GREELISH, Martin Joseph
(Service number 14099)

First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 31 March 1896 Place of Birth Milford, South Canterbury

Enlistment Information

Date 11 January 1916 Age 19 years 10 months
Address at Enlistment Ormsby Street, Temuka
Occupation Farm labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Kate GREELISH (mother) Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 4¼ inches. Weight 144 lbs. Chest measurement 34-37 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair fair. Eyes both 5/5. Hearing good. Colour vision normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth mostly artificial. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fit.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 14th Reinforcements, New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Date 26 June 1916
Transport Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 27 May 1918 Reason No longer physically fit for War Service on account of illness contracted on Active Service.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

November 1916 - to Codford - unfit. 12 October 1917 - missing & to hospital, sick; 15 October 1917 - admitted to No. 10 Australian Field Ambulance, then to No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station. 19 October admitted to General Hospital, Rouen. 23 October embarked for England; 24 October admitted to No. 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst - trench feet. 12 November 1917 listed as severe case. 12 December 1917, his mother received a cable stating that her son, Private M. J. Greelish, was improving. But certified unfit by Medical Board on 11 December. Invalided home on 24 December 1917 per "Maheno" - suffering from trench feet.

Post-war Occupations



Date 21 December 1970 Age 74 years
Place of Death Orari (at granddaughter's residence)
Notices Timaru Herald, 22 December 1970
Memorial or Cemetery Temuka Cemetery
Memorial Reference Services Section, Row 180, Plot 627
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Martin Joseph Greelish was born on 31 March 1896, at Milford, South Canterbury, the youngest son of John and Kate (Catherine, née Faherty) Greelish, of Milford and Temuka. He was baptised Catholic on10 May 1896 at Temuka (Martin Greelish). His Irish-born parents, John and Kate, married in 1882 at Temuka, and went on to have seven children. Their eldest child, Kate, died in 1892, aged 8 years. John Grealish (spelt thus) came from County Galway by the “Ramsay” in 1870, possibly accompanied by a sister Mary, following the arrival of his brother Martin in 1867 and , perhaps, brother Patrick in 1863. Mr Grealish was a tenant farmer on the Green Hayes Estate near Temuka, and was one of the signatories to a testimonial to Captain Hayhurst on the latter’s return from the South African War. Mr J. Greelish served on the Milford School Committee. The youngest Greelish children attended the Temuka St Joseph’s School in Temuka, where Mr Greelish was one of those engaged in spreading shingle in the school yard in 1904. The second annual picnic for the Temuka parochial district of the Catholic Church was held in November 1904Proceedings started at 11 a.m., with the children marching from St Joseph’s School, and the Kerrytown School children arrived soon after. Various athletic events were run, and it was in the Boys’ under 7 race that Martin Greelish won second prize. At the annual distribution of prizes at St Joseph’s in December 1908, the children presented a musical programme and the Rev. Le Menant urged the prize-winners to continue with their good work. There among the prize-winners was Martin Greelish, Standard III. His father John, an old settler, died on 1 July 1907, after a long illness, and when Martin was barely 11 years old. At 74 years of age, John was more than twenty years older than Kate. Mrs kate Greelish was charged, in 1909, with not sending her boy to school – Martin. She pleaded that her boy was in ill-health. Martin himself said that he was 13 years old and had passed the fourth standard. Mrs Greelish was warned that she must send the boy to school and, as it was a first offence, the case was dismissed.

Martin Greelish joined in several local activities. In the first of a series of youth (under 18 years) road races, from Temuka to Orarri railway station and back to Temuka, held in February 1913, he started on a scratch handicap. In the second race of the series, he was given a handicap of ½-minute, but pulled out before the finish. At the Milford Club two nights’ shoot for a trophy, both Martin and John got through to the shoot off, Martin tying for first place. A subsequent shoot off resulted again in a tie; Martin finished second in the final. Their brother Thomas also shot well. In his youth, Martin Greelish incurred a couple of fines - in December 1912 for failing to take the oath of allegiance under the Defence Act, and in February 1914 for failing to render personal service under the Defence Act, in absenting himself from parades and drills without leave; in June 1915, a fine of £5 was imposed for failing, as a member of the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment, to attend the annual camp at Orari.

