Profile

McKELVY, John George
(Service number 29930)

Aliases Jack. Surname also McKELVEY
First Rank Private Last Rank Private

Birth

Date 4 December 1895 Place of Birth Addington, Christchurch

Enlistment Information

Date 28 June 1916 Age 20 years
Address at Enlistment C/o Post Office, Gore
Occupation Carpenter
Previous Military Experience 14th South Otago Regiment
Marital Status Single. One child
Next of Kin Mrs Amelia LEONARD (mother), Wyndham, Southland
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6¾ inches. Weight 138 lbz. Chest measurement 33-36 inches. Complexion dark. Eyes light brown. Hair black. Sight, hearing & colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth satisfactory. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Has not been absent from work through sickness nor accident.

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 18th Reinforcements, J Company
Date 11 October 1916
Transport Tofua
Embarked From Wellington Destination Plymouth, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns
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

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 4 October 1917 Age 21 years
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium; Timaru Cemetery - memorial on mother's headstone
Memorial Reference N.Z. Apse, Panel 2 General Section, Row 38, Plot 502
New Zealand Memorials Wyndham War Memorial

Biographical Notes

John George McKelvy (McKelvey), known as Jack, was born on 4 December 1895 at Addington, Christchurch, the younger son of John McKelvy and Amelia Ann (Milly) née Sams (later Mrs Monagan then Mrs Leonard). At this time his sister Mary was recognised at the Addington School prize-giving. The following year it was Maggie’s turn. Jack started his schooling at Kaiapoi, moving from there to Domett School; next he attended Southbridge and Addington schools, before going to Otiake in North Otago. He then had a spell at Sutherlands School, staying with his grandmother Sams, before moving to Duntroon School. On 4 November 1900 at Christchurch his father died, leaving Amelia with seven children, the youngest of whom was Jack, not quite five years old. John McKelvy, senior, is buried in the Sydenham Cemetery. The death of Bro. McKelvey was noted at the November 1900 meeting of the Court Star of Canterbury, A.O.F., and a letter of condolence was sent to his widow and family by the No. 3 Victoria Ladies’ Loyal Orange Lodge. Thereafter Amelia moved about, possibly to support her young family. In 1904 she married John Monagan, who was to die not two years later. On marrying Charles Reid Leonard in 1908 at Duntroon, Amelia moved to Wyndham. Jack’s mother, Amelia Ann Leonard, was a registered midwife and while at Wyndham she owned a maternity home.

John went south with his mother. On Christmas Day 1914, in the annual sports of the Edendale Sports Society, Jack McKelvy, running with a 5 yards handicap, came first in the 220 yards race for district youths over 18, who had never won a race. He participated in the Edendale Caledonian Society’s annual sports held on Christmas Day, 1915. After some division of opinion as to whether the fixture should be held or not, it was decided to go ahead and give the proceeds to the Red Cross. The support for the fixture, by both athletes and onlookers, justified the committee’s action. After a well organised afternoon of events, a grand concert and dance were held in the evening. J. G. McKelvy was a starter in the Edendale Handicap, 120 yards, and also in the Foot race. Jack was a prominent footballer in the Edendale Club, and a “sprint runner of no mean feat”.

When he enlisted on 28 June 1916, shortly before his 21st birthday, he gave his address as Care of Post Office, Gore, and nominated his mother, Mrs Amelia Leonard, of Wyndham, Southland, as his next-of-kin. He was a carpenter by trade, having served his time at Wyndham. He was Presbyterian and single, although he acknowledged an illegitimate child – Thomas Neil McKenzie, born on 6 August 1916 at Edendale. He had already served with the 14th South Otago Regiment. Jack McKelvy embarked 11 October 1916, by ‘Tofua’ from Wellington for Plymouth, England; with the 18th Reinforcements. After some months at Sling he left for France in late May 1917.

John George McKelvy, 29930, of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment, was reported missing on 4 October 1917. This information was issued in New Zealand on 26 October in a big casualty list. His mother was advised that he had been wounded on 4 October, and subsequently informed of his true fate. Following a court of enquiry he was declared killed in action on 4 October 1917. Private John George McKelvy – previously reported missing - was killed in action on 4 October 1917 at Bellevue Spur, Ypres, Belgium, aged 21 years, as confirmed in the Casualty List issued on 8 November 1917. It appears that he was involved in the attack on Gravenstafel Spur, in the early days of the Allied offensive which was marked by superb heroism on the part of the New Zealanders, especially the Canterbury and Otago troops, but was thwarted by the horrific conditions. Another lying in the Flanders soil, he is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

His medals - British War Medal and Victory Medal – were sent to his mother, as were the plaque and scroll. A. A. Leonard acknowledged receipt of the plaque in May 1923. Jack’s brother Frederick McKelvy also served in World War I. The Timaru Herald death notice for Frederick in 1959 named his sisters and his late brother Jack, of Wyndham. Their mother Amelia died in 1923 at Wyndham and is buried in the Timaru Cemetery. Inscribed on her headstone are the words –

Also Her Son

John G. McKelvy,

Killed at Passchendaele

Oct. 4th. 1917,

Aged 21 Years.

In 1919 Jack’s brother and sisters remembered him –

“Somewhere in France” he is laid to rest,

His life work truly done.

’Twas a sacrifice for liberty,

Ere life had scarce begun.

The name of Private John G. McKelvy is recorded on the Wyndham War Memorial, which was unveiled on Tuesday, November 11, 1924, in an impressive ceremony in tribute to fallen heroes. Returned soldiers, in full uniform and with arms reversed, marched from the Town Hall to the memorial site, followed by the Wyndham’s Pipe Band playing a lament, more returned soldiers carrying floral wreaths , members of the local Territorial and Cadet forces, and a large procession of school children. Following the unveiling, a group of returned soldiers fired a salute to their fallen, a bugler sounded the Last Post, a prayer of dedication was read and a hymn was sung. Engraved on the memorial are the words of Rudyard Kipling – “All that they had they gave – they gave in sure and simple faith.”

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [28 February 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5544 0074387) [15 June 2016]; CWGC [28 February 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2014]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG; Canterbury Branch NZSG; Oamaru Branch NZSG) [2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au); Press, 21 December 1895, 19 December 1896, 5 & 9 November 1900, 12 December 1900, Mataura Ensign, 26 December 1914, 31 October 1917, 9 & 10 November 1917, Southland Times, 27 December 1915, 27 October 1917, 9 November 1917, Marlborough Express, 27 October 1917, New Zealand Times, 27 October 1917, North Otago Times, 9 November 1917, Evening Post, 9 November 1917, 20 October 1917, Timaru Herald, 4 October 1919 (Papers Past) [28 February 2014; 11 November 2015; 17 June 2016; 08, 09 & 10 October 2017]; Timaru Herald, 20 April 1959 (Timaru District Library) [12 August 2016]; Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, burial record (Christchurch City Council) [08 October 2017]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [08 October 2017]; Southland Times, 12 November 1924 (extracted by Alana Dixon, 24 April 2012, http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/features/southerners-at-war/6792051/A-mothers-double-tragedy) [09 October 2017]; Timaru Herald, 19 May 1923 (Timaru District Library) [11 October 2017]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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