FALCONER , James Courtney
(Service number 36828)
|First Rank||Company Sergeant Major||Last Rank||Sergeant|
|Date||9 February 1884||Place of Birth||Willowbridge, Studholme Junction, Waimate, Canterbury|
|Date||22 September 1916||Age||31 years|
|Address at Enlistment||Walkers Pvte Hotel, Princes Street, Dunedin|
|Previous Military Experience||Dunedin Engineers - 2 years|
|Next of Kin||W. M. FALCONER (brother), P.O. Box 69, New Plymouth, Taranaki|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet. Weight 150 lbs. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion medium fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Eyes both 6/6. Sight and colour vision both good. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Appendicitis 12 years ago; no recurrence. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Had left collar bone fractured about 7 years ago. Fit.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||24th Reinforcements Otago Infantry Regiment, D Company|
|Date||5 April 1917|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Devonport, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion|
|Campaigns||Western European (Passchendaele)|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||2 October 1917||Age||33 yrs|
|Place of Death||Passchendaele, Ypres, Belgium|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Otago Daily Times, 20 October 1917; Tuapeka Times, 20 October 1917|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Alexandra Cemetery, Central Otago - Memorial on parents' headstone.|
|Memorial Reference||VIA. C. 6. . Alexandra - Area Old A, Plot 0028|
|New Zealand Memorials||Roxburgh War Memorial|
James Courtney Falconer, known as Jim to family and friends, was born on 9 February 1884 at Willowbridge, Studholme Junction, near Waimate, the eldest surviving son of James and Catherine (née Courtney) Falconer, both of whom hailed from Scotland. His early education was at Redcliffs and Glenavy schools in the Waimate district, before the family transferred to Bald Hill Flat School (later known as Fruitlands), Central Otago in 1896. Two years later he went to Waitaki Boys’ High School. His father had for a time held the licence of the Redcliff Hotel. When Catherine’s mother died in 1893 the family was at Waitaki South, where he held the licence for the Waitaki Bridge Hotel, although on one occasion a publican’s licence was refused. In September 1895, Mr Falconer took possession of the Speargrass Hotel and farm at Bald Hill Flat near Alexandra in Central Otago, and some twenty months later he was elected to the Bald Hill Flat school committee. It was at the Speargrass Hotel that the eldest daughter, Jeanie, was married in September 1899. So soon after – on 12 December 1899 - tragedy struck the family when Mr Falconer died suddenly while out driving. It appeared that the horse got away when he was out of the trap and, in running to catch it, he over exerted himself.
Jim participated in the Sheffield Handicap 100 yards running event at the Cromwell Caledonian Society’s meeting on Easter Saturday and at the Clyde Sport’s Club’s meeting on Easter Monday 1906. Later in 1906 he started in the Lawrence Caledonian Handicap over 220 yards and the Kaitangata Sheffield Handicap over 130 yards. By this time his widowed mother was a boarding house keeper at Lawrence. At the Tuapeka Caledonian society’s annual sports meeting held on Boxing Day 1906, J. C. Falconer would probably have secured a place in the 120 yards hurdle race, had not a spectator got in his way. He also competed in the Lawrence Half-mile. In the St Patrick’s Sheffield Handicap conducted by the Irish Athletic Society on 1 March 1908, he ran second in the sixth heat. He was, in fact, a prominent athlete with some good sprint wins to his credit.
J. C. Falconer, an old Waitaki boy, was successful in the matriculation and solicitor’s general knowledge examination held in Dunedin in 1908-1909. In July 1915, J. C. Falconer donated six bags of Swedes, which brought in 30 shillings at the Patriotic Entertainment held at Coal Creek, and in August 1915, J. C. Falconer of Allans Hill, where he was engaged in fruit-growing at the time, contributed 7s.6d. to the Roxburgh Patriotic Committee. On 20 March 1916, Jas. Falconer responded to a new recruiting scheme and presented himself for medical exanimation. Six months later, and a few days before he was to leave for one of the military camps to undergo the usual training before proceeding to the battle field, Private James Falconer, Coal Creek near Roxburgh, was the guest at a “Smoker” function in the Athenaeum Hall (Roxburgh). Short notice was given of his impending departure, but the Mayor was pleased to wish him farewell and God-speed. Mr J. H. Waigth, junior, proposed the toast of “The Men at the Front”. In so doing he observed that being so remote from the din of battle it was very difficult for the locals to realise the hardships and deprivations endured by the soldiers. The reply was entrusted to Sergeant Ernest Falconer, a brother of James, who had enlisted early in the war and had gone through the Gallipoli Campaign. His observation that the “boys” had a conscience and the knowledge that they were doing no more than their duty was considered by them to be sufficient reward for their sacrifices, drew applause. Mr J. Rattray, in proposing the toast of “The Guest of the Evening”, remarked that he had been long acquainted with Private Falconer and could testify to his sterling qualities as a man. He then wished him good luck and a safe return to Roxburgh. Private Falconer replied that he was going into camp as an N.C.O. on probation and he would do his very best to uphold the reputation established by those who had gone before him. As Private Falconer was an ex-footballer, the Mayor asked the footballers and ex-players to join in singing the familiar Rugby song “On the Ball”, which they did with gusto. “On the football field he was deservedly popular, being a clean, hard player, and always a sportsman.” [Otago Daily Times, 22 October 1917]. Private Falconer contributed a song at his own farewell function, while his brother Sergeant Falconer gave a recitation.