Martin Joseph Greelish enlisted on 11 January 1916, aged only 19 years 10 months. A farm labourer, single and Roman Catholic, he was residing at Ormsby Street, Temuka (his home). He was only 5 feet 4¼ inches tall, weighed 144 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34-37 inches. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and fair hair. All his faculties were good, and his teeth were mostly artificial. He was in good physical condition, was vaccinated and free of diseases. His nominated next-of-kin was his mother, Mrs Kate Greelish, of Temuka. When Martin was preparing to embark with the 14th Reinforcements per the “Tahiti” on 26 June 1916, his sister Catherine and her friend Miss Histen went to Wellington to say good-bye to their brothers. This same sister, by then Mrs Just, was the next-of kin for Martin at his death in 1970. At Featherstone he lost two days’ pay for overstaying his leave, while on 3 August 1916 on the “Tahiti” he was deprived of 4 days’ pay. Two days’ pay was lost on 25 March 1917 at Sling – “In a crowd some members of which were gambling.” After disembarking at Devonport, he had marched into Sling on 28 August 1916, and in November gone to Codford, being unfit. It was the 5 September 1917 when he proceeded overseas to France from Sling and joined his Battalion in the Field on 16 September. On 12 October he was listed as missing and to hospital, sick. He was admitted to the No 10 Australian Field Ambulance in the Field on 15 October, to the No 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station on the same day, and to the General Hospital at Rouen four days later. On 23 October he embarked for England, where he was admitted to the No 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. The hospital and progress report of 12 November 1917 listed Private M. J. Greelish, 14099, as a severe case. Mrs Greelish, Temuka, received a telegram, advising that her son had been admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital, Brockenhurst, on 24 October, with severe trench feet. On 12 December 1917 he was reported to be progressing favourably, but in fact he had been certified Unfit by the Medical Board on 11 December 1917. On 24 December 1917 at Avonmouth he was invalided home on the “Maheno”. Martin was suffering from trench feet when he returned home.

On 4 February 1918 he was one of three invalided Temuka men warmly welcomed at the Temuka railway station by relatives, citizens and officials. They were driven to the Post Office where Mr T. Gunnion welcomed them on behalf of the Patriotic Entertainment Committee. Mr C. J. Talbot said “We must do our duty by them [the returned men] and the State must do the same. They had made great sacrifices for us.” The men were pleased to be home again. Draft 407 had brought 388 invalided men. The Milford Patriotic Committee hosted a welcome home and presentation at the Milford School on 12 April 1918; for five returned soldiers including Private M. J. Greelish. A large gathering of residents saw them presented with the Committee’s gold medal. Hearty cheers were given for the men and those still at the front, and dancing followed. Rifleman M. J. Greelish had commenced duty on 9 March 1916 and gave over two years, but only a month in the Field, before his discharge as Private in 1918. M. J. Greelish was recorded on the Temuka Leader Active Service List from 13 January 1917. He was discharged on 27 May 1918, no longer physically fit for War Service on account of illness contracted on Active Service. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

By the 1919 electoral roll, Martin is living at home in Temuka, listed as a 'returned soldier'. Martin Greelish married Maud Hooper in 1919. It appears that Martin was a troubled young man, maybe as a result of his war experiences. On 12 October 1922 he attempted suicide by shooting himself. He had had a cup of tea with his mother-in-law at about 11 pm, then there were words. She took a rifle from him, but soon after he left a shot was heard and he was found at the door with another rifle alongside. He had got the second rifle from his brother’s place. The shot had passed through his ear. When found, he was in a fit which lasted until 2 o’clock the next morning, by which time he was in Timaru Hospital. Martin considered he had been harshly treated by the Defence authorities. He received no pension and was not able to do hard work. He was a good worker but was subject to fits which lasted up to two hours. Martin expressed sorrow at the occurrence. He was by this time 25 years old, Maud 21 years, their children 2 years 8 months and 14 or 15 months. He had been at the front for about three or four months, still suffered the effects of trench feet, had received three slight wounds, and was gassed at Passchendaele. His last occupation was on relief work, but he did not appear to be physically fit for hard manual labourer, the sergeant said. He was worried about his financial situation and the family was suffering. He was put under the care the Probation Officer for 12 months. His namesake uncle, Martin Greelish, died a bachelor at Temuka in 1924, aged 82 years.

