McKAY, Alexander Patrick
(Service number 4058)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 9 January 1869 Place of Birth Timaru, Canterbury, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date 18 August 1915 Age 46 years 7 months
Address at Enlistment Geraldton, Western Australia
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Jane Sedgewick (cousin), Havelock Street, Perth, Western Australia
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 140 lbs. Chest measurement 35-37 inches. Complexion fresh. Eyes brown. Hair brown grizzled. Vaccinated. Scars inside right knee. Free from scrofula; phthisis; syphilis; impaired constitution; defective intelligence; defects of vision, voice or hearing; hernia; haemorrhoids, varicose veins, beyond a limited extent; marked varicocele with unusually pendent testicle; inveterate cutaneous disease; chronic ulcers; traces of corporal punishment, or evidence of having been marked with the letters D. or B.C.; contracted or deformed chest; abnormal curbature of spine; or any other disease or physical defect calculated to unfit him for the duties of a soldier. Can see the reuwred distance with either eye. Heart & lungs healthy. Free use of joints & limbs. Not subject to fits of any description.

Military Service

Served with Australian Imperial Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 16th Battalion
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 12th Reinforcement
Date 22 December 1915
Transport HMAT A31 Ajana
Embarked From Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 16th Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western Front
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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

29 September 1916 - admitted to hospital, sick. 30 September - admitted to 4th Australian Field Ambulance, mumps; transferred to Casualty Clearing Station, then to 7th General Hospital. 12 February 1917 - admitted to 8th Field Ambulance, myalgia; transferred to 5th Divisional Rest Station. discharged to duty on 19 February.

Post-war Occupations


Date 25 March 1917 Age 48 years
Place of Death Bapaume, France
Cause Killed accidentally
Memorial or Cemetery Bapaume Australian Cemetery, France
Memorial Reference Row A, Grave No. 23
New Zealand Memorials Australian War Memorial, Canberra; Bapaume Town Hall Roll of Honour (unveiled 2011)

Biographical Notes

Alexander Patrick McKay was born on 9 January 1869 at Timaru, South Canterbury, New Zealand. His birth was registered as Alexander Forbes McKay. He was the youngest of the four or five sons of Robert Duncan Forbes McKay and Alison (Alice) née Waugh. Robert (24 years) and Alison (20 years), both from Scotland, had married in on 23 June 1860 at Knox Church, Dunedin, and their first child was born there that same year. Robert was a cook at Tamora House in High Street, and Alison had been a domestic in the same establishment. In June 1862 they sued successfully for the recovery of five weeks wages. By 1867 the family had moved to Timaru. Alison and her brother Robert Waugh had come together to Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1858, Robert marrying at Timaru in 1869. Their parents and other siblings settled in Timaru in 1871. Young Alex attended the Timaru Public School (Timaru Main), where, in 1876, he was awarded second prize for general proficiency in Class 6.

In 1871Alison McKay was keeping a boarding house in Timaru. When a prisoner was charged with presenting a forged cheque, she gave evidence – “I keep a boarding house in Timaru. My husband’s name is Robert McKay. . . . . the prisoner . . . . has been staying at my house . . . . . He owed me £3 for board, . . . . . .” Her brother Robert Waugh then gave evidence. Alison McKay was successful in this case of the forged cheque. Back in the Magistrate’s Court in February 1872, Mrs McKay denied a debt, but had no evidence. While making arrangement for payment she stated her inability to pay, saying that she was a married woman and her husband was in Invercargill. The Magistrate advised that nothing in her possession could be seized, as a married woman could hold no property, everything being vested in the husband. Alison McKay did have some cows. On 24 June 1872 two of them were at large in North Street, Timaru. One of her boys claimed them just as they were about to be driven to the pound, and Mrs McKay was fined 5 shillings and costs. The fine was 15 shillings and costs in August 1873 when she had allowed two cows and one calf to wander at large. Another fine of 15 shillings was imposed in October 1873 for a breach of the cattle trespass ordinance. She was not alone in this offence. Yet another 15 shillings fine for a similar offence was incurred in May 1874.

