Randolph Gordon Ridling GC (AM non-exchanger)

b. 17/03/1888 Auckland, New Zealand. d. 13/01/1975 Auckland, New Zealand.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 19/04/1918 Brocton, Staffordshire.

Randolph Gordon Ridling (1888-1975) was born on 17th March 1888 in Auckland, New Zealand, one of ten children of Andrew and Ellen Ridling (nee Gray). Although he left school at 11, Randolph was offered a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School, where he excelled in his studies. He then gained a place at Auckland University College, where he qualified as a teacher. He married Henrietta, but tragedy struck the couple when she fell terminally ill on the eve of the Great War, and Randolph chose to care for her rather than enlist in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Randolph G Ridling GC

Soon after her death, he enlisted on 14th December 1915 and was immediately promoted to Corporal, and two months later to Sergeant, then taking his commission exams, became a Second Lieutenant on 19th May 1916. In October, he was part of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade which sailed to the UK to join the war effort. They were based at Brocton Camp in Staffordshire. Shortly afterwards, they were posted to the Western Front. In 1917, he was severely wounded and invalided back to Britain where he would spend the next 16 months in and out of hospital recuperating. He was promoted to Lieutenant in April 1918 back at Brocton Camp and became a bombing instructor.

On 19th April 1918, at Brocton Camp, a recruit under bombing instruction dropped a Mills bomb in the throwing bay after pulling the pin out. Lacking the presence of mind to escape, Rifleman AJ McCurdy kicked the bomb towards the entrance and retreated to the inner end of the bay. Ridling, the bombing officer, seeing the man’s danger, went to him, seized him by the arm and started to carry him out of the bay, but the bomb exploded before he could get clear. McCurdy was only slightly hurt thanks to Ridling’s action.

Ridling was severely wounded in the groin during the action and was once again hospitalised. On recovery he was appointed Assistant Adjutant to the 5th Reserve Battalion in addition to his normal duties. In 1919 he was promoted to Temporary Captain came with the job of Education Officer in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Education Scheme. He was demobbed in December 1919 just around the time of the publication in the London Gazette of his Albert Medal in Bronze.

Randolph chose to continue his education at Queen’s College, Cambridge from where he graduated in 1921 and returned to New Zealand. He was then given employment by the Department of Education as supervisor in agricultural manual and technical work. He married Emily M Shaw who, on the trip out to Australia by ship, dropped the name she disliked and was known as Patricia from then on. The couple went on to have a daughter, Sheila.

In 1931, Randolph took up the position of Director of Wellington Technical College. During his tenure, the school celebrated its 50th anniversary. He advocated industrial training methods, including the setting up of correspondence courses for those living in remote areas and actively encouraged students to remain in education as long as possible. After World War II, apprenticeship training was begun as a result of the increased demand for skilled workers. He never faltered in his campaign to improve technical education and sought to establish close relationships with industry. Sadly, the NZ Government didn’t share his vision and he resigned in September 1950.

In 1971, a change in the Royal Warrant gave holders of the Albert and Edward Medals the opportunity to exchange them for a George Cross. Randolph chose to retain his Albert Medal. In retirement, he enjoyed classical music and cricket. He also liked gardening and loved walking by the ocean with his grandchildren. Randolph passed away on 13th January 1975 in Wellington. After a private service, he was cremated. The family requested that his ashes were scattered in the Returned Services Section of the Karori Cemetery, Wellington.

On 8th October 1982, Philip O’Shea (NZ Herald of Arms) presented Randolph’s medals including his AM to the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru on behalf of Sheila Matthews, Randolph’s daughter.