(Service number 10/2051)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 28 May 1890 Place of Birth Timaru, New Zealand

Enlistment Information

Date 29 Janury 1915 & 1 July 1919 Age 24
Address at Enlistment Seatoun Heights, Wellington
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin J. McGowan (father), Albury, South Canterbury, New Zealand
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information 6 foot 1 inch tall, chest 36-39 1/2 inches, weight 170 pounds (77kgs), blue eyes, dark complexion, dark hair, good teeth.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 4th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Wellington Battalion
Date 17 April 1915
Transport HMNZT21 Willochra
Embarked From Wellington, New Zealand Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Egypt, Balkans (Gallipoli), Western Europe
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star, 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 25 November 1919 Reason No longer physically fit for war service

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

June 1915 - admitted to hospital Mudros; transferred to Malta; transferred England. 9 September - admitted to King George Hospital, Stanford - pneumonia. 11 January 1916 - transferred to NZ Base Depot Hornchurch. 16 September 1916 - wounded in action, Somme - gun shot wound to right wrist; admitted 1 NZ Field Ambulance; transferred to 3 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS); transferred to 2 General Hospital, Harve - 18 September - transferred to England, admitted 19 September to 1 NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst - September, admitted Venereal Section, 3 NZ General Hospital; October 3 - transferred Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch. 18 January - 15 March 1918 - admitted 24 General Hospital, Etaples - injury to ankle. 28 March 1918 - wounded in action - gun shot wound to left forearm; admitted to 56 CCS; 29 March transferred to 83 General Hospital, Boulogne; 31 March transferred to England and admitted to NZ General Hospital, Walton. 4 November 1919 - admitted to Featherston Hospital

Post-war Occupations



Date 12 October 1923 Age 33
Place of Death Wesley Ewart Hospital, Wellington
Cause Died of Disease caught while on active service
Memorial or Cemetery Karori Cemetery, Wellington
Memorial Reference Soldiers section, Plot 6 F
New Zealand Memorials Albury War Memorial; Mackenzie War Memorial, Fairlie, 2016 additions

Biographical Notes

Joseph, second son of Joseph and Annie Cecilia (nee Donaghue) McGowan, was born at Timaru on 28 May 1890. He was christened at the Timaru Catholic Church by Rev Father James Foley on 8 June the same year.

Joseph (senior) was born at Richmond, Tasmania, on 5 April 1849, the son of John and Mary, He possibly arrived in New Zealand aboard the “Albion” which departed Melbourne for Greymouth on February 13, 1873. He married Annie at Timaru on June 23 1880, the well-known Rev Father F.J.B. Chataigner performing the ceremony. Annie was born in Kerry, Munster, Ireland, in 1859, the daughter of Michael and Margaret Donaghue. The couple had nine children in all before Annie died at Timaru on 28 August 1898.

Young Joseph was educated at the Marist Brothers School in Timaru, and later at Albury, where he played rugby for the Albury Club. At the time of Joseph enlisting into the Wellington Infantry Battalion on 29 January 1915, his father was occupied as a wheelwright at Albury, and was listed as his next of kin. His father later moved to Wellington to live with his daughter at Seatoun Heights, later 3 Smith Street, Kilbirnie. This was the last New Zealand address Joseph gave on his enlistment papers. He was a big man, being 6 foot 1 inches tall, aged 24 years, chest measuring 36–39 ½ inches, weighed 170 pounds (77 kgs), and had blue eyes, a dark complexion, dark hair, and good teeth.

Joseph entered Trentham Camp on 29 January 1915 where he undertook basic infantry training, followed by more advanced training locally and at satellite camps in the lower North Island. Private McGowan left from Wellington on 17 April 1915, with the 4th Reinforcements aboard HMNZT21 “Willochra”, in convoy with HMNZT22 “Knight Templar” and HMNZT23 “Waitomo”. A total of 2,254 men travelled in this convoy, arriving in Egypt on 25 May. Here they marched in to camp at Zeitoun where training continued in the desert, and with the odd spot of leave in Cairo.

On 7 June the 4th Reinforcements arrived at ANZAC, Private McGowan joining the Wellington Battalion on 9 June. At this time they were in the line at Walker’s Ridge. The conditions were pretty hot and the flies and lack of sanitary conditions was taking their toll on the troops, and in early June, he was put on board the mine sweeper “Clacton”, and admitted to hospital at Mudros suffering from influenza. Transfer followed to hospital at Malta seriously ill with pneumonia. From there he was transferred to England aboard the Hospital Ship “Demosthenes”, and admitted to King George Hospital at Stanford on 9 September 1915.

On 11 January 1916, his recovery had advanced and he was attached to the NZ Base Depot at Hornchurch. He then left England for Egypt on 16 February with C Draft, re-joining his unit at Ismailia on 1 March. In February 1916, the Battalion had been renamed the 1st Battalion of the Wellington Regiment, and became one of the battalions of the first Brigade. On 6 April, the 1st Battalion left Moascar Camp by train for Alexandria, and embarked on HM Troopship “Arcadian”, sailing for Marseilles early the next day.

