DUKE, Taylor
(Service number 15149)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 9 October 1895 Place of Birth Palmerston South

Enlistment Information

Date 6 April 1916 Age 20 years
Address at Enlistment Terminus Hotel
Occupation Cook
Previous Military Experience Sydney Expeditionary Force
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs R. DUKE (mother), Wilson Street, Timaru. Later of 20 Hood Street, New Brighton, Christchurch.
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 4½ inches. Weight 9 stone 4 lbs. Chest measurement 31-35½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both good. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth normal? Free from hernia, varicocele, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Very slight haemorrhoids. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Slight varicose veins but not sufficient to cause rejection. No fits. Fit.

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 15th Reinforcements Otago Infantry Battalion, D Company
Date 16 July 1916
Transport Waitemata
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Regiment, 15th Reinforcements

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
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 21 May 1919 Reason As a deserter

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

12 January 1917 - admitted to 2nd NZ Field Ambulance - sick

Post-war Occupations



Date 20 December 1938 Age 43 years
Place of Death Auckland
Memorial or Cemetery Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland
Memorial Reference RSA Block E, Row 1, Plot 7
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Taylor Duke was the youngest son of James Duke and his third wife, Rachel née McCutcheon, of Timaru. Mr James Duke was a coal miner, which occupation brought him to South Canterbury. In mid 1889 he took the lease of the mine in the Kakahu district where, for some years, it had been known that good coal existed. He was also connected with the opening of lime kilns at Kakahu. Mr Duke, who had worked in most of the New Zealand coal mines and had been a pioneer of the coal industry at Mt Somers, had much experience of colleries in the Old Country. At a meeting held in the school at Woodbury in May 1906, Mr James Duke was called upon to explain the position and prospects of a proposed coal mine to work deposits in the Waihi Gorge. He had made a detailed study and believed the prospects were very promising. The owners of the Te Moana coal mine, open in 1907, secured the services of Mr Duke to make a thorough prospect of their site. He was particular in his work and spoke highly of the samples found. James Duke(s) died on 11 March 1911 at the Timaru Hospital. The family was then living on the corner of Wilson and Cullman streets. He was buried in the Timaru Cemetery. It is apparent that the family moved about a great deal when the children (nine from three marriages) were at school.

Taylor Duke was born on 9 October 1894 at Palmerston South. As his father moved to various mines around the country, he was educated at several schools – at Amberley, Dalbeg (Eskvale), Springburn, Kaikoura and Cheviot schools in the Canterbury district, then at Woodbury and Te Moana schools in the South Canterbury area before moving to the Geraldine District High School in 1908.

Having been examined at Dunedin, he enlisted on 6 April 1916 at Trentrham. Taylor was single and of Church of England affiliation. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue, and his hair brown He was of small build, standing at 5 feet 4½ inches, weighing 9 stone 4 pounds, and with a chest measurement of 31-35½ inches. He was in good physical condition, his sight, hearing, and colour vision all being good, and his limbs being well formed and his heart and lungs normal. He did suffer from very slight haemorrhoids, and slight varicose veins but not sufficient to cause rejection. Teeth normal? Taylor Duke, a cook of Dunedin, was medically examined and passed fit for service at the front, in late March 1916 at Dunedin. His given address was the Terminus Hotel (Dunedin?), where he was a cook. He nominated his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs R. Duke, Wilson Street, Timaru. Later Mrs Duke moved to Christchurch. He stated that he had served for seven weeks with the Sydney Expeditionary Force, and that he had previously been rejected as unfit for the military forces on account of varicose veins.

“The city [Dunedin] was gay with flags yesterday, when another contingent of men left for Trentham for training preparatory to going to the front.” [Otago Daily Times, 7 April 1916.] The men assembled at the drill hall at Kensington and, led by the Maori Hill Band, marched into town and down to the railway station for farewell speeches. The city was sending away its full quota of the Fifteenth Reinforcements. The crowd showed its appreciation of the departing soldiers by giving them hearty cheers. The Mayor said that he was sure they would worthily uphold the honour of the brave lads of Anzac, and that they would do nothing on or off the field that would bring discredit on their city, upon their land, or upon their Empire. Among the men who marched to the special train was Taylor Duke of the Infantry Territorials.

Private T. Duke embarked with the Otago Infantry Battalion of the 15th Reinforcements on 26 July 1916 at Wellington, on the “Waitemata”, disembarking on 3 October at Devonport, England. He marched into Sling and just over two weeks later he was away to France, joining his battalion on 14 November. But, as of 9 October 1917, he was at the No. 7 Military Prison. The trail of offending had started in November 1916. He was guilty of being out of bounds when on Active Service and awarded 14 days’ Field Punishment. Having rejoined his battalion on 3 January 1917, he was admitted to the 2nd NZ Field Ambulance, sick, on 12 January. He rejoined his battalion but before long he was again awarded Field Punishment for being absent from Parade after having been warned. The next month he had to pay 4 shillings and endure more Field Punishment for the loss of Government property. Similar punishments followed in April for being absent from tattoo roll call, for absence from billet without leave, and for falling out of the line of march without permission. In June more severe Field Punishment and forfeiture of payment were inflicted for absence without leave.

