HORGAN, William
(Service number 4/550)

First Rank Sapper Last Rank Sapper


Date *1889 Place of Birth Waikari, North Canterbury

Enlistment Information

Date 14 August 1914 Age 25 years
Address at Enlistment 342 Saint Asaph Street, Christchurch
Occupation Motorman
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Bridget HORGAN (mother), 6 William Street, Christchurch
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Field Engineers
Date 16 October 1914
Transport Maunganui 
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Engineers

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyyptian; Balkan (Gallipoli), 1915
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 10 May 1916 Reason Medically unfit

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

10 September 1915 - wounded in the hip - per hospital ship "Gascon" to Malta; admitted to Floriana Hospital; 7 October per "Hunslet" to England; admitted to Tooting Hospital, London

Post-war Occupations

Tram driver; farmer


Date 26 March 1927 Age 35 years
Place of Death Ely Street, Christchurch (sister's residence)
Notices Timaru Herald, 28 March 1927; Press, 28 March 1927
Memorial or Cemetery Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 27, Plot 189
New Zealand Memorials Christchurch Tramways Board Great War Roll of Honour (held at the Canterbury Tramways Museum); Christchurch Catholic Club’s Roll of Honour.

Biographical Notes

William Horgan, 4/550, was the second son of Daniel (deceased) and Mrs Bridget Horgan, of Christchurch, there being four sons and three daughters in the family. Daniel and Bridget had both come out from Ireland. Born in 1889 at Waikari, he was baptised on 30 May 1889 in the Hawarden Catholic parish. His father, who was the pound-keeper at Waikari during the 1890s, on one occasion asked the Waipara Road board for assistance towards buying a horse to enable him to carry out his duties, “his own being now past use”. Daniel Horgan, who died on 11 August 1898 at the Christchurch Hospital, was buried in the Linwood Cemetery, after a service at the Pro-Cathedral in Barbadoes Street. About 1906 Mrs Bridget Horgan moved into Christchurch. In 1914 she was letting out rooms at her William Street address, and in 1917 the cottage at William Street. William’s early schooling was educated at Waikari School and the Christchurch College. In 1907 he studied at the Technical College, where he passed Second Class in English Elementary. Perhaps he was the Private Horgan who received the recruiting prize at the Christchurch City Rifles annual smoke concert and presentation of prizes in March 1909; or perhaps his older brother Thomas.

William was a regular and successful rugby football player. In July 1911 he was the manager for the Christchurch Tramways football team which travelled to Wellington to play for the first time for the “Kohn” Dominion Tramways Shield. A couple of months later Mr W. Horgan was instrumental in establishing a sports club to govern all sport in connection with tramway employees. Later in 1911 he himself competed in the tramways bicycle road race, with a one minute handicap, and he came home in first place. July 1914 he turned out for his club Marist, playing in the forwards for the Green team. Although the Greens had much the better of the play, Sydenham scored a “decidedly lucky win” (12-11). William Horgan scored a try in the Tramways 14-3 defeat of the Post and Telegraph on 3 August 1914.

William Horgan was the motorman on the tramcar which had to make an emergency stop on 6 April 1913 when a young woman fell from a moving tramcar at Papanui and succumbed to her injuries. He was questioned on the speed of the tramcar and his stopping distance but they were within the regulations, and also on halting the service while he helped to convey the woman to hospital. There were, however, consequences, when Horgan and the conductor were charged with perjury in giving their evidence – Horgan “by falsely swearing that he stopped the car when he was two poles distant from the stopping-place”. Both pleaded not guilty and the case was submitted to the Supreme Court. The conductor was found not guilty and a stay of proceedings against Horgan was entered, as his defence was the same.

On leaving school he had been employed by the Christchurch Tramway Board, firstly as a conductor and then as a motorman, having worked there for seven years when he took leave to enlist. Sapper W. Horgan, a member of the No. 2 Divisional Signal Company of N.Z. Engineers, was one of those ready to leave on the steamer on 19 August en route to the concentration camp at Palmerston North. The Canterbury Engineers, who were among the first to commit to war service, were treated to a warm and fitting send-off and spoken highly of. “One of the most efficient and certainly one of the most self-contained little squads of troops in Canterbury departed when the Field Troop and Signallers of the Engineers left last evening en route to the Palmerston North concentration camp. A special parade of the Engineers had been ordered for 7 p.m., in order that those members who were not going might bid farewell to those who were. And the public, anxious to seize the opportunity of wishing the boys God speed, were present at the Drill Hall in force.” (Sun, 19 August 1914). They were regarded as a good corps and an important branch. “The Canterbury Engineers have long been one of the foremost engineering corps in the Dominion, a fact attested to by the large number of cups and other trophies now in their possession. Formed in 1886, with Capt. John Webster, a civil engineer, commanding, the corps has always set a high standard in its work, and in addition to engineering has always had a good name for rifle shooting. . . . . . In military tournaments the Christchurch Engineers have always excelled, and in the field work, that is the Alpha and Omega of the Engineer's sphere of usefulness, they have many successes to their credit. . . . . . It was a detachment of an officer and 18 non-commissioned officers and men from this company that last night marched through the streets with their comrades in attendance to entrain for Lyttelton. The buglers marching ahead made lively music, and the drummer rattled his drumsticks to the even steps of the corps. The Engineer is more than a soldier, but on active service he Is a soldier first and an engineer afterwards. With every modern war his importance in the army has increased. . . . . . . His place in the advance is in front; his place in retreat at the rear.” The Christchurch citizens crowded the railway station and streets. “The train pulled out amid a scene of enthusiasm, and rounds of cheers, following the boys, wished them good luck in those troubled regions which they have volunteered to visit.” In the departing Signal Company was W. Horgan.

