(Service number 27281)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 25 April 1890 Place of Birth Temuka

Enlistment Information

Date 29 May 1916 Age 26 years
Address at Enlistment John Street, Temuka
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Joseph HAMILTON (brother), John Street, Temuka
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 7 inches. Weight 146 lbs. Chest measurement 33½-36 inches. Complexion dark, Eyes grey, Hair dark brown. Sight and hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. 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. Circular scar upper & back part left shoulder (1½ inches diameter).

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. J Company
Date 25 September 1916
Transport Devon
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Messines)
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

Post-war Occupations


Date 7 June 1917 Age 26 years
Place of Death France (in the Field)
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Strand Military Cemetery, Cornines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium
Memorial Reference X. A. 24./30A.
New Zealand Memorials On Memorial wall, Timaru; Temuka RSA Roll of Honour; Temuka War Memorial; St Joseph's Church, Temuka

Biographical Notes

John Hamilton was the son of John and Catherine (believed née McIntyre) Hamilton, of John Street, Temuka. Born on 25 April 1890 at Temuka, John was baptised there in the Catholic Church on 24 June 1890. His early life was peppered with court appearances and with losses. His parents, it seems, had a weakness for alcohol. In 1903 an old man was charged with supplying John and Catherine Hamilton with alcohol, when he should have known that they were both prohibited. Although the old man pleaded innocence and honesty, he was fined or given the option of imprisonment.

In April 1908 his mother died suddenly of heart failure, having been in ill health for some time. In June 1912, John junior was the one to be charged with supplying liquor to a prohibited person. His counsel stated that he was a young man and had been pestered to get the liquor, on the understanding that it was for a shooting party. He was, nevertheless, fined 40s. The following month he faced his first charge under the Defence Act, when he and another young local were charged with a breach of the 1908 Act, in that they failed to take the oath of allegiance when they had been notified to do so. They were each fined 40s. When twenty-three year old John Hamilton failed to pay his fine, he was arrested and imprisoned for 48 hours. And the offending did not stop – he and his brother Patrick were charged with assault, which arose out of an altercation while they were under the influence. A £3 fine or fourteen days was not sufficient to prevent another assault charge a few weeks later. The argument rested on whether a bicycle obstructing the footpath caused the altercation. John and Patrick were “in a muddled state”, although John said that he was not drunk. The evidence was fairly evenly balanced, but the fact that Patrick had six previous convictions and John four, all the outcome of drink, and because they would not consent to a prohibition order, they were fined on the assault charges. During a period of prohibition in 1913 the brothers were charged with procuring liquor, using obscene language and fighting. After imposing a fine, the Magistrate remarked that he would have to deal differently with the Hamiltons in future. At the same time John Hamilton was one of the Territorials fined 40s and costs for failing to render personal service under the Defence Act.

Late July 1913, John’s older sister Mary, the wife of Thomas Spillane, died at the age of 32, leaving three little children. Was it young John’s greyhound which was wilfully destroyed in September? The charges were, however, dismissed, the defendants claiming that the killing of the dog was justified as it was in the last stages of poisoning. But they had not informed Hamilton. About the same time John Hamilton incurred a court penalty of 10/- and costs for failing to attend Territorial parades on 3 and 17 September. He had not attended since 4 June and had been fined previously. “John Hamilton, a Territorial, described by Captain Robinson as an anti-militarist who had made up his mind that he would not train. The Magistrate gave John Hamilton a fine of 40s and costs 7s to think about.” (Temuka Leader, April 2, 1914). His brother Joseph faced a similar charge. “The time for military detention of cadets and territorials who fail to comply with the requirements of the Defence Act has come round again.” (April 16, 1914). John Hamilton, Joseph Hamilton and four others were taken to Christchurch. John and three others were detained in the military barracks on Sumner Road as Ripa Island was required for encampment purposes. There they were engaged in grass-cutting, hedge trimming, garden weeding and other odd jobs.

The family was struck another blow on 25 May 1915. The eldest son, Patrick William Hamilton, a married man with five children, was killed when he fell from a lorry between the Opihi and Temuka bridges. In July 1915 the three brothers – Michael, John junr, and Joseph Daniel – were all fined for using obscene language, and John also for obstructing. The charges arose out of a disturbance at midnight of June 28th in John Street.

Crunch-time came when John Hamilton enlisted on 29 May 1916, aged 26 yrs, a labourer living at Temuka. Had he put aside his anti-militarist stance? Did he have some fore-boding? After entertainment at dinner by the lady members of the South Canterbury War Relief Society at the Stafford Tea Rooms, the soldiers of South Canterbury’s quota of the 17th Reinforcements assembled at the drill Hall to be farewelled by the Mayor and others, and then left by the second north-going express on 31 May. He embarked on 25 September 1916, per the “Devon”, destined for Devonport, and in January 1917 he joined his unit in France. Misdemeanours continued to feature, both at Sling and in the field – overstaying leave, drunkenness, disobeying orders, untidy bed, absence from defaulters; parade, absence from roll call, neglect of duty – resulting in confinement to barracks, detention and forfeit of pay. Next was the news of his death – Private John Hamilton, 27281, Canterbury Infantry Battalion, the son of Mr J. Hamilton, Bridge Street, Temuka, and brother of Mr J. Hamilton, John Street, Temuka, 26 years old, a native of Temuka, was killed in action on 7 June 1917 at Messines. His father received messages of sympathy from His Excellency the Governor and the Hon. James Allen. His brother Joseph, soon to embark himself, was next-of-kin when John enlisted. At the January 1919 meeting, the Mayor, on behalf of the Temuka Borough Council, moved a vote of condolence to the father and family (after it was incorrectly reported that a third son had been killed at the front). The motion was carried in silence, members standing. His brother Michael Hamilton was killed in action in 1918; his youngest brother Joseph Daniel Hamilton also served and was wounded in World War One.

In terms of his Pay Book Will, John’s brother Joseph was the sole executor and beneficiary of all his property, and as such was to receive his Active Service Gratuity and his medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal). John Hamilton is buried in Strand Military Cemetery, Cornines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium, one of 86 New Zealanders interred there. His name is inscribed on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Temuka RSA Roll of Honour, the Temuka War Memorial, and on the St Joseph’s Church Temuka Memorial. 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 names of John and Michael Hamilton were 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 those of John Hamilton and Michael Hamilton.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [08 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0049663) [25 June 2014]; CWGC [09 October 2013]. Temuka Leader, 18 February 1904, 28 April 1908 [x 2], 13 June 1912, 25 July 1912, 22 & 27 August 1912, 3 October 1912, 29 May 1913, 31 July 1913, 16 October 1913 [x 2], 2 & 16 April 1914, 19 June 1917, 26 October 1918, 16 January 1919, 22 April 1922, 26 April 1927, Timaru Herald, 27 August 1912, 28 May 1913, 26 & 27 May 1915, 5 July 1915, 31 May 1916, 19 June 1917 [x 2], 21 June 1917, New Zealand Times, 19 June 1917, Press, 20 June 1917 (Papers Past) [19 April 2014; 05 March 2015; 05 September 2015; 14, 15 & 19 July 2017]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [05 March 2015]; Baptism Records (Christchurch Catholic Diocese Baptism Index CD, held by S C Branch NZSG) [06 September 2015]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2013; 2017]; Temuka Cemetery & Mataura Cemetery records; probate record of Joseph Daniel Hamilton (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [20 July 2017]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to


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