SCANNELL, Michael James
(Service number 22427)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 5 February 1888 Place of Birth Kerrytown, Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 3 May 1916 Age 28 years
Address at Enlistment Lyttelton
Occupation Railway Porter
Previous Military Experience N.Z. Railway Engineers - transferred
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs D. SCANNELL (mother), Lyalldale, Saint Andrew's, South Canterbury
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 9 inches. Weight 170 lbs. Chest 36-38½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair fair. Sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. 5 January 1915 had fracture of tibia caused by railway truck; five months off work.

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 16th Reinforcements, J Company
Date 20 August 1916
Transport Navua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Messines)
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

Post-war Occupations


Date 7 June 1917 Age 29 years
Place of Death In the Field in France or Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices Timaru Herald, 25 June 1917; New Zealand Tablet, 12 July 1917
Memorial or Cemetery Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium; Memorial Stone Timaru Cemetery (parents' plot)
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 89, Plot 499
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Basilica of the Sacred Heart; St Andrews War Memorial; Albury Football Club Roll of Honour; Lyalldale War Memorial

Biographical Notes

Michael James Scannell was born on 5 February 1888 at Kerrytown, Timaru, the sixth son of Daniel and Ellen (née Foley) Scannell, of “Lyalldale”, St Andrews, South Canterbury. He was baptised three weeks later, on 27 February 1888, in the Temuka Roman Catholic parish. Michael was educated at the Kerrytown Convent School, in which vicinity the family lived before moving to the St Andrews district in the early 1900s. He took a keen interest in football. After leaving school Michael assisted his father on the farm until he joined the Railway Department in about 1911. His parents and some brothers, including Charles, contributed to the Home Relief Fund for the Poor of Great Britain, Ireland, and Belgium in September 1914, by which time Michael was stationed in Albury as a platelayer, and to the Lyalldale Red Cross Fund in July 1915.

Michael and his brother Charles both enlisted with the Sixteenth Reinforcements on 3 May 1916. By this date Michael was a railway porter and living in Lyttelton. He had served with the New Zealand Railway Engineers, being discharged when he was transferred. A well built young man, Michael was 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 170 lbs and had a chest measurement of 36-38½ inches. He had had five months off work from 5 January 1915 after suffering a fracture of the tibia caused by a railway truck. It was noted that he was “a very suitable man”. His mother, Mrs D. Scannell, was his nominated next-of-kin. A social to bid farewell to Privates M. and C. Scannell and three other locals was held in the Lyalldale School on 20 July 1916. Admission: Ladies a Basket, Gents 2s. Michael embarked a day earlier, on 20 August 1916 per the “Navua”, with the 16th Reinforcements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and destined for Devonport, England.

At Sling he was posted to the Canterbury Infantry Regiment and after training proceeded overseas in December 1916 to join his battalion on 16 January 1917 at Rouen. On 7 June 1917, in the taking of Messines Ridge, Michael James Scannell was killed in action; one of 237 reported killed in action in two casualty lists circulated on 20 June. His parents received word of his death in mid June and placed a notice in the Timaru Herald, and in the New Zealand Tablet – “He gave his life to protect the rights of small nations.” Although the Battle of Messines was a striking success, the New Zealanders paid a heavy price for success – a price paid in the life and future of Michael Scannell. Having no known grave, Private Michael James Scannell is remembered on the Messines Ridge (New Zealand) Memorial, Messines Ridge British Cemetery, Belgium; and his name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Lyalldale War Memorial, the St Andrews War Memorial, the Timaru Sacred Heart Basilica Memorial and the Albury Football Club Roll of Honour. Within the short space of eleven days Daniel and Ellen Scannell lost two sons in the war – Michael killed in action, 29 years old, and Charles of disease at 25 years.

Michael was remembered as one of the most popular young men to have gone to the Front from the Lyalldale, St Andrews district, where very sincere sympathy was felt for his parents and relations in their double bereavement. The names of Michael James and Charles are inscribed on their parents’ memorial stone in the Timaru Cemetery. An In Memoriam notice was inserted by his parents, brothers and sisters in the Timaru Herald of 7 June 1918 – In sad and loving memory – “It was hard to part with one we loved so dear.” For some years after, his family faithfully inserted an In Memoriam notice in the New Zealand Tablet.

A photo of Michael and Charles in uniform was printed in the Star of 19 July 1917, both showing expressions of trepidation. His medals - British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were sent to his father at St Andrews in 1921. M. J. Scannell left a Will dated 3 October 1916 and deposited with the Public Trustee. He left all his real and personal estate to his mother, Ellen Scannell the wife of Daniel Scannell of St Andrews, and should she have predeceased him, to his sisters Julia, Mary, Agnes and Norah, all of St Andrews. He had a life policy to the value of £185.3.4, Superannuation fund refund of £40.4 and Military pay of approximately £20. Three of their brothers - Francis, Jeremiah (Jerry; fit only for Home Service) and Joseph (Joe) - were called up for service in the war. Two nephews of Michael served in World War Two - Patrick Louis Scannell who was killed in action in 1944 in Italy and Pte John Joseph Scannell who died in 1943 and is buried in Timaru.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 July 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0102150) [01 August 2013]; CWGC [21 August 2013]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [21 August 2013]; NZ BDM Indexes (Dpartment of Internal Affairs) [21 August 2013]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [2013; 16 August 2017]; Timaru Herald, 21, 22 & 25 June 1917, 31 July 1917, 7 June 1918, New Zealand Tablet, 5 & 12 July 1917, 29 May 1919, 27 May 1920, 26 May 1921, Star, 19 July 1917 (Papers Past) [24 April 2014; 19 August 2016; 16 August 2017]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [24 April 2016]; Baptism index (Catholic Diocese CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [16 August 2017]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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