Topic: Charles Henry Tidy

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Charles Henry Tidy (Service no. 3/812) enlisted for the First World War with a Peterborough Street address

Charles Henry Tidy Charles Henry Tidy was born in South Norwood, Croydon (a borough of London) on the 2nd May 1889 to Henry Tidy and Anna Maria Tidy (nee Huggins). He was the youngest of eight children.

 Charles father was a fruiterer and greengrocer and then later became a fly master groom - a person who employed fly drivers and hired out fly carriages which were a one horse two wheeled light carriage. His mother was a home-maker and when his father passed away she lived with her eldest daughter Edith.

When Charles was 20, he emigrated to New Zealand. He sailed alone without family on the 29th of October 1909 on the Tongariro. He then moved to Lyttelton Street in Spreydon and got a job as a stereotyper (a person who works with printing plates) and worked at the Lyttelton Times Christchurch and then later at the Christchurch Star.

Charles was very involved with his community through singing, lifesaving and charity work. He had served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and as a volunteer with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He also once heroically jumped a fence to rescue his neighbour from assault, and he was part of the committee for the Lyttelton Times sick-fund society.

In 1910 Charles joined the Canterbury branch of the Royal Life Saving Society and was an examiner for the practical tests held in water and on land. He participated in New Brighton Surf Club’s official opening of the 1914-15 bathing season where toasts were given to the clubmen who were serving with the expeditionary forces. He was an active member of the Sumner life-saving branch and on 6th December 1915 along with 48 other men he was placed on the Royal Life Saving Society roll of honour.

Charles was well known in Christchurch for his singing. He was one of the most prominent members of the country concert party conducted by O T J Alpers. He also featured prominently at the Christchurch Competitions Society and he sang at fundraising events.

He sang at the King George V Seaman’s Institute which gave weekly concerts and he sang at the Catholic concert held for His Lordship Bishop Grimes where there were 400 people in the audience. Many patriotic songs were sung by both the audience and performers at this concert.

In 1914 and 1915 Charles performed at a variety of charity concerts many of which focussed on the war effort. He sang at the patriotic concert at the New Brighton Pier Hall fundraising for the Expeditionary Force and he sang for the fundraising concert for the Darfield committee which was raising funds for the relief of Great Britain, Ireland and Belgium.

Many of the songs he performed were war songs. A notable performance was at the Doyleston Concert and Dance where he sang ‘The Veteran’ and then ‘Sergeant at the Line’ as the final item of the evening. He ‘received a well-deserved encore’ from the audience for these performances. At the closing day of the 1915 Christchurch Competitions he sang an operatic solo ‘Lend me your Aid’.

On 14th May 1915 Charles sang at the Normal Students’ Association end of term social. It was an evening of music and dancing with about 50 couples attending. This was one of his last public performances - on Saturday 10th July 1915 he left New Zealand to fight in the war.

Charles enlisted in May 1915. He was 26 years old (though he had written on his application form that he was born in 1890 not 1889). He presented himself for service on Saturday 22nd May and was selected by Captain Thomas RAMC, along with nine other men, to serve as ambulance men on the hospital ship Maheno as part of the New Zealand Medical Corps.

Papers Past Sun 7 July 1915 Page 7

On Tuesday 25th May he left for Wellington. His colleagues at the Christchurch Star gave him a farewell party that afternoon. The head of the stereotyping department, James Woodward, on behalf of the workers gave him a case of razors and pipes and wished him a safe return and said that he would always have a job with the Star. There were speeches and cheers as Charles’ friends and work colleagues saw him off at the railway station.

The ship left for the Mediterranean on July 10th 1915. The Dominion painted a vivid picture of the departure at King’s Wharf in Wellington. The ship was first inspected by Brigadier-General AW Robin who expressed his pleasure at how well the ship had been fitted out for its mission. Charles and the rest of the ambulance drivers stood on the deck, wearing Wolseley sun helmets designed especially for the Mediterranean summer. They were then photographed on the wharf. The governor Lord Liverpool inspected the men and the ship. The ship itself had cots furnished with a ‘springy’ mattress, two blankets, a quilt and two pillows.

