Topic: Richard Harold Graveston

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Richard Graveston served in the First World War (Service no. 74519) and had lived in the Wharenui, Riccarton area during his early life.

Richard Graveston, his younger brother Norman and his parents were were all born in Kendal, Westmorland near the Lake District in England. Richard was born on 25 November 1897 and when he was 10 years old his family left London on board the New Zealand Shipping Line's boat Tongariro on 9 July 1908 destined for Wellington, New Zealand. Richard's father Richard Clarkson had worked as a joiner in England but on the passenger list of the Tongariro stated his occupation as 'gardener'.

The family appear to have moved to Christchurch soon after arrival as Richard attended Woolston School. He attained standard four there before he was enrolled in the new Wharenui School on 31 March 1910. Here he reached standard six before leaving on 21 December 1911. Because he passed the national junior scholarship exam for a free year of education at a high school of his choice, Richard continued his education at Christchurch Boy's High School. In February 1914 the Canterbury College Committee granted Ricahrd a bursary of 7-10s to continue his education. At the end of 1914 he sat and passed the Public Service Entrance Examinations and also sat and passed the New Zealand university exams in matriculation, Solicitors' general knowledge and medical preliminary. He went on to study accountancy at Gilby's Commercial College in 1916, passing three of the five exams he sat in November that year.

Richard was also an enthusiastic participant in the sports and church spheres. He competed in rowing at Christchurch Boy's High, played rugby for the St Luke's Church choir team and hockey (third grade) for the Christchurch Hockey Club. By 1917 Richard was working as a clerk for W. S. Godfrey (a real estate company) in Victoria Square, Christchurch. He enlisted in Christchurch as a volunteer the day after his 20th birthday on 26 November 1917. He expressed a preference for the Field Ambulance service and was accepted into this unit as a Private. He went through training at Trentham Camp (4 March 1918) before going on to the New Zealand Medical Corps (NZMC) training camp at Awapuni on 20 March 1918. 

Richard was part of the 41st contingent of reinforcements that sailed from Wellington on Troopship No 108, Ulimaroa, on 27 July 1918. The voyage to England took them to Freemantle (8 August), Capetown (26 August), Sierra Leone (11 September) and finally to disembarkation at London on 4 October 1918. He went straight from there to the NZMC Reserve Depot at Ewshot in Hampshire, however he was admitted to hospital in Aldershot with Pneumonia on 24 October and placed on the seriously ill list the following day. He was removed from the seriously ill list on 8 November and had recovered sufficiently to be transferred to the 2nd New Zealand General Hospital at Walton on 10 December. 

He was discharged to be appointed to the Pay Corps on 15 February 1919 and posted to Temporary Lance Corporal. On 21 July he was posted to the rank of Sergeant. He made his way to Torquay on 3 October, arriving there on 13 October to await orders to embark for New Zealand. His turn came up one month later when he set sail on board the Ruahine. He sent word to his mother of his imminent return and this was reported in the Star of 15 November 1919. The voyage home was to take longer than usual because, owing to a strike by American coal workers, the Ruahine had to divert from Panama to Capetown to take on more coal.

Controversy also surrounded the voyage from the moment the soldiers first embarked the Ruahine at Torbay. The ship was to take mostly officers and NCO's, a good number of whom were accompanied by wives. But the sleeping arrangements mixed married couples with single officers and some were quartered amongst the mess tables. Poor food was also a grievance and at Capetown a court of inquiry was convened at which it was decided the mens' grievances would be conveyed to the Government. All this was widely publicised in the papers back in New Zealand. The sad final coda to the voyage was that when the Ruahine reached Auckland on 27 December, all the men were disembarked and the southern men had to make their way home on the main trunk line and via the Cook Strait ferry to Christchurch and other towns. The Christchurch contingent being one of the last of the soldiers to arrive home were met with very little fanfare and only a passing mention in the one of the Christchurch papers.

Being in a professional career before the war, Richard quickly settled back into work as an accountant. This was to be his employment until he retired in the mid-1970's. When in 1922 the first and highly regarded Headmaster of Wharenui School Mr Frederick Alley retired a big public farewell was held in the Riccarton Town Hall. Richard gave the main speech retelling many happy and humorous reminiscences of school life and presented two handsome armchairs to Mr and Mrs Alley on behalf of the pupils.

In February 1923 Richard married Dorothy Margaret Burford at St Luke's Church, Christchurch. They spent their lives together at 32 Harakeke Street, Riccarton.

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Richard Harold Graveston

First Names:Richard Harold
Last Name:Graveston
Place of Birth:Kendal, Westmorland, England