1916-1919. Twins Claire and Dorothy trained in Christchurch and during 1918-1919 served together with the NZ Army Nursing Service as staff nurses at No 2 New Zealand General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England.

George Everett is the only known New Zealander to be commemorated at the India Gate Memorial in New Delhi, as one of "13,516 British officers and men whose bones lie scattered across the mountains and defiles of the North West Frontier". Because he didn't enlist from Ngatimoti, he is not commemorated at the Ngatimoti War Memorial with his step-brother, Ralph. (9) 

India Gate Memorial, New Delhi.
"To the Dead of the Indian Armies who fell and are honoured in France and Flanders,
Mesopotamia and Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli, and elsewhere in the Near and the Far East,
and in Sacred Memory also of those whose names are here recorded and who fell in India
or the North-West Frontier and during the Third Afghan War."


Jenifer Lemaire (Everett family) Captain George Gordon Everett; biographical notes (2014) Unpublished ms.

Nelson College Scriptorium per Gina Fletcher (WWI Roll of Honour, George Gordon Everett) for access to the full texts of George’s letters to his family, as well as letters of condolence from his regimental comrades sent after George's death.

Duncan Robertson for permission to quote from the report written about the Fort Nili Kach  attack by his grandfather, Captain (later General) Donald Elpinston Robertson.

Capt George Everett's name on the 
India Gate Memorial,  beneath 
the inscription "67 Punjabis".


1) Ancestry.com

2) “Everett -Gordon – On the 26th ult. at St John’s Church, Christchurch, New Zealand, by the Rev. H.C. Watson,  Albert. fifth son of Edward Everett , Nelson, to Ada, fourth daughter of George Gordon, Swan Street, Richmond, Victoria.” The Argus, (Melbourne, Vic.), Saturday 15 December, 1883. Family Notices: Marriages.
See also Nelson Evening Mail, NZ, 5 December, 1883: Marriages

Wairarapa Daily Times, 22 December, 1904

4) London Gazette, November 26, 1907
To be lieutenants
Second Lieutenant George Gordon Everett, 67th Punjabis, from the 1st Battalion, The Prince Albert's (Somersetshire Light Infantry). Dated 28th July, 1907, but to rank from 21st March, 1907.

5) London Gazette, 3 March, 1914
Indian Army: Lieutenants to be Captain, dated 21 December, 1913
George Gordon Everett, 67th Punjabis.

See: The Impact of the First World War 1914-1918

7)  Roll of Honour: Captain George Everett
Marlborough Express, 22 August, 1917

8) Private correspondence from Cpt. D.E. Robertson to his wife,  courtesy of Duncan Robertson.

9)  George Gordon Everett: NZ War Graves Commission.
The India Gate Delhi Memorial commemorates "60,000 Indian losses in the First World War and ... 13,516 British officers and men whose bones lie scattered across the mountains and defiles of the North-West Frontier".

2nd Lt. F.V. Savage
Francis (Frank) Vaudry Savage (1890-1917), was the other British officer killed and buried at Fort Nili Kach with George Everett .He was born 3 December 1890 at the residence of his father, the headmaster of the Cathedral Boys’ High School in Bombay (now Mumbai), Maharashtra, India, and baptised on Dec 16, 1890, probably at St Thomas’ Cathedral. He had a twin brother, Philip (later Colonel Philip Savage), who served as a medical officer with the Indian Medical Service, Nowgong, and retired to New Zealand, after the Second World War. He died at his home in Remuera, Auckland, NZ in 1955.

Both Frank Savage's parents came from British Indian families  His father Thomas Arthur (Patrick) Savage (1853-1918), was born and died in Mumbai, India  His name at birth was Phillips but he took the surname of his mother’s first husband, George Augustus Savage. (Thomas Patrick Phillips aka Thomas Arthur Savage's children were registered with both surnames but known as Savage). Francis' mother was Flora Isabella MacDonald (1858-1926) who was born in Hyderabad, India, and died in London. They had six children altogether including twins Francis & Philip.

