Monday, October 13, 2014

GREEN, James Leslie (Les) 1891-1917

Second Lieutenant Les Green, WWI serial no 6/239
Canterbury Infantry 2nd Battalion,  
 Main Body, NZ Expeditionary Force.
You won’t find Charles Green’s name on any early pioneer ship passenger lists, though he travelled from England on the Bernicia, arriving in Nelson on November 5, 1848, from where he made his way to Motueka. He was one of the new colony's less orthodox settlers – the sailors who jumped ship when they reached New Zealand.

Founded in 1842, Motueka in 1848 was just starting to take on a settled appearance, being still very much a frontier town and covered to a large extent in bush - beech, totara, rimu and kahikatea, called “white pine” by the Pakeha settlers. Where High Street now runs was a rough and rutted track which made driving a bullock-drawn dray a rocky experience; capsizes were a common occurrence. Heavy work was done by bullock teams in the early days – horses came later.  Roads were rudimentary, with most travel being done by boat, either via the Motueka River or across the bay to Nelson. There was a large Māori community, to some degree itinerant. It's suggested that there could have been up to four pahs in different parts of Motueka, though there seems to be agreement that there was a well-established one at the corner of Pah and Grey Streets. [1] A number of settlers’ homes were scattered about, generally made of rammed earth or hand-sawn timber slabs. As more land was cleared, saw-pits were established to supply the growing demand for timber for building, and not surprisingly, Charles soon found work as a pit-sawyer.

Like any good story, the tale of 20-year-old Charles Green’s impetuous arrival in Motueka is a mix of fact and fable. Family legend has that the Bernicia visited the Motueka area and Charles seized the opportunity to make a run for it. Hotly pursued by other members of the crew, he escaped discovery by hiding at the Swan Hotel until his pursuers gave up the chase, aided and abetted by sympathetic hotelkeeper, Mrs Talbot.[2]

There is no record of the Bernicia calling in at Motueka, and it's much more likely that Charles would have legged it on arrival in Nelson and hitched a lift from there across Blind Bay (now known as Tasman Bay) on one of the small vessels doing a brisk trade with Motueka in timber and vegetables grown in Motueka's fertile soil. Loading took place on the beach at the mouth of the Riwaka River. Moreover, the only licensed tavern in Motueka at the time was the Wheat Sheaf, situated at what is now the corner of Inglis and High Streets, though several unlicensed premises were known to have existed as well. [3] Although later a favourite Green watering hole, the Swan Hotel was not in operation before 1854, nor were Daniel and Mary Talbot licensees there until 1862. Perhaps time and retelling have muddled the tale - the chase and helpful barmaid may been in Nelson - or perhaps Charles enjoyed embroidering his youthful adventures for the entertainment of his children and grandchildren.

By whichever means Charles reached Motueka, jumping ship turned out to be a good call. The Bernicia and her crew came to a sticky end shortly after. Reports vary – one account has the ship taken and burnt by pirates, another says she was lost in the South Seas, and most of her hands killed and eaten by cannibals. [4] Charles was lucky – instead of sharing his shipmates’ fate he settled in a new land and did well for himself.

Charles Green was born on July 6, 1828, to John and Sarah (nee Gatton) Green, in Angmering, West Sussex, England, where his family can be traced back several generations to 1667. He first appeared officially in Motueka when he married Sarah Amelia Beresford on Christmas Eve, 1851, at the first St Thomas Anglican Church, built in 1848 on land in Thorp Street North donated by Motueka landowner, Captain Edward Fearon. Sarah was born in London in 1831 and emigrated to New Zealand on the ship Mary with her widowed father Samuel, a shoemaker, arriving in Nelson 24 February, 1849. By 1853 Samuel had settled in Motueka to be near his daughter, but died the following year in Nelson.

Charles Green Snr and his wife Sarah (nee Beresford), 1868.

Charles became a very successful farmer. He got a start in 1854 with 23 acres of Maori leasehold land in the Grey Street/Green Lane area of the Motueka township, Green Lane being named for him. In 1868 he started taking up land at Pokororo, on the east bank of the Motueka River, at that time still heavily wooded. His property eventually ran to 527 acres and included the hop gardens set up by his youngest son Joseph (Joe) in 1900 and now owned by the Thorn family. All this land had originally belonged to the Motueka Valley's earliest pioneers, brothers John Park, Tom and Edward Salisbury.  Over the years Charles added to his holdings 704 acres of sheep grazing land in the Mt Arthur/Pearse Valley area. By his death he held 1231 acres in total. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows for more than forty years. In the days before the welfare state, Friendly Societies and Lodges provided support for members and their families in difficult times and served as an important networking tool for men of affairs in colonial New Zealand. Even a small town like Motueka had three different Lodges: the Oddfellows, the Freemasons and the Ancient Order of Foresters.

