12680 Sapper Herbert Ames – New Zealand Mounted Signal Corp

The Ames family has a long connection to the Kapiti coast with James Ames sailing in the Cook Strait from 1839 and established whaling stations on Kapiti (1840) and Kaikoura (1843).[i] James and Mary Ann Ames had a large number of children including Joseph, James and Horace Ames.

Horace Ames married Ellen Louisa Hughes in 1875 and the couple had seven children; Maud Jannette (1876),
Horace (c1878), Ida Emma (1879), Alice Mary (1881), John (1882), Herbert (1884) and Percy (1888)[ii].

Horace Ames was the proprietor of a Hutt Valley hotel in the late 1870’s early 1880’s[iii] but by 1891 had moved out to Paekakariki wherein he was elected onto the school committee for ‘Paikakariki.’[iv]

Horace and Ellen Louisa Ames moved to Essex Street, Plimmerton (now part of SH1) where in 1914 he is listed as a builder with son’s Horace and John involved in sheep farming in the local area.

Herbert Ames was born on the 15th October 1885 the sixth child of Horace and Ellen Louisa Ames.

Herbert was single, living in Paekakariki and working for the New Zealand Government as a clerk in the Railway
Department when he enlisted in 1915. Herbert may have been working as a telegrapher as he requested to be enlisted in signals. When Herbert entered camp on the 11th January 1916 he listed his father, Horace Ames, Plimmerton as his next
of kin. Originally given a New Zealand Engineers serial number 4/2334 Sapper Ames was, while still in New Zealand, transferred to the NZ Signalling Corps and was given the serial number 12680.

12680 Sapper Herbert Ames, 12th Reinforcements, New Zealand Signalling Corps left New Zealand on the 1st May 1916
for Egypt. In Egypt Sapper Ames was given basic training and then transferred to the NZ Mounted Signal Corps. The Mounted Brigade Signal Troop had joined the rest of the
Mounted Rifles Brigade in a new Australian and New Zealand
Mounted Division, part of an Egyptian Expeditionary Force
(EEF) formed to fight the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East.
The EEF had moved forward beyond the Suez Canal when
Sapper Ames joined it. During the slow advance across the
Sinai Desert in 1916–17, the main forms of communication
were heliographs (mirrors which reflected sunlight), carrier
pigeons, wireless and despatch riders on Triumph
motorcycles[v]. The increased use of encrypted wireless
signals provided an additional Signals chore. 

Signal Post, Ayun Kara, Palestine, November 1917

In February 1918 Sapper Ames was sent to Alexandria and the School of Instruction. It was while he was in the Nile Delta area that he was admitted to the 19th General Hospital, Alexandria his military file noted ‘dangerously ill’ with pneumonia.’[vi]

Sapper Ames remained in hospital until the 21st May 1918 when he rejoined his unit. Sapper Ames remained in Alexandria until May 1919. Sapper Ames had applied, reason not stated, to be discharged in England but this was later cancelled and leave was granted to go the UK. Sapper Ames’s military papers note that he left Port Suez on the 24th May 1919 on the Princess Julianna bound for Marseilles, France ‘enroute to the UK for leave.’

Sapper Ames remained in the UK until September 1919 when he boarded the SS Adolph Wolfmann for repatriation to New Zealand.

Sapper Ames arrived back in New Zealand on the 2nd October 1919 and was discharged from the NZEF on the 10th October 1919 ‘ on termination of period of engagement.’

Herbert Ames returned to his father’s home in Plimmerton and was again employed by the NZ Railway Department moving in the 1920’s to work at Otaki and Upper Hutt stations[vii].

Herbert Ames married Topeara Maewa Swainson in 1924. Topeara Maewa Swainson of Ngati-Raukawas, Ngati-Huia and Ngati Toa was a direct descendant of Topeora the only chiefteness to sign the treaty of Waitangi. Herbert Swainson’s mother was the founder of the girl’s school now known as Marsden.[viii]

The couple would eventually make their home in Paekakariki where in the 1960’s the family were known as the ‘Railway Ames[ix].’ Herbert died in Paekakariki on the 10th April 1965.

Ames Street, Paekakariki reflects the close relationship the family has had to the district from the 1840’s.

NZBDM Online
Paperspast Online
Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 12680 Sapper Herbert Ames
NZ History Online

Signal Post Ayun Kara, Palestine November 1917: Alexander Turnbull Library

[i] Death of Mr Joseph Ames, 13th December 1917, Evening Post
[ii] NZ BDM
[iii] Uttering Valueless Cheques, 8th January 1878, Evening Post
[iv] School committee elections,23rd April 1891, Evening Post "The old spelling for Paekakariki is used "
[v] Signallers in the Middle East: NZ History Online
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 12680 Sapper Herbert Ames
[vii] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 12680 Sapper Herbert Ames
[viii] Death of Topearo Maewa Swainson, 8th May 1935, Evening Post
[ix] Anecdotal Hyde family (Paekakariki)
Signal Post Ayun Kara, Palestine November 1917