(Service number 17/56)

First Rank Trooper Last Rank Private


Date 19 July 1891 Place of Birth Waimate

Enlistment Information

Date 21 October 1914 Age 23 years 2 months
Address at Enlistment Carlton House, Masterton
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin William FITZGERALD (brother), Augustine St, Waimate, South Canterbury. Also advise Miss Mary FITZGERALD (aunt), Waimate, South Canterbury
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8 inches. Weight 158 lbs. Chest measurement 35-38½ inches.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 2nd Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Veterinary Corps
Date 14 December 1914
Transport Verdala or Willochra or Knight of the Garter
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western Europe
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

January 1916 - Cairo - acute conjunctivitis, admitted to N.Z. General Hospital, "Doing well"; February 1916 - corneal ulcer- 10 days in hospital; 9 August 1916 - admitted to 3rd NZ Field Ambulance - sick. 2 November 1916 - admitted to 2nd Australia Casualty Clearing Station at Rouen - sick, then transferred to Base Depot, 13 December 1916 - discharged from Ven Hospital.

Post-war Occupations


Date 12 October 1917 Age 26 years
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium (in the field)
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference N.Z. Apse, Panel 3.
New Zealand Memorials Timaru War Memorial Wall; Waimate War Memorial   

Biographical Notes

James Fitzgerald was born on 19 July 1891 at Waimate, the son of Irish-born John and Johannah (née Vaughan?) Fitzgerald, of Waimate, Timaru, and baptized Catholic on 6 September 1891 at Waimate. Both his parents died in the 1890s – John on 25 April 1894 at Timaru and Johanna on 26 April 1898 at Waimate; they are buried in the Timaru Cemetery. John and Johanna had been farming at Hook since the 1880s. In 1896 a sheep was stolen from the property of Mrs Fitzgerald at Hook. James was a younger brother of William Fitzgerald, 54343, who also enlisted for World War I and met a tragic death in 1928 in Australia. In early February 1901, young James slipped on the asphalt in Waimate and broke his arm. It is likely that James was one of the characters in the cantata “Too Bad”, performed at the Waimate St Joseph’s School concert in December 1902. “The singing throughout the piece was very good indeed, in fact, from beginning to end the children acquitted themselves most creditably.” On 6 February 1903 at St Patrick’s School, Waimate, he was awarded a prize for Standard IV proficiency. In contrast, James would appear to be one of the Territorials in Waimate who made an appearance in the Waimate Court on 15 April 1913, in his case for failing to render personal service; he was fined 10 shillings. A year later – March 1914 - James Fitzgerald, a defaulting Territorial, failed to appear at the Magistrate’s Court, and was fined a total of 40 shillings and costs 7 shillings. A repeat occurrence in June 1914 resulted in a fine of £3 and costs 7 shillings.

At the time of enlisting James was living in Masterton, his address being Carlton House, and working as a labourer at Pongaroa. Aged 23 years 2 months, single and Roman Catholic, he named as next-of-kin, his brother William Fitzgerald, Augustine Street, Waimate, South Canterbury. When William went on Active Service, there was a note to advise also Miss Mary Fitzgerald (aunt), Waimate, South Canterbury. 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 184 pounds, he had a chest measurement of 35-38½ inches. Trooper James Fitzgerald was one of the men to enlist early for service (21 October 1914), embarking on 14 December 1914 at Wellington, with the 2nd Reinforcements, Veterinary Corps, destined for Suez, Egypt, and disembarking in Egypt on 3 February 1915.

J. Fitzgerald incurred several punishments – he forfeited 5 days pay and experienced 14 days Detention for breaking out of Barracks at Abbassia on 15 June 1915 and remaining absent until apprehended in Alexandria on board H M T B Australasia on 17 June; on 6 September 1915 he was confined to barracks for 1 week, for insolence to N.C.O.; on 19 March 1916 he suffered 14 days of Field Punishment and lost 14 days of full pay for being drunk in billets at 2pm; and on 7 May 1917 he was awarded 7 days of Field Punishment for absence from billet at 11.15pm.

He also had several spells in hospital, each time recovering and rejoining his battalion. Suffering from acute conjunctivitis in January 1916 at Cairo, he was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital, where he was reported as “doing well”. In February 1916 he had a corneal ulcer, resulting in hospitalization for ten days. He was admitted to the 3rd New Zealand Field Ambulance on 9 August, sick, and rejoined his battalion five days later. On 2 November 1916 he was admitted, sick, to the 2nd Australia Casualty Clearing Station at Rouen, before being transferred to Base Depot, then discharged from the Venereal Hospital on 13 December. In April 1916 he had been transferred to the Otago Infantry Battalion and the following month he embarked for France after being in hospital in Egypt.

On 19 June 1917 he rejoined his battalion from the Reinforcements Camp. Serving with the Otago Infantry Regiment, Private James Fitzgerald was killed in action on 12 October 1917 at Ypres, Belgium, aged 26 years. His name appeared in the very long casualty list of the time, when over 1200 more casualties were reported – Fitzgerald James, 17/56, O.I.R. (W. Fitzgerald, Waimate, b.). His brother William had himself left for the front just three months earlier. In the aftermath of an early morning advance, James became a victim of the Passchendaele offensive, falling on New Zealand’s blackest day. Perhaps he was one of the determined individuals who tried to get through the German barrier, but were quickly killed. His name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke.