On 31 December 1872 in the Timaru Court, a case was heard between Bradley and Acton, the case arising out of an earlier one in which Acton had obtained a judgment against a man named McKay, and levied upon the goods of his wife Alice McKay. The present case followed after the bailiff had taken possession of the goods. Samuel Bradley had purchased a house in North Street in 1872 and then allowed Mrs McKay to continue to use it for lodgers. He had purchased some furniture and utensils as Mrs McKay had minimal property, the furniture in her previous boarding house having been burned in a fire. “During the time Mrs McKay came to live at my house the furniture has never been in possession of Mr McKay, neither has he ever lived there. Mr McKay has no claim on these goods,” Mr Bradley stated. In the words of Alice McKay – “I am the wife of Robert Duncan Forbes McKay. I know Mr Bradley, and have rented his house as a boarding-house. . . . . . I am separated from my husband. My husband lived as a boarder in my house in June and July, 1871, for a fortnight. At the time the debt was contracted by my husband with Mr Acton, my husband did not own any of the furniture owned by Mr Bradley.” Mr Bradley had lived with her on and off for about four years. A deed of separation between Robert and Alice McKay had been entered into on 11 July 1871. In November and December 1872 she received several summonses on her husband’s account. After argument the ruling was not in Mrs McKay’s favour - the property of the wife must be deemed to belong to the husband. She had not obtained a married woman’s protection or property order, and consequently she did not hold goods independently of her husband.

Later in January 1873 another claim was made in the Timaru Court against Robert McKay for goods supplied to his wife. Mrs McKay appeared on behalf of her husband and, when questioned, said that it was not exactly known where her husband was. He had been living in Dunedin for some time, but she had heard that he had moved to Nelson where “he was receiving a good salary and would pay the debt.” In light of the earlier judgments, judgment was in favour of the claimant.

An application for a married woman’s protection to property order was made in March 1873. Mrs McKay said, under oath, that she was married to R. D. Forbes McKay in June 1860. “On 6th October 1868, her husband left her without any reasonable cause, and had remained separate from her ever since, not contributing a fraction towards her support.” The order was granted. In July of 1873 Alison McKay, a married woman and sister of Robert Waugh, made a statement in court in her brother’s defence. He was found not guilty.

From 1865 through to 1880, the name of Robert Forbes McKay was every year recorded on the Dunedin City electoral roll, with a dwelling house in Walker street. It appears, however, that he was often not resident in the city; maybe he owned property. The South Australian, Victoria, and Queensland Police Gazettes all published notices in January and February, 1871 - “Information is requested respecting Robert Forbes McKay, a pastry cook, native of Glasgow, aged 40, . . . . . . Wrote from Auckland in December 1868 stating his intention of proceeding to New South Wales. Subsequently reported to have died in Brisbane, but this report cannot be traced to have any foundation. – 30th December 1870.” Mrs McKay was still keeping a boarding house in Timaru as of September 1875. The Auckland Star of 30 September 1875 reported that Robert Duncan, alias Forbes Mc Kay (“a bonnie boy of Scotland”), was charged with stealing four sovereigns, a one pound note, and a purse from the Waverley Hotel, on the 20 September. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labourer. The Daily Southern Cross of 1 October reported that Forbes McKay, alias Robert Duncan, was sent to gaol for plundering the pockets of a man who slept in the same room with him one night in the Waverley Hotel. The report of the New Zealand Herald of 1 October named the offender as Robert Duncan Forbes McKay, and noted that it was his first offence.

John William Alexander Breadley was born on 17 June 1871 at Timaru to Samuel Breadley and Alison (née Waugh). The birth was initially registered as John William Alexander Bradley McKay, son of Robert and Allison. Alison McKay and Samuel Breading married on 15 November 1879 in the Timaru Trinity Presbyterian Parish. Alison stated that she was a widow. No record of Robert’s death has been found. John Breadley was educated at Orari School and Temuka District High School. He remained in the Orari district for a few years and at times during his parents’ lifetimes – in September 1893 at the Temuka Caledonian Society annual ball; June 1894, with his father as a patron, elected to the committee on the formation of the South Orari football club and appointed to the selection committee; August 1895, witness in a case involving his parents, when he made mention of his step-brother, Mackay (probably William), taking the disputed harness to Orari. The claimant also made reference to Mrs Breadley’s son, Mackay. He was also a traveller – in November 1890 he left Timaru for Melbourne. In June 1905 an unclaimed letter for J. W. Breadley from a place beyond the colony was lying at the Timaru Post office.

