KELLY, Martin
(Service number 28158)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 24 December 1888 Place of Birth Timaru 

Enlistment Information

Date 26 June 1916 Age 28 years
Address at Enlistment Konini
Occupation Butter Factory hand
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr D. KELLY (brother), Post Office Store, Konini, 40 Mile Bush
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6 inches. Weight 135 lbs. Chest measurement 31-34 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Sight, hearing and colour vision all normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. 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. No distinctive marks or marks indicating congenital pecularities or previous disease. Assessed as 'Fit'.

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 18th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company
Date 16 October 1916
Transport Willochra
Embarked From Wellington Destination Devonport, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Wellington Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European (Passchendaele)
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 21 October 1917 Age 28 years
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery. Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference N.Z. Apse, Panel 6
New Zealand Memorials Pahiatua War Memorial

Biographical Notes

Martin Joseph Kelly was born on 24 December 1884 at Timaru, the youngest surviving son of Richard and Elizabeth (née Carroll) Kelly, and baptised Catholic on 29 January 1885 at Timaru. His parents had married in Ireland and came to New Zealand in 1874, settling in Timaru. Martin may well have been educated at the Timaru Catholic School, where his older brother William won a prize in 1880. Martin’s mother died a month before his seventh birthday, and six years later his father, a platelayer working at St Andrews, died under chloroform. 54-year old Richard Kelly, who had been on the sick list for some weeks and had only just returned to his work, had had a fit, fallen heavily and dislocated his shoulder. In July 1906 the half-acre section and 5-bedroomed house in Le Cren Street, belonging to Richard Kelly senior, was offered for sale. The following month there was a clearing sale of the furniture, etc. Of the surviving family perhaps only Frank and Richard junior remained in Timaru by 1906. His oldest sister, Mary Anne (Annie), had married John Connor in 1884. William Kelly, one of the family born in Ireland before migration, died on 31 March 1901 at Timaru, aged 31, from a football kick at the park.

By 1911 Martin was living at Konini, where his brother had settled. Martin Kelly, a butter-factory hand, of Konini, was initially listed in the Reserve Rolls. In early April 1916 he registered for the infantry at the Masterton Recruiting Office. He was one of a large number of men who were notified to report at Masterton on 26 June in order to proceed to camp. On 26th “a particularly fine body of men” – the Masterton area quota of the 18th Reinforcements – left Masteron for camp. The Masterton Band accompanied them to the station where they were given a very hearty send-off.

His next-of-kin was his oldest brother Dennis, whose son Francis Hugh Kelly also served in World War I, embarking just one month after Martin. Martin was residing with and working as a butter factory hand for his brother Dennis Kelly, of the Konini Dairy Factory, Pahiatua, prior to his enlistment. He enlisted on 26 June 1916 for the duration of the war. Roman Catholic, single, of fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair, he was assessed as in good health and fit. He embarked 16 October 1916, with the Wellington Infantry Battalion, 18th Reinforcements, per the “Willochra”, leaving from Wellington for Devonport, England. From 29 December 1916 his name appeared on the Nominal Roll at Sling. Some six months later he proceeded overseas and in July 1917 joined his battalion at Rouen.

The newspaper casualty lists of 7 November 1917 recorded sixty-five deaths. One of those was Private Martin Kelly, of Konini, 28158, Wellington Infantry Regiment, who had fallen - killed in action on 21 October 1917, at Passchendaele, Ypres, Belgium, aged 32 years. Having resided for many years in the Konini district, Martin was very well known there. Their brother Frank was still in Timaru (on the C.F.C.A. staff) when he received word of Martin's death. Martin seems to have gone through his time at the Front relatively unscathed, only to fall just a year after embarking.

One of the hundreds whose bodies were not recovered, M. Kelly, 28158, is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. (NZ Apse, Panel 6). The name of Martin Joseph Kelly is inscribed on the Pahiatua War Memorial (as Kelly M J). Pahiatua’s War Memorial, inscribed with the names of 121 fallen men, was unveiled on 20 July 1922 by the Governor General, Lord Jellicoe, and his wife, Lady Jellicoe, in the Main Street Square. Among the record gathering were the Mayor, the County Council chairman, returned soldiers, and about one thousand school children.

Martin Kelly’s medals - British War Medal and Victory Medal – were despatched to his brother Mr D. Kelly, P. O. Store, 40 Mile Bush, Konini, as were the plaque and scroll.

Brother Dennis Kelly had been with the Konini butter factory since its inception and was for many years the manager; he was also the official cow tester, and sometime postmaster. In 1917 he supported an appeal against war service for one of the employees whom it would be very hard to replace. Both Mr and Mrs Kelly were very active in and valued members of the community, and their two daughters and son contributed to local musical functions. In May 1918 Dennis Kelly was instrumental in arranging the Konini butter staff’s Red Cross social which netted ninety shillings. His son Francis Hugh Kelly, a nephew of Martin, embarked for the Front a month after Martin. Young Frank was severely wounded in action and had to have his leg amputated. Martin’s brother Frank was warmly farewelled from Timaru when he left for camp in August 1918. In 1914 Frank had married Ellen Mulvaney, whose brothers (John, Joseph and Thomas) served in World War I, Thomas being killed in action in 1918. Their sister Margaret Elizabeth Kelly married in 1930. Brother Richard, who had been elected to the Timaru Borough Council, was listed on the Reserves Roll, being a married man with children. He died in 1922, leaving a young family of five. Two sons of this brother and nephews of Martin – Richard Lockwood Kelly and William John Kelly,– served in World War II. Another of Richard’s sons, born in 1918, was named Martin Joseph Kelly. A portrait of Private M. J. Kelly was printed in the Auckland Weekly News, 1918.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [20 February 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0063338) [16 July 2014]; CWGC [20 February 2014]; [20 February 2014]; Otago Daily Times, 10 September 1884, 7 November 1917, Timaru Herald, 29 December 1880, 6 October 1897 [x 2], 7, 11 & 12 October 1897, 11 October 1897, 1 April 1901, 2 April 1901 [x 2], 21 & 30 July 1906, 8 August 1906, 5 December 1914, 7 November 1917, 10 August 1918, Oamaru Mail, 6 October 1897, Press, 6 October 1897, Wairarapa Daily Times, 8 April 1916, 13 & 27 June 1916, 7 & 8 November 1917, Wairarapa Age, 2 June 1917, 8 November 1917, Manawatu Times, 27 August 1917, 12 November 1917, 4 May 1918, 21 July 1922, Evening Post, 7 November 1917, New Zealand Times, 9 November 1917 (Papers Past) [24 April 2014; 26 & 27 September 2017; 21, 22 & 24 January 2018]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs); Timaru Catholic Baptism index (Christchurch Catholic Diocese CD, held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG); New Zealand Electoral Rolls (

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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