O'CONNELL, James Patrick
(Service number 25/1099)

First Rank Sergeant Last Rank Rifleman


Date 12 October 1883 Place of Birth Seadown, Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 15 October 1915 Age 32 years
Address at Enlistment Waipukurau
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs D. O'CONNELL (mother), Seadown Post-office, Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 9¾ inches. Weight 12 stone 2 pounds. Chest measurement 36½-40 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair ?? Sight, hearing & colour vision all correct. Limbs & chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth sufficient, lower plate. Free from Herbia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No defects.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 3rd Battalion, C Company
Date 5 February 1916
Transport Ulimaroa
Embarked From Wellington Destination
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 6 June 1918 Reason No longer physically fit for War Service on account of wounds received in Action (Shell Shock).

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

18 August 1917 - admitted to hospital - sick; 19 August 1917 rejoined Unit from Field Ambulance. 9 September 1917 - sent to hospital – not yet diagnosed. Admitted to hospital in France; 4 October report - “Now definitely diagnosed as Shell Shock, Wounded”. Blown into air by shell bursting, knocked unconscious. Regained consciousness in No 41 Casualty Clearing Station. Three days later sent to No 4 Stationary Hospital, remained for 23 days. When hospital bombed, moved to No 7 Convalescent Camp, then to No 10 Convalescent Camp. 16 December 1917 classfied “C” by New Zealand Expeditionary Force Travelling Medical Board - very nervous; coarse tremor of hands, tremor of tongue, coarse tremor of thigh muscles; very high pulse rate; heart slightly dilated, mitral murmur well marked, pulmonary problems.

Post-war Occupations


Date 5 December 1918 Age 35 years
Place of Death Hospital, Temuka
Cause Died after discharge of illness contracted while on Active Service
Notices Timaru Herald, 7 December 1918; Temuka Leader, 7 December 1918
Memorial or Cemetery Temuka Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 223, Plot 240
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Temuka War Memorial (2014 additions); Seadown Memorial; St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (James D. O’ Connell).

Biographical Notes

James Patrick O'Connell was the second son of Dennis and Mary (née Butler) O'Connell of Levels Plains. He was born on 12 October 1883 at Seadown, Timaru, and baptised Roman Catholic in October 1883 at Temuka. James was educated at Seadown School and for 4½ years at St Joseph’s, Kerrytown, returning to Seadown in 1898. He started his working life on the farm, before joining the police force at the age of 21. After four years with the police, he returned to work on the land.

J. P. O’Connell enlisted on 15 October 1915 at Hastings, at the age of 32 years. He was a labourer, single and Roman Catholic, residing at Waipukurau. He named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs D. O’Connell, Seadown Post Office, Temuka. He stood at 5 feet 9¾ inches, weighed 12 stone 2 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 36½-40 inches. He had a fair complexion and blue eyes. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all correct. His limbs and chest were well formed, his heart and lungs normal, and his teeth sufficient with a lower plate. He was in good bodily and mental health, free of diseases and defects, and vaccinated. On 11 December 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant Camp Police and Sergeant Regimental Police. Sergeant O’Connell embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade from Wellington on 5 February 1916 per the “Ulimaroa”, and on 9 February he relinquished the appointment of Temporary Sergeant. He arrived at Suez on 13 March and embarked for France at Alexandria on 7 July.

J. P. O’Connell managed a few transgressions. He was late for Tattoo Roll in mid February 1916. He was punished for being drunk on duty in early August 1916, being awarded Field Punishment No 1 and being deprived of pay. He rejoined his unit, as Rifleman, from Detention Camp the following week. Later in the month he was deprived of two days pay for neglecting to obey a battalion order not to smoke cigarettes during parade hours. From December 1916 until February 1917 he served as lance-corporal, before being deprived of the rank for again being late for Tattoo. He was sentenced to four days in confinement, while awaiting trial, and two years hard labour for deserting by absenting himself from 18 May 1917 until he was apprehended at midnight on 22/23 July 1917. The sentence of 2 years hard labour was subsequently suspended. There was a two week detachment to Divisional School in December 1916, and in March 1917 a detachment with working battalion.

On 19 August 1917 O’Connell was admitted to hospital sick. He rejoined his Unit on 28 August 1917 from the Field Ambulance. He was sent to hospital on 9 September 1917 for an undiagnosed condition. He was admitted to hospital in France. It was initially stated that this should not be reported as a Battle Casualty, perhaps because of his prior desertion. The 4th October report read “Now definitely diagnosed as Shell Shock, Wounded”. Blown into the air at Ypres by a shell bursting nearby, he was knocked unconscious. He regained consciousness in No 41 Casualty Clearing Station. Three days later he was sent to No 4 Stationary Hospital, where he remained for 23 days. The hospital was bombed while he was there, so he was moved first to No 7 Convalescent Camp, then to No 10 Convalescent Camp.

Mr Denis O’Connell, Seadown, received word on 27 September 1917 that his son, Sergeant J. P. O’Connell, had been admitted to hospital suffering from a nervous breakdown. Casualty lists in October 1917 reported that he had been wounded. He had been in the trenches for eighteen months.

