Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Thames (NZ): Train books with references to Thames


Past blog posts have covered various aspects of transportation and specifically trains at, and manufactured at the Thames. See Links at end of post.

Railway Books

Yes, there are hundreds of books on trains in New Zealand. Thames Coromandel District Libraries has a variety to select from, plus can interloan titles from libraries around New Zealand. The core ones that provide an overview of locomotive manufacture at Thames are:

  • Conservation Plan for A and G Price E Type Locomotive No 110, by Rotorua Ngongotaha Rail Trust 2007.
  • Men of Metal, The Story of A & G Price Ltd 1868-1968, by C W Vennell. Wilson & Horton Ltd 1968.
  • Prices of Thames, Locomotive and General Engineers, Thames, N.Z. by Bob Stott. Southern Press Ltd 1983.
  • Steam At The Rainbow's End by K I Bullock. The Railway Enthusiasts Society (Inc) 1964.
  • The Thames Branch, End of an Era, by Dave Nelson. 2014.
  • The Thames Line 1898 - 1990, by R Brett Green & Trevor J Lees. Railway Enthusiasts' Society (Inc) 1990.

A selection of books at Thames Library

Its a rainy Thames day - so a great chance to browse a few of the railway books at the library! Did they have any Thames references?

  • New Zealand Railway Memorabilia 150 Years, by Geoffrey B Churchman. 2015. A delightful full colour booklet that has photos, postcards, cards and general memorabilia featured. Reliving the glory days of the railway in New Zealand. The engines shown, need their identification numbers checked to verify which ones were made in Thames. Our Tararu to Grahamstown steam train is pictured, showing the commemorative stamp that was issued March 6 1985. (page 9)

          The book also has pages on the Silver Star. Who remembers the carriages parked at Thames?
The 'old' Silver Star carriages that had rested in A & G Price's northern storage yard, 
found new homes at the end of 2016.
  • 150 Years of Rail in New Zealand, by Matt Turner. Penquin Books. Nelson in 1862 had a horse-powered tram service. Then along came Grahamstown, Thames in 1871 "To pioneer the use of steam-powered trams on a coastal line to its deepwater port at Tararu Point." (Page 38) The book is full of photographs, including A & G Price 16-wheeler geared locomotive designed for bush tramways. (page 23) Locomotives constructed and refurbished at Thames are scattered through the book, along with the iconic photo of when Prices released No 100 in 1923. Maybe you have a relative in this photo? (see below)

The Thames Star 20 November 1923, ran a full page article on A & G Price's achievements.

  • Rails Across New Zealand, A History of Rail Travel by Matthew Wright. Whitcoulls 2003.The principal mention for Thames is on page 106, the A & G Price workshop is discussed, accompanied by an A-class locomotive under construction.
  • Going By Train. The Complete New Zealand Railways Story by Graham Hutchins. Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd 2019. The development of the provincial rail network is covered, along with the Thames Line. The end of the book has a full list of the classes of Locomotives built in New Zealand, and identifies which models were built at A & G Price Thames.
First Hand account - the Grahamstown to Tararu Tram:
There are delightful reports on riding the tram to Tararu in the Thames Guardian and Mining Record. One of these was published 7 December 1871. The writer 'Town Crier' at first appeared critical, and was sure an accident would happen. To their surprise, the trip despite the continual jerking motion, was safely completed and "certainly a great novelty."

Keep an eye out for books and references on Thames railway history, often overlooked in favour of Gold, Gold and more GOLD History.

1970s Thames Railway Station, Shortland end of town.
Photo by Les Downey courtesy of Motat.
Other Blog Posts related to Trains:

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Thames (NZ): Postcards revisited - Birthday greeting to Master Milne

Another set of treasures on the Trademe Auction site - two postcards sent to Master Alan Milne of the Waiotahi Valley, Thames.


One of the cards was sent December 1914, and the other for Alan's 1915 birthday.

If you are a family researcher beginner or expert, Thames records allow you to quickly find more about the life of Allan Westbrook Milne.
  • Start with the birth registration at NZ BMD. Matching the birth date that appears on the card (25 December), it is possible to quickly find the birth details. Registration 1913/2686, Milne, Allan Westbrook, parents Ruby Pearl and William Henry John Milne.
  • School Records document that Allan lived up the Waitoahi Creek. He attended Central School from 4 February 1918 to 17 December 1926, before going to Thames High School 7 February 1927 to 19 December 1928.
Allan Milne's School Examination record 1919
  • Electoral Rolls, Street Directories and newspaper records available online allow us to follow Allan's life. A selection of rolls from reveal that in 1935 Allan was living in Beach Road, Thames and working as a motor driver. After the war he was in Auckland, and in 1957 residing at 34 Bucklands Avenue Mount Eden, working as a clerk. By 1972, Milne was back in Thames living at 214 Augustus Street, his occupation given as barman.
  • Family trees on record that Mr Milne was married to Isobelle Brooker, and secondly to May Sophie Hensley.
  • For this article, it is interesting to note that like his father (who had served in World War One), he served in World War Two. An interesting note on the Auckland War Memorial Cenotaph site states that Allan was the "Bugler for the 18th Battalion and performed the last post and revelry at the Auckland War Memorial Museum from 1946 until his death in 1972 [sic]."
WWII Trooper Milne's Discharge Certificate. 
Allan served 236 days in New Zealand and three years, 189 days overseas.
Source: G Milne Collection
  • Allan Westbrook Milne born 25 December 1912, passed away 21 May 1977 and was interred at Totara Memorial Park Cemetery, Thames - RSA Lawn Plot 0173.
Allan W Milne's parents Ruby (left) and William H J (Jack) Milne.
Note, Ruby is in her Salvation Army Uniform - remembering that is where our story started with the birthday cards for Allan from the Thames Salvation Army Church.
Source: G Milne Collection

