One of my favourite collection items shared on All That Remains so far is this odd pair of boots from the collection of Mataura Historical Society.
Two left feet!
These high quality, leather boots were made during the 1960s. They weren’t worn during WWI. In fact, they were never worn at all. So how do they fit into an exhibition of WWI objects? Mataura Historical Society’s object record tells us more:
‘These two left dress boots were made as a special order in 1965 for Mr Andrew (Andy) Richmond. Andy Richmond served in World War One where he lost his right leg and wounded his left leg. After the War he owned a bootmakers’ shop in Mataura.
These boots were donated by Mr Alister ‘Booty’ Thompson who purchased Andy Richmond’s business in 1948. There are two lefts because Andy Richmond’s ‘good’ left leg bore most of his weight and he wore out more left than right shoes. Andy Richmond died without collecting the boots.’
Andy Richmond was born on 7 June 1887. After finishing school in Mataura, he worked in a flax mill and as a wool grader before joining the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Private Richmond shipped out of New Zealand on 15 November 1916, bound for the war in Europe. Less than two years later he returned home to Mataura, seriously wounded, with one leg missing and the other permanently injured.
Andy’s two left boots are a poignant reminder of the lingering impact WWI could have on those who served. For many servicemen and women, the scars were psychological, and therefore difficult to categorise and treat. For Andy, the obvious impact was physical – the war left him an amputee, something he had to adapt to and live with for the rest of his life. Mataura Historical Society notes that Andy sometimes turned to alcohol to relieve the pain in his remaining leg (see this object record). I wonder if he was also coping with traumatic memories of war.
Despite the life-altering injuries he suffered in WWI, Andy set up and ran a successful boot-making business. He was a keen gardener and fly fisherman, and patron of several sports clubs. When he died in 1970, he was remembered fondly for his role in the community.
Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi