N. W Jellyman (1895-1917)


In May of 1916, Norman Jellyman enlisted in overseas service, reportedly in Wellington as he wanted to do his part in the conflicts which were painted across every newspaper coming out from England.

Norm's father had passed away in 1904, leaving behind nine children who all helped their mother Elizabeth around their homestead at Rapaura which was where the tennis courts are now in place. Norm had his own farm by this time at Spring Creek, which would have supplied his family with income. Norm may have experienced difficulty with his farm because of the fact that he enlisted. Farmers were encouraged to keep farming to help with the war efforts.

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Norman William Jellyman in uniform. Photo supplied by author

His family had been in New Zealand since the 1840's. Norman's grandfather was Richard Ching who came out with the survey ship to choose a location for the planned colony of Nelson. Four of Richard's eighteen children had married into the Jellyman family of Poormans Valley: Thomas (1867-1948) married Agnes Jellyman (1864-1938), Henry (1852-1929) married Elizabeth Jellyman (1858-1924) and John Harris (1844-1870) married Emma Jellyman (1843-1921).

Norman became a Lance Corporal under the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps, 3rd Company and served in Europe at Messines Ridge, West Flanders & Belgium. The machine guns used were most likely Vickers and Lewis guns. The Lewis gun could be fired by one man, however, a Vickers gun required two men to feed the magazine into the gun, which is likely to be the gun used by Norm.

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Norman Jellyman and family. Photo supplied by author

The allied forces had been digging trenches under their enemies and had been carefully placing mines in preparation of an attack which would later be called "The Battle Of Messines Ridge". At 3:10pm the mines went off, taking the enemy by surprise. A barrage of machine gun fire went off from the allied side and over the top of the trenches came clambering soldiers.

By the 14th of June, 1917, 4,978 men from the ANZAC Division had died and thousands more from the other divisions. At home families read newspapers with the casualty lists. Soon the family found his name in the newspaper. It read as follows. "Lance-Corp. Norman Jellyman, third son of Mrs William Jellyman, was killed in action in France on June 8th, he left with the 13th Reinforcements".

Norman’s brother Wilby also took part in the First World War. He was a member of the 30th reinforcements, E company and left for England on board the Arawa in late 1917. He may have been inspired to do so due to his brother's death. He survived the war and took part in the Second World War as a member of the 21st Infantry Battalion.

When news of Norman’s death was received by his sister Ivy, her son overheard the news. Her son was so unbelievably proud of his uncle that he vowed if he was to ever get the chance he’d do his duty just as his uncle did. When the Second World War started he was one of the first to enlist in Marlborough. He was onboard the P.O.W. ship MV Jason when it was torpedoed by allies when they mistook it for a battleship. He was in the hold of the ship when the torpedo struck and could remember the taste of cordite in the air and pitch darkness. He woke amongst a sea of mangled and dismembered bodies. He survived this and saved a South African boy who had his clothes blown off from the blast. He gave him his coat which he regretted for sometime due to the cold he went through after being recaptured. However, there was some solace in what he did as in a P. O. W. camp he found his coat again draped over the South African’s dead body. 

A.T. Tobe Neal

A.T. Neal, known as Tobe. Image supplied by author

This nephew was Tobe Neal. Tobe worked in the flax trade. After the war Tobe returned home to Marlborough not long before his parents passed away. Tobe took up the family property and resided there for the remainder of his life. He married Barbara Webster in the 1950's and had two daughters; Barbara and Lynnette, and one son Kelvin. Tobe passed away at the age of 86. He is remembered as a kind and affectionate man who experienced great difficulty in life but throughout was positive and pleased with the hand he was dealt. He loved his family especially the younger generations and was much loved by all who knew him.

Norman's memory lives on through his siblings' families. He had four nephews who took his first name as either their own first name or middle name. He is commemorated on the New Zealand Messines Ridge Memorial though his grave is unknown. Aged only 21 years old he died on the opposite side of the world on the first day of the Battle of Messines, thirteen years and a day after his father William. May he rest in peace.

2019 (updated August 2020)

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