 Charles and Sarah made their home in Grey Street, Motueka, while Charles went out to Ngatimoti to work on the farm, where he had a whare for shelter. He was no doubt helped by his sons as they grew up. Charles Green worked closely with his farming neighbours, the Haycocks, and they shared many tasks like sowing oats and rye, harvesting crops, shearing sheep, clearing bush and cutting firewood. They also shared local vicissitudes like the great flood of 1877 - which destroyed Thomas Haycock's home and left the Greens' flats covered in logs, silt and sand - and the bushfires of 1888. There were at various stages three Haycocks faming at Pokororo - Thomas on the east bank of the Motueka River next to the Greens,' and on the west bank opposite, "Old James" (Thomas' brother), and "Young James", Thomas' son James Albon Haycock, a later mayor of Richmond, whose son Henry died of meningitis at Featherston Camp in 1917.

Charles and Sarah had 11 children, 8 boys and 3 girls, who attended the Motueka School. Sarah died of uterine cancer in 1880 at the age of 49, leaving 6 children still at home and her older daughters Sarah and Mary took over the household duties. Charles remarried in 1883 to Elizabeth Corrigan, formerly Seymour (nee McGee) at her residence in Collingwood Street, Nelson. Elizabeth had been married twice before and had 7 children. The newly married couple moved to Ngatimoti to live, with Charles’ younger sons Joseph and Henry and Elizabeth’s two youngest daughters attending Pokororo School. Charles served on the Pokororo School Committee in 1883-4. Charles and Elizabeth had no children together. They eventually retired to Motueka, leaving Charles’ sons to run the farms.[5] After Charles’ death, complications arising from his will continued for many years, with some aspects not being finally resolved until 1964.[6]

Charles Green Jnr, known as Charlie, (1857-1933) was born in Motueka and was Charles and Sarah’s third child. He would have grown up in town, but also working on his father’s farms as he grew older. On the 10th of May,1883, he married Jane (Jennie) Mickell of Riwaka at the home of her parents, James and Sarah (nee Goodall) Mickell, with Charlie's younger brother William as a witness. Jennie's grandfather, William Mickell, was an early Riwaka pioneer and ran Motueka’s first flourmill at Brooklyn. The original millstones he cut in 1844 were incorporated in the cairn raised in the 1930s to the memory of Captain Arthur Wakefield and the Riwaka settlers.[7] Charles Jnr and Jennie had 11 children: Rosabel, Dorothy, Beatrice (who died in her first year), Ernest (Ern), James (Les), Arthur, Winifred (Winnie), George, Marjory, Donald (who also died early), and Jane. Born at Pokororo on the 20th of July, 1891, James Leslie (known as Les), was their 5th child and second son. He inherited the distinctive strong facial features and dark colouring often seen in the Green family and attributed to his grandmother, Sarah, who was said to have had gyspy blood.

In 1881 Charles Jnr bought land i(Sections 2 & 3, Blk XI) at Pokororo in the Motueka Motueka Valley in partnership with his brother, William. This property was situated down the east bank of the Motueka River northwards from the Pokororo suspension bridge, built as a footbridge in 1894 and today the oldest bridge in the Tasman District still in use. Charlie Green granted access rights across his land for this bridge, which would have proven a boon for his children, who needed to cross the river to reach the Pokororo School on the west bank opposite. At the commencement of work on the bridge in February, 1894, the Colonist reported that Mrs Charles (Jennie) Green "drove the first pile admirably". The importance of bridges for early settlers was demonstrated by a turnout of 400 locals to celebrate the completion of this bridge with a public picnic on the riverbank. 

William Green and another of Charlie Green's younger brothers, David, fell out with their father, Charles Snr, over his second marriage and decamped to Taranaki where they worked together as rural contractors. David Green is thought to have operated the last bullock team in the Taranaki region. Neither William nor David was mentioned in their father’s will, so presumably they never reconciled. Charles Jnr bought out William’s share of their Pokororo farm, owning it outright by 1890. He also bought on his own account a 127 acre block at the end of today's Greenhill road on the east bank in 1906 when the Johansen Estate was subdivided (Lot 11 in the sale catalogue) and later a couple of blocks at Mount Arthur. He ran sheep on his own properties and from 1896 also leased land for grazing on the Tablelands, (also known as "Salisbury's Open"), first grazed by the Salisbury brothers.