It is not known when Alexander McKay went away to Australia. It is known that at least two brothers were also in Australia. Robert Waugh McKay, the eldest, married Naomi Fishburn in 1884 at Sydney. In 1895 Naomi applied for a divorce on the ground of desertion. Their only daughter, Maud (Maudie) Allison McKay, married Bernard Hendrick Jansen at Newcastle, New South Wales on 5 July 1906, by which date Robert Waugh McKay had died. Alexander’s brother, William McKay, died in the hospital of typhoid fever on 31 January 1897, and is buried in Coolgardie Cemetery, Western Australia. His mother, Alison, and her second husband Samuel Breadley lived for the most part at Orari. Alison Breadley died in 1902 and Samuel in 1911; they are buried at Geraldine, the headstone erected by their son, J. W. A. Breadley. Alison Breadley appointed her son, John William Alexander Breadley, sole executor and sole beneficiary of her property. No mention was made for her four McKay sons. Her will was dated December 1895 but not brought to probate until 1912. Her son John had not been in New Zealand since her death. At the time of her death he had been driving cattle from Queensland to Western Australia; he had been heard of in Ireland visiting relations (his father’s); and as of 1912 he had returned to America. He called at Geraldine briefly in February 1912 but did not contact the solicitors, and his whereabouts could not be ascertained. Her husband Samuel was the informant of her death. The certificate states that there were five sons of the first marriage; their ages were unknown. Samuel Breadley appointed his executors and trustees to invest the proceeds of his estate and to hand the investments and money to his son John William Alexander Breadley, “now on a visit to America” (1910).

Alexander McKay married Helen Johnson Jackson on 4 April 1905 in the Perth Registry Office, Western Australia. Alexander and Helen had two sons –Lawrence Alexander McKay (1905-1966) and James Archibald McKay (c1909-1956), before Helen died in 1912. Lawrence served in World War II, his next-of-kin being James. Alexander appears in the 1910 electoral roll, a contractor at Waeel, Western Australia. From 1912 he and Helen are at the Experimental Farm at Chapman, before Alexander returns to contracting. When he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1915 at Geraldton, Western Australia, where he resided, he was over 46 years old. He was a farmer, Presbyterian, and stated that he was single, but his wife had already died. He also stated that relatives were not known, before giving as next-of-kin a cousin, Mrs Jane Sedgewick. Jane was the daughter of Mary Waugh, a younger sister of Alexander’s mother Alison. She had married in New Zealand in 1891, before settling at Perth, Western Australia. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 140 lbs, and had a chest expansion of 35-37 inches. Of fresh complexion, he had brown eyes, brown grizzled hair, and two distinctive scars on the inside of his right knee. He was free of any diseases and deformities. He could see the required distance with either eye. His heart and lungs were healthy. He had the free use of his joints and limbs. He declared that he was not subject to fits of any description.

Private Alexander McKay embarked with the Sixteenth Battalion of the Twelfth Reinforcement from Fremantle, Western Australia, on 22 December 1915 per the “Ajana”. From Alexandria he disembarked at Marseilles on 9 June 1916. In late August he was court martialled. While on active service, his unit being in the firing line, he was absent without leave from 28th till 31st August, four days in total. Although he pleaded not guilty, he was found guilty and on 14 September 1916 he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. This penalty was, however, suspended on 28 September, although forfeiture of 747 days pay had been imposed on 24 September. The sentence was remitted on 20 May 1917, that is, after Alexander’s death. Back in the field he was admitted to hospital, sick, on 29 September 1916. The following day he was admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance with mumps, transferred from there to the Casualty Clearing Station, then to the 7th General Hospital. On 12 February 1917 he was admitted to the 8th Field Ambulance, this time suffering with myalgia, and transferred from there to the 5th Divisional Rest Station. Discharged to duty on 19 February, he saw just five more weeks till he met his death.

