CLOSE William John

Category: Military
Rank: Private/Signaller G/3851
Regiment or Ship: 11th Battalion, later 13th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Service Number(s): G/3851
Occupation: Gardener
Date of Birth: 08.04.1895
Place of Birth: Stowmarket, Suffolk
Date of Death: 04.06.1988
Place of Death: Christchurch, New Zealand Place of Burial / Memorials:

Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ

Address: The Lodge, Egerton Park, Bexhill

Photos and newspaper articles

Family Information


William Edwin (Ted) CLOSE born in 1863 in Great Malvern, Worcs; died in 1935, in Hailsham, Sussex and Priscilla Elizabeth TURNER born in 1860, in Southwood Park, Suffolk; died in 1945 in Warminster, Wiltshire.


Charles (Charlie) William born1886 in Dalham, Suffolk; died in 1958 in Colchester, Essex.

Thomas born 1888 in Spexhall, Suffolk; died in 1888 in Spexhall, Suffolk.

Ellen (Nellie) Elizabeth born 1889 in Spexhall, Suffolk; died in 1985, in Christchurch, NZ.

William Percy born in 1891, in Thorington, Suffolk; died in 1893, in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

Mabel born in 1893, in Stowmarket, Suffolk; died in 1972, in Hastings, Sussex.

William John CLOSE married Charlotte Mary RUDGE, born in 1895, in Bewdley, Worcs; died in 1982, in Christchurch, NZ.

Their marriage took place on 16th June 1920, at St Mary’s, Guarlford, Malvern, Worcestershire)

In 1920 the couple emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand, where William spent his life as a market gardener.


Elsie Mabel , born in 1922 in Christchurch, NZ; died 2013, in Auckland, NZ. (Never married.)

William Edwin , born in 1926 in Christchurch, NZ.

Ellen Fay , born 1928, in Christchurch, NZ; died in 2012, in Christchurch, NZ.

Daphne Mary , born 1930, in Christchurch, NZ.

David Constable , born in 1936, in Christchurch, NZ.


Son Edwin married in Christchurch in 1956 to Shirley May Sandford b.1931 Christchurch; d. 2012 Christchurch.

Grandson Murray Edwin b.1958 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Margaret Jane b.1959 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Rosemary May b.1962 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Elizabeth Ann b.1964 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Kathryn Mary b.1966 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Rachael Joy b.1966 Christchurch.

Daughter Fay married in Christchurch 1952 to Thomas Courtenay ELLIS b.1931 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Kay Elizabeth b.1955 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Pauline Mary b. 1957 Christchurch.

Grandson John Courtenay b.1960 Christchurch.

Daughter Daphne married in Christchurch to Wilfred Allan ROGERS b.1928 Christchurch; d.2011 Christchurch.

Grandson Colin Geoffrey b.1956 Christchurch.

Grandson David John b.1959 Christchurch.

Granddaughter Susan Jennifer b.1963 Christchurch.

Son David married in Christchurch 1960 to Janet Caroline PONTON b.1937 Rangiora, NZ.

Grandson Stephen David b.1964 Christchurch.

Grandson Mark Jonathan b.1966 Tanzania, E.Africa.

Grandson Paul Gerald b.1968 Christchurch; d.1968 Tanzania, E.Africa.

Granddaughter Ruth Carolyn b.1969 Tanzania, E.Africa.

Brother Charlie married May Bates

Nephew Gordon Charles CLOSE b.1920 Essex; d.1973 London.

Nephew John William CLOSE b.1927 Essex; d.1995 Devon.

 In the UK, sisters Nellie and Mabel never married, while the sole surviving brother Charlie had 2 sons, 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

By comparison, Will and Lottie had 5 children, 16 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren, all of whom have remained resident in NZ.

First World War Experience

William enlisted in 11th Battalion, Royal Sussex, on June 2nd, 1915. The Brigade moved to Witley for training on 13th October and trained there till departure for France on 4th March 1916. He became a Signaller, First Class, which entitled him to pay of one shilling and sixpence a day, instead of a shilling. He served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front till November, when he returned to England to recover from dysentery.

 After returning to France he was posted to the 9th Sussex before being transferred to the 13th. He received a moderately serious wound to the upper arm from shrapnel (a “Blighty”) and again recuperated in England.

 Shortly after he returned to France in 1918, the Germans launched their spring offensive. The 13th, who were out of the line on the morning of the attack, were immediately sent forward to strengthen the defence. The Battalion’s role was to cover the retreat of other units who were retreating in some disarray. Then, when the Battalion was ordered to retreat, my father was one of a small group detailed to hold the position a little longer to give their comrades some cover, as a result of which the group was cut off and forced to surrender. He was a prisoner for the rest of the war. Although life as a prisoner had its drawbacks, his chances of survival were much higher than they would have been if he had remained with the 13th Sussex as it fought a very costly rearguard action over the following two weeks. Will wrote an account of his capture and his time as a prisoner while waiting to be discharged from the army (“Behind the German Lines”).

 On returning to England he made it known that he wanted to emigrate to one of the “colonies”. (In later years he explained that he thought he had a better chance of “getting ahead” in the colonies, because in Britain a man who “started with nothing finished with nothing.” It might also have been that he wished to put a long distance between himself and the Western Front – on a six month stay in England in 1957, he refused to countenance any suggestion of a visit to France.)   He investigated prospects in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, and decided on New Zealand.

 He married Charlotte (Lottie) Rudge on 16th June 1920 and they arrived in New Zealand on September 24th, settling in Christchurch. He first developed a small nursery and then a market garden, but the depression of the thirties delayed the fulfilment of the dream. It was a struggle to support five children, born between 1922 and 1936, but Will was undaunted by hardship and always gave his wife and children a sense of security.

Additional Information

The family moved as his father advanced his career, first to Ipswich, where his father was gardener on the Holywells estate (the property of the well known brewer family Cobbold), then to London, where he was assistant to the head gardener at Fulham Park on the Thames, and finally to Bexhill-on-Sea, where he was the head gardener at Egerton Park.

 Will did not progress beyond primary school in his education, the highlight of which was his time at a school in Fulham run by London County Council.

 After leaving school he worked for a short period as a delivery boy for a chemist before working as an apprentice gardener under his father at Bexhill. Later he worked as one of six gardeners at Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire.

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