3/455 Private Arthur Harold Topham
Arthur Harold Topham was born on 10th November 1890 in Manchester, England. In the early 1900’s, like many single United Kingdom men, Arthur emigrated to work in New Zealand’s Mental Institutes.
On 21st October 1914 Arthur was one of nine men[i] from Porirua Hospital who enlisted together. Arthur’s enlisted papers note he was single, 24 year old, and working as a Hospital Attendant at the Porirua Mental Hospital.[ii]
3/455 Trooper Arthur Harold Topham - Christmas 1914
After training at Trentham on 14th December 1914, 3/455 Trooper Topham embarked with the 2nd Reinforcements, Medical Corps (Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance).[iii] On arrival in Egypt and prior to landing at Gallipoli 3/455 Trooper Topham was allocated to the Mobile Field Ambulance (MFA) with the rank of Private.
Private Topham landed on 25th April 1915 at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, with the MFA which included four other men from Porirua Hospital three of whom had enlisted with Private Topham.[iv] Private Topham would remain at ANZAC Cove for three months before he was evacuated sick first to Murdos with acute colic and then to Egypt where on 24th August 1915 Private Topham was admitted to the 19th General Hospital, Alexandria with Enteric Fever.[v]
On 18th September 1915 a medical board assessed Private Topham finding that the Enteric Fever had affected his vision and recommended that he be returned to New Zealand ‘for a change’.[vi] Private Topham left Egypt on 23rd September 1915 on the Troopship Tofua arriving at Port Chalmers, Dunedin in October 1915.
Private Topham returned to Wellington for rest, residing at the Porirua Hotel but visiting Wellington Hospital for regular treatments. The New Zealand Army allowed servicemen up to six months to recover so in February 1916 Private Topham was again assessed and found to still be suffering, as a result of the dysentery, weak vision. The medical board assessed that he was now permanently unfit for general duties so on 16th March 1916 he was discharged from the New Zealand Medical Corps.
No records exist but Arthur was living in the Porirua Hotel prior to discharge so it is assumed that he may have been successful in the land ballot for returned servicemen as his address on discharge was a PO Box at Takapau and when his medals were sent to him in 1921 they were sent to Orauwharo, Takapau, Hawkes Bay where a number of soldier settlers were farming. Orauwharo is near Marakeke where two other ‘Hospital Men’ Archibald (Archie) Foley and Francis (Frank) Walsh were farming.
Arthur Harold Topham on 7th April 1917 married Lucy Raine and their first child, Kenneth was born in 1919. In 1923 when Lucy’s father died the family were living in Te Awamutu[vii] also living in the area were one of Lucy’s younger brothers George Edgar Raine and a married sister Elizabeth Hilda Cullen. It is possible that Arthur and Lucy moved to Auckland to care for Lucy’s mother then in 1927 they moved back to the Wellington area buying a house in Tawa Flat.
In World War Two both Arthur and his son Kenneth (Ken?) enlisted in the New Zealand army. Arthur was a married man, with family, living in Tawa Flat and working as a Clerk in the Tax Department of the New Zealand Government. There may have been an adjusted of Arthur’s birth date to 1904 which meant that he was under the maximum recruiting age. On 15th August 1940 the Evening Post wrote about the Tawa Flat Resident’s Gesture.[viii]
1940 Corporal A H Topham with Gunner K A E Topham
32593 Sergeant Topham, 29th Battalion, 2NZEF, served in Fiji from October 1940 to March 1941 when he returned to New Zealand for medical treatment and was reclassified as overage and discharged.
Lance Sergeant Kenneth Arthur Edward Topham was reported missing in the Western Desert on 24th January 1942 and would remain a prisoner of war until end of the war.
Arthur and Lucy continued to live in Tawa Flat with Lucy dying in 1967 and Arthur in 1978. Members of the Topham family continue to live in Tawa.
Thank you to the Topham family who provided the background material and photographs for this article.
3/455 Trooper Topham (Christmas 1914): Topham family
Corporal AH Topham and Gunner KEA Topham (father 7 son): Tawa Flat & Old Porirua Road 1840-1955
Archway Archives New Zealand – Military Records: 3/455 Private Arthur Harold Topham military files: Archives New Zealand
Arthur H Carman: Tawa Flat & Old Porirua Road 1840 – 1955
[i] Men from Porirua Hospital: 3/383 Joseph Herbert Alexander, 3/400 Alexander Herbert Foley, 3/401 Herbert Foster, 3/442 Phillip Sydney Roots, 3/445 Arthur Harold Topham, 3/460 Francis William Walsh, 3/426 Kenneth Munro, 3/722 William Skinner
[ii] Archives New Zealand Military Records: 3/455 Trooper Arthur Harold Topham
[iii] 3/455 Arthur Harold Topham: Auckland War Memorial Cenotaph database
[iv] Men from Porirua Hospital: 3/97 Singleton, 3/401 Foster, 3/442 Roots, 3/426 Munro,
[v] 3/455 Private Alfred Harold Topham: Military Records – Archives New Zealand
[vi] 3/455 Private Alfred Harold Topham: Military Records – Archives New Zealand
[vii] Evening Post 17 December 1927: Death of Mr John George Raine
[viii] Evening Post 15 August 1940: Tawa Flat Residents’ Gesture