(Service number 52581)

First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Private


Date 15 March 1896 Place of Birth Pleasant Point

Enlistment Information

Date 26 February 1917 Age 20 years 11 months
Address at Enlistment 3 Flinders St., Timaru
Occupation Butcher
Previous Military Experience 2nd South Canterbury Regiment
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs P. COSGROVE (mother), Pleasant Point, S. Canterbury
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 fee 7 inches. Weight 134 lbs. Chest measurement 32 - 34½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed; Full and perfect movement in joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. No sign of vaccination. Good physical and mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Rifle Brigade
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Reinforcements G Company (part)
Date 12 June 1917
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington Destination Plymouth, England
Other Units Served With Entrenching Battalion
Last Unit Served With NZ Expeditionary Force, Otago Regiment, 1st Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
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


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

3 December 1917 - admitted to No. 3 NZ Field Ambulance, then to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station, & on 4 December to No. 7 General Hospital, St Omer, France – severe shrapnel wound to chest. 19 December 1917 - admitted to British Military Hospital, Endell St, Lonon; 26 January 1918 transferred to Convalescent Depot, Hornchurch.

Post-war Occupations


Date 8 October 1918 Age 22 years
Place of Death Le Cateau, France
Cause Killed in action in the Field
Notices Timaru Herald, 28 October 1918; NZ Tablet, 21 November 1918
Memorial or Cemetery Anneux British Cemetery, Nord, France. Memorial Stone Pleasant Point Cemetery (parents' stone).
Memorial Reference IV. B. 17. Pleasant Point Cemetery - General Section, Row 14, Plot 17.
New Zealand Memorials Memorial Wall, Timaru; Pleasant Point War Memorial; St Joseph's Church, Temuka; Pleasant Point School War Memorial

Biographical Notes

James Cosgrove was the youngest son of Irish-born Patrick and Ellen (née Melligan or Mulligan) Cosgrove, of Pleasant Point, and the ninth of their ten children. Ellen also had a daughter born prior to her marriage to Patrick. John died in 1890 before his second birthday, Kathleen in 1905 at the age of six, and Margaret in 1906 at the age of nineteen. James was born on 15 March 1896 at Pleasant Point and baptised on 17 October 1896 in the Temuka Catholic Parish. Along with his siblings, James was educated at the Pleasant Point School, starting there when he was 6½. Some of the children may have also spent time at Kerrytown School. He was a member of the Celtic Football Club and of the Hibernian Society, taking a keen interest in both.

Young James Cosgrove had his day in court in October 1913. The Defence Officers of South Canterbury, “after having given every latitude”, were showing unmistakably that they meant to “make Territorials adhere to the Defence Act.” Forty-two Territorials and cadets were charged with failing to render personal service under the Act. Jas Cosgrove appeared on two charges and was fined 10 shillings and costs, and dismissed, respectively.

In February 1917, J. Cosgrove, of Timaru, a butcher, single and Roman Catholic, registered for service and was medically examined at Timaru. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 134 pounds and had a chest measurement of 32-½ inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes grey, and his hair brown. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, his limbs and chest well formed, and his heart and lungs normal. He had had no illnesses, and was free of diseases, though there was no sign of vaccination. He was in good physical and mental health. He had served in the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment. He nominated his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs P. Cosgrove, Pleasant Point, while he himself was residing at 3 Flinders Street, Timaru. Prior to enlisting, James worked for his brother at the West End Butchery.

James and his brother Edmund left Timaru on 11 April 1917. A farewell social and presentation were tendered to James at Pleasant Point on 7 June 1917. Rifleman J. Cosgrove embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at Wellington on 12 June 1917, destined for Plymouth, England. After marching into Sling on 16 August 1917, he proceeded overseas on 14 October and joined his battalion at Rouen. Soon after he was posted to the Otago Regiment.

It was in mid-December 1917 that Patrick Cosgrove received word that his brother had been severely wounded in the head and chest on 3 December. James was admitted to the No. 3 New Zealand Field Ambulance, then to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station, and to No. 7 General Hospital at St Omer, France on 4 December 1917, with a severe shrapnel wound to his chest. On 19 December 1917 he was transferred to England and admitted to the British Military Hospital, Endell St, and on 26 January 1918 transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch. Leaving Hornchurch 0n 20 February 1918, he reported to Codford on 7 March. On 8 May 1918 he again proceeded overseas from Sling and was transferred to the New Zealand Entrenching Battalion, briefly.

It had been expected that James would return home after he was severely wounded, but with good care and attention in England, he was able to return to active service. On 8 October 1918 he was killed in action at Le Cateau, France, just 22 years old. Private James Cosgrove, 52581, Otago Regiment, was buried in Anneux British Cemetery, France, and he is remembered on his parents’ headstone in the Pleasant Point Cemetery. Private Cosgrove was ‘a cheerful, obliging and popular young fellow’. James Cosgrove and John Greelish, who surely knew each other well, were killed in action on the same day. The scroll was sent to his father Patrick at Pleasant Point in 1921, and the plaque in 1922. Mr P. Cosgrove also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

A very nice social in aid of the Red Cross was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall in late October 1918. It was, however, tinged with sorrow at the news that, since they had last met, two Point boys – Private Norman Maze and Private James Cosgrove – had fallen at the front. They had given their young lives for the Empire. The audience passed a vote of sympathy with the parents of the deceased soldiers. Later in the month the chairman of the Pleasant Point School Committee moved a vote of condolence to the parents of two of the school boys who had fallen in the firing line, Norman Maze and James Cosgrove. At a meeting of the Pleasant Point Patriotic Committee the following month, the chairman moved that a letter of condolence be sent to the parents of Privates J. Cosgrove and N. Maze.