Martin lived on at Temuka, working as a labourer. In May 1925 he represented the Druids in Temuka Card Club’s Card Tournament held on Friday nights. His wife Maud died in June 1925, just 24 years old. She was subject to epileptic fits, and on this occasion she did not recover. She had been staying with her parents for three weeks while Martin was working at Rangitata Island. Martin and Maud had a son and a daughter. Their son John Kevin Patrick Greelish, born in 1920, served in World War II. Later in 1925 M. Greelish and three companions were charged with being on the premises of the Royal Hotel after closing hours. A conviction and fine of £2 were recorded. In November 1926, St Joseph’s Church conducted tug-of-war contests in connection the bazaar. Martin and his brother Thomas competed for the Citizens teams against the High School, succumbing to the lighter School team. Martin’s next outing was for the Druids team at the Timaru Tug-of-War Carnival in May 1927, the Druids winning the D grade by 5½ inches. A few months later another £2 fine was incurred for being on the licensed premises of the Royal Hotel after hours. He and a mate were behind a screen, evidently hiding from the constable. Another win with the Temuka Druids came in the D grade final of the Olympia Tug-of-War at Timaru in October 1927. When Mrs Kate Greelish claimed against a deceased estate, in March 1930, for wages and various services, Martin Greelish spoke in his mother’s defence. The same month the annual meeting of the Temuka Rugby Football Club was held, at which time Both Martin Greelish and his brother Thomas were elected new members. Mrs Kate Greelish died in February 1932, bequeathing her estate to her two surviving sons, Martin and Thomas. In June 1932, Martin Joseph Greelish was the victim of an assault. And in mid 1947 M. Greelish, King Street, Temuka was second in a competition conducted by the Waimate Gun Club (the nature of the competition is not given).

Martin Joseph Greelish was a brother of John Greelish who was killed in action in 1918 in France. The Defence Department proceeded against another brother, Patrick, in July 1912, for failing to comply with the Defence Act. He was liable to serve but had done nothing to fulfil his obligations, and incurred a fine of £2 and costs. His oldest brother, Thomas, was called up in 1917. Thomas, who was a regular participant in the Miniature Rifles and very active with the Milford Lagoon Association, contributed towards the Temuka War Memorial subscription list. When Catherine (Greelish) Just administered the estate of her brother Thomas Greelish, a bachelor, in 1946, she detailed the family – father and mother were deceased; she, brother Martin Joseph Greelish (aged 50 years), and sister Mary (Greelish) Barrett (aged 60 years) were living; brother John Greelish had been killed in action in 1918, a bachelor; brother Patrick Greelish died in 1915, a bachelor. Martin Joseph Greelish died on 21 December 1970 at the Orari residence of his granddaughter (Mrs Uden), aged 74 years. He was buried in the Temuka Cemetery, where a services plaque marks his grave. His son Jack was living in Wellington and his daughter, Marion (Greelish) Neville had died in 1949. Only one sister and grandchildren survived him. Members of the Temuka RSA paid respects at his funeral.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0047250) [18 October 2013]; Temuka Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [19 October 2013]; NZ Electoral Rolls [19 October 2013]; Lyttelton Times, 18 June 1870, Temuka Leader, 21 April 1898, 7 July 1900, 26 November 1904, 1, 11 & 15 March 1913, 5 March 1914, 23 September 1914, 13 January 1917, 13 November 1917, 18 April 1918, 17 October 1922, 14 May 1925, 25 June 1925, 10 December 1925, 27 November 1926, 24 May 1927, 15 September 1927, 18 October 1927, 13 March 1930 [x 2], 16 June 1932, Timaru Herald, 3 July 1907, 23 December 1908, 15 December 1909, 25 July 1912, 11 December 1912, 18 February 1914, 12 July 1915, 24 June 1916, 13 December 1917, 18 January 1918, 5 February 1918, 6 & 17 April 1918, 9 August 1920, New Zealand Tablet, 11 July 1907, Press, 21 January 1914, 18 February 1914, 23 June 1915, 6 February 1918, 15 September 1927, 14 March 1930, Oamaru Mail, 13 November 1917, Evening Post, 13 November 1917, 31 January 1918, Dominion, 1 February 1918, NZ Truth, 28 October 1922, Otago Daily Times, 24 July 1947 (Papers Past) [26 October 2013; 05 June 2014; 25 August 2015; 06, 10 & 11 August 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [25 August 2015]; Timaru Herald, 22 December 1970 (Timaru District Library) [06 June 2014]; Baptism record (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [11 August 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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