Arriving on 12 April, the battalion immediately entrained for the north of France, where they marched into billets at Estaires. By early May the battalion moved in the front line at Armentieres. Between May, and the NZ Division withdrawing from the sector mid-August, they received their fair share of intense bombardment, gas attacks and enemy raids. The battalion remained at Fricourt and Airaines until 2 September 1916, when they marched out for the Somme. At 6.20am (zero hour) on 15 September the attack began with an artillery bombardment which increased to such an extent never seen before by our troops. The first wave of troops went over the top at 6.40am and was met with a hail of German fire. This was the first battle to involve the use of tanks. They tanks did not arrive in time for the first wave of attack but several were available for later attacks in the morning. The Somme Battle was New Zealand’s first major engagement on the Western Front and was its most costly. Of the 18,000 men of the NZ Division, more than one in nine was killed, and about one in three were wounded. On the morning of 16 September the Wellington’s moved forward to seize part of another defence system at Grove Alley. It was during this attack that Private McGowan received a gunshot wound to his right wrist and was admitted the same day to 1 NZ Field Ambulance, then 3 Casualty Clearance Station, followed by admission to No2 General Hospital at Harve.

On 18 September 1916, he embarked for England aboard the Hospital Ship “Asturias” and admitted the next day to 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. Joseph seems to have had problems with discipline and alcohol - his record has multiple entries from when he embarked to France, at Malta, and whilst undergoing treatment in England, of being drunk, abusive to superior officers, absent on leave, and from parade etc. He was fined many times, and awarded Field Punishment No2 at least three times - the prisoner was placed in fetters and handcuffs but was not attached to a fixed object, and was still able to march with his unit. This was a relatively tolerable punishment. For much of the time between mid-April to September 1917, he was absent without leave. He was briefly in custody in August, but unlawfully escaped again. After being arrested in September, he was admitted to the Venereal Section of No 3 NZ General Hospital. On 3 October he was classified as unfit, and admitted to the Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch. On 15 December 1917 he was marched in under escort to the NZ Infantry Reserve Group at Sling, and on 18 December he was fined 98 days loss of pay, and awarded 6 months detention. This sentence was remitted, and he immediately left again for service in France the same day.

On arrival in France he marched in to the NZ Depot at Etaples where, on 18 January 1918, he was admitted to 24 General Hospital with an injury to his ankle. By 15 March he was back in the field with his old unit. The day before a warning order had been issued preparing the Division for rapid movement. On 21 March the Germans began attacking in strength on the Somme, and the Wellingtons moved to Mailly Maillet. On 28 March Private McGowan was again wounded in action, receiving a gunshot in his left forearm, and admitted to No 56 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS), and transferred to 83 General Hospital at Boulogne on 29 March. He embarked for England on 31 March and was admitted to the NZ General Hospital at Walton the same day. Soon after he was absent without leave (from 23 to 26 April). On 6 May he was transferred to Hornchurch, and on 25 May was classified as unfit, and placed on the NZ Roll. His record for the remainder of his stay in England consists of a succession of reports of being AWOL, failing to parade, or resisting arrest. Finally, on 24 August he was put aboard SS “Ionic” at Plymouth, and sent home to New Zealand, arriving 6 October 1918.

Joseph returned to his home at 3 Smith Street, Kilbirnie, Wellington, and was treated as an outpatient at Wellington Hospital. Private McGowan was discharged from the army on 13 February 1919 as no longer physically fit for war service. Five months later though he was again called up for service, and posted to the Medical Corps for duty at Featherston Camp. On 17 July he transferred for duty to Trentham Camp Hospital. He was soon in trouble with his superiors again though, on 13 September he was awarded 10 days detention, and loss of 20 days pay. On 4 November he was admitted to Featherston Hospital as a patient for a short time before being discharged from the army for the second time on 25 November 1919. He later was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for having served for 4 years and 16 days. He returned to Kilbirnie, and was recorded as being employed as a shearer later in 1919.

Joseph died on 12 October 1923, aged 33 years at the Wesley Ewart Hospital at Wellington, of disease contracted while on active service. he is buried in the Soldiers Section of the Karori Cemetery. Joseph’s name is inscribed on the Albury War Memorial.

Joseph’s brother John also served with the Australian forces as 2272 Sergeant John McGowan, 42nd Battery Australian Field Artillery.


New Zealand ANZACs in the Great War 1914-1918 (University of New South Wales) at; Assorted records at [November 2018]; Notice Joseph ill in hospital at Malta in the Timaru Herald 27 August 1915, "Roll of Honour: wounded, embarked for England" in the New Zealand Herald 2 October 1916, and "New Zealand Roll of honour: in memoriam", Evening Post 13 October 1924, courtesy of Papers Past at; Wellingto City Council cemetery records at (November 2018); Find a Grave at

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Researched and Written by

Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG

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