GODSELL , John Amos
(Service number 27496)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 6 May 1893 Place of Birth Auckland

Enlistment Information

Date 31 May 1916 Age 23 years
Address at Enlistment Balfour
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience 8th Southland Regt. Territorial Force.
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs J. McKEOWEN (sister), 50 Ohiro Road, Wellington
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 8½ inches. Weight 10 stone 7 lbs. Chest measurement 34-37 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair light brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colur vision both good. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth ? No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects apparent. No fits. No distinctive marks or marks indicating congenital peculiarities or previous disease. Fit (teeth?)

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 17th Reinforcements Otago Infantry Battalion, D Company
Date 23 September 1916
Transport Pakeha
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Regiment, 2nd 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

On 2 May 1917 he was sent to hospital, sick - admitted to No. 2 New Zealand Field Ambulance., to 15th Casualty Clearing Station. He rejoined his unit 8 days later.

Post-war Occupations


Date 5 August 1917 Age 24 years
Place of Death France (in the Field)
Cause Killed in action
Notices Evening Post, 25 August 1917
Memorial or Cemetery Kemmel No. 1 French Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference II. B. 6.
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Geraldine War Memorial

Biographical Notes

John Amos Godsell was the second son of John and Margaret Eleanor (née Meager) Godsell. Born on 6 May 1893 in Auckland, he was educated at Hilton School where he was awarded a prize in Standard IV in 1903. In the 1906 school year he was rewarded for proficiency and diligence and gained merit in Standard VI. John’s father died of injuries from a kick from a horse in July 1897, when John was still very young. Perhaps that accounted for some schooling in South Canterbury. John Godsell (senior), born in Tipperary of a Welsh father, had left Ireland for the colonies at the age of 18 and eventually settled in New Zealand in about 1861, firstly in Auckland, then in Canterbury. While at Kakahu, he was a representative on the Geraldine Road Board. For some time he ran two farms – one at Kakahu and a larger one in the Hakataramea Valley, and employed a large number of labourers. After drought affected his grain crops, Mr Godsell returned to Auckland with his wife and young family.

Masters Godsell and others presented a sketch in August 1909 at a very successful concert in St Mary’s Hall, Onehunga, in aid of the funds of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy. Some of his schooling was in the hands of the Marist Brothers, Wellington. Jack Godsell was one of the pupils attending Miss Digby’s Commercial School (Christchurch) who were successful in obtaining Pitman’s theory certificate in the shorthand theory examination held in November 1909, and was ranked third in order of merit. Jack’s sister Elizabeth, a kind, gentle and sweet religious sister by the name of Sister Mary Vianney, a teacher of music, died of pneumonia and heart failure in February 1914 at Nelson, aged just 27 years.

When John Godsell enlisted in May 1916 at the age of 22, he was a labourer working at Balfour; previously he was working as a farm labourerin the Geraldine district. As the Southland quota was preparing to leave, the strength of the Seventeenth Reinforcements was still six infantry short. Come 30 May, quota filled, they were tendered a public farewell in the Municipal Theatre, with addresses by prominent citizens and a number of selections from the 8th Regimental Band. Father O’Neil, who greatly regretted that he was unable to be present, sent the men his “Godspeed” and wishes for a safe return. The Mayor was certain that they would do their duty wherever they were; he was sure they would do their utmost. “As New Zealanders they should keep together, and see that they sustained the great reputation their country had won,” he said to applause. “They were not to forget the people at home. They should always keep in touch with them and let those left behind know how they were faring,” another speaker said “ . . . the work of fighting – the most serious work in the world – was essentially that of the young men.” “They were going to fight for all that is worth living for,” he continued. After a number of well-known performers had given items, proceedings closed with three hearty cheers for the boys and a verse of the National Anthem.

As for his brother Amos, his designated next-of-kin was his sister Mrs J. McKeowen of Wellington. Catherine Godsell married John McKeowen at the Sacred Heart Basilica, Wellington, on 25 January 1915, given away by her brother, Mr J. Godsell - perhaps John although more likely James, her eldest brother.

On 23 September 1916 he embarked for England per the “Pakeha” with the Seventeenth Reinforcements, Otago Infanty Battalion, a fit young man in the prime of life. He had already been serving in the 8th Southland Regiment of the Territorial Force. He proceeded overseas from Sling in December and, joining his battalion at Rouen in February 1917, he was posted to 4th Company. On 2 May 1917 he was sent to hospital, sick, and admitted to No. 2 New Zealand Field Ambulance. After some days in the 15th Casualty Clearing Station, he rejoined his unit on 10 May.

On 5 August 1917, not two months after the death of his younger brother, Private John Amos Godsell was killed in action in Flanders, France, aged 24 years. His brother Amos William Godsell had been killed in action in the Messines campaign. Another brother James Richard Godsell, who also served in World War One, was about this time wounded in Palestine. John's body was not found until 1930 and was then buried in the Kemmel No. 1 French Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, the only New Zealander buried here. His medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal), plaque and scroll were sent to his brother James, living at Doyleston and in 1931 nominated next-of kin. Their mother, Margaret Eleanor Godsell formerly of Hakataramea, Canterbury, died in November 1918, predeceased by a daughter and two sons in the war. In a brief will drawn up on 21 September 1916, John Amos Godsell, a Private of N.Z. Expeditionary Force, appointed his sister Mrs Catherine McKeowen of Wellington and her husband John Patrick McKeowen as executors, and he left all his estate to her. As Catherine and J. P. McKeowen renounced all right to probate and title, on 17 October 1917 the Publice Trustee elected to administer the property of the late J. A. Godsell, formerly a farm cadet of Geraldine, which consisted of £104.14.0 in Post Office Savings Bank Account and £20 balance of Military Pay. The 1918 annual report of the Wellington Marist Brothers Old Boys’ Association conveyed heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of those who had fallen in battle and advised that Masses had been offered for the happy repose of the souls of the deceased. Among the names of those who had been killed in action – all sterling characters greatly endeared to members both during and after school days - were J. Godsell and A. Godsell.


Cenotaph Database [26 September 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0045474) [01 July 2014]; CWGC [21 September 2013]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [September 2013]; Family History (Google Search) [26 September 2013]; New Zealand Herald, 5 & 6 August 1897, 19 January 1912, 8 September 1917, Oamaru Mail, 5 October 1897, Timaru Herald, 29 December 1903, 24 August 1917, Temuka Leader, 19 January 1907, Press, 17 February 1910, 15 August 1918, New Zealand Tablet, 5 August 1909, 12 February 1914, Evening Post, 3 February 1914 [x 2], 18 April 1916, 25 August 1917, 21 January 1918, The Pukekohe and Waiuku Times, 6 February 1914, Colonist, 18 February 1914, New Zealand Times, 8 February 1915, Southland Times, 29 May 1916, 1 June 1916, Weekly News, 6 September 1917, Auckland Star, 21 March 1919 (Papers Past) [26 September 2013; 02 July 2014; 04, 05, 06, 14 & 19 July 2017]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [16 January 2016]; Nz Electoral Rolls ( [03 July 2017]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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