Jim Falconer had played football for the Coal Creek Club right from the time he moved to the Roxburgh district. Named in the June 1912 team to play Millers Flat, he put in a good centre kick which allowed a team-mate to score. Jim often played on the wing, no doubt because of his sprinting prowess. In the seven-a-side tournament he raced over to score behind the posts, securing a win for Coal Creek. In the semi-final he again scored a try for the win. Unfortunately Coal Creek had to default the final, after a day playing in the rain. That same season, a keenly interested supporter of local football picked Falconer in his representative County team. In summer Jim and his brother Will played regularly for Coal Creek in the cricket competition, Jim batting well down the order. He was prepared to take his turn on the committee, serving as secretary and treasurer. In February 1915, Jim was appointed a handicapper for running and jumping events in the Roxburgh Athletic Sports Club.
James Courtney Falconer departed from Dunedin with the Twenty-first Reinforcements on 21 September 1916. They marched from the Town Hall in beautiful sunshine, the route adorned with bunting and the crowds lining the streets and singing heartily “For they are jolly good fellows”. He enlisted on 22 Sep 1916, 32 years old, very short in stature – 5 feet tall, and he had fractured his collar bone 7 years prior but was deemed fit. He had already served 2 years with the Dunedin Engineers. He was listed as a clerk, an occupation he had followed on leaving school, and gave a private hotel in Dunedin as his address. For some five or six years Jim had been a fruit-grower at Roxburgh. In 1913 when Messrs Falconer Bros. (Jim and Will) advertised good table swedes and mangels for sale, the Mt. Benger Mail editor vouched for the quality of the former, having tried them. He had actually followed a number of occupations – as a clerk in the Government stores at Hillside; dredging at Alexandra during the dredging boom; on the staff of a railway engineer, with whom he assisted in the survey and construction of the Waikaia railway; and finally, on leaving the Government service, he commenced fruit-growing. His nominated next-of-kin was his brother, William Falconer, of New Plymouth. Sergt. J. Falconer’s last time at Roxburgh would have been a visit home in February 1917. At Trentham Camp just prior to embarkation on 5 April 1917 per the “Devon”, he was appointed Company Sergeant-Major of the 24th Reinforcements. He marched into Sling in June; a few weeks later his rank of Sergeant was confirmed on his passing the exam; and he proceeded to France to join his battalion at the end of July – for just two short months.
Sergeant-Major J. C. Falconer, eldest beloved son of Catherine Falconer (late of Lawrence) and the late James Falconer, Waimate and Waitaki, was killed in action on 2 October 1917 at Passchendaele, Ypres, Belgium, aged 33 years and barely five months after embarking. “It is glorious and befitting to die for one’s King and Country” his mother recorded. He was well-known and popular throughout the Lawrence and Roxburgh districts. He was buried in Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. There is a memorial on his parents' headstone in the Alexandra Cemetery, Central Otago. All his service was on the Western Front. James' legal next-of-kin was his mother, Mrs Catherine Falconer, C/o Mr Wm Nicholson, Ettrick, Otago (son-in-law), and it was to her that his medals - British War Medal and Victory Medal - were sent, as were the plaque and scroll.
Some 19 or 20 V.A.D workers received certificates in June 1919 for work done during the epidemic at Roxburgh, among them Miss Falconer. Perhaps this was Jim’s sister, Lilian, who married in October at Roxburgh. In 1919 the Peace Memorial Garden was established in Lawrence and this very attractive feature was presented to the Borough. Practically triangular in shape and profusely planted with rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs, this idea had commended itself to those who had suffered bereavement by the war and to the friends of many young men who had enlisted from the town and district. Nearly 100 trees were planted, that of Sergeant James C. Falconer being Tree No. 1 in Block C. Jim’s sister Laura Stewart and her husband remembered their brother in 1919 and again in 1920 – “For Humanity’s sake.” The name of Jas. C. Falconer is engraved on the Roxburgh War Memorial.
