27993 Private Frank Thomson (part two)

A story featuring Francis (Frank) Thomas Thomson and his son Leslie (Les) Thomson was published on this webiste in June 2011 read part one. This story follows the return of a father to Plimmerton, thanks to Frank’s granddaughter Carol for access to the family’s history and photographs. I will now add to that previous story.

The Armistice that ended World War One came into effect on 11th November 1918. In December 1918 Private Frank Thomson was evacuated from France as he could no longer march due to pains in his legs. Private Thomson departed from England in February 1919 to return to New Zealand (1).


Private Frank Thomson 1919 in uniform of Canterbury Infantry Regiment.


Private Thomson was assessed during the return voyage and was declared medically unfit for any continued active service and was to be discharged from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on arrival in New Zealand. The assessment also noted that previous medical conditions had been aggravated by active service and he would be due a service pension of less than 20% (2).

Frank Thomson returned in April 1919 to his family, wife Margaret (Peggy) and their three children, at 16 Sunset Parade, Plimmerton. Frank joined the New Zealand Railways and was based at the Plimmerton Railway Station, and listed in Wises 1924 Directory as a Surfaceman (3). This role gave Frank responsibility to ‘maintain the track to ensure that the horizontal and vertical alignment was in order, ensuring a smooth ride (4).’

During the Depression years Frank was employed by the Public Works Department and was involved in three projects that would have an impact on Plimmerton. The first was building the Paremata Road Bridge. This bridge was finally opened on 3 October 1936 allowing access directly from Paremata to Plimmerton rather than the drive around the harbour using Grays Road.




1935 Paremata Road Bridge under construction.


The second project was closer to home, literally across the road with the construction of the Sunset Parade seawall. This wall was started in 1938 and completed in 1941. It was constructed of cement and local rock by G.K. Shaw Ltd under contract to the Hutt County Council. The wall was built with ‘one concrete mixer (5).’




1939 photo of Sunset Parade wall under construction.


The third project was the continuation of Centennial Highway from Paremata which involved forming a road to Pukerua Bay and then along the foreshore to Paekakariki. The Highway was opened 3 November 1939.




1939 photo of workers one Centennial Highway which includes Frank


Frank retired in the 1940’s and was described in his obituary as ‘a very powerfully built man and evidence of his strength is to be seen around his home where heavy boulders are used in rock works (6).’ Most of these rock works have now been demolished but his granddaughter remembers that they all contained an inscription to Frank and Margaret’s son Leslie (7). (See the Thomson family story for the remaining inscribed wall)

Frank also loved the sea and ‘most mornings about 8 o’clock when the weather was fine, passers-by could observe him man-handling his 12 ft dingy down to the water in readiness for a day’s fishing or driftwood gathering (8).’ The beach in front of 16 Sunset Parade was known at the time as Peg/Peggy’s Bay. Frank was known to row out to Mana Island to collect driftwood or to fish. When the weather came up rough, Frank was often offered a tow home by week-end fishermen, but he would always reply ‘Thanks but I’ll row, I’ve all day to do it in (9).’




1950’s photo of Frank in his dingy at Peg/Peggy’s Bay


Peggy Thomson qualified as a mid wife, a service that was in great demand during the 20’s and 30’s. Thomson family oral history notes that Peggy delivered a large number of children during this time.  For the majority of the 20’s and 30’s the only doctor available was based in Johnsonville and a District Nurse was not appointed to cover Plimmerton until 1937.




Late 1940’s photo of Frank and Peggy.


On 24 March 1955 Frank took a final row out from Peggy’s Bay. He did not return and his 12 foot dingy was found the next day floating right side up and his body was recovered from rocks in the Hongoeka area. His obituary  reads ‘and so with the passing of Frank Thomson, Plimmerton loses one who added a touch of colour to our district – a familiar figure plying his oars in steady rhythm over the sunlit waters he loved so well (9).’

Peggy passed away in 1959.

Thanks again to the Thomson family for providing photos and oral history for this story.

Allan Dodson : August 2013


(1)       Service Record 27993 Private Frank Thomson: Archives New Zealand
(2)       Medical Record 27993 Private Frank Thomson: Archives New Zealand
(3)       1924 Stones Directory: Wellington, Hawkes Bay & Taranaki
(4)       Surfaceman:sct-wigtownshire-L@rootweb.com
(5)       Plimmerton A colourful History: Sunset Parade Seawall
(6)       1955 Francis Thomas Thomson - Obituary: Kapi Mana
(7)       Oral History: Thomson family
(8)       1955 Francis Thomas Thomson – Obituary: April Kapi Mana

(9)       1955 Francis Thomas Thomson – Obituary: April Kapi Mana


(1)       Private Frank Thomson 1919: Thomson family
(2)       1935 Paremata Road Bridge under construction: John Davis Buckley collection
(3)       1939 Sunset Parade seawall: Broe/Shaw family
(4)       1939 Centennial Highway – near Pukerua Bay
(5)       1950’s Frank with a dingy full of grandchildren and visitors
(6)       1940’s Frank & Peggy Thomson: Thomson family



Last Updated: 27/03/2015 12:32am