On 25 March 1917 Private A. P. McKay, 4058 was accidentally killed in the Town Hall explosion at Bapaume, aged 48 years. He was buried in the Bapaume Australian Cemetery, France. On the nights of March 25-26, 1917, at least 19 Australians were killed and others wounded in a booby-trap explosion in the town hall of Bapaume. The bomb had been left behind by the Germans as they withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. No. 4058 Private A. P. McKay, 16th Battalion, was one of the Australians associated on that day with the Comforts Fund. Cables from the Commandant, A.I.F. Headquarters, dated London, 21st and 27th April, 1917, confirmed that Private Alexander Patrick McKay had been killed, after initial communication had incorrectly named No. 4058 as J. McKay.

In November 1917, Mrs J. Sedgwick wrote to Base Records in Melbourne about getting Alexander's personal belongings delivered to her as next-of-kin. Earlier in 1917 pensions were awarded to his two young sons - Lawrence Alexander McKay, 15 shillings fortnightly from 27 June 1917, and James Archibald McKay, 20 shillings fortnightly from 27 June 1917. These children were in the care of the State Children's Department at Perth, W.A. Mrs Sedgwick received from the Department of Defence on 18 November 1920 three copies of the photograph of the grave of the late Pte A. P. McKay. After it had been ascertained that the children had entitlement, his British War Medal and Victory Medal were sent to his elder son, Alexr McKay, care of the State Childrens’ Department, and later of Newbyn Farm, Benjaberring, Western Australia, in 1923. The Memorial Scroll had been sent to this son, in 1922. Alexander Patrick McKay is remembered on the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The people of Bapaume have never forgotten the Aussies in the towns of the Western Front and have honoured the Australian Diggers killed while liberating the town from German occupation during World War I. On 26 March 2011, about 200 people, including representatives from the Australian embassy in Paris and relatives from Australia, gathered in Bapaume for the 94th anniversary and the unveiling of two plaques on the wall of the town hall -- a memorial scroll and a roll of honour; a roll of honour bearing the name of Alexander Patrick McKay.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [26 April 2015]; Australian Imperial Force Attestation Paper (National Archives of Australia) [06 September 2013]; CWGC [27 August 2013]; Australian Commonwealth Military Forces ( [04 November 2014]; Australian Imperial force – Nominal Roll; Otago Daily Times, 26 June 1862, Timaru Herald, 27 September 1871, 3 January 1872, 27 February 1872, 3 July 1872, 1 & 22 January 1873, 5 March 1873, 11 July 1873, 13 August 1873, 15 October 1873, 13 May 1874, 22 December 1876, 14 December 1885, 17 August 1886, 29 August 1895, 15 June 1905, Auckland Star, 30 September 1875, New Zealand Herald, 1 October 1875, The Daily Southern Cross, 1 October 1875, South Canterbury Times, 17 November 1890, Temuka Leader, 23 September 1893, 14 June 1894, 29 August 1895, Press, 29 March 1911, New Zealand Times, 12 April 1917, Poverty Bay Herald, 19 April 1917 (Papers Past) [07 November 2015; 10, 11, 12 & 14 March 2018]; Australian Electoral Rolls ( [07 November 2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [09 March 2018]; City of Dunedin Electoral Rolls (Research Librarian, Hocken Library Otago, per NZSG Kiwi Index); NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs)07 November 2015]; Probate records for Alison & Samuel Breadley (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [March 2018]; Marriage record (South Canterbury Museum) [11 March 2018]; Geraldine Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [09 March 2018]; The West Australian, Perth, WA, 1 February 1897, Newcastle Morning Herald, NSW, 11 July 1906 (Trove) [12 March 2018]; South Australia, Victoria & Queensland Police Gazettes, January & February, 1871, extracts ( [09 & 10 March 2018]; Herald Sun. 28 February 2011 (Google search) [14/03/2018]; The Bendigo Independent, Victoria, Australia, 12 April 1917 (Trove) [14 March 2018]

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