CORNELIUS, Charles Lyall
(Service number 8/27)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 30 March 1893 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 13 August 1914 Age 21 years 5 months
Address at Enlistment Care of J. B. REID, Esq, Elderslie, New Zealand
Occupation Horse groom
Previous Military Experience Territorial Force. 10th Regiment
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Charles CORNELIUS (mother), Stafford Street, Timaru
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 ft 10 in. Weight 143 lb. Chest measurement 33-37 inches. Complexion light brown. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Teeth good. Free from variococele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects.   

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Otago Infantry Battalion
Date 16 October 1914
Transport Ruapehu or Hawkes Bay
Embarked From Port Chalmers Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Gallipoli
Service Medals 1914-15 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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 28 April 1915 Age 22 years
Place of Death Dardanelles
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Lone Pine Memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey
Memorial Reference Panel 75
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Ebfield, North Otago War Memorial

Biographical Notes

Charles Lyall CORNELIUS was the elder surviving son of Charles William and Florence (Flora, nee PURVIS) CORNELIUS. He was born at Timaru in 1893 and was killed in action at Gallipoli between 28 and 30 April 1915, just six months after embarking and little more than four months after disembarking at Alexandria, and at the young age of 22.

Charles was baptized Catholic on 6 May 1895 at Waimate (as Carolus Lylse Longford SULLIVAN), and educated at Waimate and Timaru. He was a champion skater and also good at swimming. Charles was a member of the Territorial force and had already registered for compulsory military training at Enfield, where he had been working for some time as a groom for Mr Reid of Burnside, Enfield. He enlisted for the Expeditionary Force at Oamaru on 13 August 1914 - the first in North Otago to enlist, and he was among the Oamaru contingent which went north on 14 August. He must have retraced his steps as by mid September he was in camp at Tahuna (Dunedin) with the 10th (North Otago) Regiment. The next newspaper mentions of Charles are to announce his death. Although his parents were believed to be residing in Timaru by this date, the sympathy of the Enfield community went out to the relatives of the brave men in their time of trial. The observations were made that that it was "news like this (killed in action) that brings home to a community the full reality of what war means", and that the families have "the comfort of knowing that their boys acted as brave men should act, by not shirking their national responsibility and being ready, if necessary, to yield unto their empire the supreme sacrifice."

Charles was a bright lad and had written home to his mother some interesting letters. In his last letter, written just before leaving for the Dardanells, he added an eloquent and touching postscript: "I always keep the little prayer book you gave me in the breats pocket of my tunic." Lieutenant Nesbitt, an officer of the Otago Battalion, wrote to his own mother from the Dardanelles, describing the fighting and expressing his sorrow at losing so many men. He wrote: "Many of the very best are dead, including Private Cornelius, who was shot beside me, and many another good man. But they acted like veterans, and although they got no support for hours, stuck to their post splendidly and didn't give an inch." Mrs Nesbitt wrote to Mrs Cornelius with the details. "I Have been thinking so much of you since the death of your brave boy," she wrote, "that I feel I must write and offer you my most sincere sympathy.. . . The fact that our sons have done their duty so nobly is a great source of pride, but it does not make the lossany the less; and it was a cruel task to set them." She remarks that she had met Charles and liked him very much, and that her son trusted him implicitly. Charles' grandfather had fought through the Crimean War.

Charles' four-year old brother Robert was killed in a tragic accident at Waimate in 1902. In early 1908 the old wooden two-storied building where his mother ran a boarding house, was burnt down. And it appears that his parents went their separate ways as early as 1907. In 1915 Charles was recorded as the son of Mrs CORNELIUS, of the Stafford Street Registry Office. In 1919 a change of contact was advised by Public Trustee and medals were to be sent to Mr C. W. CORNELIUS, Sutton, Taieri, Otago (Charles his father was a groom at Middlemarch in 1914). By 1919 his legal next-of-kin was his father C. W. CORNELIUS, at 11 Cutten Street, South Dunedin. He died in 1935 and is buried in Invercargill. His mother ran a boarding house in Waimate which was burnt down in 1908, when she moved to Timaru and ran the Timaru Labour Exchange and was a fruiterer. At this time his father did live at Stafford Street, Timaru, possibly intermittently. From 1916 until her death in 1937 she was hospitalised for most of the time at Seacliff Asylum near Dunedin and later at Sunnyside Asylum in Christchurch. She is buried at Waimate with her little son In 1919 the sisters and brother of Charles remembered him in an In Memoriam notice in the Timaru Herald.

A photograph of Charles is printed in Volume 1 of "Onward: Portraits of the NZEF".


Cenotaph Database [11 August 2013]; CWGC [11 August 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0028525) [17 November 2013]; Oamaru Mail, 15 August 1914, 14 & 15 June 1915, Timaru Herald, 2 & 3 June 1902, 8 August 1907, 4 February 1908 15 August 1914, 14 June 1915, 02 July 1915, 29 April 1919, Otago Daily Times, 16 September 1914, 17 June 1915, 25 June 1915, Sun, 14 June 1915,North Otago Times, 14 June 1915, 22 June 1915, Press, 14 June 1915, 21 June 1915, Evening Post, 14 June 1915, New Zealand Herald, 23 June 1915 (Papers Past) [17 & 19 November 2013; 08 February 2015]; Family tree ( [17 November 2013]; Baptisms Index (South Canterbury Branch NZSG CD - Catholic Diocese of Christchurch) [08 February 2015]; Enfield War Memorial image (NZ History) [08 February 2015]. photograph of Charles as a boy taken about 1902 (approval from owner, Allen Heath, grandson of Charles' sister; per Rosemary Cryer on [18 November 2013]; photograph in "Onward: Portraits of the NZEF", Vol 1 (copy held in South Canterbury Branch NZSG library) [08 November 2014]; Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill (Invercargill City Council) [2014]; Waimate Cemetery (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Cemetery Records microfiche) [2014]; School Admission Records for brother Robert (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [08 February 2015]

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