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Commanding Officer Canterbury Division of the RNVR: 1934 - 1937

Commanding Officer Canterbury Division of the RNVR: 1934 - 1937

Commander C. H. Kersley, SBStJ, RNVR


Commander Claude Hilton Kersley was born at Aldermaston, Berkshire, England in 1889.   On leaving school, he was apprenticed to the Mercantile Marine, and served his apprenticeship under sail in the sailing vessel Glenlui.  


He passed his examination for Master in London in November 1913 and immediately joined the New Zealand Shipping Company Ltd., being appointed to the RMS Remuera  as Forth Officer on 10 Feb 1914.  The Remuera was an oil burning steamship of 11,383 tons, built in 1911 and traded from England to New Zealand via the Panama Canal, after the opening of that canal in 1914. In those days an appointment to the Remuera would have been a much sought after position.


His promotion to Third Officer came soon after his joining the Remuera, along with a change of ships when he was appointed Third Officer of the TSS Otaki.   This steamship also belonged to the New Zealand Shipping Co. Ltd., and was built for that line by the well known British Shipbuilders W. Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, Scotland.   This was a particularly interesting ship as she was the first vessel ever built to encompass the use of both the reciprocating and turbine methods of propulsion.   The vessel had three propellers.   The two wing shafts were driven by reciprocating engines.   The exhausts of these two engines were fed into a turbine which drove the central shaft and its propeller.   When maneuvering, and when going astern, the turbines were automatically eliminated from the system, and only the wing shafts were used.


With World War I in progress, Cdr Kersley made the decision to leave Otaki and join the Royal Naval Reserve.   He was accepted and posted to destroyers of the Le Havre-Southampton Escort Patrol, followed by the Nore Patrol and the Dover Patrol.   He served in the Patrol Service from 1914 to 1918, when his next appointment was as Assistant Navigating Officer in the battleship HMS RAMILLES.


In 1917, during his service in destroyers in the English Channel, the then Lieutenant Kersley was serving in HMS GURKA.   Whilst serving on GURKA, he took sick and was temporarily discharged ashore to hospital while GURKA sailed on patrol.   Between Dungeness and Beachy Head, GURKA was sunk by either a torpedo, or hit a mine, during heavy weather.   Only five of the ship’s company, plus the Flotilla Gunnery Officer who was taking passage, survived.  


Upon the cessation of hostilities in November 1918, Cdr Kersley left Britain to settle in New Zealand, where he took up shore employment.


On the formation of the Canterbury Division of the RNVR (New Zealand Division), Cdr Kersley was appointed Lieutenant Mariner, and two years later was promoted to Lieutenant Commander RNVR.   Further promotion to Commander came in April 1932.


On retirement of Commander Boyle in 1934, Commander Kersley took command of the Canterbury Division, an appointment he held until his own retirement in 1937.


In civilian life, Commander Kersley was the Sales Manager for Hutchinson Motors Ltd., the Christchurch Agents for the Ford Motor Company Ltd.   He remained in this position until he was appointed to the position of Secretary/Treasurer of the St John Ambulance Association Canterbury West Coast Centre, in 1933.   He remained with St John until his death on the 21st April 1952, at the age of 62.   For his services to the Order of St John, Commander Kersley was honoured with the award of Serving Brother of the Order of St John, in 1945.


For his service, he was awarded Serving Brother Order of St John, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal 1914-18, and the Victory Medal

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