Private Duke was reported missing on 7 June 1917. The next day he rejoined his battalion. 7 July 1917 he was charged with deserting H.M. Service in that in the Field, after being warned to parade as a member of a working party to work in a forward area, he did not parade and therefore avoided a dangerous duty. He was, however, found not guilty of desertion but guilty of being absent without leave. He received 60 days’ Field Punishment and forfeited pay on account of avoiding duty having to be performed by another soldier. 24 July 1917 he failed to appear at the place of parade appointed by his commanding officer, and he also failed to appear at Roll Call Parade, after being warned to parade. He was found guilty and sentenced to 1 year’s hard labour and forfeited 2 days’ pay. He was absent without leave, in that while undergoing O.P. No. 2, he absented himself from his unit. He was found guilty and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, concurrent with former sentence. He passed 37 days in confinement, awaiting trial. He forfeited pay and, on 2 September, had earned 10 years’ penal servitude and been committed to 2 years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

On 17 August 1917, while under close arrest in Guard Room, Duke joined in a mutiny by combining to resist his Superior Officer in execution of his duty, by refusing to fall in under the guard with fixed bayonets to march to a new area when ordered to do so by the sergeant. After spending time in confinement while awaiting trial, he was found guilty of mutiny and, on 8 September 1917, sentenced to 10 year’s Penal Servitude. On 6 October 1917 Taylor Duke was detached to Military Prison, and subsequently admitted to No. 7 Military Prison. 26 August 1917 he had been charged with (1) loss of Government property – 1 steel helmet, 1 web belt, 1 pair web braces, 1 set ammunition pouches, 1 haversack, 1 water bottle & carrier, 1 entrenching [tool] & carrier, 1 table knife, 1 fork; (2) cutting his trousers in such a manner as to render them unserviceable, for which he had to pay the sum of £1.10s.

The punishment was commuted to 2 years. Duke was taken on Strength at No. 5 Military Prison after he executed an outstanding escape from No. 7. He was struck off Strength at No. 5 as from his date of recapture in the UK, 20 March 1919. Absent again as of 21 May 1919, Taylor Duke was discharged from the NZEF and Struck off Strength on that date, owing to Desertion. He had spent over three years in service, overseas for all but 111 days. He was awarded no medals because of misconduct prior to Armistice and Desertion.

When did Taylor Duke return to New Zealand? And on what conditions? It appears that he may have spent time in Australia. New Zealand Police Gazettes of December 1937 and January 1938 give notice that a Summons had been served by the Auckland Police on Taylor Duke, labourer and cook/kitchener, for making a false statement in regard to the Employment Promotions Act. One charge was in New Zealand, one in Australia. Duke had been finger-printed and was arrested on 16 March 1938. Taylor did return to his occupation of cook, or kitchenman as recorded in the 1938 Auckland electoral roll. Taylor Duke died on 20 December 1938 at Auckland, aged only 44 years. Private Duke, 15149, Otago Regiment, 15th Reinforcements, was buried in the Returned Servicemen’s section of the Waikumete Cemetery the following day.

Taylor’s oldest brother, Joseph Martin Duke died of wounds on 19 May 1918 in France; his step-brother, William Henry Duke, died of illness on 5 November 1918 in England. A Roll of Honour notice for Joseph in the Lyttelton Times of 25 May named his brothers Privates W. F. B. and T. Duke, on active service. Five brothers - William, Frank, Joseph, Benjamin and Taylor - were at the front at the same time. Two notices in the Lyttelton Times of 11 November 1918 recorded William as the step-son of Mrs R. Dukes (Rachel), and step-brother of Rifleman B. (Ben) and Private T. (Taylor) Dukes (on active service), R. (Rachel) and J. (James John) Dukes and Mrs Garlick (Mary Ellen, Nellie), James and Nellie being issue of the first marriage of James senior; and as the brother of Mrs Wallis (Beatrice) and Rifleman F. Taylor (returned from service) (Frank).


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [13 November 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0035890) [12 June 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2013]; Waikumete Cemetery headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Cemetery Records microfiche) [08 April 2014]; Waikumete Cemetery burial record (Auckland Council) [03 November 2014]; Star, 5 July 1889, Temuka Leader, 17 May 1906, 9 November 1907, Timaru Herald, 13 & 14 March 1911, Otago Daily Times, 30 March 1916, 7 April 1916, Evening Star, 29 March 1916, Lyttelton Times, 25 May 1918, 11 November 1918 (Papers Past) [14 November 2013; 21 & 22 June 2019]; School Admission Registers (Canterbury Branch NZSG; South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013-2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [June 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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