WWI medal search ends

PAUL O'ROURKE
Last updated 15:01 15/05/2012
enid sheppard
SUPPLIED
PUZZLE PIECE: Enid Sheppard, fiancee of Major Victor Rogers and later to become Mrs Enid White.

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An Englishman's desire to see the Distinguished Service Order medal of a Timaru man who died in France in World War I reunited with any descendants looks unlikely to be fulfilled.

Research of old records and newspapers shows there appear to be no living descendants of the family of Major Victor AF Rogers.

John White has been trying to find descendants of the Reverend John Henry Rogers, the father of Victor, who served in the parish of Otipua from 1913 to 1919 and died in Timaru in 1935.

The medal belonged to Major Rogers, who was killed in action at Railway Wood, France, in February 1918.

Before his death, Major Rogers was engaged to Mr White's mother, Enid Sheppard, of England. When she visited the Reverend Rogers in Timaru in the 1920s, she was given the DSO as a reminder of Victor.

Enid married Mr White Sr in 1925, a marriage that was to last until she died 51 years later. However, throughout her married life, she kept a photo of Victor and the medal at her bedside.

Mr White said his mother and father were outwardly happily married, but as soon as his mother passed away and before the doctor had arrived to sign the death certificate, his father grabbed the medal and threw it across the room, and said: "I have hated this bloody medal".

Mr White Sr then picked up the photograph of Rogers and built a bonfire to burn it.

"It's strange, however, to say it would not burn and he poured more and more oil onto the fire, shouting, `Burn you b....., burn'. It finally did."

Mr White said his father was a kindly man, having won an MC himself in the war, but his action showed how strongly he felt over the years about the third person in the marriage, albeit only in mind.

The DSO, especially that awarded to a New Zealander, could fetch anywhere between $3000 to $5000 from a military medal collector, and if it was to be reunited with its campaign medals, the set could be worth up to $7000.

The Reverend Rogers and his wife, Maria, had five children: Victor and four daughters, Janet, Ethel, Dorothy and Margaret.

Mr and Mrs Rogers are buried at Anderson's Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, Victor is buried in the Divisional Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, and Janet and Dorothy are buried at the Woodbury Cemetery behind Geraldine, but it is not known where Ethel and Margaret are buried.

Mr White said in an email from England that it now looked as if there were no direct descendants of Victor, and if anyone did come forward, he would be surprised.

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"The question now arises what to do with the medal."

Mr White said he saw little point in giving the medal to the National Army Museum in Auckland, because it already had thousands of medals and one more was "neither here nor there".

"If Christ's College was interested, then I think that would be an appropriate place for it to go."

Mr White said it would be a last resort to sell the medal, but if he did, he would give all the proceeds to a New Zealand service charity.

The obituary section of the Christ's College register of April 1918 reads:

"Major Victor Aaron Francis Rogers was at Christ's College from May 1902 till 1904. On leaving, he went into the employ of Messrs Montgomery and Co, and later into that of Messrs AH Turnbull and Co.

"He was an enthusiastic member of the Christchurch Football Club, and was keen on all branches of sport, but had an special liking for volunteer work, holding a commission in the E Battery. He went home at the Coronation as a member of the New Zealand Contingent.

"When war broke out, he joined the Main Body Artillery as Lieutenant, served through the Gallipoli campaign and was promoted to captain and later on to major. He was awarded the DSO for meritorious service in France.

"Major Rogers took part in the battles of the Somme, Messines and Passchendaele, and was twice wounded."

According to files kept at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database, Major Rogers was awarded the Distinguished Service Order medal in January 1917.

The citation said: "During operations in September 1916, this officer, though wounded, continued to carry on his duties in a most efficient manner.

"He has always displayed great coolness and has brought his battery to a most satisfactory state of efficiency.

"During operations on September 15, he reorganised and practically took over command of the 12th Battery when its OC became a casualty. This he did again in a most efficient manner on the 25th when its OC was again a casualty, and by his supervision and coolness, instilled confidence in the battery personnel during heavy shell fire."

He was also mentioned in dispatches from British armies commander in chief General Sir Douglas Haig in November 1916.

ENGLAND RECORDS

  • England & Wales, National Probate Calendar, 1937.
  • Victor Aron Francis Rogers, of Christchurch, New Zealand, died February 8 , 1918, France.
  • Administration (with will) (limited) London, January 4, to the Public Trustee attorney of the Public Trustee of New Zealand.
  • Effects 559 6s 5d in England. John Henry Rogers: born November 9, 1843, Bristol, married October 31, 1871, Bristol, to Maria Jane Shepherd (Source: Ancestry).
  • Janet Mary Rogers: born 1882, registered January-March, Brighton, Sussex.
  • Ethel Constance Rogers: born 1883, registered July-September, Brighton, Sussex. Victor Aaron F Rogers: born 1889, registered January-March, Tonbridge, Kent.
  • Janet Mary Rogers: born December 22, 1881, Brighton, Sussex; christened January 22, 1882, Brighton, Sussex; daughter of John Henry Rogers and Maria Jane (Baptism Record, Ancestry).
  • Margaret Rest Rogers: born April 7, 1886; died 1971 (January-March), reg. Wells, Somerset, 84 years (Ancestry). Researched by Teresa Scott, Timaru.

- The Timaru Herald

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