Topic: Herbert Victor Tregoning

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Herbert Victor Tregoning (Service no. 6/3184) was a First World War soldier who lived in the Wharenui, Riccarton area prior to the War.

Herbert was born on 14Photo of Victor from Cenotaph (origianlly published in Otago Witness, Issue 3225 (2 August 1916) p35 November 1896 in Waimate, South Canterbury, the fourth of seven children. The family name Tregoning has Cornish roots although Herbert's father William Hercules ('Harkliss') was born in Waimate in 1866. Herbert's mother Mary Annie Hicks was born in Tregullen, Cornwall, England in 1868. William and Mary married in Waimate on 14 April 1890 and their first child Muriel Violet (b. 26 January 1891) was followed by Norman William (b. 13 January 1893), Leslie Hercules (b. 2 October 1894), Herbert, Ivy Varina (b. 7 January 1898), Cuthbert Michael (b. 7 September 1900) and Eric Clarence Carlisle (b. 12 May 1903 but who died on 22 July 1903).

William Hercules was a blacksmith and Mary Annie a dressmaker when the family lived in Waimate but around 1900 William moved to Edgeware Road in Christchurch and then to Abberley Road, St Albans in 1902 from where he worked as a journeyman blacksmith. Once the children were near their school years Mary brought them to Christchurch and the family lived for a short time in Lincoln Road, Spreydon (in 1903) where Mary worked in a store and Herbert was enrolled in Addington school.  William moved again to Walsall Street, Lower Riccarton in 1904 and then by around 1907 the family were re-united in 33 Peverel Street, Riccarton.

Herbert was enrolled as the 85th pupil in the new Wharenui School by his father on 31 January 1907. The school register shows he had reached standard one level prior to enrolling. He attained standard four when he finished on 13 December 1909 to become a farm labourer. However it appears he re-enrolled himself in the school along with Cuthbert and Ivy on 15 August 1910. The school register does not list his academic attainment or the date he finished his second stint at school.

On leaving school and before he enlisted for the army Herbert worked as a painter for Bate & Hoskins of Kaiapoi, a firm which had fulfilled many contracts painting for both the the Education Board and the many different councils in Canterbury and Christchurch. Herbert enlisted for the Army at Trentham on 15 June 1915 and he stated that he had not served previously in any military unit. Also enlisting the same day were two other former Wharenui School boys Clarence Palmer and Phillip Lummis. His medical passed him as "fit" for service and he was described as having fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair while his weight was 154lbs. It was also noted he was aHerbert Victor Tregoning Methodist.

Herbert evidently preferred to be known by his middle name 'Victor' as he wrote his name on his attestation form as 'Victor Herbert'. There is a report in the 'Star' paper dated 11 September that "the following ex-scholars (of Wharenui School) are either at the front or in camp : - Roy Harris, William Lodge, George Stokes, Leo and Ralph Richardson, Leslie and Victor Tregoning, Clarence Palmer...". After completing his training Victor embarked with the Seventh Reinforcements at Wellington on 9 October 1915 on the 'Aparima', troopship no. 32. The contingent departed the following day and their voyage took them to Albany in south west Australia (19 October), Colombo (4 November)  and finally to Suez where they disembarked (30 November). A  souvenir magazine was published with the long-winded title 'Dry Rations or the "Aparima apparition" with which is incorporated the "Waikane Wash-out" and the Tauherenikau Trumpeter" unofficial organ of the 7th Rfts No. 32' on arriving in Ceylon. Victor is listed in C Company No. 15 Platoon in the nominal roll on the final pages of this troopship souvenir.

When the Seventh Reinforcements disembarked at Port Said their first task was to guard Turkish prisoners of war in Cairo for several weeks. This was carried out in conjunction with Australian troops. Victor recalled that the Turkish prisoners were in a sorry state, wearing filthy rags. The Australian soldiers treated them poorly and many New Zealand soldiers resented this. After this Victor was put into the 1st Company (or A Company) 1st Canterbury Battalion of 1st Brigade and spent the early months of 1916 with his unit in camp at Moascar drilling and training. On 6 April 1916 the 1st Canterbury Battalion left by train for Port Said where they embarked for France on the H.M.T. (Her Majesty's Troopship) 'Franconia'. They departed on 8 April on the dangerous voyage to Marseilles.

The Battalion arrived at Marseilles on 11 April and immediately entrained for a three day journey to Steenbecque and from there marched to camp at Morbecque. Once the New Zealand Division was complete at the end of April they were ready to take their place in the front line around Armentieres. On 13 May the 1st Brigade took over the right hand sector of the New Zealand position on the frontline but 1st Battalion remained in billets in Armentieres where it continued training during the daytime. A short while later it was 1st Canterbury's turn to man the front line trenches.

