Topic: Heaton David Lisle Manson (Service No. 39073)

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Heaton Manson was a former student of the Wharenui School who lived for several years in the Riccarton area and served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

Heaton Manson was born into one of the first founding families of Christchurch on 20 June 1897 to Robert David Gebbie Manson, a stockman and Annie (nee Taylor) Manson. The Manson family was originally from the village of Riccarton in East Ayrshire, Scotland. Samuel Manson had contracted to work for John Deans, also of Riccarton, Ayrshire when the latter arrived in New Zealand. Samuel and his wife Jean and their two children came to New Zealand with John Deans on board the barque 'Thomas Harrison' in 1842. Arriving first in Nelson, they found prospects disappointing and at William Deans's invitation sailed for Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. They moved to Putaringamotu (present day Riccarton Bush) on the Port Cooper Plains (the future site for Christchurch) where William Deans had begun farming. Samuel Manson helped the Deans brothers build their first cottage (Christchurch's oldest building) here in 1843 and establish their farm which they named 'Riccarton'.

In 1844 Jean Manson gave birth to her daughter Jeannie, the first European child to be born on the Port Cooper Plains. In 1845 the Mansons gained lease of a block of land stretching from near Governors Bay to Charteris Bay. In 1848 Samuel built the servants quarters out of stone and wood in what is now Orton Bradley Park and it survives as the oldest stone house in Canterbury. Samuel ultimately acquired the large Teddington block at the Head of Lyttelton Harbour Bay where many subsequent generations remained. Heaton's father Robert David Gebbie Manson was the grandson of Samuel Manson. From the records available it seems that Robert and Annie started their family in the Lower Riccarton/Hillmorton area. Heaton had several siblings; Ruahine Pearl and Rubenia Pearl (both born 2 August 1895), Heaton himself, Gladys Annie (born 20 May 1900), Ida Mavis (born 25 April 1905) and Orton Winston (born 6 March 1908). 

Heaton began his education at the Fendalton School but before the newly built Wharenui School opened in January 1907 the family moved to 31 Mandeville Street in Riccarton. He was among the first large influx of students enrolled in the Wharenui School on 30 January 1907: his name appears on the school's 'Register of Admissions, Progress, Withdrawls' as the 92nd student. He began at standard two level and he finished up at the school in December 1912, having attained standard five. There is no indication in the Register about what he intended to do after leaving school however when he enlisted in the army his occupation was stated variously as plumber and labourer with the City Gas Company of Christchurch.

When Heaton enlisted in the army on 18 October 1916 he was more than six months shy of the legal age to volunteer of twenty years. He had already presented himself for a physical examination on 28 July 1916 which recorded "Fit : physique slight but well built and athletic". It also found the distinguishing "three moles on right side of back, two on left shoulder blade, one on outside of right forearm". His military training began at Featherstone where he was posted to the rank of Private in G Company, 22nd contingent of reinforcements. The 22nd reinforcements were moved between Featherstone, Trentham and Tauherenikau camps several times in adition to the march with full-kit over the Rimutaka Ranges. Embarkation for the voyage overseas may have been something of a relief for the men when it happened.

In Wellington Harbour the 22nd's boarded HMNZT (Troopship voyage 77) 'Mokoia' on12 February 1917 and sailed the following day. In an amazing coincidence four other Wharenui boys were also on the Mokoia, two of them in C Company of 4th Battalion (Harold Eaton and Arthur George Palmer) while Albert Reid Blackburn was soon to be posted to the Machine Gun Corps and Percival Lowe was destined to join the 1st Canterbury Infantry Battalion) . Their voyage took them to Albany, Australia (24 February), Capetown, South Africa (18 March), Freetown, Sierra Leone (6 April and finally, Plymouth, England where they disemabarked on 2 May 1917. They marched straight out to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain that same day.

At Sling Camp Heaton was posted to D Company in the 5th Reserve Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 3 May. The training here was tough and swift as the soldiers were then sent to France on 6 June. The New Zealand General Depot at Etaples on the French coast was the first point of arrival on 8 June. After more up to date training and tactical insruction there Heaton was marched out to join the New Zealand Division at the front on 25 June, arriving with his new parent unit - B Company, 4th Battalion New Zealand Rifles - the following day.

In early July 1917 the Fourth Battalion (along with the other battalions of the NZRB) had been 'loaned' to the First French Army who assigned them the task of preparing roads and emplacements, railways, dugouts and cables for the French artillery. It was hard tiring work in difficult conditions but it earned the New Zealanders the high praise of the French High Command. Heaton was admitted to Hospital on 19 July for Varicocele a condition he may not have been aware he had until the heavy labouring work caused it to flare up. He was discharged from No 3 NZ Field Hospital two days later and rejoined 4th Battalion.

Much of August 1917 was spent in the Warneton sector where the Rifle Brigade managed to build 20,000 yards of frontline trenches and lay many kilometres of cable all while under constant bombardment from German artillery. Many men were killed or wounded and the rates of sickness soared during the appalling weather conditions. September brought no relief as the Brigade was seconded to the British Second Army near Zillibeke where they were employed laying underground cable. Three months of continuous manual labouring exhausted the Rifle Brigade to the point where the men were not in prime physical readiness when they were rushed in to take part in the Ypres Offensive. This was the most significant action for the New Zealand Division to date, involving all of the units at some point of the campaign.

