Topic: Samuel Haydon Townsend

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Samuel Haydon Townsend (service number 15047) was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton

Samuel Haydon Townsend was born 24th May 1878 at Boxmoor, Hertfordshire, England to Priscilla Alice Robbins and Samuel Haydon Townsend. They were married on 4th November 1867 at Islington St Mark, Middlesex, England. From British census records we can find the following siblings; Ada (born approximately 1872), Minnie (approx. 1874), William (approx. 1874) Emma (approx. 1877), Harry Haydon (approx. 1885) and Gertrude (approx. 1886). His father died on 24th September 1896 at Boxmoor.

It appears that Samuel came to New Zealand by himself as in July 1908 he returned to England hoping to encourage his mother and eleven other members of his family to come to New Zealand where life was good. His widowed mother was living with her son William and his wife Gertrude Hannah Malin at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Samuel was in England about eight months travelling up to Newcastle and visiting counties around his home county of Hertfordshire; Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, and Essex. He returned to New Zealand on the S.S. Kumara leaving England in February 1909. His mission was a success as his mother and William and Gertrude were living at 18 Station Road according to the 1919 Riccarton Electoral Roll. Emma came out with her husband Percy Owen Anderson and Harry came out too as he married Jessie Frith Hay in New Zealand in 1914.

Samuel volunteered for the Army on 8th March 1916. He was 38 years old. At that time he was living with his mother at Waimairi Road, Upper Riccarton. He was working as a butcher and in business with his brother in law Percy Anderson. He was following his grandfather Isaac Robbins’ profession. Samuel settled his affairs before leaving for the war. He sold the butchery, resigned from the Riccarton School Committee and wrote his will leaving everything to his mother.

Samuel’s Army medical records describe him as being five feet six and a half inches tall and weighing 136 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and black hair. It also says that on his left foot his third and fourth toes were webbed together which makes you wonder how that would have affected his ability to march. Nevertheless he was deemed fit for service.

He was assigned to Canterbury Company, 14th Reinforcements, Service Number 15047, with the rank of Private. However less than a month later he was promoted to Lance Corporal and then Corporal on 26th April 1916. He went by ship (either the Maunganui or Tahiti) from Wellington, New Zealand on 26th June 1916 to Devonport, England arriving 22nd August 1916. He went to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain for a month’s training before leaving for France. At Sling Camp his rank reverted back to Private. In France/Belgium he had a couple of short stints in hospital for sickness.

Samuel was promoted back to Lance Corporal on 29th August 1917. From 18th September 1917 he spent four days at the Division Gas School where he learnt how to use new gas masks and practised drills in case of a poison gas attack.

Samuel was killed in action on 12th October 1917 at Ypres in Belgium during the Battle of Passchendaele. This day was known as the blackest day of WW1 as 843 New Zealanders died on one day. Samuel’s body was never identified but he is remembered on panel No. 2 of the Tyne Cot Memorial in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. This memorial records the names of almost 35,000 men from Britain and New Zealand who have no known grave.

Samuel’s newspaper obituary describes his genial nature that attracted many friends. The Riccarton School Committee passed a motion of sympathy to his family. His estate was finalised in 1918 and came to £139 pounds and 16 shillings which went to his mother Priscilla. After 1919 Priscilla returned to England and died in 1930 in Lewisham, London.

Samuel Haydon Townsend is memorialised on the Tyne Cot Memorial and the Roll of Honour at the Upper Riccarton Memorial Library.

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Samuel Haydon Townsend


First Names:Samuel Haydon
Last Name:Townsend
Place of Birth:Boxmoor, Hertfordshire, England