Private Henry Waiting

Many thanks to Jim Edwards of North Holmwood for this research.

Henry Waiting was born in Epsom in 1888.

His father, Robert, was born in 1846 in Cumberland. His mother, Mary, was born in Cornwall in 1857. They married in 1879 in Croydon. In 1881 they were living in Epsom where Robert was a coachman. By 1901 they had moved to Inholms Farm (now called Old Inholms Farm, near the North Holmwood Sports Club) which Robert ran with the family. They had eight children: Reuben 1880, Edith 1881, Annie 1882, Ethel 1885, Henry 1888, Isaac 1890, Harold 1892, who were all born in Epsom and Evelyn who was born in Dorking in 1897.

Robert’s brother, Isaac (born 1845), went to New Zealand as a farmer in the 1860s and married Lydia Pring there in 1872. In 1905, now about 60, he seems to be leaving the farm as he is registered both on the farm by himself and in Christchurch, with his wife, Lydia, and two daughters, Edith Amy and Charlotte Ellen. In 1911 and 1914 Isaac is no longer on the farm; Edith Amy and Lydia are with him in Christchurch. Isaac died in 1917.

In the 1911 Dorking census Robert’s family were all still on Inholms Farm except Edith, Henry and Harold. Edith had married Walter Sydney Piper (born North Holmwood 1883), the schoolmaster’s son, on 19th August 1909 in St John’s and they moved to Carshalton where he was a ledger clerk for the gas company. Robert died in January 1912, leaving £4,308.

Annie and Ethel left for New Zealand in December 1913 and by 1919 they were living in the house in Christchurch with their uncle’s widow Lydia and Edith Amy. Lydia died in 1931 and Edith Amy went to live by herself. Annie and Ethel never married and continued to share houses in Christchurch until Annie’s death in 1960. Ethel died in 1961.

By 1911 Harold was lodging in Croydon and working as a bank clerk. He joined the Royal Field Artillery (2076 later 950834) in January 1915 at Kennington, giving his address as Inholms Farm. He went to France in June 1916. He was in hospital for five weeks from September 1918 with boils on the knee. He was on leave from 28th December 1918 and discharged on 6th March 1919, when his address was given as Oaklands, North Holmwood. He left for New Zealand in December 1920 and moved around Australasia. In 1926 he was staying at the YMCA in Sydney. He returned to England and died in Eton in 1949.

Reuben left England in November 1911 for Australia. He joined the Australian infantry in June 1915 and returned to Europe in October with the Expeditionary Force. (Australia only sent volunteers overseas.) He was transferred to the Pioneer Battalion in March 1916 and shortly afterwards admitted to hospital, being sent to Cairo with “debility”. In July he was diagnosed with epilepsy. From Alexandria he was sent to England, arriving in September 1916 and after moving to several different camps, he was sent back to Australia a year later and discharged in December 1917. He died in Australia in 1954.

Henry left for Sydney in January 1911, on his way to New Zealand, where he worked as a farm labourer. He seems to have taken a trip home the following year, going across Canada. Henry failed an army medical in June 1916 (listed in the Wairarapa Times) for poor eyesight and a bent knee. (New Zealand had conscription from 1st August 1916.) He was retested on 15th December 1916 [Service record]. His eyesight was recorded as standard. He was offered two months leave to have an operation on the cartilage in his right knee, but refused and agreed to undertake any duty required. He enlisted that day and after a period of training he embarked for Plymouth in June 1917 as a private with the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps (Number 47799). After a period at Sling Camp, the New Zealand reinforcement depot on Salisbury Plain, he left for Etaples in France in October. He seems to have had a further two months’ training before joining A company in December 1917. He had three weeks leave in England in October 1918 and returned on 25th. On 3rd November, eight days after his return, he was wounded and died (just eight days before the armistice). He was buried at Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension, in the Nord department. In a daring assault the New Zealand forces stormed the town of Le Quesnoy on 4th November. Henry’s estate was divided between three sisters and one brother. Annie and Ethel were living at 21 Collins Street, Christchurch and Evelyn and Harold were at Oaklands, North Holmwood, near the present doctors’ surgery. In 1911 it was empty but their mother Mary had moved there by 1916 and remained there until her death in October 1928, when her estate was valued at £1,958.

New Zealand had paid a heavy price in the war. The total population in 1914 was just over one million. 120,000 enlisted in the New Zealand forces, of whom 103,000 served overseas and 68,000 were killed or wounded. Over 3,300 more served in other forces.

The three brothers, none fully fit, had served in Europe with the armies of three different countries.

Born Epsom, Surrey
Lived North Holmwood
Son of Robert and Mary Waiting, Oaklands North Holmwood
Regiment New Zealand Machine Gun Corps
Number 47799
Date of Death 3rd November 1918
Place of Death France
Cause of Death Died of Wounds
Age 30
Cemetery Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Nord Extension

The Museum received a mail from Lindsey Kirk

“I thought that you would be interested to know that Henry Waiting is not forgotten in New Zealand.

I am a New Zealand artist and have spent the last 18 months working on paintings to highlight the liberation of Le Quesnoy in Northern France, 4.11.1918. I also wanted to commemorate some of the more than 190 soldiers who died liberating the town. Henry Waiting of course was one of these soldiers, fighting with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

In April of this year I held an exhibition of 14 paintings in Le Quesnoy. Since then I have painted 8 more “portraits” of soldiers involved at that time. I brought home all the Le Quesnoy paintings and with the 8 new ones have just opened an exhibition at the Army Museum in Waiouru. This will continue to be on display until the end of April 2024.

I was very grateful to have found out more about Henry from the Dorking Museum website. I have not been able to locate any descendants of his in New Zealand but have not given up searching.

The painting is 40 x 48 cm, mixed media on canvas.

See more of the exhibition paintings on the Waiouru Army Museum website here.

Lindsay Kirk’s page is here.

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