Page 1: Biography
Judson, Reginald Stanley
Soldier, local politician
This biography, written by Richard J. Taylor, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was updated in June, 2017.
Reginald Stanley Judson was born at Wharehine, Northland, New Zealand, on 29 September 1881 to Emma Frances Holmden and her husband, Edgar William Judson, a farmer. He was educated at Port Albert and, as he was evidently suited to a practical career, took up a mechanical engineering apprenticeship, training in Wellington and Auckland. Judson was 5 feet 6½ inches tall and of slight build. He married Ethel May Grice at Mareretu, Northland, on 19 April 1905; they were to have three sons and a daughter.
When war broke out in 1914 Judson was working in Auckland as a boilermaker. He enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1915 and went overseas in early 1916, serving with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and the Auckland Infantry Regiment in France. He received severe abdominal wounds in September 1916, and did not return to the front until May 1918.
During July and August 1918 Judson, by now a sergeant, was involved in actions which resulted in his winning three medals for bravery. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for leading an attack on an enemy position at Hébuterne on 24–25 July, and the Military Medal for leading a bayonet charge against a machine-gun post on 16 August. Finally, he won the Victoria Cross for a series of hazardous raids on the German trenches on 26 August during the attack against Bapaume. During this attack his daring and ruthlessness were extraordinary: at one stage he mounted a parapet and ordered an enemy machine-gun crew of about 12 men to surrender. When they fired on him he threw a hand grenade in their midst, then single-handedly killed two and put the others to flight, thereby capturing two machine-guns. The Victoria Cross citation concluded that 'This prompt and gallant action not only saved many lives, but also enabled the advance to be continued unopposed.'
Judson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in February 1919, and returned to New Zealand in July. After discharge from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force he enlisted in the New Zealand Staff Corps. He served in Auckland and New Plymouth, reaching the rank of captain. Judson was divorced in 1920 and on 27 March 1928 at Auckland married Kate Marion Lewis (née Bailey), a draper, who had been widowed during the war. They were to have one daughter.
Judson continued to be troubled by the effects of his war wounds, and retired from the army in late 1937. He then worked as secretary to the principal of Mount Albert Grammar School in 1938 and 1939, and became involved in local politics, serving on the Auckland City Council as a Citizens' and Ratepayers' Association councillor from 1938 to 1947.
At the outbreak of the Second World War Judson re-enlisted for home service (falsifying his year of birth to do so), and served in local posts throughout the war. He was discharged in 1946 having reached the rank of major. One of his sons, Reginald Frank Judson, won the Military Cross during the war, and later became mayor of Manurewa.
After the war Judson moved to Mangonui, Northland, where he farmed at Doubtless Bay. He continued his community activities, serving as a justice of the peace and coroner. At the end of the 1950s he retired to Kohimarama, Auckland. Judson died in Auckland on 26 August 1972, and was buried at the Waikumete lawn cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.
Although Reginald Judson's military and civic service spanned several decades, he will undoubtedly be best remembered for the six weeks in mid 1918 when he became one of the few men to win the three highest gallantry awards available to New Zealand soldiers – the DCM, MM and VC.