top of page

46810 Private Robert Vesey

2nd Battalion

New Zealand Canterbury Regiment

13th December 1917

pw46 Private Robert Vesey2.jpg

Born on 05/01/1896 in Christchurch New Zealand. His parents were Edward Palmer Vesey and Mildred Josephine Vesey. This information came from Roberts service record. I have been unable to discover any records relating to his parents. What is known is that they both died when Robert was very young and he was admitted to Burnham Industrial School near Christchurch.

Burnham Industrial School was opened by the Government in 1874 in order to provide both for the welfare of destitute and neglected children, and also for the reformation of what were considered criminal children. 

Those destitute were often boarded out to foster parents, in order that they be provided with a home environment, while others were taken into service. In 1901, the institution became purely a reformatory, and many non-delinquent children who had been housed there were sent on to Caversham Industrial School, Dunedin.*

Roberts time at Burnham came to an end in 1912 when he ran away, as was reported in the NZ police Gazette at the time;

NZ Police Gazette Volume XXXVII, issue 32, 14/08/1912 page 452

Absconding from Industrial School

Mosgiel. - Robert Vesey, Age eighteen, height 5ft 2in,

Labourer, native of New Zealand, fair hair, pale complexion, slight build; smart appearance; wearing dark-tweed suit and light-coloured cap and was carrying a swag in a corn-sack. He was licensed to Mr Wilson, grocer, Mosgiel, and absconded on the 9th ultimo. If traced to be returned to Burnham Industrial School.”

Press Volume L Issue 15058 – 28 August 1914


A Deserter’s Plea

Robert Vesey, said to be a deserter from the Expeditionary Force’s Camp at Addington, was charged with stealing a bicycle valued at £15 on August 25th. His plea was “guilty to the theft, but not on conscience.”

Chief-Detective Bishop stated that Vesey had joined the Expeditionary Force on Tuesday. He was supplied with uniform, rifle and accoutrements. and, as soon as sworn in, deserted, He would not be taken now.

The Magistrate: Joined the force and cleared out, thought it looked like hard work, I suppose.

The Chief-Detective: He said some girl didn’t like him going away.

The Magistrate: Thinks more of his girl than of his country.

The Chief-Detective remarked that the accused had tried to sell the bicycle, which he stole from outside the Post Office, but it had been recognised as a stolen one. Accused was an ex-Burnham boy. He had run away from Weraroa, where he had been put as an orphan.

Accused said he had been put out to work and treated badly.

The Magistrate: yes, that is generally the excuse. Treated badly in camp too- why did you leave it?

 Accused hung his head and said he did not know- couldn’t say.

The Chief-Detective suggested entering a conviction and ordering the accused to come to sentence when called upon. He doubted whether accused was 21, as he stated.

The Magistrate: Yes, I don’t like sending a boy to gaol unless he has got a record. He has got no merit at all. He goes and joins the Expeditionary Force, gets fitted out and then deserts. He should be punished for that alone-its’s a shocking bad example.

Accused asked leave to make a statement, and in tremulous tones pleaded that he took the bicycle in order to get money to pay his board. He didn’t want to go away without paying his board. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he exclaimed, almost in tears.

The Magistrate: Yes, you expect me to believe that.

His Worship remanded accused till Saturday to think the case over. Later he entered a conviction and ordered him to come up for sentence when called upon, as the Salvation Army had agreed to take him, and he was willing to go to them.”

Sun (Christchurch) – 2 September 1914

Magistrate’s Court


Robert Vesey (Mr M. Donnelly) appeared charged with the theft of a bicycle on the 10th, the property of Geo. Wm. Ford. Mr Donnelly asked for an adjournment until Friday next, the 4th inst.”   


Sun (Christchurch) – 5 September 1914

Magistrate’s Court

Theft of a Bicycle

Robert Vesey on remand for the theft of a bicycle, was dealt with leniently. Vesey was before the court the other day for the theft of a bicycle, being convicted and ordered to come up for sentence when called upon, provide he remained in the Salvation Army Home for six months.

Mr Bishop stated that he didn’t feel disposed to do anything more with him, and Vesey was ordered again to come up for sentence and to remain in the Salvation Army Home for six months, the bicycle to be returned to the owner.

Chief Detective Bishop enquired as to the whereabouts of the £4 10/- Vesey obtained for the sale of the bicycle. Vesey was eventually ordered to pay back the money within three months of his discharge from the Salvation Army Home.”

Lyttelton Times – 28 September 1914

Magistrate’s Court Christchurch

“Robert Vesey admitted having stolen a gold ring valued at £4, the property of Mary Ricketts. Chief Detective Bishop said that Vesey had been boarding with the complainant and after taking the ring had cleared out. The accused who is at present at the Salvation Army Home for six months was convicted and warned that if he did not behave himself, he would be sent to gaol for reformatory treatment.”

Robert enlisted for an 2nd time, this time in the NZ Mounted Rifles, as reported in the Sun newspaper. The address given is that of his friend Mr Albert William Beaumont(1865-08/08/1940), who would later move to 29 Bath Street, Christchurch and receive Roberts medals at the end of the war.   

