Palmer O Spry

Palmer Otto Spry
Born: 15 Dec 1879
Died: 21 Aug 1952 (age 72)

Worked at:

  • Seven years driving “on the Rotorua-Taupo-Napier service”
  • Wellington City Fire Brigade: Motor Expert, in charge of “the motor” (i.e. the fire engine) from 26 Oct 1906. On 17 December, Mr Spry was driving the fire engine when it struck two pedestrians, killing one. He and the Deputy Superintendent of the Brigade were charged with reckless driving and manslaughter. The manslaughter charges were “thrown out” but the disposition of the other charges is unknown.
  • Wellington City: Motor Inspector, cAugust 1911 – 1912. Mr Spry proposed driving safety bylaws.
  • Wellington Radio on Tinakori Hills (1912) where he was involved in installation of the station1
  • Chatham Islands Radio (1913) where he was responsible for the assembly of the station.1
  • Awanui Radio: Involved in familiarisation with the 75hp Gardner engine prior to the station opening.1
  • Awarua Radio: Engineer from the opening of the station on 13 December 1913
  • Nominated for military commission, 11 Aug 1914
  • NZ Expeditionary Force (Advance Party): PO Spry was an Honorary Lieutenant (promoted to Honorary Captain in April 1915) in the Corps of Wireless Engineers from 8 August 1914, and was Officer in Charge of the Apia wireless station 1914-1916. His enlistment form shows that in 1914 he was married with four children. His military records show that during this time, he had “several absences” in New Zealand (the station was managed in his absence by Sgt Major Dunwoodie). PO Spry returned to New Zealand in June 1916 aboard SS Talune, “invalided” (he “had a marked tremour and was neurasthenic” according to his medical report). On 7 July, he was praised for his work in restoring the Apia wireless station (see letter below).
  • PO Spry’s military commission lapsed in July 2016, but in August he was judged to have improved in health as a result of rest, treatment and living in a colder climate. Because of this, and the shortage of skilled wireless men, he was deemed fit for service as a wireless operator. At this time, he was living in Station Road, Remuera, Auckland. His request to have his commission of Honorary Captain reinstated was denied, but he was told that he would be accepted as a non-commissioned officer and not be permitted to leave New Zealand. This may be related to “an indiscretion” in Samoa (described in his military files).
  • Awarua Radio: PO Spry was working at Awarua when he applied for a commission in the NZ Expeditionary Force (Reinforcements) as a “signalman or engineer” in November 1916. He cited, in addition to his experience in Apia, his skills in “constructional engineering” and “all classes of steam, oil and electrical machinery including motor-car work in all its branches.” His application was declined.

The Chief Telegraph Engineer, Joseph Orchiston, described Mr Spry as “an oil engine expert” who “had followed wireless as a pastime and and made wireless apparatus for his own purposes.” 1

Hon Capt PO Spry was praised for his work in salvaging the Apia wireless station after attempts by its German operators to sabotage it.

Hon Capt PO Spry was praised for his work in salvaging the Apia wireless station after attempts by its German operators to sabotage it.


  1. J Orchiston, Chief Telegraph Engineer. Letter dated 4 May 1916


Mr Spry is cited as the source of information in a 1912 newspaper article explaining wireless telegraphy.

Military service

Online Cenotaph