SPENCER, James Henry
(Service number 28352)

Aliases Thought to have been born James Henry SCOTT
First Rank Gunner Last Rank


Date 13 July 1886 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 22 May 1916 Age 26 years 10 months
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Miss Maggie McPHEE (friend), 3 Dally Street, Clifton Hill, Victoria
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with Australian Imperial Force Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 27 July 1955 Age 69 years
Place of Death Clifton Hill, Victoria
Memorial or Cemetery Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Melbourne
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

James Henry Spencer, born at Timaru, New Zealand, enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 22 May 1916 at Melbourne, Victoria. He was 26 years 10 months old (he declared), a labourer and single. His nominated next-of-kin was a “next friend” – Miss Maggie McPhee, 3 Dally Street, Clifton Hill, Victoria. Both his parents were deceased.

Who was James Henry Spencer? It appears that he was born James Henry Scott on 13 July 1886 at Timaru, the youngest son of John and Elvina (née Wooller) Scott, who had married on 3 March 1866 at St Nicholas Church, Brighton, Sussex, England. He was baptised on 13 January 1888 at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Timaru. On 23 May 1874, John and Elvina, with three little children (Sarah Jane, 7 years, John, 4 years, and Ruth Elvina, 2 years) had left from London by the “Corona” for New Zealand, arriving on 28 August and settling in Otago. The death of two year old Ruth Elvina Scott was registered in New Zealand, as occurring on 1 December 1874 at Dunedin, but no burial has been identified. John and Elvina were tailor and tailoress respectively in 1871, and John continued his craft in New Zealand. Six more children were born in New Zealand – William Thomas, Helen (Ellen) Maria, Emma, Mary Jane, Walter, and lastly James Henry, the first four born at Dunedin, while both Walter and James were born at Timaru after the family moved there about 1882. John, William, Ellen, Emma and Mary all attended school in Timaru. Sarah Jane Scott, who married Richard Edward Dunn in 1885, remained in Timaru, when the family left for Melbourne, it appears about 1888/1889. Sarah’s son, William James Dunn (6/2604) also served in World War I, as did a son-in-law, Andrew Clark (6/2976). The New Zealand Herald of 21 July 1887 carried an enquiry for the family – “John and Elvina Scott left Brighton in 1875 for New Zealand, and were last heard of in 1880, they then being in Linden [Dunedin?], Otago. John is a tailor. Their mother writes." The second youngest son, Walter, died in February 1894 at Richmond, Victoria, aged 10 years.

As this seems to have been quite a close family, it is not apparent why James adopted another surname, and when. His sister Sarah named one of her sons John Spencer Dunn. James Henry Spencer retained the name for the rest of his life. His father, John Scott, died in May 1908 at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne – “beloved husband of Elvina Scott, . . . . . and beloved father of William James, John, Mrs Cowly, Mrs Broadbent [Emma], Mrs Coffin [Mary Jane], Mrs Dunn, New Zealand [Sarah Jane]”, aged 64 years. And his mother, Mrs Elvina Scott, died on 1 April 1911 at her Chestnut Street residence – “dearly beloved wife of the late John Scott, Beloved mother of William, James, John, Mrs Dunn, New Zealand, Mrs Coffin, Mrs Broadbent and Mrs Cowly. New Zealand. New Zealand papers please copy. Loved by all who knew her.” In 1912 and again in 1915, both James Henry Scott, a baker, and his brother William Thomas Scott, a tailor, were residing at 101 Chestnut Street.

It would appear then, that James Hanry Scott changed his surname on enlistment, assuming that James Henry Scott and James Henry Spencer were one and the same man. James Henry Spencer - “Returned Soldier” - returned to Australia from England on 13 December 1918 per the “Karoole”, having suffered gunshot wounds.

James married his friend, Margaret (Maggie) McPhee in 1920; they had two known sons – Archibald James Spencer, who served in World War Two, and Frank Leslie Spencer. James Henry Spencer – the son of John and Elvina Woller - died on 27 July 1955 at Clifton Hill, Victoria, where he and Maggie had lived their married life, and was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Melbourne. Margaret Spencer died in 1982, in her nineties, and was buried with her husband. James’ New Zealand born nephew, William James Dunn, served with the New Zealand Forces in World War I. William Thomas Scott, a son of John and Elvina, and presumably a brother of James Henry Spencer, served with the Australian Forces in World War One.

It has not been established absolutely that James Henry Spencer, 28352, who served with the Australian Forces in World War One, was James Henry Scott who was born at Timaru in 1886. Supporting information includes the following – James Henry Scott is the only child born at Timaru in the relevant time period, to fit James Henry Spencer’s war profile, keeping in mind that there were often errors in birth dates on enlistment (deliberate or inadvertent); James Henry Scott went to Victoria, Australia, with his family and resided there before the war; James Henry Spencer’s parents were deceased when he enlisted – James Henry Scott’s parents were deceased; the registration of James Henry Spencer’s death names his parents as John and Elvina Wooler (note the parallel with the reasonably distinctive names of James Henry Scott’s mother); the informant at James Henry Spencer’s death was likely his wife Maggie (or a son), who may have known him only as Spencer and who may have deduced his age from that given on enlistment or as intimated by James himself.


Extracts from AIF File (per [April 2020]; Lives of the First World War – “Timaru in birthplace (Google search) [29 March 2020]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [19 April 2020]; Australian Death Indexes [19 April 2020]; Melbourne General cemetery rcord (Find A Grave) [19 April 2020]; 1871 England census ( [19 April 2002]; Australia Electoral Rolls ( [19 April 2020; 13 November 2020]; The Age, Melbourne, May 1908, 3 April 1911 [19 April 2020]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [19 April 2020]; South Canterbury Times, 29 April 1886, New Zealand Herald, 21 July 1887 (Papers Past) [19 April 2020]; England Birth Indexes (Free BMD) [15 November 2020]; Archives NZ, Passenger Lists (per Family Search, following web submission from R Gould, 26 October 2020) [15 November 2020]

External Links

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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