Mary Barnes, 2008.
Dad’s father was a lawyer who retired as soon as he received his inheritance. Dad used to say that he played the country squire and just spent it all. He remembered the family having a big house, servants, a carriage with a coat of arms on the door. The children had a nanny, and an absolutely fabulous rocking horse that Dad loved.
was educated at Cheltenham Boys’ College, taking the “Military” course. Samuel
told John that he had three choices as far as his career was concerned: the
church, law, or the army. In his first year, when he would have been twelve, he
was one of the cadets lining the streets as Queen
Leaving school in 1909, he joined the army as a “Gentleman cadet” at Woolwich, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1911.
enthusiastic sportsman, he had represented his school at gymnastics and rugby:
these sporting interests continued in the army, playing rugby for the
Blackheath club, (see Blackheath.jpg) playing for the Army, and representing
three years in the army in
was lucky enough to survive the whole war on the Western Front except for a
brief spell invalided home in 1918 before going back for the duration. He
served in many of the major battles, including the
T./lt. (A./Maj.) John Alfred Pym, MC, 146th Siege Bty, RGA. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer directed the fire of his battery from a forward observation post when the enemy were making a determined attack. Although wounded in the neck and face and under very heavy fire, he continued to send back information. (MC gazetted 14 January 1916)
In handwriting underneath it states where this happened ‘No (prob. north) Dernancourt on 28/1/1918)
In February 1917 he was reported killed in action, and the Times printed an obituary of “one of the best rugby footballers that Cheltenham College ever produced”, but a month later the mistake was corrected: he had been confused with somebody else (his cousin?)
He would almost never talk about the war.
About the only stories I remember were his having to drive their guns over
their own wounded as they retreated from the front,
and overdosing badly wounded men with morphine. Another story was the big
retreat (from the
After the war he continued his army career, serving in Ceylon as adjutant for his regiment before returning to Woolwich, where he served to 1924 before retiring from the army.
His service book records: -
Seige Arty Sheerness, 1912
Musketry Hong Kong, 1913
2nd Lieut. 23.12.10
Captain Sept 15
19th Coy, RGA Jan 1911 to Oct 1912 (at home)
88th Coy, RGA Oct 1912 to 1.12.14 (Overseas) (Hong Kong we presume)
1.S.B. 39.S.B. 23 S.B. 25.12.14 to 4.10.16 (with an expedy. fce)
208 S.B., 189 S.B. 4.10.16 to 18.11.16 (at home)
189 S.B. 146 S.B. 18.11.16 to 28.3.18 (with an expedy. fce).
146 S.B. 15.6.18 to 15.11.18 (With an expdy fce)
R.A. Ceylon 16.8.19 to 1922
R.A.Depot, Woolwich 1922 to 1924
Retired to reserve of officers, 1924
(We presume "S.B." means "Siege Battery")
Extra Regimental Employment during the Present War.
Attached RA Office III Army July 1917 to Aug 1917
Attached XiX Corps, H.A (Reccon) 1.12.17 - 24.12.17
Attached XiX Corps R.A. & Cav. Corps R.A. (Reccon) 28.2.18 to 15.3.18
Adjt. R.A. Ceylon 18.8.19
Mentions in Despatches and Rewards during the Present War
6.18 Bar to MC (doesn't give day - we presume this just means "June '18")
retirement Dad was paid out (I think that's what you call it) and had enough
money left after paying his debts to emigrate. He thought
The first job was on a farm near New Plymouth. A tough old widow with three tough sons, they ate off a bare wooden table except on Sunday's when she had a tablecloth of newspaper. What a difference for him!
I'm not sure how many farms he worked on.
met Joyce through Freda. Joyce and Freda had been friends for years, since
Joyce had heaps of money from a family trust her father had set up (from the proceeds of his sailing ships and the collection and sale of guano). They bought a farm at Woodhill and later a run-off near by for fattening the cattle. They built a new house and it was, from all accounts, a thriving farm. Joyce sent a photograph of her first load of washing on the line to her mother; it was a big deal as she'd never lifted a finger in her life.
and Joyce met through a mutual love of music and being in local productions.
Joyce was teaching them how to do dance routines for HMS Pinafore. Mum met Dad
then too because Joyce asked him to show the cast how to present arms properly.
They were all good friends. Joyce took Mum to
and Dad had to wait three years for Joyce and Dad's divorce to be absolute. At
this time he had bought a farm at Henderson (
they were married Mum moved to
was back by the time I was born and in charge of the
After the war they bought the Whangarei Heads farm, but Mum couldn’t stand the isolation and the primitive living conditions, so they both returned to Springside where Dad became the caretaker for the family hotel business, and Mum worked full time in the kitchen with Dordie. They lived at Parakai until Springside burnt down, 1956 I think. Fortunately the hotel was closed at the time, it was going to be renovated once they got a liquor licence, which in those days was really hard to get. For a while after the fire the business was run as a diary and swimming pool but it was soon sold and both families retired, Dad and Mum to Manly.
was tight and they considered various live-in jobs (caretaker at a health camp,
for example), but about 1960 (or 1961?) a letter arrived from
Dad got sick, complaining of pain when swallowing, in 1968, and died of oesophageal cancer in 1969. I still miss him very much. He was a kind, well-educated man, a true gentleman, very much the product of his Victorian upbringing, who spoke with an educated English accent using expressions that you sometimes hear in period dramas: “Good Show”, “Good Egg”, friends were “Chaps”, cigarettes were “Gaspers”.
Click here to see his family tree, and information about his ancestors and descendents.