Take the Challenge!
When undertaking your family research, take a letter or photo and see if you can build up a story about the family. Like the example above, take a card and within a few hours we can learn so many interesting details about our family (and others).

Friday, August 7, 2020

Thames (NZ): Hospital Superintendent Dr Archer's Jayforce Connection


Thames Hospital has had several special staff members who have served for extended periods. During the 2018 Reunion, older staff remembered some of their 'favourites'. A name that was mentioned was Dr Archer - Kenneth Richard Archer served as Thames Hospital Medical Superintendent 1948 to 1956.

In our book True Tales of Thames Hospital, two past staff members made recalled working with Dr Ken Archer. Mrs Billie Fisher remembered Dr Archer delivering lectures to the student nurses. Dr Neil Philip wrote: "I spent the winter under the supervision of Mr Ken Archer who had served in Italy during the war.  He was good leader and supervisor."

As we remember the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Ngasaki in Japan, it is now revealed that Dr Archer was one of the first medical staff members to go to Japan after the bombing - around March 1946.

Dr Archer's War Service:

Dr Kenneth Richard Archer, service number 42428, was working at Napier Hospital on enlistment. Archer's next-of-kin was his mother, Mrs E M Archer who resided at 29 Nolan Road, Auckland. 

In July 1944, Archer was mentioned in dispatches for services in the Pacific; he was then stationed in Italy.

There are varying reports concerning when exactly Archer arrived in Japan from Italy. The Advanced Party (1st Stage) left Naples 25 January 1946, arrived Bombay 9 February 1946. The 2nd stage, the troops left Bombay and arrived at Kure (Japan) 28 February 1946. The Main Draft left Naples aboard the Strathmore 21 February 1946 and arrived at Kure 19 March 1946. (The service records are required to verify Archer's arrival in Japan)

The Waikato Independent 13 March 1946, reported that Lieutenant-Colonel Archer was in-charge of the Jayforce hospital.


In the book Jayforce by Laurie Brocklebank, the difficulties establishing medical services in Japan was discussed. " Finding a site for 6 general Hospital was fraught with difficulties.  After an extensive search throughout April by its first commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel K R Archer, a run-down tuberculosis sanatorium at Kiwa was chosen because there was no suitable alternative." page 60

After the War:

Ken had studied at Otago University, and gained his medical degree in 1938. After the war, he continued his professional development, earning the FRCS (Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons) at St Thomas' Hospital, London, England.

After returning to New Zealand, Archer came to Thames in 1948 and remained at the hospital until 1956. When Archer took over as Medical Superintendent at Thames Hospital, it was a time when the Superintendent had charge of the whole hospital -  assisted by Matron Hill and the head of the Board Office.

In 1949, Dr Archer married Ruth Lomax Price, the daughter of George and Jessie Price of Thames.

In the 1950s photograph below, Dr Archer is in the front row, fourth from left, surrounded by his nursing and medical staff members.
Dr Archer - 42428 Lt Col NZAMC 1915 - 1999
Memorial Plaque at Pyes Pa Cemetery

Thames Nurse in Japan post WWII:

A Thames Hospital School of Nursing graduate also served in Japan. Dorothy Rhoda Venables, attested in November 1944, service number 810720. Sister Venables war service included time with 3NZGH Italy and 6NZGH Italy / Japan. 

Maybe, Sister Venables recalled to colleagues at 6 New Zealand General Hospital in Japan details of her training hospital? Could this have influenced Archer to come to Thames after the war? Regardless, it is no wonder that the staff of Thames Hospital held their Medical Superintendent in such high regard - his war service was truly something to be proud of.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Thames (NZ): 75 Years Ago - The End of WWII

Seventy-five years ago, Thamesites at home and abroad were waiting impatiently for news that the war was over. A time to welcome home men and women serving overseas, plus wanting an end to rationing and other war time restrictions.

The Thames Star 7 August 1945, reported that an Atomic Bomb had been dropped over the city of Hiroshima, Japan.

It was another week before the news finally reached Thames, the war was over!

Thames Star 15 August 1945.

Meanwhile in Italy, Signalman Doug B of Thames was dreaming of coming home and watching the Peace Cup (Rugby). Having just enjoyed a celebration day (VJ) to the lake. Soon he would learn a detour was in place and his next destination would be Japan, where he would see first hand the devastation caused by the 'bomb'

Lest We Forget
A time to stop and remember the devastation the bombs caused.