(Service number 62971)

Aliases Jack
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 20 February 1887 Place of Birth Milford, Temuka

Enlistment Information

Date 19 October 1917 Age 30 years 8 months
Address at Enlistment Temuka
Occupation Ploughman
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Kate GREELISH (mother), Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 7½ inches. Weight 165 lbs. Chest measurement 37-40 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair dark. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. Class A.

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 32nd Reinforcements Otago Infantry Regiment, D Company
Date 21 November 1917
Transport Maunganui
Embarked From Wellington Destination Liverpool, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Otago Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victoria 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

March 1918 - reported seriously ill with pneumonia, having been admitted to the Military Hospital at Endell, on 17 March, with influenza. 2 April removed from seriously ill list. Transferred to Brockenhurst, Hornchurch, Codford - four months in hospital with pneumonia. 18 September 1918 went to the Front.

Post-war Occupations


Date 8 October 1918 Age 31 years
Place of Death Le Cateau, France
Cause Killed in action
Notices Timaru Herald, 28 October 1918; New Zealand Tablet, 31 October 1918
Memorial or Cemetery Anneux British Cemetery, Nord, France
Memorial Reference IV. B. 21.
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Milford District War Memorial; Temuka RSA Roll of Honour; Temuka War Memorial; St Joseph's Church Temuka 

Biographical Notes

John Greelish, popularly known as Jack, was born on 20 February 1887 at Milford, Temuka, the second son of Irish-born parents, John and Kate (née Catherine Faherty) Greelish, of Milford and Temuka. John, senior, and Kate married in 1882 at Temuka, and went on to have seven children. Their eldest child, Kate, died in 1892, aged 8 years. John Grealish (spelt thus) came from County Galway by the “Ramsay” in 1870, possibly accompanied by a sister Mary, following the arrival of his brother Martin in 1867 and, perhaps, brother Patrick in 1863. Mr Grealish was a tenant farmer on the Green Hayes Estate near Temuka, and was one of the signatories to a testimonial to Captain Hayhurst on the latter’s return from the South African War. Mr J. Greelish served on the Milford School Committee. Along with his siblings, John was educated at Milford School, leaving to go home and work. For the Milford School break-up in December 1897, the children and parents were guests of Mr and Mrs Hayhurst at Greenhayes. On this occasion John was awarded a prize for third place in Standard I general proficiency. The youngest Greelish children attended the Temuka St Joseph’s School in Temuka, where Mr Greelish was one engaged in spreading shingle in the school yard in 1904. At the Temuka Empire Day annual sports, held in May 1907, John was a member of the Milford tug-of-war team, which met Pleasant Point. “The Pleasant Point team consisted of much heavier men, and it was at once conjectured that they would walk away with their opponents, but those who thought so had no knowledge of the stuff the lighter men were made of. The teams proved very evenly balanced, . . . . Little by little, however, Pleasant Point commenced to gain, . . . . the Milford’s began to strain very hard on the rope . . . . Pleasant Point won, but at the rate things were shaping Milford could have turned the tables if they had another twenty minutes to go.” [Temuka Leader] His father John, an old settler, died on 1 July 1907, after a long illness. At 74 years of age, he was more than twenty years older than Kate.

John Greelish was one of seven young men who were charged with resisting and obstructing the police on Easter Monday night 1911. All pleaded not guilty, and John and one other were dismissed. For some months in 1911 some young men in Temuka and district were practising on the pipes. Right at the end of the year they played through the town and their efforts were greatly appreciated. They were rewarded with liberal support financially and decided to form themselves into a properly constructed band. The outcome was the Temuka Pipe Band. John Greelish was elected to the committee. Each of the members purchased his own set of pipes. When the Annual Meeting was held in July 1913, regret was expressed at the loss of Piper J. Greelish. At the Milford Club two nights’ shoot for a trophy, both John and Martin got through to the shoot off, Martin finishing in second place in the final. Their brother Thomas also shot well. John Greelish incurred a 10 shilling fine in August 1916, for cycling after dark without a light.

After leaving school, John worked as a ploughman for the same employer for 14 years, followed by two years for others. He was engaged in this occupation for his brother, Thomas John Greelish, at Temuka, when his name was drawn in the Ninth Ballot and he was called up in July 1917. A well-attended farewell social, with excellent music, was held for Private Jack Greelish at Milford on 28 September. The chairman of the Milford Patriotic Committee presented him with the Committee’s gold medal, and wished him good luck and a safe return. On 5 October he left for camp after spending his final leave with friends at Temuka. He enlisted on 19 October 1917, aged 30 years 8 months. He was a ploughman, single, Roman Catholic, and living at home at Temuka. His nominated next-of-kin was his mother, Mrs Kate Greelish, of Temuka. John Greelish was 5 feet 7½ inches tall, weighed 165 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 37-40 inches. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs. His limbs were well formed, he was free of diseases and vaccinated. A Class A recruit. For a small indiscretion – overstaying his leave - in October 1917, he forfeited 6 days pay’.

Embarking with the Otago Infantry Battalion of the 31st Reinforcements on the “Maunganui” at Wellington on 21 November 1917, he arrived in England in January following, and marched into Sling on 8 January. John was ill for some time and transferred to various hospitals in March - May 1918. He was admitted to the Military Hospital at Endell St, on 17 March, with influenza, His mother received a cable that, by 20 March, he was seriously ill with pneumonia. The hospital report of April advised that he had been removed from the seriously ill list on 2 April. He was transferred to Brockenhurst and the following month to the General Hospital at Hornchurch, then to Codford. In total he spent four months in hospital suffering from pneumonia. It was 18 July before he marched into Sling and 18 September 1918 when he proceeded overseas to France from Larkhill and could join his battalion. On 23 September he finally got to join his Battalion in the Field.

