Topic: James Walker

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James Walker (Service Number 36501) enlisted for the First World War with a Peterborough Street address.

James was born in Nelson on the 22nd August 1878 to mother Betsy Ann and father William. This was a second marriage for both William and Betsy Ann and James had an extensive variety of step, half and full siblings. His father William died aged 62 years in 1879 so James would have had no memory of his father. His mother, who'd arrived in Nelson in 1862 on the Electra with her first husband, owned a house and general store on Waimea Road in Nelson.

Prior to enlistment James worked for Nelson City Council as a rate collector and clerk. James was a member of the Southern Star (Nelson) Masonic Lodge and drilled with the Nelson National Reserve.

James married Ellen (Nellie) McDonald in Wellington on the 30th June 1909. Nellie had been married before and had a nine year old son Harry Lindsay McDonald. Nellie and James had no children together but enjoyed many grandchildren and great-grandchildren through Harry.

James and Nellie were living at 123 Peterborough Street when James enlisted on the 20th of September 1916. 6ft tall, aged 38 ½ years old with grizzled hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion James joined G Company, 21st Reinforcements and served with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade.

James was promoted twice while still in New Zealand, first to Corporal on the 2nd of October 1916 and then to Sergeant on the 18th of January 1917. He left New Zealand for Foreign Service on the 19th of January 1917.

James marched into Sling Camp at Salisbury Plain, England in March 1917. Here he reverted to the rank of Lance-corporal in March 1917 and was demoted again in April 1917. This seems to have been related to a failure to qualify for promotion rather than any poor conduct. Now Private Walker, James left for France in May 1917.

Once in France, James became unwell. He was admitted to the No 47 General Hospital at Le Tréport near Dieppe in June 1917 with a cough and general debility. In September he was admitted to the No 20 General Hospital at Camiers, north of Étaples this time with mild scabies, a common parasitic infection. Each time on discharge he was sent to the Base Camp Depot rather than back to active service.

In January 1918 James was declared Class C (no longer physically fit for active service) by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Travelling Medical Board. He was diagnosed with emphysema and fibrosis of the lung. He was detached back to England the same month and transferred to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade training camp at Brocton in Staffordshire. After 4 weeks he was transported to the New Zealand Discharge Depot at Torquay and then to the 2nd General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.

James finally left for New Zealand on the Athenic from Glasgow on 1st of April 1918 and received his final discharge in New Zealand on the 13th of June 1918.

On returning to civilian life James worked as a clerk and latterly as a store man and lived at Carmen Road and the corner of Yaldhurst and Hornby Junction Roads.

James died Christchurch 11th of May 1970 aged 91. Nellie pre-deceased him dying on the 2nd Feb 1970

Both are buried in Waimairi Cemetery.


Related Resources:

  • Military personnel file for James Walker. Archives New Zealand (Archway).
  • Online Cenotaph record for James Walker. Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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James Walker

First Names:James
Last Name:Walker
Place of Birth:Nelson, New Zealand