STRACHAN, James Taku
(Service number 23/1204)
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Lance Corporal|
|Date||22 March 1897||Place of Birth||Timaru|
|Date||29 May 1915||Age||18 years 1 month|
|Address at Enlistment||Telegraph Office, Timaru|
|Occupation||Telegraphist (N.Z. Govt.)|
|Previous Military Experience||P & T Corps|
|Next of Kin||George STRACHAN (father), Hewlings Street, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 133 lbs. Chest 34-37½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair fair. Sight in both eyes 6/8. Hearing good. Colour vision correct. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement in all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. Of note, small pigmented moles over the middle of left shoulder.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||D Company|
|Date||9 October 1915|
|Transport||Maunganui or Tahiti or Aparima or Navua or Warrimoo|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Campaigns||Western European (Messines)|
|Service Medals||1914-15 Star; 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
Died of gun shot wounds to his right leg, compound fracture. On 7 June 1917 he was first reported missing in the Field; then he was found wounded in action, and admitted to No. 77 Field Ambulance before being admitted to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station where he died.
|Date||7 June 1917||Age||20 years|
|Place of Death||Casualty Clearing Station, In the Field, Messines, France|
|Cause||Died of wounds received in action|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 18 June 1917|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France. Memorial Bromley Cemetery, Chrictchurch (on parents' headstone)|
|Memorial Reference||III. C. 145.|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall; Timaru Boys' High School War Memorial (Library)|
James Taku Strachan, known familiarly as Jimmie, was born on 22 March 1897 at Timaru, the older son of George Strachan and Iris Minnie née Cassells. He was the grandson of James Strachan who ran away from the ship “Strathallan” at Port Chalmers and, some many years later after travelling much of the country seeking work, came to Pleasant Point where he was very active in the Pleasant Point Presbyterian Church, as well as starting the bathing machines at Caroline Bay. His maternal grandmother was of Irish descent. Young James was baptised Roman Catholic, as Jacobus Strachan, on 9 April 1897 at Timaru. Jimmie started at Normal School Christchurch, when the family lived briefly in Christchurch; before continuing his education at Timaru Main School in 1902. It was at Timaru Main in the 1904 Infant Class A that young James was awarded a First-class certificate. After primary schooling he attended Timaru Boys' High School. In his teens he was a member of the Caroline Bay Swimming Club. In the 1912 25 yards dash he swam with a three seconds handicap, and in the 75 yards event he had the highest handicap - eleven seconds. The same year he competed in the T. R. C. Swimming Club’s wharf to wharf. Being the front marker he took good advantage of his starting 30 seconds until he was overtaken by some of the scratch swimmers. The next year he was participating in cycling – a road race over ten miles where he was allotted a handicap of 3½ minutes. In 1914 he was back in the water for the Rowing Clun 50 yards dash swim.
May 1915 signalled a new challenge for James Strachan. He was in a batch of South Canterbury men who flocked to the colours and were accepted in Timaru for service at the Front. On enlistment James said that he was born in 1895 and was 20 years old, whereas he was born in 1897 and was only 18 years. He was of relatively small build. This fresh-faced young man, a telegraphist, was already serving with the Post and Telegraph Corps. He had joined the Post and Telegraph department as a message boy on 19 October 1911, at the age of 14 and earning £31 per annum. In 1913 he became a junior exchange clerk and messenger at Geraldine, before returning to Timaru as a distributor and finally a cadet until he resigned on 25 May 1915 to serve his country. His address was Telegraph Office, Timaru, and his next-of-kin was his father, a draper in Timaru.
On 9 October 1915, he left New Zealand for Suez, Egypt, with the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Earl of Liverpool's Own. He saw action in Egypt and in France from May 1916. James was appointed a Lance Corporal on 5th October 1916. He had come through heavy fighting unscathed and without even a day's illness, until he was fatally wounded on 7 June 1917. Lance Corporal J. T. Strachan, 23/1204, died of gunshot wounds to his right leg, which caused a compound fracture. On 7 June 1917 he was first reported missing in the Field; then he was found wounded in action, and admitted to No. 77 Field Ambulance before being admitted to No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station where he died at 11.25am, just 20 years old, a victim of the Messines Offensive. He was buried in the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, France. 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 James Taku Strachan.
His Pay Book Will, dated 19 September 1915, reads - In the event of my death I give to my mother (Mrs) Iris Strachan, all money due to me & all personal effects. His accumulated property consisted of £15.17 cash in Post office Savings Book, £3.15.1 in National Provident Fund and £14.15.6 balance of field pay. The plaque and scroll were sent to his father, his medals (1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal) to his mother, both living in Christchurch where they had moved to in about 1919. James is remembered on his parents' headstone in the Bromley Cemetery in Christchurch; and on the Timaru Memorial Wall and the Timaru Boys' High School War Memorial (Library). His sorrowing family continued to remember him in the years following his death – “He like a soldier fell. Far away from those who loved him well; He fought among the bravest of the brave; He gave his life for other lives to save.” (1918) “They laid our hero to sleep, only across the tide, Where our young New Zealand soldiers nobly fought and died.” (1919)
“Died of wounds, say the cables,
That is all the tale they tell
Of the brave lad, that loved us,
Of the lad we loved so well.
Far away from all who loved him
They gently laid him down to rest,
One of God’s bravest and best.” (1920)
He was remembered at the Timaru Main School, when the chairman at the annual meeting on 22 April 1918 proposed a vote of sympathy with the parents and relatives of ex-pupils who had fallen in the war. His Excellency the Governor-General, Viscount Jellicoe, opened the Timaru Boys' High School Memorial Library on 21 March 1924. Included in the names above the inscription "Their name liveth for evermore." on the roll of honour is J. Strachan. After the formal opening, the "Last Post" and "Reveille" and one minute's silence followed, and the hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past", was sung. Three hundred boys went from the school and 52 did not return. From that date boys have looked with pride at the tablets housed in such a fine building. It was believed to be the only memorial of its kind in the country. In 2012 the South Canterbury Museum purchased a nearly century-old “sweetheart medal” given for friends of James' family. This military memento is of nine carat gold and is engraved with his service number and ranking.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [06 October 2013]; CWGC [12 April 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK18805 W5553 010118) [11 April 2014]; Timaru Herald, 16 December 1904, 22 & 29 January 1912, 3 February 1912, 15 October 1913, 14 February 1914, 15 May 1915, 18 June 1917 [x 3], 23 April 1918, 7 June 1918, 7 June 1919, 7 June 1920, Otago Daily Times, 18 June 1917, Press, 19 June 1917, 7 June 1920, 21 March 1924, 7 June 1937 (Papers Past) [06 October 2013; 12 April 2014; 10 November 2014; 06 May 2015; 13 December 2015; 17 August 2017]; Timaru Herald, 17 August 2012 (www.stuff.co.nz) [06 October 2014] & (Timaru District Library) [18 August 2017]; Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Cemetery Records microfiche) [24 April 2014]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [24 April 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [12 April 2014]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) ; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [18 August 2017]; Roman Catholic Baptism records (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [20 August 2017]; South Canterbury Post & Telegraph records (compiled by Ken Elliot & held by the South Canterbury Museum) [20 August 2017]
- STRACHAN James Taku - newspaper extracts 1918 (pdf, 269.6 KB updated 19-Sep-2017)
- STRACHAN J T - sweetheart medal - Timaru Herald 17 Aug 2012 (pdf, 860.4 KB updated 19-Sep-2017)
- Great War Stories - James Taku Strachan - Timaru Herald 14 April 2018 (pdf, 189.5 KB updated 27-Apr-2018)
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.
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