John Greelish and James Cosgrove, who no doubt knew each other well, were killed in action on the same day in the same battle. John, who had been in France for only a short time, was killed in action in the Field at Le Cateau, France, on 8 October 1918, just three weeks before the Armistice. Thirty-one years old, he was “a hard-working young man whom all respected”. Private Greelish and Private Cosgrove, both of the Otago Regiment, were buried in the Anneux British Cemetery, Nord, France.

John Greelish drafted a brief Will on 20 November 1917, the day before embarkation, at Trentham. He bequeathed all his estate to his mother. The Will was executed by the Public Trustee on 11 June 1919, the total assets amounting to £43.8.11 with the Post office Savings Bank. His medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were all forwarded to his mother and next-of-kin, Kate Greelish, sometime of the Royal Hotel, Temuka, and later of Ormsby Street, Temuka. His mother acknowledged receipt of the Memorial Scroll on 27 June 1921. From 29 October 1918, the name of Private J. Greelish was recorded in the Temuka Leader Roll of Honour. The Timaru Herald of 8 October 1919 carried an In Memoriam notice from his loving mother, brothers and sisters -

“In the old home dear you are fondly remembered,

Sweet happy memories cling round your name,

True hearts that held you in fondest affection,

Always shall love you in death just the same.”

His brother, Martin Joseph Greelish who also served in World War I, returned home in 1919. The Defence Department proceeded against another brother, Patrick, in July 1912, for failing to comply with the Defence Act. He was liable to serve but had done nothing to fulfil his obligations, and incurred a fine of £2 and costs. Patrick died in 1915, just 23 years old. His oldest brother, Thomas, was called up in 1917. Thomas, who was a regular participant in the Miniature Rifles and very active with the Milford Lagoon Association, contributed towards the Temuka War Memorial subscription list. His sister Catherine (Katherine) married Herbert Just who also saw service in World War I. Mrs Greelish died in February 1932. Martin Greelish, an uncle of John and Martin, died a bachelor at Temuka in 1924, aged 82 years. When Catherine (Greelish) Just administered the estate of her brother Thomas Greelish, a bachelor, in 1946, she detailed the family – father and mother were deceased; she, brother Martin Joseph Greelish (aged 50 years), and sister Mary (Greelish) Barrett (aged 60 years) were living; brother John Greelish had been killed in action in 1918, a bachelor; brother Patrick Greelish died in 1915, a bachelor.

John Greelish, 62971, is honoured on the Timaru Memorial Wall, Milford District War Memorial, Temuka RSA Roll of Honour, Temuka War Memorial, and St Joseph's Church Temuka. 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. Greelish J., Pvt. featured on the list of names to be inscribed on the Temuka War Memorial, as published late in 1921. On 10 August 1922 the Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . . “ Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.

The Milford War Memorial Gates were officially opened and the Roll of Honour inscribed thereon unveiled in April 1935, before nearly 500 people. Returned soldiers from all over the district, together with members of the Legion of Frontiersmen, paraded with the Temuka Municipal and Pipe Bands. Prayers were offered, hymns sung and scripture read. “Milford had been one of the last districts in South Canterbury to erect a memorial. One of the causes for this was that the people had deferred action to assist in the erection of the district memorial in the Temuka Domain. Now the people of Milford were taking the opportunity to honour those who had answered the call to arms. Those who had left the district were among the first in New Zealand to answer the call, and although many returned, there were a number who did not, and the memorial was to perpetuate their memory.” [Press.] The gates had been erected to the memory, not only of those who had laid down their lives, but also to all who had served. Mr T. D. Burnett read the inscription while the memorial tablets were unveiled - “To the memory of the men of the Milford district who died in the Great War, 1914-1918”, followed by the names which included J. Greelish. After wreaths were laid, and “Last Post” and “Reveille” sounded, former soldiers and frontiersmen formed a guard of honour inside the gates, and then the parade, headed by the Pipe Band, led the way to the school grounds, where the school roll of honour, containing the names of 12 former pupils, who served in the war, was officially unveiled by Mr Burnett, and the Benediction was pronounced.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [08 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0047249) [18 October 2013]; CWGC [09 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0047249) [18 October 2013]; Lyttelton Times, 18 June 1870, Temuka Leader, 28 December 1897, 21 April 1898, 5 & 7 July 1900, 25 May 1907, 25 July 1912, 23 September 1914, 27 September 1917, 6 October 1917, 26 & 29 October 1918, 29 November 1921, 01 December 1921, 26 April 1922, 12 August 1922, 31 January 1924, Timaru Herald, 3 July 1907, 1 January 1912, 25 July 1912, 15 July 1913, 12 July 1915, 4 July 1917, 5 October 1917, 25 March 1918 [x 2], 28 October 1918 [x 3], 8 October 1919, 9 August 1920, New Zealand Tablet, 11 July 1907, 31 October 1918, Press, 28 April 1911, 30 August 1916, 27 March 1918, 30 April 1935, Ashburton Guardian, 6 April 1918, 29 January 1924 (Papers Past) [17 September 2013; 26 October 2013; 25 August 2015; 17 October 2015; 20 August 2016; 06, 10 & 11 August 2019]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [25 August 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [25 August 2015]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG)

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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