Topic: Edward John Perkins Frew

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Edward John Perkins Frew (6/3943) was a First World War soldier with links to Upper Riccarton.

Edward John Perkins Frew was the only son of Annie Perkins and Robert Samuel Frew. He was born on 20th January 1898 in Hororata, Canterbury, New Zealand. Annie and Robert married in 1897 in Heathcote, Christchurch, New Zealand, They had three more children; Alice Violet (born 1899), Olive Mabel (1904) and Hazel Evaline (1906). Edward was educated at Upper Riccarton District School. Annie died on 15th November 1927 (buried at Sydenham cemetery) and Robert remarried in 1930 to Florence Harriette McGifford.

Edward's father, Robert Samuel Frew (service number 6/3322), volunteered for the war on 24th August 1915 leaving his wife Annie at home at 974 Colombo Street with the three daughters then aged 16, 11 and 9. Edward was away from home working as a jockey for horse trainer N L Price of Stockburn (now known as the Christchurch suburb of Sockburn). Robert was 46 years old but gave his date of birth as 4th September 1876 to bring his age under 40 so that he could serve. He was with the Canterbury Infantry Regiment in Egypt and France. After two years he was invalided back to New Zealand for illnesses he suffered from due to the unhygienic conditions the soldiers were exposed to.

Edward Frew enlisted on 17th November 1915 only four days after his father embarked on the troopship Tahiti heading for Suez, Egypt. Edward gave his date of birth as 20th January 1894 adding four years to his age. He was really only 17 years old. We don't know if his parents gave him permission to sign up. At his medical examination the examiner said he looked 21 years and 11 months old. He was also described as having a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair and had a small scar on his left knee. He was 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighed 147 pounds. He was judged fit for the Army.

Edward left New Zealand as a private with the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Brigade, C Company, 9th Reinforcements on 8th January 1916 and arrived in Suez, Egypt on 8th February 1916. Next he went to the Reserve Camp for infantry training, however, in a short time he was admitted to the Stationary Hospital at Moascar Camp. On 28 March 1916 he was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital in Cairo with acute rheumatism. His condition deteriorated and he was placed on the dangerously ill list on 16th April 1916. Over the next two months he was on and off the dangerously ill list until the decision was made to invalid him back to New Zealand. On 11th June 1916 he boarded the Ulimaroa at Suez for the voyage home.

Edward's medical case sheet, started in the hospital in Cairo, reveals more information about his condition and medical history. The final diagnosis was acute rheumatism and endocarditis. Although Edward's medical at enlistment said that he had had no illnesses this wasn't correct as he had had rheumatic fever as an infant and due to another recurrence four years previously he had spent eight months in bed. Rheumatic fever can cause damage to the heart. Today it can be treated by antibiotics like penicillin but these weren't available during Edward's lifetime. Edward's medical issues and his age raise questions about the quality of the Army's vetting processes for volunteers.

The Ulimaroa arrived in Dunedin and the men bound for Christchurch were put on the train. The mayor Mr H Holland met the train in Christchurch and the Motor Service Corps and the Automobile Association provided cars to take the sick men to their homes. Edward was admitted to the Soldiers Ward in Christchurch Hospital where he died on 6th August 1916. Two days later he was given a military funeral at Linwood Cemetery. His body was transported on a gun carriage and covered with the Union Jack flag. He was only 18 years old. Annie Frew put a notice in the newspaper expressing thanks to the sister and nurses in the Soldiers Ward for their care for Edward.

Edward John Perkins Frew is remembered on the Roll of Honour plaque at the Upper Riccarton Memorial Library.

Edward's uncle David George Frew (service number 43474) also fought in the First War. He was a gunner in the 26th Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery.

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        * Part of this obituary is mixed up with the record of John Frew (service number 8/1986) who died 14 July 1916 at Armentieres and  is buried at CITE BONJEAN (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL He was from Oamaru.

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Edward John Perkins Frew

First Names:Edward John Perkins
Last Name:Frew
Place of Birth:Hororata, Canterbury, New Zealand