O'REILLY, Michael John
(Service number 28910)
|Aliases||Known as John or Jack|
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||29 October 1895||Place of Birth||Leeston|
|Date||2 March 1916||Age||20|
|Address at Enlistment|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Michael O'Reilly (father) Albury, South Canterbury|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||18th Reinforcements, J Company|
|Date||11 October 1916|
|Transport||HMNZT 67 Tofua|
|Embarked From||Wellington,NZ||Destination||Plymouth, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Otago Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 14 Company|
|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||11 August 1917||Age||21|
|Place of Death||Ypres, Belgim|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, Volume CVIII, Issue 16890, 11 August 1919, Page 6|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Prowse Point Military Cemetery, Commines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium|
|Memorial Reference||IV. A. 4|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru (as M J O'Reilly); Albury War Memorial; Albury Football Club Roll of Honour; Fairlie War Memorial; Albury Catholic Church|
Michael John (Jack) O’Reilly was the son of Michael and Mary Ann O’Reilly of Albury. Michael had previously married Ellen Bradley but after her death remarried to Mary Ann Smith in 1892. There were eight more children, Francis Aloysius (b.1893), John (b.1894, died aged 1 day), Michael John (b.29 Oct 1895), Elizabeth Agnes (b.1897), Mary Gertrude (b.1899), William (b.1900), Margaret Fidelis (b.1902), and James Bernard (b.1904). John was named, when born Michael John, but also known as John or Jack. A previous child was named John but John b 1894 died after age 1 day.
Jack attended Albury School until 1911, after which he worked on the family farm until he enlisted for World War One. When he enlisted Jack's step-brother Edmond O'Reilly (service no. 6/1219) had already died while serving on 9 August 1915.
Jack enlisted in March 1916 aged 20. Like many of the time Jack had to wait to go into camp as he had to get new teeth, so he didn’t enter Trentham Camp until 28 June to begin training. Jack wrote a number of letters home to his sister Lizze, and these are a few extracts from those letters. See the attached biography supplied by Mary Newsome, that forms the basis of this profile, for more:
2 July 1916 Trentham: “Just a line to let you know I arrived alright[.] We had tea on the train and supper and breakfast on the boat, We spent Thursday getting issued with Dungarees and blankets etc. We get plenty good food and I eat like an elephant …” Six of Jack’s friends were billeted in his hut.
26 August 1916 Featherston: “We were inoculated last Tuesday and were off till Thursday. We are going to be done again next Sat … I will have final leave from Wed until the following Tues week, so I will have one Sun at home and one in Dunedin.”
Jack, now a Lance Corporal (from 23 September 1916), sailed on the HMNZT 67 Tofua from Wellington with the 18th Reinforcement, C Company on 11 October 1916. He wrote further to his sister both on board and on arrival:
22 October 1916 on the boat: “Nothing to do but read and sleep, we kill time playing football, boxing, and tug-of-war … the food is goof too and I think I’m getting fat. I have never felt better in my life …”
7 November 1916 [On board]: “We are having a good trip …. The trip is getting monotonous though …”
On arrival in England, Jack was posted to the reserves, Canterbury & Otago Regiment and reverted to the rank of Private.
February 1917 Sling Camp: “Just a line to let you know you[r] welcome cake arrived last night. It was a real good one. I gave everyone in the hut a piece and I have a good piece left. The chocolates and cigarettes were alright too …”
Joining the Otago Infantry Regiment, Jack proceeded overseas to France on 11 February.
13 March 1917 Somewhere in France: “I received your letter the other day written 7th Jan … I should have been going up the line by now but a silly chump got the mumps and we are all isolated for 3 weeks …”
1 July 1917 Somewhere in France: “Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living …”
6 August 1917 [Somewhere in France:] “I wrote this 4 or 5 days ago, but didn’t get it posted. I am doing alright and going strong. Hoping you are all well as it leaves me at present. With love to you all, from Jack.”
That was the last letter from Jack, as on 11 August 1917 he was killed in action, aged only 21. Given the postal delays the letter would have arrived some weeks after his family had news of Jack’s death.
Jack was buried at Prowse Point Military Cemetery in Belgium..
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database; Military Personnel file [3 July 2018]; SCRoll submission by M Newsome, June 2018
- John (Jack) O'Reilly biography and notes - courtesy of M Newsome (pdf, 1.2 MB updated 05-Jul-2018)
- Albury Public Hall Farewell (Source and date unknown) (pdf, 818.0 KB updated 18-Dec-2014)
Researched and Written by
Liz Shea (SC branch NZSG); Tony Rippin, South Canterbury Museum
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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