Sun (Christchurch) – 22 June 1915

The Empire’s Call

“The following are the latest registrations - ….

Robert Vesey, 46 Stirling Street, Sydenham, labourer, Mounted Rifles.”

Sun (Christchurch) – 4 August 1915

Charge of Theft.

A “Movie” Doorkeeper

At a quarter to 11 yesterday morning, manager of the Queen’s Theatre, Mr J.A. Frost, left a doorkeeper named Robert Vesey in charge of the office while he went into the theatre to see a new picture being screened. Mr Frost relieved him at 11.30, and the doorkeeper went to lunch. Then at quarter past 12 Mr Frost missed £11 13/- which he had left in the open safe in the office.

Detective–Serjeant Cox and Acting-Detective Torrance interviewed the doorkeeper, but he denied all knowledge of the money. Later, however they traced one of the stolen notes to his possession and recovered the remaining £10 13/- in a corner of an old fowl house in a section in Stirling Street, where there is an unoccupied house. They afterwards traced a bicycle to his possession which had been stolen from the post office stand.

As a result of these happenings, Vesey, who is 21 years of age was charged in the Magistrates Court this morning with the theft of the £11 13/- from Jas. Alex. Frost and with the theft of a bicycle valued at £11, the property of John McMurtrie.

He was remanded to appear again on Friday.”   


Star (Christchurch – 6 August 1915

Police Court News

Today’s Cases

A Youth’s Lapse

“Robert Vesey, a young man of twenty-one years of age, who appeared on remand, pleaded guilty to a charge that on August 3, he stole the sum of £11 13s, the property of James Alexander Frost, and also with having stolen a bicycle, valued at £11, the property of John McMurtrie.

Detective-Sergeant Cox said that the accused had been employed at the Queen’s Theatre and had stolen the money from his employer. He was only twenty-one years of age and his parents had died when he was a child. He had no relatives or friends in Christchurch and had three previous convictions for theft during the past year. He had passed the doctor as medically fit and was to go away with the eighth Reinforcements on August 16. It was while waiting to go away to camp that a Territorial officer had obtained employment for him at the Queen’s Theatre, and he had taken the money after being there a few days. The sum of £11 13s was found in his possession and the bicycle was found later.

Accused said that he would not have taken the money if he had not owed money for board and was in financial difficulties, He had been out of work for a long time before getting employment at the Queen’s Theatre.

Vesey was sentenced to two years reformative treatment in Invercargill gaol.”


Robert doesn't appear to have to had to serve his full sentence as he enlisted for a 3rd time  on 05/01/1917 in Invercargill.

Details of his medical previously performed on 21/12/1916 in Invercargill are as follows;

Previous Trade or Occupation - Moulder at Christchurch Tiling Company.

Apparent Age - 20 years, Height - 5ft 51/2 inches, Weight - 119lbs, Chest Measurement - Minimum - 31 Inches,

Maximum - 341/2 inches, Complexion - Pale, Colour of Eyes - Blue, Colour of Hair - Fair, Religious Profession - Roman Catholic,

Distinctive Marks - Tattoo on fore arm.

He was posted to D company 25th Reinforcements on 08/02/1917 and then transferred to D Company 24th Reinforcements on 03/04/1917, 2 days before embarking for England from Wellington aboard Troopship 81 "The Devon".

It was not to be an uneventful voyage for Robert.  02/061917 he was placed under a stoppage of pay of 5/- 3d for some sort of hat offence(record not fully legible). Only 2 days later, he was up on a more serious charge of theft ,to which he was found guilty and given 42 days field punishment no.1 and 42 days loss of pay.

When they finally reached England, Robert marched into Sling Camp, Wiltshire on 11/06/1917 and joined A company 4th Reserve Otago Regiment.

Just under a month later, Robert was heading to France from Sling on 06/07/1917. He was to join the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Regiment in Rouen on 10/08/1917. 

Robert was in trouble again when in the field on 12/11/1917, when he was found guilty of failing to comply with an order given by an N.C.O., in that when ordered to do so, failed to carry a kit. He was awarded 7 days field punishment no.2 and the loss of 7 days ordinary pay.

Only 4 days later, Robert was again in trouble, being found guilty of falling out of line without permission for which he was awarded

7 days field punishment no.2 and forfeit the balance of 7 days ordinary pay.


Less than a month later, on 13/12/1917, Robert was killed in action. He was buried at Polderhoek Chateau, but reburied in Polygon Wood Cemetery on 17/06/1919.

He was awarded the 1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals.   


Lyttelton Times – 5 January 1918

Roll of Honour

Private Robert Vesey killed in action was twenty-one years of age. He was born and educated in Christchurch and after leaving school, worked in various parts of New Zealand. He left with the Twenty-Fourth Reinforcements, and at the time of enlistment was employed on the Union Steam Ship Company’s Vessels.

* Burnham Industrial School

bottom of page