Between 1913 and 1919 Charles Green drove the Royal Mail Coach from Pokororo on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, collecting mail from Pokororo, Ngatimoti and Orinoco, and connecting with the Newmans' coach at Price’s Corner in the Moutere, for which he received one hundred and sixty pounds per annum.[8] On the way home he delivered mail to Ngatimoti and Orinoco residents, and little boys going home from school would try to jump onto the mounting step behind the coach and catch a ride. This could be a risky business, depending on Mr Green's mood. He was known on occasion to crack his long whip behind and gallop the horses to give the “passenger” at the rear a good fright. [9]  Ngatimoti oldtimer, Les Waghorn, remembered with amusement that "Charlie Green would never stop the horses, but as he came alongside of you his hand would shoot out and grab the mail as you held it out to him." [10] Around this time an area built on one end of the Greens’ front verandah served as the Pokororo Post Office, which was run by James’ sisters, Winnie, Marjory and Jane. The local telephone exchange was later added to the service, and to alert the girls in the house to calls, some 12 extension wires were strung around the family kitchen from bells in the office, each one representing a party line.

Two of James Green's sisters, thought to be Rosabel (Rosie) and Dorothy,
 at the family's Pokororo home.

The  house where James grew up was built on the east bank of the Motueka River, about 200m below the current access way to the Pokororo swing bridge. It no longer stands, having been demolished and replaced in more recent times by a home a little further up the access road.  Les Green and his siblings attended Pokororo School and in 1894 his father Charles was elected to the Pokororo School Committee. Although his grandfather married in an Anglican Church, James' family were Wesleyan Methodists. The Methodist missionaries were active in Motueka from the very start and the first Methodist chapel was erected in 1843. Charlie and Jennie Green always took the family on an annual summer holiday to Tapu Bay, travelling by horse and cart from Ngatimoti. They camped out in a large tent and Charlie would fish for snapper off the beach. When older, some of the children stayed at home to keep things running and like all teenagers, got up to the odd bit of mischief when left to their own devices and had to do a hasty scurry around to get things back in order before their parents returned!

Les would have been involved with farm work from an early age, and quite likely spent quite bit of time up on the Tablelands with a brother or two, taking care of the sheep pastured there and mustering them when it was time to move them on. [11] He is recorded  as working for his father and sheep-farming with his brother at Pokororo when he enlisted - this  was possibly his younger brother Arthur or his older brother, Ernest (Ern), who later ran sheep near the Granity Creek at the Pearse Valley and had a butchery business. No doubt the brothers would have also done some hunting for the pot while up on the Tablelands.

Tall and strongly built, Les was a talented athlete, who excelled in any sport he undertook. During his voyage on the troopship to Egypt in 1914 he won a boxing tournament and was awarded a golden medal, which later became one of his father's prized possessions. [12] Troops would be on board for five weeks or longer and sporting contests and boxing matches of this sort were commonly held to alleviate the tedium of routine drill, along with impromptu concerts in the evenings for entertainment. Les was particularly involved in cycle road racing. He was well-known in New Zealand road racing circles and must have spent many hours training on the local roads.

Although Les' grandfather Charles Snr was apparently horrified by this new-fangled invention,[13] from the 1890s the bicycle was adopted enthusiastically by young New Zealanders - it gave them freedom to get around independently in a way not previously available to them. Athletic and Cycling Clubs were soon formed around the country and both Nelson and Richmond had such clubs. Nelson’s club was a bit erratic and went into recession several times, but keen interest in cycle road racing in the Nelson area remained undiminished. Every year from 1899 the NZ Athletic and Cycle Union, in affiliation with the New Zealand League of Wheelmen, held a major Timaru to Christchurch road race. This race, which offered lucrative prizes, was sponsored by the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company of Australasia. An annual Nelson to Belgrove race was part of the Dunlop competition circuit and hotly contested by riders from the Top of the South as it gave entry into the Timaru-Christchurch race and potential entry into the Australian competitive circuit. [14] Large crowds attended the start and finish of the Nelson to Belgrove races, with final laps often taking place at Trafalgar Park. [15] Les Green won the Nelson to Belgrove cycle road race before the start of the First World War, and also competed in other New Zealand races, including the Timaru-Christchurch race.

