Topic: William John Tidyman

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William John Tidyman (Service Number 2/1105) enlisted for the First World War with a Peterborough Street address.

William John Tidyman (Billy) was born in Christchurch on the 11th of September 1875 and baptised on April 19th 1876. His parents were Henrietta nee Grimshaw and William.

William senior was a tinsmith from Cornwall who arrived in New Zealand in 1874. Widowed he arrived with his daughter Eliza Jane.


 Henrietta was a laundress and dressmaker from Jersey in the Channel Islands who also arrived in Canterbury in 1874. She left England with her two children Ernest and Emily Grimshaw. Sadly Emily died on the voyage. Henrietta and William had three other sons Frederick William, Louis Edgar (Tideman) and Alfred James.


The family lived at a variety of locations in Christchurch before moving to 74 Peterborough Street. William attended school at Gloucester Street and later Christchurch Normal. On leaving school Billy worked as a general labourer.


The Tidyman boys seem to have been spirited. Billy was in trouble as a youth for breaking windows, stealing oranges, books, clothing and even small amounts of money. In 1891 he was sent to gaol for 14 days with hard labour, as the three previous floggings “seemed to have done him no good”. Later his brother Frederick would spend a considerable amount of time in front of a judge on offences such as theft, vagrancy and drunkenness and be described as a “habitual inebriate” and an “incorrigible rogue”.


Billy settled down as he matured and later developed an interest in comic opera and performance. He appeared at the Opera House on Tuam Street in 1908 in the annual comic singing competition where some “fourteen entrants…created uproarious merriment”. Billy was awarded the consolation prize.


He also performed at events such as the Avon Rowing Club’s annual concert, in costume at the Druids’ Hall in Sydenham and at the send-off for Mr James Young, a prominent Christchurch horticulturist.


Billy married Evelyn Margaret Coventry on the 30th of June 1900 at St Luke’s Church on the corner of Kilmore and Manchester Street, now demolished. Billy was 26 and Evelyn only 19 years. The marriage was clearly not a success as Evelyn (Eva) was granted a divorce in November 1913 on the grounds of desertion. They had no children.


Billy, 39 years old, 5ft 6 inches, grey-eyed and brown haired enlisted from Peterborough Street on the 20th of October 1914 as a gunner with the New Zealand Field Artillery (Divisional Ammunition Column). He left with the Second Reinforcements for Alexandria, Egypt in December 1914 and from Egypt to Gallipoli in April 1915.


The Artillery like the rest of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force fared poorly at Gallipoli. Conditions were harsh and many of the men were struck down with dysentery. A lack of ammunition hampered progress.


Billy was transferred to the howitzer battery in June and returned to Egypt by September.


 Back in the relative safety of Egypt Billy indulged in some hedonistic behaviour and was awarded 14 days detention and forfeited 2 days pay by being absent from parade and returning drunk to camp. He compounded his crimes by being absent while under arrest!


In January 1916 he was with the 4th (Howitzer) Battery at Moascar Camp near Suez. In March Billy was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital in Pont de Koubbeh, Cairo with paratyphoid, a bacterial infection caused by salmonella that resulted in headaches, loss of appetite and a rash.


Billy recovered within a couple of months and in May 1916 was considered fit enough to leave Alexandria for the Western Front (France). He was initially attached to the New Zealand Infantry and General Base Depot at Etaples. Once again he forfeited pay for being absent without leave, this time 7 days gross.


Between August 1916 and January 1917 Billy was in England based at Sling Camp, the main NZEF depot on the Salisbury Plains. However on the 9th of January 1917 he was once again back in France and by February he was posted to the 3rd Artillery Brigade, 4th (Howitzer) battery. Between February and November 1917 Billy was in the field, probably at Messines and Passchendaele.


Billy was marched out to England from Etaples in November and attached to the New Zealand Field Artillery Depot at Aldershot in Hampshire. He was at Aldershot until April 1918 before being returned to France and posted to the Divisional Ammunition Column in the field.


In July Billy was detached to the United Kingdom for return to New Zealand. On the 1st of August he was marched into Torquay and the depot there for returning New Zealand soldiers. He finally embarked for New Zealand on the Ionic from Plymouth on August 24th 1918.


Billy's total service was 4 years and 55 days. He was discharged on the 13th of December 1918 and later received the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.


Back in civilian life Billy worked as gardener. His mother had died in 1917 and Billy lived at a variety of Christchurch addresses over the years. His final home was 3 Tancred Street, Linwood. He never re-married.


William John Tidyman died on his 69th birthday the 11 September 1944. He is buried in Bromley Cemetery.




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William John Tidyman

First Names:William John
Last Name:Tidyman
Place of Birth:Christchurch