The Rifle Brigade was to spearhead the left sector of the attack but Heaton's battalion, the 4th was to support each of the other three battalions in their advances and to form defensive flanks if necessary. On the 10 October the 4th Battalion marched over five miles in the dark to reach the front line posts which they were to hold until the launch of the attack. The ground was so difficult that the men had to carefully prepare and record compass readings by which to guide their march.

On 12 October the New Zealand Division launched its attack. It was preceded by hasty preparation which was hampered severely by the wet weather. Most of the allied heavy artillery could not get into stable positions due to the mud which also greatly reduced their rate of fire. The bombardment of the German positions proved totally ineffective and most of the German emplacements and barbed wire were still intact.  The New Zealanders had to face German defences of barbed wire 30 yards deep and a great many machine gun positions. With casualties soaring the attack effectively stalled within two hours. By this time the most senior officer on the spot was 4th Battalion's Lieutenant Puttick who called a halt to the attack.

Heaton was struck by a gunshot wound to his right hand during this attack and the following day he was evacuated from the battlefield by the 1st New Zealand Field Ambulance. He was taken to the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station where his wound was classed as severe. From there he was moved to the 14th General Hospital at Wimereaux on 14 October and was then embarked for England on the HMHS Jan Breydel the next day. He arrived at the No 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst where he spent the next ten days. While in Brockenhurst he was visited by a civilian volunteer who reported the visit in the 'Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., 1916-1919' of 31 October 1917. On 26 October he was sent to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch to recuperate. It seems military discipline was still in effect here as on 17 December he failed to appear at his hut tattoo roll call. His punishment was confinement to barracks for three days. Word of Heaton's wounding reached his parents back home but the report they provided to the Star newspaper on 3 November 1917 reveals that they knew nothing of how serious his wounds were.

On 9 January 1918 Heaton was transferred to the No 2 General Hospital at Walton-on Thames. Perhaps his hand wound was not healing so well and required further attention. There is no medical report in his military file for any of the treatments he received in the hospitals so this can't be confirmed. He was never returned to service in the field but was soon returned to New Zealand so it is possible that the wound to his hand made him unfit for further duty. He was also caught out on another two occasions for ill-discipline; the first was failing to appear for parade on 7 May 1918 which earned him four days confinement to barracks, while the second was for "being improperly dressed for parade" which gave him five days confinement. He was next attached to the NZ Convalescent Hospital Hornchurch on 8 June 1918, then discharged to Codford 4th General Hospital on 9 November. Heaton's military file has a form on which he declared that he had a will which was held by his mother. This declaration was made on 27 November a week before he embarked on the 'Tahiti' in Liverpool for return to New Zealand.

The voyage from Liverpool took the Tahiti via Panama and then to Port Chalmers, Dunedin where the men disembarked on 13 January 1919. Heaton was among 456 Canterbury men who were taken by train to Christchurch Railway Station and then driven home by volunteeers of the local Automobile Association. Heaton arrived back at his family home in Mandeville Road, Riccarton. He was discharged from active military service with the ubiquitous "no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service" pencilled in to his file. But in addition it was noted that he suffered "nasal obstruction due to deflected septum". 

On 6 August 1919 Heaton was married to Vera Martha Lloyd at St Andrews Church in Christchurch. The Electoral Roll of 1919 reveals that the couple moved in to their own home at 121 Harper Street, Sydenham (today it is Orbell Street) and that Heaton had returned to his old trade as a gasfitter. In 1920 Heaton witnessed a horrific accident at 97 Harper Street when he was out one evening. He noticed a fire in the back room of a house and when he opened the door a man stumbled out backwards in flames. Heaton pulled the man out on to the street and another man extinguished the flames but sadly the victim died in hospital the next day.

The next trace of Heaton and his wife in the records is found in the 1928 Electoral Rolls when they were both living in 142 Simeon Street. They lived there for the remainder of their lives and there was no trace of any off-spring. Heaton passed away on 1 July 1945 and was buried at Bromley Cemetery, block 2G RSA plot 25. His wife Vera passed away in 1978.

Related Resources

  • 'Mindful of My Origin: The Mansons of Kains Hill: A Canterbury Pioneering Family', by Janet M. O'Loughlin (Kaiapoi, NZ, 2009).
  • 'Head of the Harbour: A History of Governors Bay, Ohinetahi, Allandale and Teddington' by Jane Robertson (Christchurch, New Zealand:, Philip King Publisher for the Governors Bay Heritage Trust, 2016). Pages 48 - 54.
  • For addresses from electoral rolls for Christchurch 1919 - 1938.
  • Family for Heaton's parents and siblings.
  • . For Heaton's Military Personnel File. Source: (
  • H.M.N.Z. Transports Main Body and Reinforcements. This lists itineraries for all of the troopships. Heaton sailed for England in 1917 on transport 77 the 'Mokoia' which is listed on page 6. He returned to New Zealand on transport 204 the 'Tahiti' in 1919 which is listed on page 21. Source:
  • The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade by Lieutenant Colonel W. S. Austin (L. T. Watkins Ltd, 1924, Wellington). The period during which Heaton served is covered in pages 218  - 245. Source:


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Heaton David Lisle Manson (Service No. 39073)

First Names:Heaton David Lisle
Last Name:Manson
Place of Birth:Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
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Heaton David Lisle Manson (Service No. 39073) by Sepia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License