Francis undertook further education in England, attending first St Paul's School and then Dulwich College in London. After leaving school he joined the Londion branch of Barclays Bank. Upon returning to Bombay in 1913  he  entered the office of King, King & Co., army agents and bankers, and joined the Bombay Volunteer Rifles.  In August 1916 he was gazetted to the Indian Reseve of Officers (serial no 2148). After two months training he was attached to the 94th Russell's Infantry, Indian Army, who were detailed to the Frontier to take part in operations against the Mahsuds. Francis Savage was placed in command of the outpost at Nili Kach. He was killed in the ambush by Mahsud tribesmen at the Gomal Pass, near Fort Nili Kach, North West Frontier Province, on 1 May 1917. Like George Everett, he is commemorated at the India Gate Memorial in New Delhi.

See Dulwich College ;The Fallen of the Great War Savage,FV (1890-1917)

Further Sources

The 67th Punjabis, Wikipedia.

Now part of the 2nd Punjabis, the 67th Punjabis were in direct line of descent from the 8th Battalion Coast Sepoys raised by the Honourable East India Company in 1759.

67th Punjabis regimental collar badge

London Gazette 13 April, 1918.
Account of the action on 1 May, 1917 in which George Everett was killed.

NZ Commission for India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, New Delhi. Facebook post about the hunt for George Everett's name on the India Gate Memorial.

The Burma Military Police

The Burma Military Police (BMP), a regiment financed by the Burma authorities, had been raised in 1886 as a low-cost alternative to having Indian Army units deployed along Burma’s 1,300 kilometre-long land border.  Initially recruits for the BMP came from the Punjab area of north-west India but soon suitable Burmese hill-tribesmen were also recruited.  European Officers were seconded from the Indian Army for tours with the BMP; Indian and Burmese officers, the backbones of the battalions, were recruited from the Punjab or trained and developed within the units.  Each BMP battalion had a mounted detachment and some had obsolescent muzzle-loading artillery pieces.  

The BMP maintained law and order in remote regions of Burma but it was more similar to a light infantry regiment than a police unit.  During the Great War the BMP supplied reinforcement drafts of men to France and Flanders, East Africa, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine and Persia. 

Very few plains (lowland) Burmans, the largest and most politically developed ethnic group in the country, joined Burmese military units before the Great War as they did not like or want British rule, and the British did not trust them; however political and military expediency during the war led to the recruitment of some plains Burmans.
Source: The Soldier's Burden website: Katchin Hills Uprising

Photo credits

Captain G.G. Everett
Courtesy Barbara Strathdee (Strathdee-Everett family)

George Everett as a young boy
Nelson Provincial Museum
Tyree Studio Collection, ref: 36392

Nelson College First Fifteen 1904
George Everett, captain.
Nelson Provincial Museum
Tyree Studio Collection, ref: 180943

George Everett during his year as School Captain (Head Boy)
of Nelson College, taken April 1904
Nelson Provincial Museum
Tyree Studio Collection, ref: 64614

Nelson College Cadet Officers, ca 1903-4
Nelson Provincial Museum
Tyree Studio Collectio, ref: 180900

awarded to George Gordon Everett
Nelson College Scriptorium
Courtesy of NCOB Assn per Gina Fletcher

A British convoy on the move during the Mahsud campaign.
Imperial War Museum Collection
Part of "Campaigns against the Mahsud and Marri-Kehtran tibes of the North West Frontier of India 1917-1919."
Ref: Q 81391

Aftermath of the ambush in which George Everett was killed
Khyber.org website

Mahsud tribesmen of the North-West Frontier ca 1917
Imperial War Museum Collection
Part of "Campaigns against the Mahsud and Marri-Kehtran tribes on the North Wesr Frontier of India 1917-1919"
Ref: Q 81397

George Everett playing polo in India
Courtesy Jenny Everett-Wells.

India Gate Memorial, New Delhi
A. Savin, Wikimedia Commons


  1. Absolutely amazing piece of well researched history concerning a little known event. My friend Duncan is the grand son of Captain Robertson who wrote a very full account of this event which he wrote in case he was court martialled! Stewart Tavner

    1. Many thanks, Stewart. I was very pleased to make contact with Duncan, and get the chance to read his grandfather's record of the skirmish at Fort Nili Kach. He kindly allowed me to use a quote from Captain Robertson's letters describing the later retrieval and burial of the bodies of George Everett and Francis Savage - so reassuring to know that they were treated with dignity in death.