A sub-committee was established in November 1922 to draw up plans for a memorial on what had come to be known as Monument Hill at Roxburgh. Lists of the names of fallen soldiers were posted in a shop window and published in the local newspaper, to ascertain if any names had been omitted. James C. Falconer was listed among those who had left the district and lost their lives in the Great War. 24 May 1923 was the day for unveiling the handsome memorial, a tribute of respect to the gallant soldiers who fell in the Great War. An exceptionally large number of people gathered to perpetuate the memory of those who had given their lives. The procession started at the Roxburgh School, led by the Roxburgh Municipal Band, and included the returned men and children of the Roxburgh and Coal Creek schools. Prayer, scripture reading and the singing of the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” followed. The local MP, Mr James Horn, addressed the gathering, recalling that New Zealand had sent away over 100,000 men and about 17,000 of them did not return. The Roxburgh district had lost 42 of its sons, and to their relatives he extended sympathy. He thought that the memorials being erected throughout the country could always be looked upon as the graveside of the fallen. He believed also that the country should honour and look after those who had returned. The Mayor read out the names inscribed on the monument, concluding with the words – “Greater love hath no man that he should lay down his life for another.” The ceremony finished with the hymn “Lead Kindly Light”, laying of wreaths, the sounding of The Last Post, and the singing of the National Anthem.
James’ brother, Ernest Gordon Falconer, also served in World War I. James Courtney Falconer drew up a will on 3 April 1917, bequeathing his estate to his brother Ernest and appointing him sole executor. His partnership with his brother William Mowat Falconer in the orchard business was to be continued for at least three years. William, an accountant at New Plymouth, declared that he had arranged for Jim to draw up said will and on 16 March 1917 had written thus– “There is one thing, Jim, I wish you would fix up. I mean that Will I had made out for you some time ago. I made mine out over 12 months ago leaving things O.K. for you in the event of my going under and I want you to do the same for me.” Ernest swore an affidavit as to J. C. Falconer’s official number in the Expeditionary Force (36828) on the basis of having received letters from him wherein he gave his address while on Active Service as: - 36828 Sergt. J. C. Falconer, “D” Company, 24th. Reinforcements, G.P.O., Wellington.
During his time on the land at Coal Creek “he put in a lot of time developing the land, and the excellent work he accomplished now stands as a monument to his memory. Singlehanded he cleared the area of heavy scrub and ploughed and planted 35 acres in fruit trees in one year. Jim, as he was most popularly known, was a keen student of nature and agriculture and an interesting conversationalist on many matters. He was a good sport and took a keen and active interest in football, being a member of the Coal Creek fifteen. He was also a good swimmer and an athlete, being well-known as a sprinter at the various centres throughout the Goldfields and in the south. In brief, the deceased soldier was a good clean sport and honest and upright in all his actions. While in this district he made many friends whose heartfelt sympathies go out to his relatives. Sergeant-Major Falconer, who left New Zealand with the 24th Reinforcements, won his stripes before leaving camp, and at subsequent examinations in England was successful in retaining his rank.” (Mt. Benger Mail. 24 October 1917)
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [28 March 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0038855) [02 May 2014]; CWGC [29 March 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (DIA) [28 March 2014]; North Otago Times, 8 December 1892, 22 January 1909, 27 October 1917, Otago Daily Times, 18 October 1893, 11 December 1899, 22 December 1906, 6 June 1916, 21 & 22 September 1916, 20 & 22 October 1917, 2 October 1919, 2 October 1920, Timaru Herald, 22 June 1894, 11 December 1899, Otago Witness, 19 September 1895, 6 May 1897, 10 June 1897, 14 September 1899, Star, 11 December 1899, Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette, 4 April 1906, 27 September 1916, Tuapeka Times, 22 & 29 December 1906, 20 October 1917, 3 September 1919, Southland Times, 19 March 1908, Mt Benger Mail, 12 June 1912, 7 & 14 August 1912, 27 November 1912, 16 July 1913, 5 November 1913, 24 February 1915, 7 July 1915, 11 August 1915, 5 April 1916, 20 September 1916, 28 February 1917, 18 June 1919, 3 September 1919, 12 November 1919, 15 November 1922, 30 May 1923, Evening Post, 4 April 1917, Sun, 18 October 1917, 23 October 1917, Press, 23 October 1917 (Papers Past) [29 March 2014; 10 August 2015; 19 September 2017]; "New Zealand, Central Otago, Cemetery Gravestones, 1861-2009", index and images, Family Search - Alexandra Cemetery [29 March 2014]; NZ BDM historical records indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [28 March 2014]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [24 May 2016]; School Admission records (Waimate Branch NZSG & Alexandra Branch NZSG); NZ Electoral rolls (ancestry.com.au)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
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