Waitomo News : April 17 2014 ANZAC
> IRISH-BORN: Irish-born brothers Ernest (left) & Arthur Ronaldson both served in World War I. Ernest was killed at Gallipoli on August 8, 1915. Upon his death, Arthur enlisted serving in France before being seconded to the British Army. After the war, he married Mabel O’Neill in Ireland. The couple then came to New Zealand where Arthur bought a farm at Aria. IN OUR DEFENCE Thursday, April 17, 2014 7 TWO young Irish-born brothers who drew lots to de- cide who would fight and who would farm, are among the characters brought to light in a hunt for previously unrecognised World War l soldiers from the Waitomo district. Members of the Te Kuiti Genealogy Group are mark- ing the centenary of the beginning of ‘The Great War’ by compiling a lasting record of the brave souls who fought for ‘King and Country’, returned home and simply got on with their lives. PIECING THE STORY TOGETHER Arthur and Ernest Ronaldson’s story has been pieced together by Te Kuiti genealogist and archivist Sheryl Baker from the cenotaph website, WWl medal roll, electoral rolls and defence records held in the national archives in Wellington. The brothers, the sons of George and Mary Ronaldson, grew up in a large country home in Westmeath, Ireland with their three sisters and two other brothers. It is said the ‘Black and Tans’ regularly camped in the family’s barn on their way to and from ‘creating havoc’ for British loyalists in Northern Ireland. FARM LABOURERS With their elder brother Sidney inheriting the fam- ily farm, Arthur and Ernest both emigrated to New Zealand from Liverpool as farm labourers on board the Fifeshire in 1908. Arthur was 16 and Ernest 19. They spent some time with their Uncle Tom in Wel- lington, went shepherding for a while then bought a small farm near Waipawa. The story goes, when war broke out the brothers drew lots to decide who would fight and who would farm. Ernest lost and enlisted immediately and assigned to the 5th Reinforcements embarking for Suez with the Wellington Infantry Battalion on June 13, 1915. KILLED AT GALLIPOLI Private Ronaldson’s embarkation record says he was aboard the Manganui or Tahiti or Aparima and due to arrive in Egypt between July 24 and August 6. He was killed on August 8 at Gallipoli and is remem- bered on the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair Cemetery at Gallipoli. He was 26. When he was killed in 1915, Arthur enlisted. He trained as a rifleman with the NZ Rifle Brigade and embarked for Suez, Egypt, on January 8, 1916 with F Com- pany, 3rd Reinforcements 2nd Battalion. He served in France, then was temporarily seconded to the British Army and trained as an officer at Wimbledon with the West India Regi- ment, Royal Scots Corp. IN DISPATCHES Arthur was mentioned in dispatches on April 9, 1917, by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig for gallant and distinguished services in the field. He was discharged from the Army on February 26, 1918 and on a visit home to Ireland to see his family, he married Mabel O’Neill in September 1919. The young couple returned to New Zealand and bought a small farm in Aria. He put his soldiering skills to good use during WWll as an active commanding officer in the Home Guard. Arthur is remembered as a patriotic, hard-working man who enjoyed a game of bridge. He retired in Kio Kio and died aged 77 on April 14, 1968, and is buried in Te Kuiti Cemetery beside Mabel who died aged 61 on March 20, 1956. Arthur is survived by his son Ernest who was named after his brother killed in WWl. Ernest, now in his 90s, lives in Te Kuiti with his wife Roma after a lifetime farming at the Eight Mile Junc- tion, south of Te Kuiti. Irish brothers drew lots By ROBBIE KAY > NOW & THEN: Ernest Ronaldson (left) was named after his father’s brother who had been killed in World Ward I. Ernest (left) now in his 90s, lives in Te Kuiti with his wife Roma after farming for many years at the Eight Mile Junction, south of Te Kuiti. Ernest also saw active service as a Lancaster bomber navigator (right) during World War II.
24 April 2014
15 April 2014