Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thames (NZ): King's Empire Veterans

Some charming new photos have appeared in the latest uploads at Auckland Libraries Heritage Images. Enter KINGS EMPIRE in the search box and you will the collection of portraits of old Kings Empire Veterans. There are Thames men amongst these photos, also many more who do not have a photo as yet online.

"In 1900, retired members of the Imperial and Colonial Forces formed the New Zealand Empire Veterans Association under the patronage of Lord Ranfurly. Members were issued with a bronze medal in the form of a Maltese cross surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves, with NZEVA engraved in the centre. The medal was suspended by means of a red, white and blue ribbon, and was worn on the right side of the uniform. In 1910, the name of the association was changed to the King's Empire Veterans Association, and the letters in the centre of the cross were changed to KEV."

Below are two Thamesites who are in the King's Empire Veterans Collection of Photographs.

Captain Alexander Farquhar
Remembered as the Captain, who for many years did the Thames to Auckland run. Captain Farquhar's skill was admired by all who travelled with him. Captain Farquhar died in 1918 and his wife Emma Jane Farquhar (nee Gibbons) died in 1931. Farquhar is not wearing a medal, but is in the collection.

Left: Obituary for Capt Farquhar - Thames Star 26 October 1918
Right: Description 1/4 length portrait of Captain Alexander Farquhar.
Fred Mills
Mr Mills had arrived in Thames in 1874, and was a well known identity in Thames and the surrounding district. He was a loyal ex-member of the Royal Artillery, and tried to keep in close contact with several military people in England. A somewhat sad story of a man who had served his country then come to Thames, and was literally alone in the Dominion.

In the Ohinemuri Gazette 5 October 1910, details of Fred's contact with England was printed. This was just one example of many where Mills had made contact with dignitaries in New Zealand and England.
"Mr Fred Mills, veteran, of Thames, some time ago sent a letter to the Hon. W. Hall-Jones, High Commissioner for New Zealand, and enclosed a photo, for His Majesty King George. Mr Mills has now received the following reply to his letter Dear Mr Mills I have duly received your letter dated the 18th June, and much appreciate both your photograph, and your good wishes. I am sorry to learn that you are now without relations in the dominion, but you, as an old soldier, doubtless find much pleasure in recalling the many incidents of your eventful career. You may be sure that I am always glad to hear from my friends in New Zealand, You will be pleased to know that the second photograph you forwarded for the King has been duly sent to His Majesty, and I have received a letter from his secretary at Balmoral, where the King now is, informing me that your photograph has been laid before the King, and His Majesty desires me to convey to you his thanks for it. (Signed) Wm. Hall-Jones."

Can you imagine Fred's despair when he had a house fire in 1913, where he lost everything including medals and letters from former Governors of the Dominion. He was a chimney sweep by trade and friends pitched in to buy him new equipment, as he was determined to start afresh. (Ohinemuri Gazette 28 March 1913)

On 22 November 1915, Fred Mills celebrated his 41st year in New Zealand. The report stated he had seen active service in the East Indies under Lord Roberts. In 1920, Fred sent photos of Thames to the Prince of Wales, he received a thank-you back from the Prince's secretary. So life went on, for a man who never forgot his connection and loyalty to England and the military. Mr Fred Mills died in 1928 and was interred at Shortland Cemetery, Thames - the grave unmarked. Just one of the many old Thamesites, all but forgotten.

Left: Description 1/2 length portrait of Fred Mills.
'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 5-583CJ'
Right: Death Notice and obituary - Thames Star 23 July 1928

These are just two of the men from the photograph collection that have Thames connections - hunt for your relative and see if their photo is available. 

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