(Service number 23868)
|Aliases||Known as Jim. Nickname "Tiny"|
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Lance Corporal|
|Date||1 May 1882||Place of Birth||South Canterbury|
|Date||7 February 1916||Age||33 years 9 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Box 93 P. O., Dannevirke|
|Occupation||Motor transport driver|
|Previous Military Experience||Temuka Rifles - 3 years. Time expired|
|Next of Kin||Miss Cecilia O'CONNELL (sister), 30 Matilda Street, Timaru; later C/o Miss O'CONNELL, Telephone Exchange, Invercargill|
|Medical Information||Height 6 feet 1 inch. Weight 192 lbs. Chest measurement 36-40 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown becoming grey. Sight, hearing & colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth very good. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Fit.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||13th Reinforcements, Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company|
|Date||27 May 1916|
|Transport||Willochra or Tofua|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Regiment|
|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
29 September 1917, France - gunshot wounds to right thigh & compound fracture; admitted to No.142 Field Ambulance, then to 61st Casualty Clearing Station.
|Date||29 September 1917||Age||35 years|
|Place of Death||61st Casualty Clearing Station in Belgium, France|
|Cause||Died of wounds|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Dozinghem Military cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium; memorial on parents' headstone, Temuka Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||VII. E. 22. Temuka - General Section, Row 224, Plot 341|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall; Temuka War Memorial; Temuka RSA Roll of Honour (J. O’Connell); Seadown Memorial (J. O’Connell); St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (James F. O’ Connell); Temuka Rugby Club’s Roll of Honour.|
James O’Connell, who was known as Jim and whose nickname was “Tiny” (he was anything but), was the second son of Frank and Hannah (née Butler) O’Connell. He was born on 1 May 1882 at Seadown, Levels Plains, South Canterbury, and baptised Roman Catholic at Temuka on 21 May. James alternated between St Joseph’s, Kerrytown, and Seadown schools. It was at Seadown in 1896, when he was in Standard VII, that he was awarded a prize. The prizes were presented by the Hon. Mr Hall-Jones following the picnic. Mr F. O’Connell served on the Seadown School Committee. In 1913 James’ father died. He hailed from County Kerry and, with two brothers and a sister, was an early settler in South Canterbury. In the early days he was a carrier, which occupation James also followed, then he took up farming at Seadown. Mrs Hannah O’Connell had died in 1909.
James was living at Dannevirke when he registered at the Masterton Recruiting Office in January 1916. He had been in the district for about eight years, joined by two of his brothers – the youngest, Patrick Donald O’Connell (known as Dan), on the Post Office staff, and the eldest, Denis Francis O’Connell (known as Din), a motor driver like Jim who had an interest in a carrying business. James was a prominent footballer, playing for the Dannevirke Club and representing Hawke’s Bay. He enlisted on 7 February at Trentham and joined the 13th Reinforcements.
At 35 years of age, O’Connell was in good bodily and mental health, and in excellent shape. He stood at six feet one inch, weighed 192 pounds and had a chest measurement of 36-40 inches. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs. His limbs and chest were well formed. He was free of diseases, illnesses, defects and fits. And his teeth were very good. He had a fair complexion fair, blue eyes blue. And hair that was “brown becoming grey”. He had served for three years with the Temuka Rifles until his time expired.
Single and Roman Catholic, he named his sister as next-of-kin – Miss Cecilia O’Connell, of 30 Matilda Street, Timaru. Several of the family had moved to Timaru with their father in the last two years of his life. While James was overseas Cecilia moved to Invercargill with her sister. Private James O’Connell embarked at Wellington with the 13th Reinforcements per the “Willochra” on 27 May 1916. Having disembarked at Devonport and marched into Sling in July, he left there for Active Service in France in early September. O’Connell was detached to Signal School for a month in August 1917 and, on rejoining his unit, was appointed lance-corporal.
On 12 January 1917 James was charged 1 shilling and 8 pence half-penny for the negligent loss of articles – one tool handle and a water bottle. Both Jim and his brother Frank were in France in July 1917 when their brother William was recommended for a commission on the field.
Lance-Corporal James O’Connell, 23868, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, died of wounds on 29 September 1917 in France, just sixteen months after he left New Zealand. He had only rejoined his unit a few days before, following leave in England. Suffering gunshot wounds to his right thigh and a compound fracture on 29 September, he was admitted to No. 142 Field Ambulance, then to the 61st Casualty Clearing Station where he died. His sister, Miss Cecilia O’Connell, was advised, she by then living in Invercargill. James O’Connell was buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium.
“He was a rep. footballer and very popular amongst a big circle of acquaintances.” [Manawatu Times, 9 October 1917]. “He was a fine specimen, standing 6 feet, and was well known in athletic circles, having been a member of the Hawke’s Bay football team.” [Timaru Herald, 17 October 1917]. “Lance-Corporal James O’Connell (“Tiny”), of the 13th Reinforcements, . . . . . , was very popular and widely respected.” [Timaru Herald, 20 October 1917].