When William enlisted on the outbreak of war, and the first of the three brothers to do so, he nominated as his next-of-kin, his mother – Mrs Bridget Horgan, 6 William Street, Christchurch. His own address was 342 Saint Asaph Street, Christchurch, previously his mother’s residence. Employed as a driver for the Tramway Board, he was single and Roman Catholic. Sapper Horgan embarked with the Main Body, Field Engineers. The troops departed from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, on 16 October 1914 per the “Maunganui”.

W. Horgan embarked for Gallipoli on 12 April 1915. On 8 August 1915 he rejoined his unit at the Dardanelles, from Alexandria. He was then attached to the Australian Signalling Company on 5 September. Sapper William Horgan was wounded in the hip on 10 September 1915. The Canterbury Driver’s Union passed a resolution of sympathy with Mrs Horgan at its meeting in early October. The hospital report published on 4 October listed W. Horgan, Engineers, among those who had disembarked from the hospital ship “Gascon” at Malta, where he was admitted to the Floriana Hospital. On 7 October William embarked for England on the troopship “Hunslet”. The next hospital report stated that he had been admitted to the Military Hospital, Tooting, London. In February 1916 he was granted two weeks furlough. The Press Association telegram of 17 March advised that William Horgan, of the Field Engineers, was returning to New Zealand. He was numbered among the 85 wounded and invalided soldiers who arrived by the “Turakina” at the beginning of April 1916. Twenty-eight of these soldiers reached Lyttelton in the ferry steamer on 12 April. Sapper Horgan was the first tramway man home from the front. All these men received a certain amount of leave, and would then go before the Medical Board.

While on his way to Malta, William Horgan wrote to a friend in Auckland, describing how he was wounded at Gallipoli. “I was hit at 7 a.m. on the 10th. The bullet struck me in the hip joint. Five of our company were up with the 4th Australian Brigade on Bauchop's Ridge. The Australians were in the reserve trenches, but there was a good deal of lead flying about. Just before I was hit an Australian, who was standing alongside me, got a rifle bullet through one of his lungs, and it just missed his spine. We got him to a safe place to dress his wound, and I then walked out to pick up some equipment of mine that was lying in the open. I never thought they would hit me, as the light was bad for shooting at the time. Just as I reached my gear, however, the Turks turned a machine-gun on to me, and about the first bullet knocked me over. I could see that to try and crawl back to cover with a disabled hip would be silly, as they would easily pick me off, so I decided to play the ‘dead man game,’ thinking they would stop firing. But they kept it up for some little time, and the bullets were dropping in front of my head as thick as hail-stones. When the gun had finished pumping, two Australians rushed out and carried me in.”

William Horgan played rugby for Marist Old Boys, this club having twenty members at the Front in April 1915, possibly the largest percentage of Christchurch club members there. He had been a member of the Marist Club’s senior fifteen, and he had also represented the Christchurch Tramway Club against the Wellington Club. At an unveiling ceremony of a portrait of a late lieutenant at the Tramway Board’s office on 17 May 1915, the name of Motorman W. Horgan was read out in a list of tramway-men already at the front. In addition, he was a member of the Christchurch Catholic Club and the Christchurch Athletic club. At a social evening held by the Christchurch Catholic Club in late October 1915, the patron unveiled the club’s roll of honour. In his address he emphasised “the duty we owe to our boys, who have gone forth gladly and voluntarily to fight in defence of their King and country, our hearths and our homes, and in many cases to lay down their lives that we, . . . . , may enjoy the freedom of the British flag.” Listed among the names is that of W. Horgan. The Catholic Club members held a social gathering on 11 May 1916 to welcome Mr W. Horgan, of the Main Expeditionary Force, from Gallipoli after fifteen months’ service, and two others on final leave. William was presented with a case of military brushes by the president, who expressed the appreciation of club members for the services “he had so well and creditably rendered in the great cause of freedom, right, and justice.”

