The photo theme for Sepia Saturday is of a person standing in a doorway. I had a couple to choose from but actually not many in our collection. This was the most interesting.
The person sitting on the porch is my great great uncle, William (Willy) Henry Pearce, not long back from WWI, taken about 1919. He is patting the family dog called Laddy. Nearly all the Pearce family dogs were called Laddy - not partically imaginative. In the doorway is a family member. It is probably Willy's mother Eliza, judging by the long skirt and apron, but we can only guess as the woman's head is in the shadows. The house is 60 Aikmans Road, Merivale, Christchurch where the Pearce family lived for many years. Most old Christchurch houses were made of weatherboards with a porch and some decorative posts, as in this picture, with iron fretwork around the gutter area to make it look pretty. You can see the shadow of the fretwork in this picture. It must have been quite a sunny day with high contrast. Willy's eyes are hidden by the shadow of his hat and he has a fag hanging out of his mouth, possibly a habit he got from the war. Willy Pearce was never quite the same after coming back from war. It was called shell shock back then, or Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) these days. If we could see the expression on his mother Eliza's face, it may have been an expression of concern for him.
I wanted to research where Willy went during WWI and was excited to find that his army medical records have finally been scanned and put online on Archway, Archives New Zealand. Click here to view them. I was interested to find out what affected him so greatly. But the record was mainly medical and only mentions the places in England that he went, not the battles he endured.
Willy's medical showed he was a normal and healthy 20 year old man when he entered the army. He was short at 5 foot, 3 1/2 inches tall, with black hair, dark complexion and grey eyes and weighed 135 pounds.
He was transported on the ship Willochra, departing Wellington on 16 October 1916 and arriving in England on 28 December along with hundreds of other men. He was admitted to Devonport Military hospital the day after arrival on 29 December 1916 with Laryngitis and bronchitis. He was discharged to the Command Depot Codford, Wiltshire, England, on 8 January 1917. He then got mumps on 8 March 1917 and was discharged on 21 March 1917. He certainly had an unwell time at the beginning of that year and probably wished he was at home sitting on the porch!
What he did after that is not recorded on this particular record. His other records are held in Wellington and are not accessible on the Internet yet. Maybe soon I will be able to click a button and read about his war time life. At the moment what he saw and experienced is still a mystery to me.
Willy married and had children and lived until he was 78 years old. His mother in the doorway back in 1919, however, would have been very worried about him, a changed man after seeing, hearing and feeling things that no man should have to go through.