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Illness led to shortened life

Joe Governor suffered a miserable time in various hospitals during the war before being returned home, where he spent time in Rotorua’s King George V hospital (pictured).

Joe William Governor was the son of William Governor [Kawana] and his wife, Olive.

When he enlisted for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in July 1915, he said he was born in 1894, but this information seems likely to be untrue.

There is no official birth registration for him, but when he died in 1917, newspaper reports said he was 20, while his death registration said he was 19.

It seems certain that he put his age up by at least two years, and was possibly as young as 18 when he enrolled.

He had been working for the Camerons at Flat Point, although his last New Zealand address was Awapuni.

Governor was in training in New Zealand for two months and was then shipped overseas.

He disembarked in Suez in late October 1915, but was to suffer a miserable time in various hospitals before being returned home.

He was admitted to hospital in Cairo in early January 1916, suffering from gout and rheumatism.

Six weeks later, he was reportedly suffering from lumbago in a different medical facility, then returned to his unit on February 23, 1916.

On March 28, he was returned to hospital but three days later rejoined his fellow soldiers for little over a month, before going back to Cairo hospital, again suffering from a form of reactive arthritis.

Governor returned to New Zealand and went to the King George V recuperation hospital in Rotorua where he was once again diagnosed with arthritis, and sciatica.

His health was said to be slowly improving, although it was thought his disability would be permanent.

He returned to Wairarapa, living with his whanau at Te Ore Ore, where he suffered a slightly ironic injury in May 1917.

Disqualified as a soldier by his illness, he accidentally shot himself in the arm while out rabbit hunting.

In September 1917 Joe Governor married Bella Mary Thomas, but died in November of that year, and is buried in the Ahipanepane cemetery at Te Ore Ore, the only true war grave in that urupa.

– Gareth Winter

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