His legal next-of-kin was his brother, Denis O’Connell, of Madrid Street, Dannevirke. It was to Denis that his medals were sent – British War Medal and Victory Medal. The scroll and plaque were also sent to Denis, in 1921-1922. Probate of the Will of James O’Connell, late of the 13th Reinforcements, and formerly a resident of Seadown, was granted to his sister, Hannah Cecilia O’Connell, in the Supreme Court at Palmerston North, on Monday, 17 December 1917. James had signed his will on 26 April 1916, after joining the Forces. Hannah was the sole executrix and sole beneficiary. A certificate of death supplied to Miss Connell by the Registrar-General of New Zealand is attached to the Motion of Probate. The Will was prepared by a Timaru solicitor and the estate wound up by a Timaru solicitor, who had known both James and Hannah. His sister Esther Theresa O’Connell, of the Telephone Exchange, Timaru, also communicated with the Officer in Charge of War Expenses in 1919. As of October 1919, there was a balance of £3 4s 2d due to his estate from the War Office. Hannah Cecilia O’Connell died on 8 September 1934 at Ross, where her youngest brother was postmaster at the time. She was buried at Hokitika.
His cousin, James Patrick O’Connell, also died from the effects of the war. Two brothers of James served in the war – Francis Joseph O’ Connell (1887-1968) and William Patrick O’Connell (1892-1962). His oldest brother, Denis Frank O’Connell, was a dairy farmer at Dannevirke when he was called up in 1917. Bartholomew O’Connell, who also served, was another cousin. From November 1917 his name – J. F. O’Connell - appeared in the Roll of Honour published regularly by the Temuka Leader – “A sacrifice is made by every man who enlists and goes to the front.” James was also known, on occasion, as James Francis (or Frank) O’Connell.
James O’Connell is honoured on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Temuka War Memorial, the Temuka RSA Roll of Honour, the Seadown Memorial and the St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (James F. O’Connell). His name is recorded also on the Temuka Rugby Club’s Roll of Honour, beneath the inscription ‘To the men who played the game.’ The name of J. O’Connell is engraved on a brass shield, mounted on an oaken honours board, which was unveiled in a ceremony at the Seadown School in August 1920. A large gathering of Seadown residents and visitors from neighbouring districts took part in the unveiling and the accompanying musical service, which concluded with the sounding of the “Last Post”. Below the names is the inscription: “Their names shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out.”
The Temuka St Joseph’s Church Memorial, an “exceedingly beautiful” monument to the memory of those who had fallen in the war, was unveiled after a Memorial Service on 25 April 1922. During the service appropriate music was provided by the choir and an excellent address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Kennedy. Thirty-six from the parish laid down their lives. The name of James F. O’Connell was heard again on Anzac Day, 1927. A Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s Church, Temuka. The celebrant preached a very stirring sermon based on the Book of Wisdom (Chapter III, Verses 2-5). He pointed out that the Gallipoli campaign and later “gigantic episodes” would remain for all time a wonderful symbol of the age-old courage of men. He reminded the lads present that the enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers of New Zealand and other parts of the Empire were helping them to have brighter and better lives, and that all should render thanks to God, who had delivered them out of the hands of the enemy. They had gathered to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli and also to set aside the day to show their deep and grateful acknowledgement of the services of the men who had fought and died for them on other fields of the great battle-front. “The light of immortality that flashed from the abandoned tomb of the risen Christ lingers on in every mound of Flanders mud and clay, the gullies of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and Egypt, on the quiet churchyards in English villages and on God’s acres in New Zealand. . . . . And to-day, before God’s altar, we remember them with the love we bore them and the pride we shall have in them,” he concluded. Before the Dead March was played by the organist, the names were read of those from the Temuka parish who had died “on the field of honour” – among them those of James F. O’Connell and James D. O’Connell.
The Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled in August 1922 before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . . “ Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [11 December 2020]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0087559) [07 April 2015, 02 January 2021]; CWGC [02 January 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [07 April 2015]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG [08 April 2015]; Temuka Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [December 2020]; Catholic Diocese of Christchurch baptism index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 April 2015; December 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [04 April 2015; 01 January 2021]; Probate Record (Archives NZ/Family Search) [02 January 2021]; Timaru Herald, 24 December 1896, 31 July 1917, 17 & 20 October 1917, 22 December 1917, 21 August 1920, 26 April 1922, 11 August 1922, Temuka Leader, 9 June 1907, 6 September 1913, 18 October 1917, 29 November 1917, 24 August 1920, 26 April 1922, 12 August 1922, 26 April 1927, Wairarapa Daily Times, 19 January 1916, Manawatu Times, 9 October 1917, Sun, 9 October 1917, Evening Star, 9 October 1917, Ashburton Guardian, 22 October 1917, Press, 22 October 1917, Hokitika Guardian, 10 September 1934 (Papers Past) [07 & 09 April 2015; 12 December 2015; 06 & 09 February 2018; 31 March 2018; 11 & 16 December 2020; 01 January 2021]
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
Tell us more
Do you have information that could be added to this story? Or related images that you are happy to share? Submit them here!