After service in Egypt and at Gallipoli, William was discharged on 10 May 1916, medically unfit, intending to go to "Langdon", Cricklewood, South Canterbury. He was then 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. He did return, probably briefly, to the staff of the Christchurch Tramway Board. His name was recorded on the honour board in the Board’s offices. In October 1916 the ballot was conducted for sections in the Seaforth Settlement, which had been purchased by the Government for the purpose of settling returned soldiers. William Horgan was allotted Section 7. On 14 March 1917 a land ballot was held in Timaru. The five Clayton Runs, one run at Burke’s Pass, and two farms at Cricklewood were disposed of. The land was open for selection by discharged soldiers only. William Horgan, of Christchurch, was one of only two applicants for the Cricklewood farms. Both were warmly applauded as they went up to sign for their sections. On 22 October 1918 at Cheviot he married Ellen Julia Martin, who survived him by some 24 years after his early death at age 37. In 1919 William and his wife were farming at Cricklewood. A deputation composed of returned soldiers who held sections in the Cricklewood settlement – including Mr Horgan – met the Minister of Lands at Fairlie in January 1919. Their main complaint concerned the lack of water on the settlement, and they asked for the situation to be remedied. They also complained that “old man” twitch was affecting their grass growth, and asked for a reduction in rent. The men gained support although the costs of action were pointed out. The Minister was so impressed by the moderate remarks of the deputation and their earnestness that he thought their requests should receive serious consideration. The deputation thanked the Minister. At the annual meeting of the Fairlie Branch of the Farmers’ Union held in May 1919, W. Horgan was elected to the new committee. In July 1920 he had an application under the Discharged Soldiers Settlement act dealt with by the Canterbury Land Board.

William Horgan died on 26 March 1927 at his sister’s residence in Christchurch. He was buried in Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, after a Requiem Mass at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Manchester Street. He was survived by his wife and seven children, the youngest just three weeks old (Fr Clen Horgan who later served South Canterbury parishes). The two oldest, Bernard and John, were withdrawn from Cricklewood School in December 1926 as their father was seriously ill. Both Bernard and John were balloted for service in 1940, and Bill in 1941. Sadly, Sergeant Pilot John Allan Horgan was killed on air operations on 14 April 1943. William’s wife Ellen was buried with him in 1951. His name is recorded on the Christchurch Tramways Board Great War Roll of Honour (held at the Canterbury Tramways Museum) and the Christchurch Catholic Club’s Roll of Honour. He had been awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

By 1917 Mrs Bridget Horgan had moved to Cricklewood. There her sons William and Charles farmed after their return from the war. About 1919 she moved into Timaru where her daughters Mary and Kathleen resided with her before their marriages in 1924 and 1922 respectively. Kathleen married a returned serviceman at St Andrews Catholic Church. In 1928 Mrs Horgan was residing with her son Charles at St Andrews before returning to Christchurch to live with her daughter Mary. Mrs Horgan died on 27 November 1940 and is buried at Timaru. William’s brother John Horgan was killed in action on 3 December 1917, while his brother Charles Michael Horgan also served in World War I. Their eldest brother, Thomas Daniel Horgan, was listed in the 1916-1917 Reserve Rolls, when he was already resident at the Sanatorium, a victim of consumption. As early as 1914 he was at the Cashmere Sanatorium, where he died on 19 November 1918; he is buried in Linwood Cemetery.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [25 October 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0056654) [02 May 2014]; Press, 14 January 1891, 3 & 17 May 1898, 21 December 1907, 18 March 1909, 18 July 1911, 17 & 22 November 1911, 8 April 1913, 7 May 1913, 13 July 1914, 4 & 18 August 1914, 18 May 1915, 30 September 1915, 1 October 1915, 2 November 1915, 18 March 1916, 12 & 13 April 1916, 6 October 1916, 15 March 1917, 31 July 1920, 28 March 1927 [x 2], 22 & 24 April 1943, Lyttelton Times, 7 January 1892, 17 August 1898, Star, 2 September 1911, 22 April 1915, 12 April 1916 [x 2], 12 May 1916, 29 July 1916, 21 November 1918, Wairarapa Age, 16 May 1913, Sun, 19 August 1914, 1 & 5 October 1915, Ashburton Guardian, 7 May 1913, Poverty Bay Herald, 30 September 1915, New Zealand Herald, 30 September 1915, 4 October 1915, 15 November 1915, 3 April 1916, New Zealand Times, 25 October 1915, 2 November 1915, New Zealand Tablet, 14 & 28 October 1915, 18 May 1916, Colonist, 2 November 1915, Timaru Herald, 6 October 1916, 29 January 1919, 13 May 1919 (Papers Past) [02, 03, 05, 07 & 08 April 2015; 27 & 28 September 2015; 20 August 2016; 20 January 2017; 02 May 2018; 12, 13, 19, 20 & 21 March 2019]; Bromley Cemetery burial records (Christchurch City Council) [05 May 2014]; Bromley Cemetery headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG cemetery records) [06 November 2014]; Timaru Herald, 28 March 1927, 29 January 1940 (Timaru District Library) [07 April 2015; 20 January 2017]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs); NZ Electoral Rolls ( [08 April 2014; 28 September 2015]; marriage record for Kathleen Horgan sighted at Holy Family Parish, Timaru [15 March 2019]; Linwood Cemetery records (Christchurch City Council); Christchurch Catholic Diocese Baptisms Index (CD held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [17 March 2019]

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