Topic: William Thomson

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William Thomson (Service Number 19/278) enlisted for the First World War with a Peterborough Street address.

William Thomson of 78 Peterborough Street was born in Glasgow on the 24th of August 1874. His parents Jane and John were both from Ayrshire, but by the time William was born they resided at 71 Dover Street, Glasgow and Mr Thomson was working as a Glaswegian cabby.

By 1881 William had three older brothers, John, David and James and two younger ones, Robert and Adam. Robert and the yet to be born Thomas, were later to emigrate to New Zealand with William.

William was single and has been working as a grocer when he applied to join the British army. He served his full time in the 2nd Dragoons - this would normally be 12 years in total with 7 in the army and 5 as a first class reserve - and was already a seasoned soldier before coming to New Zealand.

The 2nd Dragoons, also known as the Royal Scots Greys, fought in the Boer War. William served with them, being listed as missing he was for a time on the official casualty list.

At some time in 1917 or before, he and his brothers emigrated to New Zealand. When enlisting in the NZEF in January 1915 he gave Thomas as his next of kin. At this time Thomas was living in Culverden, whilst Robert was on the West Coast.

William described himself as a labourer, he had passed the “fourth educational standard or equivalent” and he worked for William Goss at his joinery factory headquarters at 55-61 Peterborough Street (later to be the St John Ambulance headquarters) just a few doors from where he lived at 78 Peterborough Street

He was an impressive five foot eleven and three quarter inches high and weighed 168 pounds. His eyes were brown, but his hair had already turned grey, his age being 41. He was in excellent health nevertheless and needed only to have repairs done on his teeth – he was supplied with a dental plate – before he was accepted.

He trained at Trentham and then at Featherstone, where he went AWOL for four days and had to forfeit five days' pay.

He embarked for Samoa in March 1915 as a Private in the Infantry Samoan Relief Force. The takeover of this German colony was the first action of New Zealand in World War One and the Samoan Expedition Force had landed at Apia in the 29th of August 1914. The Germans offered no resistance, although it refused to officially cede the colony.

William was promoted to Lance Corporal in March 1916 then demoted back to Private in September.

He returned to New Zealand on the vessel Tuland and following two months furlough he joined the 26 Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry A Company and embarked for overseas in June 1917.

He disembarked at Devonport, England, in August and joined the 3rd Battalion of the Auckland Regiment, then left for France in October and was posted to 16 Company.

He again transferred in January 1918, this time to the NZ Entrenching Battalion (entrenchment battalions were temporary battalions used as pools of men from which to draft replacements for conventional infantry battalions)

On February 1918 he moved to the 3rd New Zealand Rifle Brigade (of the New Zealand Division) but by this time he had been put on light duties, so it is not clear how he was involved in the engagements that followed.

“The Brigade itself entered the line on 13 May east of Armentières. It participated in the vast majority of the battles of 1916, 1917 and 1918. Notable examples include:

 He was returned to Portsmouth England in early August. A medical board was convened on board on the 8 August 1918 and he was declared “C Class” or unfit for duty, due to widespread “myalgia” made worse by the cold. He then relocated to Torquay to await repatriation.

He left Portsmouth on the Ayrshire on the 6th of November 1918 and on 21 of January 1919 he was discharged, no longer physically fit for war service.

His intended address was to be 78 Peterborough Street.

We were unable to uncover any information about his post-war life.

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William Thomson


First Names:William
Last Name:Thomson
Place of Birth:Glasgow