Starting line-up at the 1905 Timaru-Christchurch cycle road race.

A keen member of the 12th (Nelson and Marlborough) Territorials Regiment, Les was one of the earliest to join up from the Motueka area; he enlisted with the 12th (Nelson) Company, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, on the 15h of August, 1914, just four days after war with Germany was declared. He sailed on the troopship Athenic with the Main Body on October 16, 1914, along with several other men from Ngatimoti, including 12th Company commanding officer, Major C. B.Brereton, Hector Guy, William Ham, H.H. (Bert) Thomason, Ronald Slatter and Alan de Castro.

Les took part in the campaign on Gallipoli and was invalided from the Dardanelles to England, where he was admitted to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, purpose-built at the Astor family estate, “Cliveden”, in Taplow, Buckinghamshire. He was initially reported as wounded but had in fact contracted bronchitis. On recovery he acted as an instructor at Sling Camp for about twelve months. Les’ qualities as a leader clearly shone through from very early on. He progressed rapidly up the ranks, serving as a corporal in Egypt and Gallipoli, then being promoted in turn from sergeant to sergeant-major then regimental sergeant-major.[16] He was offered the opportunity to return to New Zealand for a commission, but chose instead to go to France, where he was commissioned with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He was 25 when he was killed in action during the attack on Bellevue Spur at Passchendaele, Belgium, on what became known as New Zealand's "Blackest Day" of World War One; 12 October, 1917. Regimental Sergeant-Major Hector Guy of Ngatimoti was killed alongside him, and they are commemorated together on the same panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Commemorative panel at the 
Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing in Belgium

Les' younger brother Arthur Gordon Green also served at the Western Front. He embarked for the Western Front with the 14th Reinforcements, NZEF, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company on 26 June, 1916, was promoted to Sergeant and served with the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment until the end of the war. Arthur returned home after the war, married Vera Croudis and had a family of five. He built up a mixed farm at Green Hill, Ngatimoti, on a 127 acre block of land originally bought by his father, and ran a jersey breeding business named  "White Rock Stud" for the limestone-crowned hill on his land known locally as "White Rock". His pedigree stock won many prizes at local A & P Shows. He had a reputation as a man to be counted on, always turning up to help wherever and whenever needed in the community. Arthur was on the battlefield on the 11th of November, 1918, when hostilities ceased. "The thunder of guns rang in the air," he recalled, "and a message was sent out, 'The war is ended - cease fighting'. There was a wonderful silence".[17] Arthur died suddenly at home on 3 July, 1942. Les’ older brother, Ernest McKellar Green, was selected in the Seventh Ballot of Nelson–Marlborough men drawn for the 31st Reinforcements, but was granted an exemption by the Military Appeal Board, presumably because there were already two members of his family serving and he was needed to keep the family farm running.[18]

Brothers-in-arms - Arthur (seated) and Les Green


James Leslie Green is listed on the Nelson-Tasman Roll of Honour. He commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The inscription on this memorial, dated 1918, reads: "Here are recorded the names of the officers and men of the British Empire who fell at Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death." In Tasman, New Zealand, he is honoured at the Motueka War Memorial and also at the Ngatimoti War Memorial

His name was added by his parents to a headstone at the Motueka Cemetery erected for 2 siblings who had died young. The inscription reads: "The beloved children of Chas. and Jennie Green. James Leslie Green, 2nd Lieut., Main Body, killed in action in France 12th October 1917 aged 26 yrs, also Beatrice aged 9 mths and Donald aged 2 days."


1 Mitchell, John and Hilary.Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka: A History of Maori of Nelson and Marlborough, Vol II: Te Ara Hou- The New Society Ch. 1, Maori Settlements of Te Tau Ihu. pp 53-54 

2 Cassidy, I. Green Reunion; 150 Years, 1848-1998, pg 4. (1998) Nelson, NZ: Copy Press Ltd. 

3 McGlashen, Rana. Hotels of Motueka and Districts. Compiled by Coralie Smith for the Motueka & Districts Historical Association (2008)

4 Brett, Henry, White Wings Vol II (1928) Auckland, NZ: Brett Printing Company Ltd Bernicia  (NZETC)

Cassidy, Green Reunion, pp. 7-12

Interpretation of a Will: Involved Nelson Case.
Nelson Evening Mail, 20 March, 1914.

