A TREASURE REDISCOVERED
This very important clock case came into my possession about a year ago. It is competently made in English Oak, with several iconic military features and imagery built into the casework. These include a carved insignia on the shield of the pediment, being a seven-flame hand grenade and “NZEF” underneath. Beneath that, “HORNCHURCH” is carved into the lower section of the pediment. The last item to personalize the case is a large carved oval cypher of 3 intertwined initials “G.S.R” in the centre front of the pendulum door.
What ties all this together and brings home the personal military and emotional importance of this clock is a small, aged, hand-typed card affixed to the inside back of the case. It reads…
“This clock was made by Disabled Soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at the N.Z CONVALESCENT HOSPITAL HORNCHURCH ESSEX ENGLAND and presented to Br. General G.S. Richardson C.B. C.M.G. C.B.E Commanding NZEF in the United Kingdom 1917.
As a Mark of Esteem”
All of the significant pieces of information have now been assessed to establish the history and provenance of this 103-year-old clock. This is such an important unique item, made by the disabled soldiers who have been sent to the U.K to convalesce from their most horrific injuries sustained in the battlefields of WWI. Regrettably we shall never know who these unnamed heroes were, but we do know their thoughts for their commanding officer, then Br General G.S. Richardson, who was presented this clock “As a Mark of Esteem”.
I now provide some specifications of the clock case, before moving onto information about Richardson himself as well and then the N.Z Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch.
The clock itself ironically is a casualty due to the misplacement of the clock workings from the case. Many years ago, the clock mechanism had been removed from the clock case to allow the case to be repaired. The case had languished at a now deceased furniture restorer’s workshop, and recently I purchased it.
CLOCK CASE SPECIFICATIONS: –
Height overall is 7’ 9’’ 2.36m
Width of pediment on hood 21” 53cm
Depth, internal from door to back 6” 14.5cm
Clock face aperture 8” 20cm diameter
Hinged dial door 15” 38cm square
Fall from the clock movement base to base of case 59” 150cm.
MAJOR – GENERAL SIR GEORGE SPAFFORD RICHARDSON
Born in England in 1868. He was in the Artillery section of the British Army, and after 4 years in Gibraltar, in 1891 he got posted to N.Z and seconded to the N.Z Permanent Forces serving as a master gunner. He rose through the ranks quickly and by 1912, as a Major, he attended a Staff College in the U.K.
When WWI broke out, he was Colonel in the Imperial General staff in London. Richardson helped prepare for the Gallipoli campaign, and he landed there on 25 April 1915. His work as a staff officer throughout was so highly regarded that he was promoted to Brigadier General in 1916. Richardson transferred to the NZ Expeditionary Forces (NZEF) and took responsibility for it’s administration and overall command of all the NZEF in the U.K. This included wounded personnel receiving medical treatment,nurses and doctors, as well as soldiers undergoing training before being transferred to the front.
Finally, to now look at the disabled and convalescing soldiers at Hornchurch. It was from 1916 that all NZEF enlisted soldiers were sent to this large NZ Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch.
Hornchurch is about 20 miles N.E. of London, and the camp comprised a considerable number of huts, placed picturesquely in this 83 acre park, and clustering round an ancient manor house. The overall objective was to assist men as speedily as possible to get fit and be trained again for France. A lot of this rehabilitation was of medical nature, however, very relevant to this article, there was another department run by the Y.M.C.A, the Education Department. Here they ran workshops where “carpentry, elementary engineering, fret-work, carving and certain other arts and crafts were taught. So, it seems conclusive that the claim “this clock was made by Disabled Soldiers of the NZEF at the N.Z Convalescent Hospital Hornchurch” is correct. Regrettably there is no mention of any of the individuals involved, but it is so fortunate to have this note inside the clock to show the developed skills of these fine N.Z soldiers injured in WWI.
This has to be one of the most significant N.Z horological military relics surviving from WWI.
I seek your assistance to ascertain what clock movement could/would have been used in this clock. I also wish to complete the clock with the appropriate movement, and intend to offer the completed clock on a long-term permanent loan to a public institution.
It is fortunate that this historical item has emerged again after 103 years. It acknowledges and venerates not just the recipient, but the terribly valiant inflicted Kiwi soldiers in physical and mental recovery from their most horrific injuries inflicted upon them in WW1.
For any comments or information, please contact me at:
Mob: 021 081 02643