Throughout the day there was a hub of activity with trucks and cranes delivering and loading fresh bread, vegetables, deck-chairs, and newspapers for the soldiers in Egypt. There were workmen, ambulance men, chaplains, nurses dressed in their grey and scarlet uniforms, and the public inspecting the ship. Two pianos were also loaded onto the ship for entertainment and to provide ‘musical solace’ for the wounded.

The Maheno, captained by Captain McLean, first travelled to Australia, Sri Lanka, the Suez Canal, Alexandria and then Mudros. It arrived in the Mediterranean late August 1915. The troops had just been involved in a bloody offensive and were in need of supplies and medical care. The Turks had the high ground and the Maheno crew spoke about how the trenches were more like rabbit burrows and offered little protection.

Unlike the Western Front there were no safe areas for initial treatments and evacuations. The ship had to anchor in the open water in Anzac Cove (as opposed to the Western Front where the ships could anchor in wharves at a considerable distance from the combat). Casualties then had to be transported on launches, trawlers and barges to the hospital ship. It took a long time, especially if the weather was bad, and even with the Turks respecting the hospital ships, if they didn’t have a red cross displayed they were considered legitimate targets.

There were so many wounded men that the crew were unable to provide full medical care. They were transported to the make-shift hospitals on the Greek islands of Imbros and Lemnos. On the way the crew fed, comforted and operated on the casualties. They had to be careful of blacked-out warships at night. The day was used for sea burials. The journey back to Anzac Cove was used to clean and fumigate the ship in preparation for the next intake. Soldiers from many different nations were treated on the Maheno, not just from New Zealand. For many soldiers it offered some respite from the horrors of the battle-field as they were washed, fed and comforted.

In total the Maheno did five trips from New Zealand to the Mediterranean from 1914 to 1919. Charles himself wrote a letter to The Star describing his experience on the hospital ship.

Papers Past Free Lance 22 June 1917 Page 5

Charles was still involved with singing and performing even during his military service. In 1916, during one of these trips back to New Zealand, Charles sang at a fundraising concert in support of the Soldiers’ Queen. The Soldiers’ Queen was a woman who tirelessly supported the soldier’s cause. It was held at the Everybody’s Theatre and fundraised for the Patriotic Fund. In 1917 he performed in a show and was photographed with his cast mates all whom were serving in the war.

By June 1919 Charles was suffering from the effects of the war. He was anaemic, had lost weight, had a cough and his heart and lungs were affected. Though this did not cause permanent damage it was recommended by the medical board that he be discharged from service. On 18th June he was demobilised from the Expeditionary Force. But Charles still wanted to continue serving in the war and on 1st July he enlisted once again. He was promoted from a private to a corporal. Charles was discharged for the final time with war's end in November 1919.

In 1920 he moved to Napier and Charles continued his passion for singing and being involved with the community. In 1927 he married Vera Agnes King. Though they didn’t have any children of their own Vera was a foster mother to Peter King.

His new community thought he had a ‘well finished voice’ and that he would ‘prove an acquisition to the town’. He entered the Returned Soldiers Race (at the Napier Swimming Club’s Carnival) in December 1920 and also came first in the Tenor solo at the Napier musical and elocutionary competitions. In November 1930 he was part of the Napier Operatic Society’s performance of ‘Our Miss Gibbs’.

Charles passed away in Napier at the Sister Guffie’s hospital on October 13th 1943 at the age of 54. His funeral service was held at St. Augustine’s Church on October 14th and he was buried at Parke Island Cemetery.

For his WWI service Charles was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.


Related resources

  • Online cenotaph record for Charles Tidy. Auckland War Memorial Museum
  • Charles Tidy's military personnel file. Archives New Zealand (Archway)


  • Portrait sourced from Onward : Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Vol 1, by P J Beattie and M J Pomeroy, page 424
  • The hospital ship Maheno... Sun, Volume II, Issue 439, 7 July 1915, Page 7
  • The kiwis in the firing line. Free Lance, Volume XVI, Issue 885, 22 June 1917, Page 5
  • A MUSICAL RECITAL. Hastings Standard, Volume X, Issue 180, 15 July 1920, Page 5

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Charles Henry Tidy

First Names:Charles Henry
Last Name:Tidy
Place of Birth:South Norwood, Croydon, England