7  --and so it began, Vol. 2 , March 1984, pp 2-9. Motueka and District Historical Association (1980)

8  Royal Mail Coach timetable: Pokororo-Upper Moutere-Ngatimoti.  Charles Green, proprietor
Colonist, 18 October, 1915

 Beatson, C.B. (Pat). The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti as I Remember, pg 44. (1992) Nelson, NZ: Nikau Press.

10 Beatson, Kath and Whelan, Helen. The River Flows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, pg 66. ((2003, 2nd ed.) Motueka, NZ: Buddens Bookshop.

11  Brereton, Denis. Tableland Days. Nelson Historical Society Journal, Vol 3, Issue 1, October, 1974. (NZETC)

Nelson Evening Mail October, 29 1917. Personal Items.

13 Cassidy, Green Reunion, pg

Ashburton Guardian, 1 June, 1904

Colonist 21 August, 1905

16 Archives NZ. Military personnel record: James Leslie Green. James Green has two military personnel files, more easily accessed through his Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database.record

17 Beatson and Whelan. The River FLows On: Ngatimoti Through Flood and Fortune, pg 175.

18 Seventh Ballot: The 31st Reinforcements. List of Nelson-Marlborough Men.
Colonist, 16 May, 1917.

Further Sources

Mr Charles Green (Snr)
Note: the mention of landholdings in the Moutere is misleading - Charles Green's farms were in the Motueka Valley.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand (!906) Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provinces: Motueka.

Motueka and Early Settlement
The Prow: Historical and cultural stories of people and places from Nelson, Marlborough and Tasman.

The Motueka Floods
Colonist, 20 February, 1877

Mens' Clubs: Friendly societies and other fraternal organisations.
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Historic settlers' cairn relocated
William Mickell's original round millstones can clearly be seen in the Kaiterteri Recreation Reserve photos linked to this article about the Riwaka Settlers' Cairn.
Motueka Online, August 10, 2014.

Jordan, C.B. Some Yesterdays of the Methodist Church in Motueka
Pub. Wesley Historical Society on the occasion of the 110th Anniversary of the Methodist Church in Motueka.

Completion of the Pokororo suspension footbridge at Ngatimoti
Colonist, 16 June, 1894.
As the Colonist reporter rather tartly reported at the time, for want of a bit more funding from the Council it could have easily and more usefully been made wide enough to carry wheeled traffic. Some things don't change! Enterprising locals managed to take gigs across anyway by removing one wheel and replacing it on the other side. The bridge was widened between 1914-1916 to allow access for light vehicles and further upgraded in 1988.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

 Passchendaele: Fighting for Belgium. NZ History website (NZ Ministry of Heritage and Culture).

Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: James Leslie Green.

Arthur Green
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database 

Photo credits

Portrait of James Leslie Green 
Nelsn Provincial Museum. Tyree Studio Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref: 98205

Portrait of Mr & Mrs Charles Green Snr, 1868.
W.E. Brown Collection, Nelson Provincial Musem Permanent Collection. ref. 4861

Two of James Green's sisters, probably Rosabelle and Dorothy, taken at the Greens' family home at Pokororo.
The photographer, Walter Guy, was a Ngatimoti local. Both Walter and his brother Hector were also killed during WWI.
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315177

Starting line-up, Timaru-Christchurch cycle road race
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19050914-4-3  J.M Cormick Veterinary.
See  article Dunlop Road Races - Timaru to Christchurch pre WWI - a New Zealand Classic

Detail from the Canterbury Infantry Battalion panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial for the Missing from the NZ War Graves Project.

Brothers Arthur Gordon Green (1893-1942) and James Leslie Green (1891-1917)
Tyree Studio Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 98201

1 comment:

  1. John Green (the father of Charles who jumped ship in NZ in 1848) was born in Angmering in 1801, the son of George Green and Elizabeth Reding. All the accounts of his life and trees state that he was married to a Sarah GAVIN. However, all of them are incorrect. The Broadwater (now part of Worthing) registers state that John Green from Angmering (with George as a witness) married Sarah GATTON on 7 June 1821. Charles was baptised on 6 July 1828, the son of John (labourer) and Sarah. Sarah was baptised in Thakeham, Sussex, in 1798, the daughter of William and Hannah Gatton.