On 18 October 1917 James O’Connell was transferred to the Base Depot at Etaples, France, from where he was detached to the UK on 5 December. Classfied “C” by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Travelling Medical Board on 16 December 1917, he was assessed as very nervous; had coarse tremor of the hands, tremor of the tongue, coarse tremor of the thigh muscles; had a very high pulse rate; his heart was slightly dilated, a mitral murmur was well marked, and problems in the pulmonary area. It was estimated that he would be disabled for 12 months and recommended that he return to New Zealand. He marched in at Sling. On 28 January 1918 he marched out to the Discharge Depot at Torquay.

Having been badly gassed and suffering from shell-shock, Rifleman James Patrick O’Connell, of Temuka, was invalided home. He returned to New Zealand in March 1918 per the “Tahiti”, having embarked at Liverpool on 1 February. On arrival in Christchurch he was assessed by the Medical Board. It was determined that he had suffered shell shock and was consequently affected by a nervous condition, but was improving. The disability was likely to continue for six months and his capacity to earn a full livelihood was lessened by half. The South Canterbury men came from Lyttelton by special train expected mid afternoon on the 19th March. A large crowd was expected at Temuka to meet them and the Temuka Band would be in attendance. Despite the very wet weather, a large crowd did assemble at the Temuka railway station. The train was late and the band played some selections to pass the time. The mayor said that “Temuka was proud to welcome the men back, and best thanks were due to the soldiers for what they had done for us. He trusted that they would be soon restored to health and strength.” Rifleman J. P. O’Connell was granted sick-leave from 20 to 26 March 1918 and was to report as an inpatient at Hanmer on 27 March 1918.

One evening the following month a large crowd gathered in the Seadown Schoolroom to welcome home from the war Privates J. P. O’Connell and C. J. McKennam and to farewell one other. The evening 'was spent in dancing, and a beautiful supper was provided by the ladies of the district. On making a presentation to the returned boys, Mr Cain said it gave him great pleasure to welcome them home. “They had gone out early in the war and had done their share of the fightin” It was with much pleasure that he presented the men with “handsome gold medals, suitably inscribed”. Unfortunately Private O’Connell was absent. A “united service” was held to mark Anzac Day in 1918 at Temuka. Returned soldiers and cadets paraded at the Drill Hall and marched to the Park. In the evening there were a public dinner and social, arranged by the Temuka Patriotic Entertainment Committee. There were, however, fourteen written apologies, including that of J. P. O’Connell. The Chairman said some of the writers were in hospital, others too far away to come, but all wished they could be with them.

Rifleman James Patrick O’Connell was discharged on 6 June 1918, being no longer physically fit for War Service on account of wounds received in Action (Shell Shock). He was, however, stricken with influenza and “was not strong enough to successfully fight against this fell [sic] disease, although he made a brave attempt.” He died on 5 December 1918 at the main temporary hospital in the Presbyterian Sunday School Hall, Temuka, aged 35 years. “He was very ill when he entered the hospital, and all that medical skill and careful nursing could accomplish was done for him, but without avail. He was a splendid patient, and endeared himself to all in the hospital.” He was buried in the Temuka Cemetery, his grave marked by a services headstone. His funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Father O’Sullivan, while the Patriotic Association was represented by the Rev. A. H. Norris. Several flags were flown at half -mast as a mark of respect for the deceased soldier. His mother advised the Defence Department of his death, by letter. Mr D. O’Connell was one of the volunteer workers who helped at the Main Hospital. A Miss O’Connell worked for the Sewing committee which made products for the patients and hospitals during the epidemic.

For his service in Western Europe he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These medals were sent to his mother, Mrs M. O’Connell Seadown P.O., Temuka. The plaque and scroll were despatched to his father in 1923. His cousin and namesake, James O’Connell (23868), died of wounds in 1917 in France. Three more cousins served in the war – Francis Joseph O’ Connell (1887-1968), William Patrick O’Connell (1892-1962), and Bartholomew O’Connell (1892-1966). His brother, Francis Joseph O’Connell (Frank) was called up from the First Division in October 1917. Frank appealed on the grounds that he was the only son on the farm, on which his parents depended for support. His appeal was adjourned sine die.

James Patrick O’Connell is honoured on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Temuka War Memorial (2014 additions), the Seadown Memorial (J. P. O’Connell) and the St Joseph’s, Temuka, Roll of Honour (James D. O’Connell). The name of J. P. 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 D. 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 D. O’Connell and James F. O’Connell. The Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled in August 1922, but it was not until January 2014 that the name, J. P. O’Connell, was added to the memorial.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [August 2013; 31 October 2016]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0087561) [07 April 2015; 02 January 2021]; CWGC [31 October 2016]; Temuka Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [31 October 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [07 April 2015]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG [31 October 2016]; Catholic Diocese of Christchurch baptism index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 April 2015; December 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [04 April 2015; 01 January 2021]; Timaru Herald, 28 September 1917, 23 October 1917, 27 February 1918, 18 & 20 March 1918, 11 April 1918, 7 December 1918, 21 August 1920, 26 April 1926, 29 August 1925, Temuka Leader, 29 September 1917, 19 March 1918, 27 April 1918, 7 December 1918 [x 2], 10 & 12 December 1918, 26 April 1919, 24 August 1920, 26 April 1922, 12 August 1922, 26 April 1927, Sun, 20 October 1917, Press, 20 October 1917, 31 August 1925, New Zealand Times, 22 October 1917 (Papers Past) [07 & 09 April 2015; 29 September 2016; 29 September 2016; 31 October 2016; 09 February 2018; 31 March 2018; 11 & 16 December 2020; 04 & 11 January 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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