His medals, plaque and scroll were authorised to go to his brother William Fitzgerald, who had a Post Office address in Rotorua in January 1921 but was back in Waimate later in the year. James was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. His brother William was advised, in response to his letter of 18 January 1920, that no Gratuity in respect of a deceased soldier would be paid as there appeared to be no relatives or dependants of his late brother who came within the provisions of the Act.

From May 1916 the name of Trooper James Fitzgerald appeared in Waimate’s Roll of Honour published regularly in the Waimate Daily Advertiser, moving to The Supreme Sacrifice listing after his death. A “For the Empire’s Cause” In Memoriam notice was published in the New Zealand Tablet of 9 October 1919. Of your charity pray for the repose of the soul of James Fitzgerald, Waimate, who was killed in action at Passchendaele on October 12, 1917. – Inserted by his loving sisters and brothers. James has only two known sisters (Anorah and Johanna) and one known brother (William). His name is inscribed on the Timaru War Memorial Wall (Fitzgerald J.) and the Waimate War Memorial Arch (Fitzgerald J.). A portrait of James Fitzgerald from the Auckland Weekly News, 1917, is attached to the Cenotaph Database; another was printed in the Otago Witness of 21 November 1917.

There may well be no immediate descendants of this family. The eldest, Anorah (Norah), who married James Clarke of Timaru in 1914, died in 1951, apparently without issue. William, who served in World War I, was killed in Australia in 1928, unmarried. The youngest, Johannah Mary, became a nun – Sister Inez, a Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, an order which taught at Waimate from 1890, and died in 1984 in Auckland.

The aunt, Mary Fitzgerald, died in 1924 and was buried at Waimate. Mary had come from her native Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland in about 1881, perhaps with her brother John, and resided thereafter at Waimate, where she was much respected, and where she surely was instrumental in the upbringing of her nephews and nieces. When she died, a nephew (William Hillary) and a niece, Sister Inez, of St Joseph’s Convent, Gisborne (Johannah Mary) were her only relatives in New Zealand. No mention of Anorah. In his will signed on 24 April 1894, the day before his death, John Fitzgerald named his wife Johanna as sole executrix, bequeathing to her his all for her lifetime and in trust for the maintenance of their three children, Norah, William and James; little Johanna was not born until August 1894. Johanna Fitzgerald, who died four years later, put her property and effects in the hands of her trustees (one of whom was Mary Fitzgerald), to be paid to her youngest child when she reached 21 years, and for her maintenance and benefit during her minority. Aunt Mary Fitzgerald signed her will on 4 August 1894, the day before her death. She left £100 to her nephew William Fitzgerald, £50 to Sister Mary Inez, Gisborne, £20 to her nephew William Hillary; and made provision for her grave plot and for the balance of her estate to be paid to the Roman Catholic Church of Waimate. William Hillary testified as to Mary’s death. William Hillary, whose mother was Bridget Fitzgerald, was a cousin to Anorah, William, James and Johanna Fitzgerald, and came from County Clare, Ireland, and lived at Waimate for some years before returning to Ireland in 1925. William Hillary enlisted with the New Zealand Forces but did not go abroad. An In Memoriam notice inserted in the Otago Daily Times and Otago Witness in July 1918, probably by Anorah, presents a touching portrait of the family of William and James –

FITZGERALD.—On October 12, at Passchendaele, 17/56 —James Fitzgerald (Waimate), dearly beloved brother of Sister M. Inez (St. Joseph's Convent, Campsie, N.S.W.), W. Fitzgerald (on active service), and Mrs Jas. Clarke (Bathgate road, South Dunedin); in his 26th year. R.I.P.

His loving sister, Mrs Clarke of South Dunedin, remembered “our dear brother, Private James Fitzgerald 17/56” again in October 1919.


Cenotaph Database [31 July 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0040333) [01 August 2013]; CWGC [31 July 2013]; Timaru Herald, 27 April 1894, 16, 18 & 22 July 1896, 11 February 1903, 16 April 1913, 2 November 1917, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 5 February 1901, 11 March 1914, 3 June 1914, 17 May 1916, &c, NZ Tablet, 11 December 1902, 9 October 1919, 20 August 1924 [x 2], NZ Times, 2 November 1917, Otago Witness, 21 November 1917, 10 July 1918, Otago Daily Times, 6 July 1918, 13 October 1919 (Papers Past) [20 September 2013; 21 September 2014; 14 August 2016; 29 April 2018; 03, 08 & 10 May 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [April 2014]; Catholic Diocese of Christchurch of Christchurch – Baptism Index V.1.2 (South Canterbury Branch NZSG Computer Resources) [27 April 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [August 2013]; Probate records (ArchivesNZ/FamilySearch) [28 September 2014; 29 April 2018; 06 May 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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