The Armentieres sector was considered a "quiet" zone compared with other sectors of the Western Front (it was dubbed 'Nursery Sector' by the High Command). It was here that newly arrived units were posted to gradually acquaint them with the conditions and routines of trench warfare before being sent to other sectors of the Front. However, the British High Command wanted this sector to become very active to draw German units away from the Somme in preparation of their planned major offensive. This also accorded with the wishes of the New Zealand commanders who saw this as an opportunity to harden-up the Division by launching frequent spoiling raids against the German defences.

The New Zealanders proved so successful in their aggressive trench raids that the Germans soon began to retaliate in kind. On the evening of 8/9 July the Germans launched a raid of their own against a section of the New Zealand trenches known as 'The Mushroom' which was only 60 yards from their own trenches. This German raid was preceded by a lively artillery barrage and it struck the 1st Canterbury Battalion which was posted there at that moment. About 50 of the enemy then attacked the position and the survivors of the bombardment managed to fight off the attack. Victor was wounded during this action with gunshot wounds to the elbow, right wrist and left ankle, either in the opening artillery barrage or in the desperate hand to hand fighting in the trench.

Victor was immediately evacuated from the front and admitted to the No. 8 Stationery Hospital at Wimereux on 11 July. His wounds were deemed bad enough to taken back to England where on 13 July he was admitted to the City of London Military Hospital in Clapham for treatment. From there he was sent to the 2nd New Zealand General Hospital at Walton on 16 August. After recovering from his wounds he was sent to the New Zealand convalescent Camp at Hornchurch for rest and rehabilitation on 20 September. Because he was deemed unfit for further service because of his wounds, he was embarked on the H.S. Maheno at Southampton on 28 October 1916 for the return voyage to New Zealand.

The voyage back to New Zealand took longer than usual owing to lack of coal at Albany. Sir James Allen ordered a collier sent from New Zealand to supply the Maheno before the vessel could dontinue on to Auckland. According to a gossip column in the Star, Victor received twelve bullet wounds in his arms and legs (he lost all the fingers on his right hand and his right leg sported plenty of shrapnel). Yet another report in the Otago Witness informed readers that Victor was the first Wharenui boy to be wounded in battle. The Maheno arrived at Lyttelton at 9am 22 December 1916 and berthed at No 4 wharf. The first men off the ship were the eight 'cot cases', men with severe wounds who were carried off and sent straight to hospital. Victor was not one of these men, evidently having recovered sufficiently from his wounds by then. The Governor General Lord Liverpool and Lady Liverpool were present to greet the returning wounded but the reporter of the Sun conveyed a scene with many mixed emotions:

"A few months ago these men, in the full flush of youth, hustle and vigour, departed 'midst martial fanfares, showers of flowers, stentorian cheers and a deluge of gifts. Today they came back hollow-eyed and physically impaired, welcomed only by sad-faced women and silent men. What a contrast it presented to him who had seen both departure and return!"

After returning from the war Victor worked as an attendant at the Otekaike Special School for Boys in the Waitaki area but it is not known exactly when or how long he worked there. Sometime after the war ended he took the extraordinary step of returning to France to visit the battlefield around Armentieres where he had been wounded in 1916 and to tour around the other battlefields of the Western Front. He brought back many mementos such as photos, souvenir booklets and postcards of the War. The shrapnel in his leg continued to cause severe pain and by the time he arrived back in New Zealand gangrene set-in and he had to have ithe leg amputated.

Victor married Margaret Mary Shields in 1920 and in the same year he received his war service medals; the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal as well as two Service Chevrons and a Wound Stripe. Sadly, by 1928 Victor and Margaret had parted ways. Margaret was residing in Dunedin while Victor had moved to Titahi Bay where he worked as an attendant at the Porirua Mental Hospital. The couple divorced in 1932. In 1933 Victor married again. Margaret Jane Carson remained his spouse for the rest of their lives. In the late 1950's Victor retired and he and Margaret moved to Richmond, Nelson. Margaret passed away in 1969 prompting Victor to return to Christchurch. Here he lived with his sister Ivy in Peverel Street, Riccarton until he passed away on 15 October 1980.

  • Cenotaph Record for Herbert Victor Tregoning
  • Archway Personnel file for Herbert Victor Tregoning
  • 'Biographical Sketches' Victor first Wharenui boy wounded in action. Otago Witness, Issue 3225 (2 August 1916) page 46.

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Herbert Victor Tregoning

First Names:Herbert Victor
Last Name:Tregoning
Place of Birth:Waimate, South Canterbury, New Zealand