James was a brother of Edmund and Gordon Cosgrove, who also served in World War One. Gordon had been in Egypt for four years when James was killed and Edmund was in France. An In Memoriam notice, inserted in the Timaru Herald by his father, mother, sisters and brothers on 8 October 1919, remembered a dearly beloved son and brother –

“He left behind him aching hearts,

Who loved him ever so dear;

Hearts that never will forget,

His memory written here.”

And again on 8 October 1920 –

“A lonely grave in a far off land,

A grave we may never see,

But while life and memory last

We will remember thee.”

He was remembered also in the New Zealand Tablet in 1919, 1920 and 1922 – “On his soul, sweet Jesus, have mercy.”

His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Pleasant Point War Memorial, the Pleasant Point School Memorial, and on the St Joseph’s Church Temuka Memorial. In September 1921, the Pleasant Point War Memorial was unveiled in an impressive ceremony. Sited in a commanding position, it is an imposing monument constructed largely of Coromandel granite, with the names – including that of J. Cosgrove - clearly engraved beneath the inscription – “Our Glorious Dead. Their Memory Liveth for Ever.” Wreaths were laid on the steps and the “The Last Post” sounded by the bugler.

A tablet to the memory of the ex-pupils of the Pleasant Point District High School who lost their lives in the Great War, was unveiled in June 1922. After the singing of the National Anthem, the chairman of the school committee addressed the gathering. “He was pleased to say that the ex-pupils of the school had nobly come forward at their country’s call, prepared to do or die in defence of what they considered right against might. He was sorry to say that twenty of these men had been called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, and those present were gathered that day to do honour to these fallen ex-pupils, by unveiling a tablet to their memory.” A prayer was offered, the hymn “O God our Help” was sung; a scripture reading was given, after which “Kipling’s Recessional” was sung. Mr T. D. Burnett, M.P., who unveiled the tablet, thanked the committee for the great privilege of being asked to do “honour to the brave sons of the district who had come forward prepared to do their utmost in their nation’s trial.” In pulling the tape, which let loose the Union Jack that was covering the tablet, Mr Burnett read the names of the deceased heroes – J. Cosgrove and eighteen others. A prayer by the Rev. Hinson, the hymn “Abide with Me,” and the sounding of the “Last Post” concluded the service. The tablet bears the following inscription. — “l9l4 For King and Country 1918.”

In Memory of the Ex-pupils

Of this School,

Who gave their Lives

In the Great War.

The St Joseph’s Church, Temuka, Memorial, an “exceedingly beautiful” monument to the memory of those who had fallen in the war, was unveiled after a Memorial Service on 25 April 1922. During the service appropriate music was provided by the choir and an excellent address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Kennedy. The name of James Cosgrove was heard again on Anzac Day, 1927. A Requiem Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s Church, Temuka. The celebrant preached a very stirring sermon based on the Book of Wisdom (Chapter III, Verses 2-5). He pointed out that the Gallipoli campaign and later “gigantic episodes” would remain for all time a wonderful symbol of the age-old courage of men. He reminded the lads present that the enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers of New Zealand and other parts of the Empire were helping them to have brighter and better lives, and that all should render thanks to God, who had delivered them out of the hands of the enemy. They had gathered to commemorate the landing at Gallipoli and also to set aside the day to show their deep and grateful acknowledgement of the services of the men who had fought and died for them on other fields of the great battle-front. “The light of immortality that flashed from the abandoned tomb of the risen Christ lingers on in every mound of Flanders mud and clay, the gullies of Gallipoli, the sands of Palestine and Egypt, on the quiet churchyards in English villages and on God’s acres in New Zealand.. . . . And to-day, before God’s altar, we remember them with the love we bore them and the pride we shall have in them,” he concluded. Before the Dead March was played by the organist, the names were read of those from the Temuka parish who had died “on the field of honour” – among them that of James Cosgrove.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [17 September 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0028662) [17 September 2013]; CWGC [29 August 2013]; Timaru Herald, 17 October 1913, 23 February 1917, 10 April 1917, 6 June 1917, 19 December 1917, 28 October 1918 [x 2], 30 October 1918, 1 & 12 November 1918, 8 October 1919, 8 October 1920 [x 2], 16 September 1921, 26 April 1922, 27 June 1922, NZ Tablet, 14 & 21 November 1918, 9 October 1919, 14 October 1920, 12 October 1922, Temuka Leader,17 September 1921, 27 April 1922, 26 April 1927 (Papers Past) [17 & 22 September 2013; 18 November 2013; 15 May 2014; 09 & 16 September 2014; 30 July 2015; 13 & 14 August 2016; 09 September 2016; 06 February 2018m 13 April 2021]; Pleasant Point Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [29 August 2013]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG); Catholic Baptism indexes (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [29 May 2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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