Harriet Rountree, Trentham






Pandora Research

Left to Right: Jeanne Spiers Sinclair NZANS 22/88, Miss Harriet Rountree ?, Matron ?
Background: Moonshine Bridge

Lawrence Dudley Chambers Collection

The second photograph, below, has Miss Rountree, Trentham, and Matron written on the back along three of the four sides. A better copy of this image is in the WWI Photograph Album of Major Alexander Burnett Charters held at the National Army Museum (Accession No.1991.587 page 25). The description reads: Two nurses and a civilian woman beside a river, possibly the Hutt. The nurse in the center is 22/88 Nurse Jeannie Sinclair."

Lawrence Dudley Chambers Collection

The description of another image on page 30 identifies Jeanne "in white dress" sitting on a fence beside Nurse Kate Evelyn Wright 22/11. Jeanne is also wearing a white dress in a third photo on page 31 where she is standing, possibly on Moonshine Bridge, with Nurse Wright and another unidentified nurse.

Jeanne Spiers Sinclair was one of the second contingent of 30 nurses selected to go to Egypt. They embarked at Wellington on the 'Marama' at 3.15 a.m. on 22 May 1915 for Sydney then transferred to 'Moldavia'. Subsequent to surviving the torpedo attack on the Marquette on 23 October 1915 she contracted enteric fever and was returned to New Zealand via the 'Willochra' at the end of January 1916 to recover.

These photographs were probably taken between 20 March 1916, when Jeanne returned to Wellington from Taranaki via express train, and 30 May 1916 when she embarked on the troopship 'Tofua' with the 13th reinforcements.

Harriet Rountree was born at Christchurch on 24 September 1881, the second daughter and fourth child of 11 to Irish born parents, William Rountree (1853-1907) and Eliza nee Somerville (1854-1920). On 21 April 1884 a younger brother, Charles, died aged six months. All the children were educated at St Albans School and Harriet attended from 1886 to 1895. On 27 March 1897 her youngest brother, Francis John Rountree, drowned in a creek, "some two feet deep" that ran through the family's Crescent Road property. He was one year and eight months old.

The family moved to Hill's Road, Marshland about September/October 1898 and this was where William Rountree died on 11 December 1907 aged 54 years. He was buried at Barbadoes Cemetery. At the time Harriet was living with her parents and working as a tailoress. She may have worked in the tailoring department of Messrs Graham, Wilson and Smellie's along with her younger sister, Araminta, in November 1909.

On Saturday 20 November 1909 Araminta went to Southbridge "for a week-end holiday" at the residence of Mrs Jessie Baxter with the intention of returning on Monday. She decided to remain an extra day and return to Christchurch on Tuesday evening.

At about 5 o'clock on the Tuesday afternoon Araminta joined five others in a fair sized flat-bottomed boat for a pleasure trip on the northern lagoon near the mouth of the Rakaia river. With her were Mrs Jessie Baxter and her crippled son James, siblings Thomas and Jenny Hannah, and Miss Lizzie Hampton.

Thomas Hannah was at the oars and had his back to the sea when the boat was caught in a whirlpool and became unmanageable. James Baxter saw that the only chance of stopping the boat from being swept out to sea was to jump out onto the bank just three feet away.

On his mother calling out "Jump, Jimmy" he did and as a result the boat overbalanced and Mrs Baxter and Araminta were thrown into the water. At first they were both able to cling on to the boat until it capsized, tipping out the remaining three occupants. Witnesses on shore recounted that "for a few seconds we could see their clothing and their arms sticking out of the water, and then they were swept out to sea." None survived.

Araminta's body was found mid-day Wednesday 24 November by a party comprising Messrs G. Lee, J. Todhunter, and C. L. Milne JP. It was about a mile and a half from the river mouth along the southern beach. Her identity was confirmed by her elder brother, James Edward Macdonald Rountree, and at the subsequent inquest the Coroner returned a verdict of accidentally drowned.

The funeral service was held on 26 November in the Marshland Anglican Church, where Araminta had been the organist for three years, and a lengthy cortege made its way to the Barbadoes street cemetery for the interment.

The Baxter and Rountree families publicly defended the actions of the crippled James Baxter. It had been suggested that he "was merely trying to save himself. On the contrary, he was the coolest and most collected member of the party, and in spite of his physical infirmity, seized the only possible chance of avoiding the tragedy." James was 23 years of age and was crippled down one side with paralysis.

John Swan Baxter, the eldest son of Mrs Jessie Baxter, married Harriet's younger sister, Margaret, on 13 October 1913. Another Baxter-Rountree marriage followed on 03 October 1918 - sister, Elizabeth Rountree, to Stuart Baxter, also a son of Mrs Jessie Baxter.

On the evening of 09 July 1915 Harriet Rountree departed from Lyttelton as part of the second contingent of 11 volunteer nursing sisters organised by Ettie Annie Rout. At short notice, she took the place of Mrs Murdock, a masseuse. The party, "under Nurse Roache", arrived at Wellington the following day.

