SHEEHAN, John Maurice
(Service number 58816)
|Aliases||Also spelt John Morris. Known as Maurice|
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Rifleman|
|Date||1 April 1888||Place of Birth||Fairlie|
|Date||29 March 1917||Age||29 years 11 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Georgetown|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Hannah SHEEHAN (mother), 6 Usk Street, Oamaru; later of 49 North Street, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 7 inches. Weight 151½ lbs. Chest measurement 37½-40½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes hazel. Hair black. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated (right arm). Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Assessed as Fit Class A.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||29th Reinforcements H Company|
|Date||13 October 1917|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Liverpool, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion|
|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||26 August 1918||Age||30 years|
|Place of Death||In the Battle of Bapaume, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Oamaru Mail, 14 September 1918|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Vaulx Hill Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France|
|Memorial Reference||I. C. 2.|
|New Zealand Memorials||On Memorial wall, Timaru; Basilica of the Sacred Heart; Fairlie Primary School War Memorial (as M. SHEEHAN); Fairlie School Hall Memorial (as M. SHEEHAN); Mackenzie War Memorial, Fairlie, 2016 additions|
John Maurice SHEEHAN, known as Maurice, was the second son of Irish-born parents, David and Hannah (Johanna, Annie; née SULLIVAN) SHEEHAN, of Fairlie. Born on 1 April 1888 at Fairlie, he was baptised Catholic on 29 April 1888 in the Timaru Parish. He was educated at the Fairlie and Cricklewood schools.
His father who had lived in the Mackenzie district for over 40 years before he moved to the north of the North Island to get relief from his severe rheumatism in about 1913, was a very loyal employee of the road board, school committee member and respected member of the community. It was in the North Island that he died in 1920. Meanwhile his mother moved to Georgetown and lived with Maurice. While the family was still residing at Fairlie, Maurice had followed his father into the Gladstone Lodge, No. 33, I.O.O.F., in which he held office for some time.
For some time prior to service in the war, Maurice was living and working as a blacksmith at Georgetown, North Otago, where he was very much involved in local activities. In April 1915 he was one of those in charge of the produce tent at the Awamoko Bazaar, a typically large country event. Then in June 1915 he was placed second in a weight-guessing competition to decide the live weight of three sheep, the competition being conducted at the Ngapara Collie Dog Trials. The following month he contributed to the sale of the Belgian Flag at a concert at Awamoko held in aid of the Wounded Soldiers' Clothing Fund.
Maurice was firstly on the Reserves Roll, before being drawn in the Fifth Ballot in March 1917. At this time he was still living at Georgetown, where he gave evidence at an inquest. He had not previously registered for compulsory military training as he was over age. He initially appealed his call-up on public interest grounds, being the only blacksmith in the district, and because he was supporting his aged mother. The appeal was dismissed but he was given time to arrange his affairs. At enlistment he stated that his mother was dependent on him.
Being in good physical shape Maurice was classified as fit, Class A. He was one of 70 odd men (including the fifth son of one family to go away) farewelled by the Oamaru Borough Council on 26 June 1917. There were music, toasts proposed, an excellent repast, the National Anthem, and a very emotive address by Mr J. R. Bartholomew, S.M., in which he said "You are following those who have gone before you in answer to the call. You will be fighting on a winning side for honor and justice against infamy, hypocrisy, and the dastardly crimes committed against humanity."
He was also one of four boys back on final leave from camp, who were farewelled at one of the largest gatherings on such an occasion at Awamoko in early August 1917. After progressive euchre (at which Maurice received a consolation prize), each man was presented with a wristlet watch and wished every success and a safe return. The men thanked their friends and said that they would always think of them and their kind remarks. They also received a parcel containing articles of clothing from the ladies of the Red Cross.
Maurice did incur one punishment in his time with the Forces - on 8 August 1917 at Featherston, he overstayed Leave on Active Service, for which he forfeited one days pay.
On 13 October 1917 he embarked for Liverpool per the “Corinthic”. At the end of February 1918 he went to France – to be killed in action there in the battle of Bapaume, just six months later – on 26 August 1918. No longer was he able to think of his family and friends. As the family recorded in his memory in 1919 – “How little we thought when we parted It was a last farewell.” He was buried first in the New Zealand Cemetery at Bapaume, before being laid to rest in the Vaulx Hill Cemetery.
His medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal), plaque and scroll were sent to his mother. On 10 November 1919 David Sheehan, father of Maurice, declared that he believed his son had not made a will and he did not intend to take out Letters of Administration. But the Public Trust Office, Timaru, advised (20 January 1920) that Maurice executed a will in which his mother was named as the sole beneficiary. That will was indeed held in the Dunedin Court. His brother, Michael David Sheehan, was the sole executor and the beneficiary in the event of his mother’s death.
Rifleman John Maurice Sheehan was remembered with fondness and regret by his mother on 26 August 1920 – “In a distant land he lies, At rest in a soldier’s grave, His battle fought, his name enrolled On the scroll of the deathless brave.” His name is memorialised on the Timaru Memorial wall, the Timaru Basilica of the Sacred Heart Roll of Honour; the Fairlie Primary School War Memorial and the Fairlie School Hall Memorial (both as M. SHEEHAN). A nephew and namesake of Maurice - John Maurice SHEEHAN, the son of Maurice's brother Michael, served in World War II.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [26 Jul 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives ref. AABK 18805 W5553 0103921) [29 August 2014]; CWGC [26 Jul 2013]; Oamaru Mail, 30 April 1915, 19 June 1915, 21 July 1915, 14 March 1917, 22 March 1917, 03 April 1917, 26 June 1917, 4 August 1917, 14 September 1918, North Otago Times, 14 September 1918, Timaru Herald, 21 December 1909, 18 January 1910, 15 March 1910, 26 August 1919, 26 August 1920, 21 September 1920, 6 October 1920, New Zealand Tablet, 19 September 1918, 3 October 1918, 4 September 1919, 26 August 1920, 25 August 1921, 24 August 1922, 27 August 1924 (Papers Past) [04 November 2013; 05 November 2013; 29 & 30 August 2014; 03 January 2016; 13 August 2016]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [01 May 2015, 03 January 2016]; School records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) ; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) ; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) ; Baprism Index (Roman Catholic Diocese of Christchurch CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [10 January 2016]
No documents available.
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!