WW1 William Morton Ryburn (24058)

William Ryburn 1915 or 1916. (The Kiwi-offical organ of the Auckland University College, 11, 1916).

William Ryburn, far right. Winners of the Athenaeum Cups 1915. (In The Kiwi - official organ of Auckland University College. Special Collections)

William Morton Ryburn was born on 4 December 1895 to Elizabeth Jones Ryburn (nee Law) and James William Ryburn of the Loan and Mercantile Company of New Zealand, living in Seaview Road Remuera.

William attended Auckland Grammar School and Auckland University College (now the University of Auckland) in 1915. Whilst he was still a student, he enlisted on 8 February 1916.  He was 5ft 8 ½ inches (173 cm) with light brown hair and grey eyes and for five years, had been a Corporal in the Auckland Cadets. He embarked on 27 May1916 as a Private with the 13th Reinforcements, Auckland Infantry Battalion, A Company, New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  He was sent to the Western Front in France and then attended the School of Instruction in England in July 1917 and was promoted to Sergeant in January 1918.  From March 1918 to November 1918 he was part of the Dunsterforce, a military force which carried out special operations in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Persia (now Iran). [1, 2]

After WW1 he became a Christian pacifist after serving with the Auckland Regiment – memories of the bloodshed and post-war disillusionment contributed to his conversion to Christian pacifism. ‘The things we had gone away to fight for, the high aims and ideals which had taken us to the war, none of these had been attained… War obviously could not be a means for achieving any purpose that was remotely Christian,’ he wrote. [3]

On his return to New Zealand in 1919, William continued his studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin and the Presbyterian seminary, receiving a Master of Arts (MA) degree in 1922. That same year he was ordained a Presbyterian minister, selected for missionary work in India, and married a teacher, Hilda May Tizard (who had also studied at Auckland University College, now the University of Auckland).

Hilda’s sister, Helen Tizard, married Presbyterian minister Ormond Edward Burton (3/483), whose name is also on the St Luke’s Honours Board. [4, 5]

William and Hilda had three children, and lived in Kharar, North India until 1959, where William was a high school principal and educationist.  Hilda supervised the work of the Christian Boys’ Hostel that was associated with the Boys’ High School in Kharar.

William was a prolific writer of progressive educational literature, writing over 60 books and pamphlets and was regarded as one of the leading educational authorities in the Punjab, he was conferred with a Doctor of Literature (DLitt) in 1948. [6]

William retired in 1959 to Mairangi Bay, Auckland and continued to take an active part in the youth work of the Presbyterian Church; a token of his extraordinary ability and freshness of approach that in spite of his advancing years his help was welcomed, and appreciated by young people many years his junior.

In the 1967 Queen’s Birthday Honours, William was awarded the OBE (The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) ‘For outstanding services as Presbyterian missionary and educationist’.  He died in 1986 [7, 8].

William is remembered on the St Luke’s Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour


G Ralph
July 2020