As a Volunteer Sister Harriet was required to sign:- "We, the undersigned, gladly and freely offer one year or more of our lives for the service at Home or abroad of nursing and tending sick and wounded, and we promise to obey cheerfully and readily all orders given to us by those in authority, and we hereby express our willingness to do all necessary work of any nature or kind whatsoever. We also promise to do our utmost individually and collectively to maintain the good health, good cheer, and good temper of the group we are placed in. We agree to accept as our remuneration, maintenance, plus 10s per week personal allowance."

The other members of the party were:

Miss Wells, nurse, Cashmere Sanatorium
Miss Ellen Maria Hunt, assistant, Te Oranga Home
Miss Annie Bassett, 152 Bealey Avenue
Miss Florence Hollamby, Methodist deaconess, Christchurch
Mrs Walshaw, nurse, 403 Worcester Street, Linwood
Mrs Ruth Allison Brown, Heathbank Cottage, Wilson's Road -> Alexandria Soldiers' Institute
Miss Barrett, nurse (three years' experience), Christchurch
Mrs Ada Elizabeth Goldsmith, George St, New Brighton
Mrs Bessie Gallop, 554 Barbadoes Street, St Albans
Miss Emily Hill, shorthand-typist (emergency)

On Saturday morning, 10 July 1915, the party were interviewed by Miss Jessie Bicknell, Matron-in-Chief of the NZ Army Nursing Service, at her Health Department office in Wellington. On 18 July Ettie Annie Rout visited Trentham hospital "and saw individually all the volunteers, excepting two who had been on night duty and were asleep. The test imposed on these volunteers has been very severe, as they have been usually working twelve and thirteen hours per day seven days a week, but throughout their spirit is undaunted. Unofficially nothing but praise of their work has been expressed." Duties included "sorting soldiers' socks and shirts, hospital sheets and so on, hour after hour every day." As of 28 August 1915 Harriet's salary was paid by the Government.

When Surgeon-General Henderson visited the Trentham Military Hospital in mid-September 1915 all the Volunteer nurses were instructed to retire to their sitting-room "and not be seen about." Ettie Rout subsequently "sent him a photograph of the twenty volunteer nurses he missed the pleasure of seeing."

On 15 March 1916 Harriet's pay was increased by 10s per week and in July 1916 she was working at Izard's Hospital. This was the home of Charles Hayward Izard (1860-1925) and was situated at the corner of Main and Cruickshank Roads, Maoribank. It was also known as the 'measles hospital' and four men died there:

[1] 14 June 1916 Lance-Corporal William Guy Dabbs (24579), camp military police, aged 22yrs, of pneumonia following on measles. Buried Karori, Wellington.

[2] 23 June 1916 Private Francis Richard Linnell (21517) of H. Company, 16th Reinforcements, aged 34yrs, of broncho-pneumonia. Buried Hakaru St Michael's, Kaipara.

[3] 10 July 1916 Private Joseph Alon Vipond (25956) of G. Company, 17th Reinforcements, aged 27yrs, of pneumonia. Buried Matakana, Northland.

[4] 18 July 1916 Private Albert James Bailey (26763) of H. Company, 17th Reinforcements, aged 22yrs, of pneumonia following upon measles. Buried Clevedon St Andrews, Auckland.

In the Evening Post of 21 July 1916 General Henderson reported "that the measles hospital at Upper Hutt had been in occupation so long that it had been decided to have the place thoroughy cleaned and disinfected. The majority of the patients, therefore, had been removed to the Trentham Racecourse Kiosk, which had been taken over temporarily, in order to enable the renovation at Izard's to be done."

In a bulletin of military patients in the various hospitals, issued on 26 July 1916, Upper Hutt (including Racecourse Kiosk) had three admissions, two discharges and 75 patients remaining.

The Hon. James Allen reported to Parliament, on 03 August 1916, that "there had been only three deaths at the Upper Hutt from pneumonia" and that "Mr Izard's house at the Upper Hutt was being evacuated." It is likely that Harriet returned to the Trentham Military Base Hospital for the remainder of her service.

Harriet married Lieutenant Albert Frederick Lange, a veteran of the Boer War and 1st World War, on 28 April 1919 at St Mark's Church, Marshland, Christchurch. On 03 December 1919 she wrote to Mr Rhodda, of the Quarter Master General's office, Wellington from her home "Moyle" in Jubilee Avenue, North New Brighton.

"I wonder could you assist me? - re the gratuity for V.A.D. workers. I think you will remember me when I first started duty at Trentham Military Base Hospital in July 1915 and was paid for some months at the Pay Office there by you, I was then Nurse Harriette Rountree - but was married 8 months ago. I was taken over by the Government in August 1915 on Col. Valentine's recommendation & remained at Trentham Hospital for 2 years. I could forward you my N.Z.E.F. pay book if necessary. I read in the newspaper a few days ago that V.A.D. workers were entitled to the gratuity, only I don't quite know how to go about getting it. Thanking you in anticipation. I remain, yours truly, Harriette Lange."

A reply, dated 09 December 1919, advised "that no authority has been given for payment of War Gratuity except for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force overseas."

After her mother, Elizabeth Rountree, died at Marshland on 30 April 1920, Alfred and Harriet continued to live at Hills Road. In December 1936 they hosted a garden party at their home "Moyle" to raise funds for St Mark's Church. Harriet Lange died at Christchurch on 04 October 1951 followed by Alfred on 31 July 1956. They were both buried at Waimairi Cemetery.